ITHACA, N.Y. — With the deadline for applications passed, it looks like it won’t be much of a competition for naming a preferred developer of the Green Street Garage – only one submission, the proposal first shown by Ithaca Properties LLC last autumn, was filed.
The city had received some early interest from other developers – Truthsayers’ Josh Brokaw reported that Visum Development, Purcell Construction, INHS and Vecino Group of Missouri had attended a site tour back in December. Concerns had previously been voiced that the timeline, originally two months and then extended to three months, was too tight to formulate a plan that addressed every concern and request in the RFP.
Now under the name “Ithaca-Peak Development LLC”, the $123 million project is a whopper. Structurally, it’s two “bookend” 13-story towers with a six-story connector. There’s commercial space and parking on the first floor, followed by two more parking levels, and apartments above.
The project consists of 404 housing units, 38 (9.4%) of which will be “workforce studios” set aside for those making 90% of Area Median Income, which equates to about $47,600 per year. It was previously stated by city councilors at meetings last year that the redevelopment would likely not go forward unless some form of affordable housing was included. The rest of the units would rent for $1,125-$1,700/bedroom. The target market is “graduate students attending nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College, faculty and staff of both institutions and young professionals”, according to the submission.
In addition to the housing, 11,000 square-feet of retail space is included, mostly Cinemapolis space – the project will built around the theater, and it will remain in place. An 18,000-20,000 square-foot conference center will be built and leased out to the community for $360,000-400,000/year (specifically, it’s a long-term lease priced at $20/square-foot). The Green Street Garage itself will be renovated, and 35 parking spaces added for a total of 450. Garage space will be conserved by utilizing a parking lift system on the taller third floor for long-term valet parking.
With room for approximately 625 tenants (168 studios, 59 one-bedrooms, 136 two-bedrooms, and 42 three-bedrooms), if built the project would be the third largest in recent years, following Collegetown Terrace and Maplewood. It would be more than double the size of the next largest Downtown Ithaca development, the 193-unit/250-bed City Centre.
The project’s hard costs, the materials and labor, make up $101.5 million of the $123 million total cost. The project team will put up $36 million of equity, and take on $80 million in loans. The remaining $7 million would come from a state grant that would be paid out of the $500 million Upstate Redevelopment Initiative (URI, also known colloquially as the “Upstate Hunger Games”) the Southern Tier won back in 2015. The $7 million would be used to cover some of the costs of rehabilitating of the garage, and construction of the conference center.
The project will also be seeking the graduated 10-year CIITAP tax abatement from the city and county, and potentially a discount on the $800,000 it would need to pay in municipal permit fees. The application from the development team states that, as CIITAP applications from City Centre and Harold’s Square have noted, development costs downtown are more expensive per square foot, and that they feel the merits of their application would justify the award of an abatement. The submission states the project would still pay at least $3.3 million in new tax dollars over the 10-year period, and $800,000/year at the end of the abatement.
The project timeline aims for selection as preferred developer by June, with planning board review and tax abatement IDA application review to go from June through February 2019. Construction would take place in two phases to time the seasonal ups and downs of the local student-focused rental market, with the first phase running from March 2019 to August 2020, and the second from March 2019 to January 2021. 520-550 construction jobs would be created (75-100 workers on site at any given time), followed by eight jobs created for building management and maintenance (the conference center and commercial retail space employment is separate since they would be tenants).
Perhaps most controversially for downtown businesses, the garage would be closed for two months as rehabilitation takes place somewhere during the construction period; but, given the garage’s condition, it’s an unfortunate necessity regardless of who does the rehab.
Ithaca-Peak Properties LLC is a 50-50 business venture between Rimland Properties (who led the development of the Marriott next door, and have a ground lease for part of the garage), and Georgia-based McKinley Development Companies, which does business as student housing developer Peak Campus. Peak Campus is new to the area, but not to upstate – they currently have a pair of projects underway in Syracuse, both geared towards Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students.
Rounding out the project team are Blue Vista Capital Management as a financial partner, Cooper Carry as the architect, CHA Consulting Inc. as consulting engineer, and Syracuse-based general contractor Hueber-Breuer.
For those who want to dig deeper and see the financial forms explaining the project, here’s the link. The public is invited to attend a presentation by the developers to the IURA Economic Development Committee on March 13, at 3 p.m. in the Common Council chambers in City Hall.