ITHACA, N.Y. — Even with the high local housing costs, million-dollar real estate transactions are still pretty rare in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Even in Collegetown, unless you’re buying something big.

That’s exactly what happened yesterday. An LLC affiliated with long-time developer and landlord John Novarr purchased the 80-bed mixed-use apartment building at 301 College Avenue for $15 million. Concurrently, Novarr purchased a deteriorated apartment house on 224 Linden Avenue for $750,000.

According to county records, 301 College has been owned by Arizona-based College Ave Realty since 1991, which is run by Mary Egan Gutenberger. With her husband John Gutenberger, they ran Egan’s IGA before selling it in 1986. John was mayor of Ithaca from 1984-1990, and recently retired from Cornell. The Egan family has owned the property going back several decades, and the 5-story, 50,291 SF building is assessed at $7.5 million.

Readers might be more familiar with 301 College for hosting Jason’s Grocery and Deli on the first floor. A phone call this afternoon to Jason’s relayed that the market will stay open.

With the purchase of 301 College Avenue, John Novarr now has ownership of over an acre of contiguous property in Collegetown’s core. Along with 301 College Avenue and 224 Linden Avenue, he purchased 215 College Avenue for $5.3 million back in July 2015.

A report in the Ithaca Times from April 2016 states intent to tear down 215 College Avenue after the 2016-17 academic year. But it’s not certain if the purchase of 301 College Avenue and 224 Linden changes the calculus.

There is one person who knows for sure, and he isn’t talking for the time being. “As I used to say to my mother, ‘mum’s the word’,” said John Novarr when reached for comment.

Each of the three properties falls under a different segment of the Collegetown zoning code. 301 College is zoned MU-2, allowing for six floors and 100% lot coverage. 215 College Avenue is zoned MU-1 and allows 5 floors with 70% lot coverage. 224 Linden Avenue is zoned CR-4 and allows for 4 floors and 50% lot coverage. The one characteristic that ties them all together is that those are the three zones that don’t require any parking.

Even if nothing happens in the short-term, the development partnership run by Novarr with business partner Phil Proujansky still has a lot on their plate. As the last 344-bed phase of Collegetown Terrace opens up to its first tenants, work continues on the Breazzano Center to be leased by Cornell, while 67 faculty apartments and 24 student apartments are planned for 119-125 College Avenue and 238 Linden Avenue respectively.

Brian Crandall

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