ITHACA, N.Y. — As 2017 winds to a close, it seems fitting to look back on the year and highlight the biggest business and development stories from the past twelve months. On the balance, the fundamentals have remained the same – the local economy is growing at a steady clip, the county population continues its slow rise, and projects big and small have gone before building departments and planning boards across the area. Let’s take a couple minutes out to reflect on this year’s newsmakers as we head into 2018.

To preserve, or not to preserve?

This question seems to be the theme for Collegetown in 2017. Multiple property with at least some historic value were debated as whether or not they were worthy of landmark designation. One, the Larkin Building, second from right above with the red-painted cornice brackets, was granted historic landmark status; however, the Chacona Block, a similarly-aged building a few doors down (far left in the photo), was not, a topic that still has some in the historic preservation community fired up. Meanwhile, a third property, the Nines restaurant and former firehouse at 311 College Avenue, is staring down a development plan that has some Ithacans up in arms about the loss of character in Ithaca’s most expensive (and fiscally lucrative) neighborhood.

Historic protection considered for century-old Collegetown buildings – In a city with a long and storied history, development and history can sometimes be at odds, and it’s often a delicate balance in determining what’s old and worth protecting, and what’s just old. The Ithaca Voice
Common Council: When is a Building Historic? – The PEDC was set to review and pass a resolution to affirm whether the Larkin Building, a 5-story building at 403 College Avenue in the Collegetown neighborhood, merited historic preservation landmarking. It ended up being far more controversial than most expected. The Ithaca Voice
Myrick breaks tie vote, opposes Collegetown historic landmarking for Chacona Block – In a down-to-the-wire vote Wednesday, city of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick voted against historic landmark designation for Collegetown’s Chacona Block, the century-old home to neighborhood mainstays Collegetown Bagels and Rulloff’s Restaurant. The Ithaca Voice
Visum Revives Plans for “The Nines” Redevelopment – At the city of Ithaca Planning Board meeting last night, Visum Development Group reintroduced a sketch plan concept to replace the Nines bar and restaurant at 311 College Avenue. The Ithaca Voice

On South Hill, it’s about character

In the case of South Hill, it was a case of preservation, but a different kind – namely, keeping a balance between permanent residents and incoming housing primarily geared towards Ithaca College students. A duplex planned at 217 Columbia Street proved to be the final straw for most, as residents turned out in force to demand some kind of change to the zoning to prevent more rental duplexes from being built. The most the city could do is establish an overlay to prevent multiple primary structures on one property, which tamps down most of the projects, but leaves the future of the neighborhood up in the air until a new neighborhood-specific development plan is hashed out in the next couple years. The potential addition of the Chain Works District further up the hill stands to modify the equation quite a bit if the plans come to fruition.

Concerned with more student housing, South Hill residents call for pause on building in neighborhood – Residents of Ithaca’s South Hill say they are tired of the trash, noise and parties that accompany the large number of students living in the neighborhood. With another student-geared duplex proposed, many people are calling for a moratorium on building in the area until there is a neighborhood plan. The Ithaca Voice
Community members voice concern for housing proposal on South Hill – During a neighborhood gathering on Thursday evening, residents of Ithaca’s South Hill voiced concerns for a newly proposed duplex, the second meeting in the past week which held discussions in regards to the proposed housing. The Ithaca Voice
City of Ithaca seeks to rein in student housing on South Hill – At the city of Ithaca Planning and Economic Development Committee later today, members of the Common Council will likely take the first steps to halt the “studentization” of South Hill. The Ithaca Voice
Ithaca South Hill overlay passes in 9-1 vote – In a 9-1 vote, most of Common Council decide to address residents’ concerns by putting a temporary stopper on infill development in low density areas. The Ithaca Voice.

Image courtesy of Jason Henderson.

A Lot Going Down on the Waterfront

It’s been an interesting year for those keeping an eye on Ithaca’s waterfront and near-waterfront prospects. Early in the year, The Maguires had filed a ‘Plan B’ lawsuit against the city as it shifted development plans to Southwest Ithaca; the lawsuit was dropped in June when Cayuga Medical Center purchased the Carpenter Business Park for $10 million, nearly four times what Phil Maguire had paid for the property just two years earlier. That same month, CMC rival Guthrie Medical Group picked up a pair of warehouses near the inlet for $2.85 million. The new waterfront zoning, which allowed for more residential sites and moved towards denser and more walkable development projects, was approved in August.

