ITHACA, N.Y. — At its Planning and Development Board meeting Tuesday, the City of Ithaca will be getting its first formal look at a pair of proposals that would bring approximately 200 affordable housing units to Ithaca’s State Street Corridor.
The proposals are the work of prolific Ithaca-based developer Visum Development Group, led by businessman Todd Fox. Concept designs for the projects, courtesy of Ithaca architecture firm STREAM Collaborative, have been floating around since at least mid-December.
Though no location was stated in those design concepts, they do include rough outlines of neighboring properties. The first image below contains a rather unusual looking home with a two-story porch. The presence of four floors in the foreground, and six in the back suggests that the perspective drawing is one block away from State Street, where the maximum building height is 60 feet, and the foreground is on a street where the allowed building height is four floors — either the north side of West Green Street, or the south side of West Seneca Street.
A cursory check of those blocks indicates that all the boxes are checked when looking westward from the corner of West Seneca and North Corn streets. The taller wing does not reach the corner of West State and North Corn, as it appears the century-old brick building on the corner is not a part of the proposal. However, the zoning for 60 feet extends halfway into the block, and not necessarily properties with frontage on West State Street only.
The second image is a bit of a tougher one to figure out because there are fewer identifying characteristics. However, like the first image, it contains both four-story and six-story sections — and given the logic of building the maximum of what zoning allowed as proposed in the first building, that means it’s probably a corner perspective drawing from West Seneca or West Green Street. This design also appears to have a street-level retail component.
The two key traits are a multistory building with a cornice next door, and a one-story building set back from the street on the other side. The block that makes the most sense is the corner of West Seneca and North Corn; this time, looking eastward, where the former Wyllie’s Dry Cleaners and its parking lot are located. Wyllie’s was intended to be redeveloped into a restaurant retail by developer Ed Cope. He received grant dollars to redevelop Wyllie’s along with Ithaca Glass, but a later revision removed Wyllie’s from the development project, with Cope stating he would pursue that as a separate effort.
The final feature that ties this all together is the agenda item for next Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting – Item I., “Housing – W Seneca/W State & Corn Streets – Sketch Plan.” It indicates the plans are ready to move forward for planning board comment.
According to a December Facebook post, Visum has a tentative plan to start construction on the project in late summer (the third quarter) of 2019.
With these plans, it would appear that, as alluded to by a comment from Fox in an August article regarding Ithaca city’s unsuccessful application to the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative grant program, Visum did not drop all of its plans for the West State corridor. Called “Visum I” in the DRI application, the project site is the same as that in the first drawing, and was described as a $17 million proposal with 100 units affordable to those making 80-90% of area median income (AMI). The Wyllie’s site was not a part of the DRI application.