ITHACA, N.Y. — Plans have been moving forward for Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service’s (INHS’s) planned mixed-use project at 210 Hancock Street in the city’s Northside neighborhood.

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The non-profit affordable housing developer was granted all the necessary zoning variances from a city government entity, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), earlier this month. The vote was 3-0 in favor; one board member abstained after expressing her distaste for the project.

Variances were needed for the height (46.5 feet vs. the 40 feet legally permitted), the parking requirement (84 required, 64 planned) and loading zones for the three commercial spaces. The loading zone variance was granted at the previous BZA meeting. The project now moves on to the city Planning Board next Tuesday for preliminary approval.

INHS also applied for $3.9 million in tax abatements from the Tompkins County IDA, and the public hearing has been approved, and will take place at the IDA’s September meeting. The tax abatements may also be approved at that time.

According to the application, the tax abatement was requested because the commercial spaces and the pedestrian walkways along Lake Avenue and Adams Street can’t be covered by affordable housing grants. The apartment building’s foundation and the high acquisition cost of the former grocery store were also cited as factors in the application.

The application states that at least 11 jobs would be created once the project is complete – two positions at INHS to manage and service the building, and nine positions at the daycare to be operated by local services non-profit TCAction.

In an effort to minimize expenses, INHS has also decided to only make 7 of the 12 townhomes for sale to moderate-income buyers ($40,000-$50,000 income range).

In an email, INHS Executive Director Paul Mazzarella explains the reasons for the change.

“Some of the challenges that we have for for-sale units on this site are:  very high land cost; the demo cost for the existing building; uncertainty about the availability of development subsidies; the type and cost of the ownership structure (condo, co-op or HOA); the impact of high property taxes on affordability; and the overall development cost in relation to producing a unit at an affordable purchase price.”

The five rental townhomes, all 3-bedroom units, will be built along the new Lake Avenue pedestrian path on the side closest to Adams Street and Alice Miller Way. The for sale units would be built along the pedestrian path closer to Hancock Street.

The rental townhomes would be built under the same grant funding as the apartment building, and therefore be under construction at the same time – May 2016 to July 2017, according to documents recently filed with the city.

Click on the Ithaca Voice Story Database to learn more. Stories on this topic are filed under “Hancock Street affordable housing proposal.”
Click on the Ithaca Voice Story Database to learn more. Stories on this topic are filed under “Hancock Street affordable housing proposal.”

The seven for-sale townhomes, all 2-bedroom units in a row of four and a row of three, need to be covered by owner-occupied affordable housing grants, and would be built during a separate phase.

Like with the apartments, design services are being provided by local architecture and design firms Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects (TWLA), and HOLT Architects.

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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.