ITHACA, N.Y.—A vacant lot in Ithaca’s West End may soon provide supportive lower income housing, if plans pitched to the city become reality.
The proposal is slated for 116 North Meadow Street, a large vacant parcel at the southwest corner of Meadow and West Seneca Streets. The property previously held several houses and a surface parking lot. Two homes on West Seneca were removed about a decade ago, while two other homes facing Meadow were removed as part of the Elmira Savings Bank (now Community Bank) redevelopment in 2016, a move that engendered considerable controversy at the time.
Following the bank’s removal of the houses and corner parking lot, the land was maintained as mowed green space, on the market for potential buyers. Online real estate listings indicate the five parcels and 0.58 acres were listed for $750,000.
Plans submitted to the city several weeks ago show that the bank has a buyer lined up (likely with a purchase option to keep the property off-market in the meanwhile), and the buyer has a plan to redevelop the site.
Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. (RSS), together with CSD Housing, LLC is proposing to construct a new 60-unit mixed low-and-moderate income, integrated supportive housing community on the property. Half of the units would be dedicated as lower-income affordable housing for tenants requiring varying kinds of supportive services. These include military veterans with disabilities, households experiencing chronic homelessness, and others determined to be in high need per the Tompkins Human Services Coalition’s Continuum of Care.
The other half of the units would be set aside as general lower-income housing. Of the 60 units proposed within the project, 30 would be set aside at or below 50% area median income (AMI), 23 units would be earmarked for those making at or below 60% AMI, and the remaining seven would be provided at or below 80% AMI. For comparison’s sake, 50% AMI is about $35,100 for a one-person household, and $40,100 for a two-person household.
The project partners are fairly new in the Ithaca/Tompkins real estate scene, but have been involved in a number of projects around New York. RSS, founded in 1979 and based out of suburban Albany, provides support services such as housing, treatment, employment help and wellness activities to its clients across a 17-county service area. CSD, based out of suburban Rochester, works as a consultant and facilitator to help non-profits like RSS develop supportive housing, with 20 projects across the state in the past several years.
Design-wise, the project consists of an 87,000 square-foot, five-story building, with offices, covered parking, and lobby/amenity spaces on the first floor, and apartments on the upper floors. The current mix calls for four studio units, 35 one-bedroom units, twelve two-bedrooms, and in something of a rarity for the area, eight three-bedroom units. The building sits in the 100-year floodplain, so no units are on the first floor, and the project intends to follow sustainability guidelines for LEED Gold or Passive House certification.
One area of concern is the impact on trees on the property. As planned, the cluster at the southwest corner and the large trees along North Meadow would be preserved. However, the very large tree in the middle of the combined parcels (previously in the backyard of one of the homes) would come down, though the project team hopes to incorporate its wood into benches, amenity fixtures or other site uses.
As currently sketched out, the plan would fully comply with the site zoning (WEDZ-1a), and would not need to seek variances. The project, initially estimated to cost $16.3 million, seeks an August 2024 to February 2026 construction period.
That relatively far-off start date is a reflection of two things; firstly, that review of this project would likely take four months minimum. Secondly, the project team will be seeking state affordable housing grants to help cover the construction costs of building lower-income and supportive housing, as conventional loans are practically impossible to obtain due to the lower returns on investment these less-profitable but greatly-needed forms of housing provide.
Working with RSS Inc. and CSD Housing as part of the project team are Passero Associates as project architect, and Marathon Engineering will perform the civil engineering work. Ithaca’s Whitham Planning and Design will be the landscape architect for the project.