ITHACA, N.Y. – As another year comes to a close, we have another year to reflect on Ithaca’s development. 2016 continued the trends of the past few years – economic and population growth have led to development being a hot-button conversation topic in the coffee houses and around the office water coolers. Since some reflection is healthy, let’s take a look at the five biggest stories of the past year.

1. The 201 College Avenue debate

201’s debate boils down to a clash of two strong personalities. On the one end, there’s Todd Fox, who is probably the most gung-ho and financially adept developer one will find in the city of gorges; and on the other end, there’s Neil Golder, a former common councilor and 44-year Collegetown resident who was determined as hell to stop the 5-story project planned for the house next door, because in his view, wasn’t just a development, it was a project that he deeply felt would be a major detriment to his quality of life.

After “Save the Soul of Collegetown” created much debate over what actually is the soul of Collegetown, the project was put into limbo by a vague section of zoning code, that the citizens’ planning board interpreted one way, and the city’s planning department saw differently. A review by the board of zoning appeals ruled in favor of the planning department, and the 74-unit apartment building started construction shortly thereafter.

New apartment building planned in Collegetown – Plans are being presented to the Ithaca city planning board Tuesday night detailing a 5-story, 76-bedroom apartment building proposed for 201 College Avenue, two blocks south of Collegetown’s core. The Ithaca Voice
Ithaca resident rallying public to ‘Save the Soul of Collegetown’ – An Ithaca resident is hoping to rally support to speak out against a planned development at 201 College Avenue in Collegetown during Tuesday’s Planning and Development Board meeting. The Ithaca Voice
An Epic Zoning Saga Concludes: 201 College Ave Now Under Construction – One of the weirder trips through the city’s planning process in recent history ended for developer Todd Fox and his Visum Development Group around 10:30 p.m. on Monday, October 17. Truthsayers
Long-debated 201 College Avenue apartment project to proceed in original form – After months of debates and delays, the divisive five-story, 70-foot tall apartment project planned for 201 College Avenue will be moving forward — in its original form, no less. The Ithaca Voice

2. Cornell’s Plans for Maplewood

It’s not everyday Cornell proposes a $80 million housing plan. Although some neighbors were opposed to the sheer size of the plans and the prospect of having 872 more Cornell graduate students in the Belle Sherman neighborhood, the university and its development partner EdR Trust have managed to satisfy most of the community’s requests – the project will be built with union labor, makes major strides with energy use and alternative renewable energy sources, and returns what was once a tax-exempt dorm property back to the tax tolls, to the tune of $2.25 million annually. It also adds almost 500 beds to Cornell’s housing stock, indicating that the university is finally making an effort to address its role in the local housing crunch. Preliminary approvals were granted this month, with construction planned to start early next year.

Cornell plans for new $80 million urban neighborhood at Maplewood Park – Cornell has a very large housing deficit. They appear to be tackling that in a big way. The Ithaca Voice
The $1.5 million question for Ithaca’s Maplewood Park redevelopment – You have questions about the Maplewood Park redevelopment. Cornell and EdR might have answers. Some of which require a little more digging than others. The Ithaca Voice
Cornell, EdR hope revised Maplewood wins over crowd – At the public hearing planned for today at 7 P.M. at Ithaca Town Hall, the Maplewood Park project team plan to present fresh changes to the design that they hope will assuage the concerns of neighbors. The Ithaca Voice
Maplewood redevelopment prepared for final review – The final stages of the review process have started for Cornell’s massive Maplewood Park redevelopment. The Ithaca Voice

3. Maguire, and what to do with the waterfront

The waterfront is seen my many business and elected officials as the future of Ithaca’s development – if one encourages density and mixed-uses along the West End and Waterfront, it revitalizes a formerly industrial and warehouse area with few historic structures, and adds needed housing and amenities while taking pressure off of existing neighborhoods. Sounds like a win, but the problem is, no one’s exactly figured out how to do it, and what else should be included. The city’s still in the process of community meetings and revising the local zoning.

Enter Maguire. Ten years ago, their plans for an $18 million car dealership would have been seen as a victory for the long-ignored and mostly-vacant Carpenter Business Park. The plan offered jobs, it offered more tax dollars. But in the end, the city’s Common Council, which has temorary authority while the zoning is being redone, voted the project down. At last check, Maguire said they were revising their plans, and would roll out a new, more mixed-use approach in 2017.
A clash of visions for Maguire dealership site on Ithaca’s waterfront – “It’s not our intent to create controversy,” said Phil Maguire. The Ithaca Voice
Maguire waterfront dealership pitch gets lukewarm reception from Ithaca officials – The “uphill battle” began in earnest Wednesday night, as the Maguire Family of Dealerships and the project team behind the proposed waterfront-area dealership made their first pitch to Ithaca’s Planning and Economic Development Committee. The Ithaca Voice
Ithaca officials: Maguire project doesn’t fit with comprehensive plan – The path forward for Maguire’s proposed new dealership at the Carpenter Business Park got a little bit narrower on Wednesday night. The Ithaca Voice
Ithaca waterfront dealership shot down, but Maguire may try again – Maguire’s proposed car dealership slated for the Carpenter Business Park continued to draw crowds to the Common Council chambers as the issue came to a head on Wednesday evening. The Ithaca Voice

4. The Old Library redevelopment is still up in the air

It hasn’t been the most auspicious year for the county’s Old Library site. Travis Hyde Properties and the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission have duked it out with each successive design proposal; although the county has expressed support for the THP plans, the ILPC has effectively managed to stop the development in its tracks, with various proposals subject to concerns over parking, building size, not looking appropriate, and neighbors who dislike the apartment plan and are hoping they can persuade the county to reconsider the Franklin/STREAM condominium proposal. At this point, we’re seen seven designs shot down, and we’re up to design proposal #8; THP says that if things don’t look good at the ILPC’s January meeting, they’re pulling out of the site, which will leave the county in the lurch. As Tompkins County is learning, sometimes the best-laid plans can get thrown off track.

Changes proposed for Old Library project – Developers for the old Tompkins County Library replacement have shed plans to acquire the Lifelong property, and they have changed the project’s look. The Ithaca Journal
An impossible building? Old Library project sent back to the drawing board – In a meeting on Tuesday, several members of the public said that Tompkins County had created an impossible situation at the Old Library site. Some went so far as to call the situation a “trainwreck.” The Ithaca Voice
Old Library site proposals may be nearing end An end may be in sight for the Old Library project, whether a proposal is settled on or not. The Ithaca Voice

5. Simeon’s makes its triumphant return

Just to show you that not everything in 2016 was controversial or disappointing. Two years after a big rig car-carrier slammed into the building, killing one and injuring several others, the reconstructed Griffin Building and Simeon’s have opened their doors to the populace once again.

Simeon’s is opening Friday! Simeon’s is opening Friday! – A little over two years after a tragic accident, Simeon’s on the Commons is reopening to the public this Friday afternoon, August 26th. 14850.com
Ithaca (officially) welcomes Simeon’s back to the Commons – It’s been a long ride of tragedy and uncertainty, but under a steady rain on the Ithaca Commons Thursday morning, a red ribbon was cut in front of Simeon’s American Bistro — and it meant the world to people. The Ithaca Voice

Brian Crandall

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