ITHACA, N.Y. — Earlier this week, the Voice brought to you five key takeaways from the 2017 Planning Report. In that same report, the Planning Department also shared its expectations and itinerary for the year ahead. For this part two, we’ll take a look at that and how it fits into the opportunities and issues facing the city and its neighbors.

Making a plan

One big part of the department’s agenda for 2018 – neighborhood plans. These are effectively the “Phase IIs” of the Comprehensive Plan approved back in 2015. These are crucial because each neighborhood has its own assets, needs, challenges and potential areas of improvement – what works for Collegetown doesn’t necessarily apply to West Hill, and what Northside is worried about may not be what South Hill is concerned with.

In 2018, the city is looking at creating master plan and design guidelines for the Waterfront, and for Southside. The Waterfront is seen as a big opportunity for housing infill and economic development – and if projects like City Harbor and whatever Cayuga Medical Center has planned are any indication, the area is about to undergo significant change. The city would like to have a framework in place so that they and developers are on the same page before disagreements spill over into public hearings.

Meanwhile, for Southside, this could be seen as a delayed finish to an earlier draft called the “Southside Flowering Plan” that was written in the mid 2000s, but not fully completed and adopted. Southside isn’t really targeted for development, and if anything, the bigger issue lies with addressing gentrification of the historically African-American working class neighborhood, as well as general quality-of-life matters.

Just looking in our archives, these have been in the works for a couple of years already, and the planning department hopes to have the plans out for public review by the end of June, with public outreach over the summer and fall, and adoption by the city before the end of the year.

A little more broadly to the city as a whole, there are other plans to be published and implemented (they hope) during the year. Work on the first stage of the Parks Master Plan is anticipated to wrap up by the end of Q1 2018, with a part two for specific parks to come later. The city is also expected to make a strategic plan for city facilities to be ready later by this fall, and that’s important because it will play a big role in plans to relocate City Hall, Public Works, the Police HQ and other government facilities.

Setting some goals

Take a moment and name some things that come to mind when you think of issues regarding economic and real estate development – Sustainability? Housing affordability? Job growth? It’s on the city’s mind too.

On the sustainability front, the city will be looking to adopt its Green Building Policy by the end of Q3 2018. There’s been some discussion about it already, and there will be more as the details get flushed out. The city will also play a role in a new solar array by the airport, energy reports for city facilities, LED streetlights and other local initiatives.

With regards to the housing crisis, the city is looking to reduce restrictions on ‘creative housing’ like tiny houses, shipping container homes and the like, but the reception is lukewarm at best. More practical is greater flexibility in zoning (by expanding PUD zoning overlays), another look into inclusionary zoning, and finding an affordable housing proposal in the city with which to award joint Ithaca-Cornell-Tompkins Community Housing Development Fund (CHDF) grant dollars.

On a less hefty note, the city is looking at streetscape improvements in Collegetown, and new lighting and pavement on the 200 and 300 blocks of North Cayuga Street next to DeWitt Park. The city will also work with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance on phase two of a conference center study, and a downtown transportation management plan to ensure there’s adequate transit, and enough parking without it being excessive.

One last thing, important to both Fall Creekers and Waterfront dreamers – in cooperation with the NYS DEC, the city will initiate dredging of the inlet this year, and build a sediment management facility in the Southwest part of the city behind Wal-Mart. Cascadilla Creek will also be dredged starting in late summer or early fall.

The projects

If we’re to divvy up where development is going to be “hot” this year, honestly we’d probably have to leave Collegetown off the list. With the state fire code fiasco and concerns about Cornell’s new dorms, the landlords and outside buyers will be sitting on their wallets for the short term, even as the student population is expected to continue climbing this year.

Downtown and near downtown, there are a few possibilities for something to arise, but the market there is maturing and most of the remaining potential sites aren’t as optimal. Expect a lot of steel this summer as the Canopy Hilton Hotel, City Centre and Harold’s Square move towards 2019 completions. Tompkins Financial’s new headquarters will open by the end of May, and Chemung Canal will be in their new regional office by this fall. DeWitt House, the Old Library senior housing project, will start construction later this year.

The Green Street Garage redevelopment won’t start this year by any means, but a preferred developer is expected to be named by the end of June, and sale of the land to that developer by the end of the year. A bit further up the hill, the Chain Works District is likely to be approved and start its first phase (renovations of four existing buildings) by the end of the year.

The Waterfront will be a neighborhood to watch in 2018. City Harbor and Cayuga Medical are likely to bring ideas or continue to move plans forward. The city and county will also be working to relocate the NYS DOT facilities next to the Farmer’s Market, so that site can be claimed and an RFP for development released.

The city briefly references plans for Immaculate Conception School, TCAT’s Bus Station and Cornell’s Dorms, but the public info is sparse. Cornell is looking to build 800 beds in phase one of its new campus dorms (4-5 story buildings on its CC Parking Lot), and is expected to seek approval for those in the summer or fall of this year. Don’t worry folks, we got it covered, and will share the news ASAP.

Many plans, many ideas and many projects. It’s a lot to take in, and take care of; maybe that’s why the city is hiring two additional planners to its staff.

Brian Crandall

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