More recently, a team of local builders and developers purchased the Johnson Boatyard on Pier Road and launched plans for “City Harbor” a large mixed-use project that apparently involves Guthrie, and even Greenstar co-op, if indirectly. There’s a lot going on here, and many moving parts to keep in track of. With all these plans afoot, 2018 might end up being “the year of the waterfront”.

Maguire files ‘Plan B’ lawsuit against Ithaca – The Maguire Family of Dealerships has filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the city of Ithaca over the city’s Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development (TM-PUD) zoning for the Carpenter Business Park. The Ithaca Voice
Carpenter Business Park Sold to Cayuga Medical Center – According to the release, the Cayuga Med purchase, far above what Maguire paid for the property two years ago, will ultimately lead to a “compact, mixed-use” development. The Ithaca Voice
Guthrie seeks Ithaca expansion with West End purchase – According to a county filing on June 2nd, Guthrie is paying $2.85 million for the properties at 750 and 770 Cascadilla Street, over the asking price of $2.7 million. The Ithaca Voice
Explainer: Waterfront officially rezoned, what does that mean and why should I care? – All you could ever care to know about the city of Ithaca’s waterfront rezoning. The Ithaca Voice
Major mixed-use project planned for Johnson Boatyard site – In a press release earlier this afternoon, a trio of local and regional construction and real estate firms announced plans to redevelop the former Johnson Boatyard site at 101 Pier Road into a major mixed-use project. The Ithaca Voice
Large Waterfront proposal would bring housing and medical offices – City Harbor, LLC presented the project to the Planning Board Tuesday night, a mere vague outline at this point but still a significant step in the effort to convert the industry-heavy waterfront to a more residential focus. The Ithaca Times

Renewable Energy – In My Backyard?

Chances are, you won’t find too many people who would say that solar and wind energy are bad things in principle. Collection costs continue to drop, and support for alternatives to fossil fuels remains high locally. However, debate has arisen over 2017 as medium-scale and large-scale solar and wind projects have sought to expand their footprint in Tompkins County, with issues over location, who the buyers are, and PILOT agreements on taxes. The president may be cheering on coal, but it looks like renewable energy will continue to drive discussions in 2018.

Tompkins sees influx of solar arrays; new proposed projects in Newfield and Dryden – In 2017, we carry computers in our pockets, test self-driving cars, and solar panels are not only economically feasible, they’re a promising business venture. Welcome to the new reality. The Ithaca Voice
In Dryden, a solar panel debate heats up – “No matter where we go, we always find the first reaction is surprise…change is disconcerting.” The Ithaca Voice
With bankruptcy, Black Oak Wind Farm officially dead – A combination of lawsuits and a moratorium forced the Black Oak Wind Farm project into bankruptcy, ending plans for seven wind turbines in the hills of Enfield. The Ithaca Times

DeWitt House (The Old Library Redevelopment)

This one is easy to forget since it’s been ongoing for years, and most of the action happened early in 2017. But, let’s not forget that after years of meetings, a heated selection process, and seven revisions, the plans from Travis Hyde Properties were approved by the city of Ithaca’s Landmarks Preservation Council on a 4-3 split. This allowed the project to seek and obtain planning board approval, and secure a sales agreement with Tompkins County. In fact, that $925,000 sales agreement closed just this week. The redevelopment at 310-314 North Cayuga will reuse the old library’s foundation as it builds up 58 senior apartments and ground floor commercial and community space.

FINALLY! Ithaca old library one step closer to becoming DeWitt House after 4-3 vote – Going into Tuesday night’s meeting about the Old Library, there were a lot of check boxes planners had to mark off to give the proposed Dewitt House project even a fighting chance at surviving — and yet after a vote of 4-3, the project is one step closer to fruition. The Ithaca Voice
After procedural hurdles, Ithaca Old Library, Waterfront projects steam ahead – The $17 million project would start construction in December and be ready for occupancy by March 2019. The Ithaca Voice
Tompkins County agrees to sell Old Library site for $925k – County legislators agree to sell the property with stipulations to Travis Hyde Properties. The Ithaca Voice

Brian Crandall

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