ITHACA, N.Y. — The Greater Ithaca Activities Center gym was filled with neighbors and community members Wednesday curious to see early plans for the redevelopment of the Immaculate Conception site and weigh in with initial thoughts.

Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, which recently purchased the former school at 320 W. Buffalo St., held its first community engagement session Wednesday evening to gather community feedback. When announcing the purchase in January, INHS said it has plans to turn the site into a mixed-use community that will address high-priority community needs like affordable housing.

Related: ‘Vibrant mixed-use community’ planned for Immaculate Conception School property with sale to INHS

At the meeting, Noah Demarest, of STREAM Collaborative, told attendees that the plans presented are “very preliminary images.” He said everything they have done so far has been with “an eye toward the city’s comprehensive plan.” However, he acknowledged that there will be some zoning challenges ahead. The site is nestled right into a residential neighborhood, next to Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, GIAC, and parks, and has a campus feel to it. The early site plans show a five-story apartment building for the site as well as clusters of townhome-style development. They also have an existing building on the site they are looking at renovating.

Immaculate Conception School at 320 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

Demarest said Catholic Charities will be getting a full renovation. The former 9,156 square-foot gym will be disconnected and stand alone with some upgrades to improve the entrance off of Court Street, Demarest said. At the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, also Wednesday, the committee voted in favor of purchasing the building. It will head to Common Council for consideration in early March.

Lynn Truame, senior real estate developer at INHS, said over email Thursday that she found the meeting very productive. The community raised concern about a couple aspects of the project so far, including the height of the building. The early plans showed a five-story building, which people opposed. People were more positive about four stories. Traffic in that area was the other big concern. Truame said they are aware of the issue and “diligently looking for ways to actually improve, rather than worsen” the parking.

There will be more community meetings in the future to gather feedback and share plans as they evolve. Truame said one of the next steps will be to work on a financial plan to figure out how to reduce the number of units to remove one of the stories from the building. The next community engagement meeting will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28 at GIAC.

Below are some of the preliminary design images courtesy of INHS.

Featured image: Lynn Truame, of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, answers questions from the community about site plans at the first community engagement meeting Feb. 13, 2019. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.