ITHACA, N.Y. — The last time the City Centre project went before the Ithaca city planning board, Vestal-based Newman Development received the unflattering critique that it looked like State Street Triangle’s “little brother”, a reference to the now-cancelled proposal for an 11-story student-focused apartment building previously planned for the Trebloc site. They’re hoping that this latest version dispels those impressions.

Documents submitted for review at the October Planning Board meeting later this month show an eight-story building, 85-foot building. That would be one floor and eleven feet shorter than the previous design. Zoning for the property, a triangle-shaped parcel located on the 300 Block of East State Street, is CBD-120, meaning that the development team could build up to 120 feet tall.

As a result of the revisions, there has been a decrease in the number of units and bedrooms planned. The version of City Centre presented earlier this summer called for 254 apartments totaling 269 bedrooms. The revised proposal calls for 193 apartments and 236 bedrooms, decreases of 27% and 14% respectively – it’s overall fewer units and bedrooms, but more two-bedroom units were added into the mix. For the record, students are not the intended market – the project is being marketed as middle-income rental housing for the general Ithaca market.

When asked about the increase in two-bedroom units, developer Jeff Smetana of Newman Development said “It’s in response to planning board, it gave us more flexibility to change the building design.” Smetana preferred to wait to talk about most specifics, saying he wanted to give deference to the planning board with regard to discussion of project details.

The amount of ground-floor retail is nearly the same as before (a very small increase from 10,600 to 10,800 SF), and the building amenity and support has increased from 7,225 SF to 8,700 SF. The parking was also adjusted very slightly, from 71 to 72 spaces. The construction timing for City Centre has been pushed back a month (March 2017 – Nov 2019), and the project cost has risen a couple percent to $32.9 million.

According to the project narrative by planning consultant Scott Whitham, “This urban infill proposal introduces a new mixed-use development that enlivens downtown Ithaca with increased residential density and retail locations…This proposal embodies an urban, walkable lifestyle within this small city, and complements adjacent existing land uses.”

The city planning board will have their chance to weigh in on that ’embodiment of the urban walkable lifestyle’ at their meeting on October 25th. The board is expected to “Declare Lead Agency” at the meeting, meaning that they agree to conduct the environmental review process for the project, and it is the first official step in the review and approval process.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.