ITHACA, N.Y. – Several members of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency announced their support for a development project proposal on Thursday that would house Cornell’s Johnson School of Management’s Executive MBA program.

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The proposal, which was discussed in a public IDA meeting, would be developed privately by John Novarr and Philip Proujansky.

It presents a 50-year plan for the property at 209-215 Dryden Road to be on the city’s tax roll — even if Cornell, a not-for-profit institution that typically would be exempt from property taxes — purchases the property.

Related: Developer asks gov. for 50-year tax deal on Cornell project

“This is really out-of-the box,” Martha Robertson, vice chairwoman of the IDA, said, referring to the 50-year proposal. “This is exciting. It’s great,” she added.

Cornell currently has a deal with the developer to lease the space for an undisclosed period of time, but “it would not be difficult for Cornell or for us to agree on a shorter duration” and transfer property ownership to Cornell, Proujansky said.

“We felt really strongly that it had to be on the tax rolls,” he said, noting the fact that he and Novarr are taxpayers themselves.

The space will be developed into a 73,000 square foot building that will house educational facilities for 450 students and 250 employees.

“I’m very much in favor of this project,” said Nate Shinagawa, a Tompkins County legislator and IDA board member. “I live a block away from this site … Having potentially 600 people right there will be a real benefit to that part of Collegetown.”

James Dennis, chairman of the IDA and former city councilman, also praised the proposal, which is expected to be completed by May 2017, according to the application.

 “As a former city councilman who represented that area,” Dennis said, “I think it’s a great project coming across the gorge. I have a great admiration for John Novarr – teaming up with (Proujansky) was a great idea.”

Activists demand local employment

During the meeting, board members heard testimony from nearly 20 community members that expressed concerns over a lack of a local hiring policy on taxpayer-funded projects, while about 80 community members crowded into the legislative chambers in support.

Related: Protesters urge county to pass local labor requirement

Robertson raised the question of local hiring practices with Proujansky during a questioning section from board members, who may approve over $2 million in tax abatements for construction, furnishings, fixtures and equipment for the project.

 “I’m happy to address that,” Proujansky responded. “This is a private property, but John and I have a history of being local … we’re not afraid of seeing unions participate.”

Proujansky pointed to other projects – namely the Collegetown Terrace Apartments and a project on State Street – where he and Novarr used local trades during the construction process.

A motion to bring the project proposal to a public hearing passed unanimously by the five board members that were present. Board member Will Burbank and Secretary of the IDA Mayor Svante Myrick were absent.

A date for the public hearing has not yet been determined.

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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: