ITHACA, N.Y. — They may not be as flashy as a downtown high-rise, but they could make a subtle yet noticeable dent in the city’s housing needs. A trio of small apartment plans are in various stages of the planning and construction process in three different Ithaca neighborhoods.
All these projects fall under the broad description of “urban infill“. They’re not large and they’re not meant to be large. They’re easier to finance, quicker to build, and less likely to face the opposition of neighbors. The high land costs in Downtown and Collegetown make smaller projects like these an impracticality, but in slightly less costly parts of Ithaca, they offer a way of increasing density and providing more housing options without fundamentally changing the character of a neighborhood. Due to financial and zoning considerations, duplexes, townhouses and small apartment buildings are often missing from the development equation, and are sometimes referred to as the “missing middle” of housing between single-family homes and large apartment buildings.
The first we’ll highlight is in Fall Creek. Local developer Stavros Stavropoulos is planning to take down an existing single-family house at 1001 North Aurora Street, and replace it with two, two-family houses that would face Queen Street and Fall Creek Elementary. Each of the four units would be a 3-bedroom rental, and parking provided in a shared driveway between the houses with space for four cars (the site’s R-2b zoning requires one off-street parking space per three bedrooms). Local architect Daniel Hirtler of Flatfield Designs is designing the houses, and the plan is to have them ready for occupancy by May 2017.
The second project is located at 607 South Aurora Street on South Hill. Here, developer Charlie O’Connor of Ithaca’s Modern Living Rentals is planning four 2-story houses, each with two units. The existing house on the property would be retained. Like the previous project, each unit here would be a 3-bedroom rental. In a rare outing outside of Collegetown, architect Jagat Sharma is in charge of the design, with assistance from the prolific local architects at STREAM Collaborative.
The planning board and planning department have had the opportunity to do an initial review and critique of the project plans, and recommend amendments to the position of the houses and parking on the site plan before moving forward with environmental review. MLR’s web site says that they’re aiming to have the eight units available for rent by August 2017.
The last project is already under construction – just finishing up, in fact. The Ciaschi family has quietly been working on a new duplex at 512-14 West Green Street in Ithaca’s South Side neighborhood. Having dropped by the site, were it not for the caution tape by the curb and dirt churned up by construction vehicles coming in and out, the project would have passed under the radar. Local construction company and modular home specialist Carina Construction is putting the finishes on two three-bedroom rental units. Due to a quirk in the city’s zoning, the house at the front of this large, deep city lot requires parking, but the rear of the property does not. This project never had to go before the planning board because it was one of those rare few that met all its zoning requirements, and as a result it could be approved by city staff.