ITHACA, N.Y. — Mayor Svante Myrick announced his opposition to tax breaks for a proposed 11-story building in downtown Ithaca on Wednesday night.

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The Texas-based developer Campus Advantage is seeking a tax abatement from the Industrial Development Agency, of which Myrick is a member, in order to build a $40 million project at 301 East State Street — a block from the Ithaca Commons.

But Campus Advantage has faced strenuous opposition and objections from many members of the community and city staff, who have said that the project is too big for the site and would too quickly change an iconic piece of Ithaca.

The developers appeared to gain a major victory recently when the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which represents many of the city’s business leaders, endorsed the project in an 11-1 vote. Myrick has been a leading advocate for downtown building density and a close ally of the DIA in many development debates, so his decision to oppose the abatement may surprise some.

New to this story? Find related content here: Trebloc site proposal

In an announcement on his Facebook page, Myrick cited two primary factors for why he would oppose tax breaks for this project:

1 — Designed for students | Myrick said he wouldn’t support the project in part because it did too much to cater to students rather than a broad cross-section of residents.

“A building of this size and scale has tremendous potential to provide housing opportunities for senior citizens, students, young professionals and families downtown,” Myrick said. “Under the current configuration, the population that can be housed will be too limited.”

2 — The “visual impact” | Myrick said that he didn’t oppose the idea of an 11-story building, but still thought its “visual impact” would be too great.

“The visual impact of the building and the increased pedestrian traffic should be mitigated by setting the building back from the street,” Myrick wrote. “A larger setback will mean a wider, more accommodating sidewalk, more outdoor dining, and a narrower, more aesthetically pleasing building.”

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The implications of Myrick’s announcement on the likelihood of the project remain unclear.

On the one hand, as the leader of the municipality most affected by the proposed building, Myrick’s stance is likely to have a major impact in the discussion surrounding the building

On the other hand, the project still could win an abatement — in part because the IDA has several voting members who are also historically pro-development.

Myrick’s statement is in full below:

“I believe that Ithaca would be a more affordable, more vibrant, and healthier city if we had more places for people to live downtown.

I believe that the State Street Triangle site is the ideal place to build housing because it is located precisely where downtown, South Hill and East Hill intersect.

But, I think the current Trebloc proposal does not meet the community vision for the site for two reasons.

First, it is designed for only for student residences. A downtown worthy of Ithaca must be home to a diverse population. A building of this size and scale has tremendous potential to provide housing opportunities for senior citizens, students, young professionals and families downtown. Under the current configuration, the population that can be housed will be too limited.

Secondly, while I believe that the height of the building is appropriate for the heart of our City, the visual impact of the building and the increased pedestrian traffic should be mitigated by setting the building back from the street. A larger setback will mean a wider, more accommodating sidewalk, more outdoor dining, and a narrower, more aesthetically pleasing building.

After months of discussion and public engagement with the developer I believe that they are well-intentioned, but we have not been able to come to terms.

So I intend to vote against a tax abatement for the project and I’ve encouraged the developer to withdraw their application completely and go back to the drawing board.

 
 

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.