ITHACA, N.Y. — A historic building along Ithaca’s State Street Corridor is no longer being considered for a harm reduction operation that included plans for a safe (supervised) heroin injection facility.

According to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), The Reach Project, Inc. was forced to withdraw their plans for 310 West State Street because the current owner of the building, New York City businessman Fei Qi, sold the building to another buyer. No transfer of the deed has been filed with the county at this time, but a filing with the city indicates the sale is expected to close on December 1st.

The prospective buyers, local doctor David Halpert and his wife, Board of Zoning Appeals member Teresa Halpert Deschanes, already have plans to renovate and build a new addition on the property. Members of the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) discussed plans earlier this week to replace a historic carriage house that had once stood at the rear the property, but was torn down three years ago when the property was still owned by the Salvation Army next door. Due in part to protests over the demolition of the carriage house, as well as concerns for the condition of the primary structure, the city later enacted a small historic district along the block, creating additional protections and making future demolition much more difficult; all exterior work must also be approved by the ILPC.

Conceptual plans call for a pair of housing co-operatives to live at the site, presumably one in the 3,347 SF 8-bedroom house, and one in the to-be-built “carriage barn”. Collectively called “Woody’s Place”, green space and a patio would be shared by the residents, whom are expected to be “young professionals who want to live in an affordable ‘semi-intentional community’ setting”.

“The house needs work, and because of a deteriorated slate/asbestos roof, the cost of roofing is over $100,000. This expense would sink most projects on the site. However, the ability to rebuild a new, ILPC-approved carriage house on the same property makes the project viable,” wrote Halpert and Deschanes to the IURA.

A few other details also make the $576,000 renovation viable. One is eligibility for up to $126,000 in historic building rehabilitation tax credits. Another is an application for a Restore NY grant asking for $118,000, which is the estimated cost of the roof replacement plus asbestos abatement. The building is being purchased for $141,000 cash (the whole site is being acquired for $282,000, but only half the development qualifies as a rehab) and the applicants plan to self-fund the rest. The stated costs do not include the construction of the carriage house/barn.

It is a bit unorthodox to file for the Restore NY grant after the other projects have been reviewed and scored, but the grant deadline isn’t until December 15th, so they do still have time to spare. The IURA will be reviewing the plans and consider endorsing the new proposal later today. If endorsed and funded by the state grant, the plan is to start construction in April.

Brian Crandall

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