This column was written by Brian Crandall, who runs “Ithacating in Cornell Heights.”


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(Quick inside baseball note: I owe a big thanks to Charles Pyott with the city of Ithaca for getting a copy of the sketch plans for 215 West Spencer. I had initially thought nothing was presented at the March Planning Board meeting, but the March PDB meeting minutes said otherwise. I made an inquiry, and he was able to obtain a copy of the sketch plan from the applicant. So a big kudos to you Charles.)

A copy has been uploaded to the City of Ithaca website here.


At its March meeting, the city planning board reviewed a sketch plan for a proposed apartment building at 215-221 West Spencer Street, just south of Six Mile Creek and a few blocks from downtown Ithaca.

The steeply-sloped 0.47 acre parcel has been vacant for several years, and currently sees use as an informal 12-space parking lot. The lot is in a R-3a residential zone that allows for a 40′ structure with 35% lot coverage.

Previously, a dilapidated apartment building stood on the site. The building and land were purchased by the city for $530,000 in 2003, and sometime after the building was demolished, the land was turned over to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency in 2013.

The property was originally marketed for affordable housing projects only, but received no purchase bids. Once the affordable stipulation was removed, the parcel was marketed once again, and found a buyer – local developer Edward Cope, the owner of local rental agency PPM Homes, bought the parcel for $110,000 on March 6th.

In the sketch plan presented by local architect Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative, four apartment buildings are presented in a terraced hillside layout, all connecting to a staircase that bisects the north and south buildings. The upper buildings have three floors of windows on the west side, and one floor on the east side. The lower buildings have three floors of windows on the west side, and two floors on the east side.

According to the Planning Board minutes, each building consists of a ground floor unit and “two side-by-side townhomes above it” – it’s not clear if that means two units per floor, or two units total on the upper floors. It could be 20 units or 12 units, pending clarification. The 12 parking spaces on the Cayuga Street side of the property would be maintained and paved.

In the sketch plan document, two versions are presented – the aerial renderings show a different design than the site elevations. It’s not clear which is the current iteration, though the site sections show much greater detail (I suspect they are the more accurate of the two).

Expect some revisions moving forward – planning board members expressed a desire for a more prominent connection between Spencer and Cayuga Streets (a “grand formal stairway”) and reworking the Spencer Street facade to make it more visually interesting.

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Brian Crandall

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