ITHACA, N.Y. — Plans are beginning to come together for a proposed relocation of Fire Station No.9 in Ithaca’s Collegetown neighborhood.

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According to documents included as part of the Southern Tier’s entry into the Upstate Redevelopment Initiative competition, Ithaca would like $1.2 million to help fund its “Firehouse Capital Plan”, also described as a Collegetown Redevelopment Plan in other sections of the submission.

The filing states that the city has reached an agreement with Cornell to relocate the fire station from 309 College Avenue to 120 Maple Avenue several blocks further east on the city’s eastern boundary. However, as part of the agreement, the city would have to relocate the Cornell buildings currently on the site, and pay for all of the relocation expenses.

The relocation expenses are pegged at $1.2 million and are billed as “infrastructure costs”. The construction of a new Fire Station No. 9 is estimated at $5 million, bringing the total project cost to $6.2 million. The city would pay for the project with the $1.2 million from the state, $3.8 million in cash equity, and $1.2 million in “other local funding”. The new fire station would be open by 2018.

The application notes that the fire station would primarily be sited on what is now a university-owned (and therefore already tax-exempt) parking lot on the Maple Avenue site. Given the choice of two parking lot, the larger one, across the street from the Coal Yard Apartments, seems the more plausible of the two options. It’s not clear if the current proposal would move forward if the Southern Tier plan isn’t selected as a funding recipient.

The current Fire Station No. 9, located in the heart of the densely-populated Collegetown neighborhood, was built in 1968. As it approaches 50 years of service, the building is due for major upgrades if it is to remain in working order. The city hired local firm Kingsbury Architecture in July to conduct a feasibility study on whether it would be more cost-efficient to renovate the current fire house, or build on a new site.

In a phone call, Pamela Kingsbury stated that “the study was submitted a week ago last Friday”, which would be September 25th. Kingsbury said she was not aware of any decisions by the city and university.

An unidentified developer has expressed interest in buying the current site of Fire Station No. 9. The city could command a high price for the site, given its potential – 309 College Avenue sits in Collegetown’s densest zone, MU-2, so a potential replacement could be six floors with no parking requirement. However, the city can’t sell the current fire house without having a suitable replacement ready to commence service.

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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.