ITHACA, N.Y. — With 2017 in the books, the city’s planning department has taken the time to look over what was proposed and approved last year, and set forward plans for what’s likely to take place from 2018 on. The Voice is here to pick through the statistics and figures, and summarize their findings into five overarching facts.

1. It was a huge year for new projects and new investment.

2017 proved to be something of a bumper crop for approved development in the city. A grand total of 568 housing units are approved. For comparison, in 2016, the city approved 62 housing units, 95 units in 2015, and 129 units in 2014.

The collective value of those projects also rose dramatically, and unlike previous years, the big-ticket projects were not institutional buildings at Cornell. The estimated value of projects approved in 2017 was $129.5 million, a big jump from the $27.7 million in 2016, and more than $113.8 million in 2015 and $56.3 million in 2014. In 2017’s total, there was only one Cornell project, the $350,000 renovation of Schwartz Plaza.

2. It’s not as dramatic with a closer look. Many projects reviewed in 2016 were approved at the start of 2017.

This was something that we alerted folks to last year – over $50 million of projects were approved in January 2017. All the legislative legwork for environmental review and analysis for those had been completed in 2016, but the final approvals just happened to granted right after 2017 started. If we shifted the period of analysis to say, February to February, 2016 would be a lot bigger, and 2017 would be pretty close to even. So yes, it looks dramatic, but that’s due to calendar-year quirks than an actual change in pace within the development pipeline.

3. Collegetown and Downtown were the big development hotspots.

The number of approved student-focused housing units was 92, an increase from 2016 and a little above the decadal average (69 units/year). However, it appears that this statistic might be questionable – for instance, the city defines 24-unit 238 Linden Avenue in Collegetown as general market housing, even though the project application clearly noted it appeals to Johnson Executive MBA students.

But there’s no doubt that the amount of general rental housing spiked, thanks to projects like City Centre (193 units) and the 67 units of housing aimed at visiting Cornell faculty/staff at 119-125 College Avenue in outer Collegetown. Which, quick aside, is under re-review because of the state fire code revisions disrupting most Collegetown development.

4. The total number of approved affordable housing and senior housing units increased.

If one is looking for some positive highlights, there are definitely some welcome statistics. 107 affordable housing units were approved, mostly in Lakeview’s 60-unit project on West Court Street, with a few other multi-unit builds including Finger Lakes ReUse’s 22 units of supportive housing, and a 13-unit INHS building on Elm Street. A pair of senior housing plans were approved as well – Travis Hyde Properties’ 57-unit DeWitt House plan that replaces the old county library, and Bridges Cornell Heights’ new 16-bed building at 109 Dearborn Place.

5. There’s a conspicuous lack of for-sale housing.

You want something to complain about? We can supply you with those statistics as well. An almighty eight units for-sale housing were approved by the city for construction in 2017. Of those, three were specifically geared for low-moderate income households (80% of area median income, which is about $43,000/year or less for a single adult household, or $60,000/year or less for a family of four). Hardly one percent of newly-approved housing is intended to be owner-occupied. Not good numbers for a city trying to encourage more home ownership.

There’s plenty to unpack in this report, and so look for a follow-up later this week that takes a glance at some of the big projects and plans the planning department will be looking to tackle this year.

Brian Crandall

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