ITHACA, NY – The historic Masonic Temple at 117 Cayuga St., which has set empty for over a decade, will soon see a revitalization.

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A $500 thousand state grant that was approved today has paved the way for this project according to a news release from Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

The DIA worked with controversial Ithaca developer Jason Fane’s Ithaca Renting Company, who owns the property, to secure the grant through the New York State “Main Street Program,” which encourages revitalization efforts at historic sites in downtown urban centers.

The three-floor, 20,000 square foot temple sat unused for over a decade due to its historic designation, according Ithaca Renting’s COO Nathan Lyman – although this was disputed by Historic Ithaca’s Chistine O’Malley. The grant would allow the property to be renovated and put to use.

The grant should allow for a total renovation of the property, according to the release. As of the grant application, Ithaca Renting had agreed to match the funds provided by the grant.

Lyman cited a number of expensive obstacles that justified the large grant, such as the need to bring the large building into compliance with modern building and fire codes and install an elevator to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

The plan was set in motion in June of this year, when Fane sought the support of Ithaca’s Common Council to pursue the grant. The council unanimously supported the project.

“It’s an iconic building for downtown, and it’s a shame for it to be in disrepair. To get a grant to help bring it back would be great,” said 5th ward alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff at the time.

Related: Ithaca backs Jason Fane plan for Masonic Temple funding

Details on the project

Details on the project

According to the DIA’s news release, “The renovation will entail a series of code, façade, and systems upgrades that will convert the functionally obsolete landmark into new leasable units for a variety of commercial uses including office space and an eatery.”

The project is estimated to have a total cost of $1 million. Planning will begin immediately, with construction slated to start in summer of 2016.

DIA Executive Director Gary Ferguson says that this is the fourth Main Street grant awarded to the group. Previous grants, he said, “made a tremendous impact on the functionality and visual appeal of our downtown buildings and streetscape.”

The statement indicates that the project aims to “update the building for modern uses while paying respect to its historical character.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.