ITHACA, N.Y.—A proposal to convert a pair of largely vacant downtown buildings into new housing just received a sizable boost thanks to New York State.

In an announcement earlier today, the state awarded $1.5 million to the city of Ithaca to assist in the rehabilitation of 115-121 and 123 South Cayuga Street, a pair of historic four-story buildings on a prominent corner of downtown Ithaca next to City Hall.

The buildings were secured earlier this year by “Urban Encore LLC,” led by local businessman John Guttridge. Renovation plans call for the conversion of majority-vacant office space into 16 new apartments on upper floors, while ground-level retail space would be renovated to house a new restaurant tenant.

Among the explicit renovation plans are the installation of a shared elevator; window, canopy, and façade restoration; and conversion to fully electric heating and cooling systems meeting local Greenhouse Gas emission goals. The intent is to re-utilize 115-121 and 123 South Cayuga Street which date from 1898 and 1916 respectively, without removing their historic character.

It should be noted that the awarded amount is not the full amount requested. The application, endorsed by the Ithaca Common Council earlier in the fall, asked for a $2 million grant to assist with the $9 million project. The other $500,000 requested but not awarded will have to be sourced elsewhere.

The award was the only one granted in Tompkins County, but among several granted in the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes towards revitalization project. The City of Binghamton received a $2.95 million award for a new 102-unit workforce housing project, and the city of Elmira received a $1 million award to assist with rehabilitation of the Booth School into apartments and commercial space.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at