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ITHACA, N.Y. — A local developer is hoping the third time’s the charm.

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Evan Monkemeyer of Ithaca Estates Realty is petitioning the Ithaca town planning board to approve revised plans for a mixed-use building on the northeast corner of East King Road and Route 96B/Danby Road, a few hundred feet south of Ithaca College. The site, mostly shrubs and grass, was cleared in the late 1990s for a commercial garden center that never came to fruition.

Current plans drawn up by Syracuse-based Dalpos Architects call for a 32,000 SF, 3-story building. The project consists of commercial/office space on the first floor, with eight apartment units on the upper two floors.

The proposal, called “College Crossings”, (not to be confused with Collegetown Crossing in the city) has already gone through the planning board twice already – in 2010, a 19,000 SF, 2-story building with first-floor retail and second-floor office space was approved for the corner property.

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Two years later, Monkemeyer applied for and was granted changes to the project’s stormwater facilities, and a change of the second-floor office space into 1 4-bedroom and 1 5-bedroom apartment. The project also had to go through the Ithaca town Zoning Board of Appeals for height and area variances.

The latest plans will also require zoning variances from the town – the proposed building is 54 feet tall, higher than the 36 feet legally allowed.
The project will also require a use variance – the parcel is zoned for commercial buildings, but since the residential portion occupies more space than the commercial portion (18,000 SF and 14,000 SF respectively), the property is considered to be primarily residential, and therefore non-conforming to the zoning.

The property was among those envisioned as part of a new, walkable planned community by the FormIthaca citizen’s advocacy group. However, the project follows a conventional suburban design, with the building surrounded by a large parking lot.

In an analysis of the proposal, Ithaca town planner Christine Balestra noted concerns with changes in stormwater treatment, height, and aesthetic impacts of the street-facing sides of the large parking lot. However, the mixed-use concept is in line with the goals outlined for that intersection in the town’s recently-approved Comprehensive Plan.

The town planning board will consider the impacts and make its best judgement call at Tuesday’s meeting at the town hall. The zoning board of appeals will have their say in the matter at a future meeting.

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Brian Crandall

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