ITHACA, N.Y. — After a proposed 11-story building called “The State Street Triangle Project” was criticized at City Hall by several members of Ithaca’s planning board, its developers met with the community about the proposal. The public meeting was held on Thursday at Coltivare in downtown Ithaca.
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“We thought it would be a good time to hold a meeting away from City Hall, where we could actually have a dialogue with the community outside of that process,” said Scott Whitham – of Whitham Planning & Design, LLC, coordinator of the project.
The project has already undergone several changes. “We began with various thematic designs about six months ago and then moved forward from there,” Whitham said.
Noah Demarest from Stream Collaborative presented the project’s evolution. “Our role here as the local architects is to help Kelly Grossman architects make the project more contextual to Ithaca,” Demarest said.
Initially the building was fairly modern. Demarest showed the very early concept they came up with: “What this was trying to do is to break the building up more horizontally rather than vertically and really try to make a more traditional 3-part building where there is a strong base and pedestrian scale,” he said.
“The other thing that we did is the introduction of another type of building on the corner which would really break this into two different styles. So again this was an early concept and the building has continued to evolve and we’ll just talk through some of those evolution.”
He showed the scheme that was sent to the planning board last month. “As you can see, it retains a lot of the features that the building had initially, but we have introduced a new building façade along State Street where we broke this up into three very distinct parts. In addition we also dropped this story to create a roof terrace, an outdoor space at the very top level, the 11th story,” he said.
According to Demarest, the local architects’ main goal is “to enhance the pedestrian experience and carry the same character and amenity of the Commons across the street and really all the way down in front of the building.”
After receiving feedback from the planning board, Demarest said they “worked hard with the development team and with the architects to see what [they] could do to continue to erode away this building to make it less massive.”
“Earlier this week we’ve dropped the corner – what many would argue is the most important corner that faces the Commons, an entire story. We dropped this down to 10 stories, and we’ve created that outdoor terrace space which would have pretty stunning views of the lake at this point,” Demarest said.
The project now includes six different buildings with six different architectural styles. “One of the things we are doing with these separate buildings is really trying to take inspiration from the architectural details downtown of the Commons and other really great buildings around the country,” Demarest said.
According to Whitham, the planning board had also asked them to work with the city to examine the intersection as part of their design work, and to look for ways to improve the pedestrian experience. The new schematic proposal for the intersection, designed with SRF Traffic Consultants and T.G. Miller Engineers, “takes away the slip lane and improves the turning radius for large vehicles, at the same time as increasing the pedestrian area and making an experiential connection to the Commons,” Whitham said.
Whitham and Demarest answered the questions of the crowd, together with Vicki Taylor Brous, Communications, Mike Peter, President and CEO of Campus Advantage of Austin, TX, and Ronnie Macejewski, Senior Vice President of Development Services.
One of the Ithacans’ main concerns was that this was going to be “a monocultural building of all students.” According to Whitham, “that was not a desirable thing for the city to have,” so the developers “went back to the floor plans and designed 60 % of the units as studios, one bedroom or two bedrooms, to create the opportunity for a more diverse resident population.”
Ronnie Macejewski said that the beds went from 620 to 582. The rents will range from 980 to 1600 dollars per bed, which includes everything from Internet and utilities to fitness center.
Despite this move away from the student model, many Ithacans are still concerned that downtown Ithaca is really not for the people who live there and have been paying taxes for a long time, and that the Commons is becoming a “boutique alley.” Furthermore, some expressed concern about the lack of parking spaces in the area and the possibility of an increased traffic.
The developers reminded the audience that the next appointment will be the September 22nd Public Hearing at City Hall on the project, where any public comments will become part of the public record.
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