ITHACA, N.Y. — A struggling redevelopment project in the City of Ithaca is about to have new ownership if the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency approves.
The project in question is 413-15 W. Seneca St., also known as the Ithaca Glass building. The site was one of two redevelopment plans launched by local developer Ed Cope for the West Seneca Corridor and was selected by the city to apply for RESTORE NY state grant funding, intended to revitalized and redevelopment properties in urban areas and help revitalize city neighborhoods. The projects were awarded a $500,000 grant in Spring 2017.
Over the past year and a half, however, the Ithaca Glass site has been beset with difficulties. Soil tests performed after the grant was announced found that the ground was much softer than previously thought and that the building has no concrete foundation footer under half of its structure. This meant a deep, expensive pile foundation, and for the missing section, a near-complete rebuild. As a result, the renovation became financially infeasible.
At that time, plans for a brand new three-story building were submitted. The revised $2.3 million project would create 10 market-rate apartment units (six two-bedroom, four one-bedroom). The first-floor units would be live/work spaces – the front wings would host the work space (853 square feet and 700 square feet), with doorways leading to a one-bedroom apartment unit in the back. Local firm STREAM Collaborative is the architect, which went with a traditional design for the new build. The sister redevelopment project, for Wyllie’s Dry Cleaning at 109 North Corn, was removed from the grant, with Cope stating intent to pursue it on his own time and dime.
While this revised plan was submitted by the City of Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), it too stalled – Cope was unable to make the project work financially. Talks were underway between Cope and affordable housing non-profit Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) to purchase the site and allow INHS to initiate plans for affordable housing on the property, but it was announced at an IURA Committee meeting in October that INHS had been outbid on the purchase price and Cope was selling to someone else.
We now know who that other buyer is – prolific local developer Visum Development Group, headed by businessman Todd Fox. According to documentation filed with the city, Visum would take over the project and proceed with the revised plan (the all-new building), using the awarded but untouched RESTORE NY grant to help cover expenses. If approved, the project would begin construction by July 2019 and aim for a May 2020 completion.
As most business article readers are aware, Visum has been on a tear as of late. The fastest growing company in Upstate New York, the Ithaca-based real estate development firm has several buildings under construction in the greater Ithaca area, and several other plans in the works, including affordable “workforce housing” a block away from Ithaca Glass at 327 West Seneca Street, and a 42-unit condominium community on South Hill in the town of Ithaca. The firm is also a member of one of the two finalist teams for the Green Street Garage development (the other team being Vecino Group).