ITHACA, N.Y. — The Chapter House is carefully flipping its pages to the next chapter.
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It’s been a slow, steady process, but initial design studies for the Chapter House building replacement have made their way into the hands of city officials.
The plans were filed earlier this week with the city of Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission, an appointed board of city residents whose duty is to make sure all new structures in historic districts are compatible and appropriate. This can range from entirely new buildings, to details as minor as pavers and paint color.
The study includes three four-story buildings, connected by glass “hyphen” connectors, like the one used on the recent addition at 140 College Avenue. The Chapter House would be in its customary first-floor location at 400-404 Stewart, while the upper floors would be apartments. The other two buildings are entirely residential.
The designs are the product of two architectural companies – local firm Jason K. Demarest Architect, and Andy Sprague of Studio Mosaic Architecture in Corning. The Chapter House building itself pays homage to the original structure’s design back in the early 1900s.
According to Chapter House property manager Jerry Dietz of CSP Management, the rebuild has been a complex undertaking. “There’s a lot going on. There are two different owners, three building sites, it’s complicated. Nothing is conclusive.”
Sebastian Mascaro owns the Chapter House building site at 400-404 Stewart Avenue. Next door, James Goldman owns the site to 406 Stewart Avenue, where an apartment house was also destroyed in last April’s fire.
One major detail up for debate has to deal with the damaged but repaired building at 408 Stewart Avenue, also owned by Goldman.
Due to alterations made decades before Goldman purchased the building in 2014, its historic value is being reviewed by the commission. The design study uses the assumption that 408 Stewart’s historic value has been diminished to the point where deconstruction will be allowed. “408 is still being examined, it remains to be seen what happens,” said Dietz.
ILPC Chair Edward Finegan also emphasized the preliminary nature of the design. “It’s a little early to say, it’s uncertain to say whether the council approves of the idea. There is no formal application. 408 is more problematic, it will need to be presented and debated.”
The project to rebuild the Chapter House has experienced hang-ups in its attempts to move forward – demolition of the fire-damaged structure had to be approved by the ILPC. “The demolition is coming to fruition, and we hope to get the demolition paperwork signed by the city next week. They [the ILPC] saw the wisdom in letting us take down the Chapter House and build something new. They’re looking in the neighborhood’s best interest,” said Dietz.
Finegan added: “We had hoped for re-use of some of the building, but the [structural] reports indicated it was too far gone. There is support for redeveloping the site.”
If there was any detail that was certain, it was that the project will need several approvals and permissions before anything rises from the ashes.
“Whether one or two building projects up there, in either case they need a Certificate of Appropriateness. But we’re not at that stage,” said Finegan.
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