ITHACA, N.Y. — There’s no doubt the area has a lack of affordable housing options. A coalition of local non-profits would like to add another choice to the list in Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood.

The primary organizations bringing this new proposal forward are Finger Lakes ReUse (FLR), and Tompkins Community Action (TCAction). Both actively work with and employ lower-income and vulnerable populations in the course of their missions, with TCAction approaching it more directly as part of its worker advocacy, and FLR as it carries out its materials recycling and sustainability goals.

The plans, first shown at the city planning board meeting last Tuesday night, call for a two-phase project. The first phase would be the construction of a 10,360 SF (square-foot) reclaimed lumber storage facility that would expand FLR’s lumber recycling and reuse efforts. The new warehouse would be located on the northwest corner of the property, near the Ithaca Shopping Plaza.

The second phase would involve an addition onto the current sustainability center. The initial idea puts forward a four-story, 26,100 SF building interconnected to the south side of the existing 1950s structure, which before its recent renovation into FLR’s Southside store and warehouse, was previously home to a supermarket, and classrooms for TST BOCES.

Early sketches show that the addition would be a genuinely mixed-use concept – FLR would continue its retail operations on the first floor, and construct staff offices and meeting spaces on the second floor. 24 affordable housing units would be built on the third and fourth floors. Concept plans show that the units would likely be studios, with communal kitchen and dining space on each floor. FLR would own the structure, and TCAction would lease the top two floors and manage the apartment units. INHS is also involved with the project, as a consultant to FLR and TCAction.

According to INHS Senior Real Estate Developer Lynn Truame, the affordable units would need to apply for and receive state or federal housing grants in order to move forward. Given the time and labor involved, she expects that the second phase will not get underway until 2018 at the earliest. In order to meet the criteria for grants awarded by the state’s energy research unit (NYSERDA), the project will be aiming for LEED Gold certification. LEED is a green building certification program, with “Gold” the second-highest certification level. STREAM Collaborative is designing the building plans, with TAITEM Engineering, TG Miller and construction firm Welliver also taking part.

At this point, only the concept images have been shared, and the lumber storage building is the short-term priority for approval and construction. However, as plans progress with the affordable housing, the project team expects to host meetings with its Southside neighbors during 2017, to talk about the project and seek community input.

Brian Crandall

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