The planned site of the Lake Street Townhouses. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y.—Plans to redevelop a portion of the Ithaca Gun property are taking a step forward, as the formal Site Plan Review documents for the Lake Street Townhouses in Fall Creek have now been filed with the city for pending Planning Board review.

As planned, the $5.8 million project from developer DMG Investments, based in New York City, would involve two strings of townhouses, one with seven units and one with nine units, for a total of 16 townhomes on the site at 261 Lake Street. The units would be three-bedroom and four-bedroom units, unit sizes that are intended to appeal to both families and smaller student groups.

All units will face Lake Street and connect to a new sidewalk along Lake Street. If the project can avoid delays, it will be ready for construction next year and completed in 2026, according to the submitted documents.

The buildings will be true townhouses with independent utility systems, unlike some developments where apartment buildings are outfitted to look like townhouses.

The proposal is DMG’s second attempt to redevelop the Lake Street side. Initially, the firm planned a different project at the location, a modular 4-story building containing 71 residential units with 211 beds. The development was to be an extension of the existing Auden Ithaca (formerly the Gun Hill Residences) student housing complex purchased by DMG a few years ago, with shared parking and services.

However, that initial submission faced considerable opposition from Fall Creek over its size, parking impacts and concerns about potentially disturbing lead-contaminated soil washed down from the former Ithaca Gun factory further uphill. The fact that it was student housing bordering a neighborhood of more permanent residents, who are typically averse to explicitly college-focused development, didn’t help DMG’s cause. With a lukewarm Planning Board reception and major potential hurdles remaining in the zoning variance process, the proposal was pulled from the drawing boards.

With that iteration of the development canceled, DMG’s new proposal is a less student-oriented, smaller project geared towards Fall Creek’s increasing upscale population.

According to the new proposal, the eastern side of the site will feature a sloped planted area, including the removal of invasive species present in the area of disturbance and the planting of native species. Sixteen parking spaces are planned on the property itself, with retaining walls to the east, the exact height and appearance of which will be negotiated with planners and the Planning Board.

DMG is looking to collaborate with the City to provide an additional 16 parking spaces on city property off of East Lincoln Street Extension, north of the project site, to limit the site disturbance caused by retaining walls and to reduce the retaining wall heights.

The project will not disturb soils on the northeast corner of the site that underwent testing for Ithaca Gun-created contamination. Most of DMG’s 335-page submission is dedicated to environmental engineering firms hired to test the property to ensure that the potentially disturbed area is not contaminated, and that the contaminated portion is thoroughly defined so that the risk of stirring up embedded lead shot and toxics would be mitigated.

As many projects do, the Lake Street Townhouses will likely require a few variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals. One for an area variance to allow parking in the rear yard setback, and a variance for the front yard setback on the Lincoln Street extension side due to the irregular shape of the lot and the determination that there are three front yards, along the south, west and north boundaries of the lot.

A parking variance will also be needed to allow for only 16 parking spaces on-site—four-bedroom units require two parking spaces per city code, so even though there are 16 townhouses, because they have some four-bedroom units included, they need more than 16 spaces by code.

The Ithaca Fire Department has also informed the project team that due to limited site access for its aerial apparatus in the event of a major fire, the townhouses will need to stay under 30 feet in height, with a dedicated fire lane provided. Since the buildings step up along Lake Street as the ground elevation increases, this means that every individual unit will be less than 30 feet, but the slope change will make the ones at the higher end of the slope seem taller.

The formal submissions have been visually revised. DMG’s project partners at HOLT Architects provide a more modern aesthetic to the townhouses, with combinations of gable and shed roofs on the bump-outs facing Lake Street. The color palette calls for a mix of brick and fiber cement, primarily in shades of blue and brown.

On the project team alongside DMG Investments and HOLT Architects is Passero Associates as the project engineer, and Whitham Planning and Design will handle the landscape architecture.

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