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Meeting for the first time in nine months, the Tompkins County Legislature’s Old Library Committee today (Monday) received a project update regarding redevelopment of the site of the Old Tompkins County Library from preferred developer Travis Hyde Properties.

The hour-long meeting came at the request of the developer, to inform the committee about how the project is evolving since the Legislature granted Travis-Hyde preferred developer status, now that the project is reported about a third of the way through the review process by the City of Ithaca Planning Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission.

One significant project change is that the senior citizens organization Lifelong will no longer move its headquarters into the new building, known as Dewitt House.

In an approach that Lifelong treasurer Tom Butler told the committee was the best approach for Lifelong, the organization will retain its one-story brick building at 119 W. Court Street (which had been proposed to be deconstructed to make way for the new building), is putting its historic two-story white house at 121 W. Court on the market, and will be provided rent-free use of the Dewitt House community room for Lifelong classes.  This approach, Butler said, will cost his organization $50,000 less than the initial proposal.  Rental fees for use of the community room by other organizations will also be paid to Lifelong, according to developer Frost Travis.

The number of apartment units in the building has decreased slightly, from 60 to 55, and the number of parking spaces also reduced, from 30 to 25—all of those spaces now internal to the building (made possible by elimination of 2,000 square feet of Lifelong office space), and two of the apartments are now located on the first floor.

Travis said that, while the units are still predominantly one- and two-bedroom, nine three-bedroom units are now also included.  Modifications to the façade include some setbacks and addition of balconies, to decrease massing of the building, as recommended by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

While the building is characterized as senior-focused housing, Travis said he is mulling whether the age range might be expanded somewhat, in response to comments he’s heard valuing the vibrancy a mix of ages could provide for the living environment.

Chair Michael Lane expressed some continued concern about parking provisions, questioning whether 25 spaces would be sufficient to accommodate residents and guests.  It was pointed out that the existing Lifelong parking would still be there, providing some after-hours parking space.

Developers expect the necessary municipal approvals from the City to be in hand by September, making possible County sale of the building in October, final design renderings over the winter, and a construction start in spring 2017.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.