ITHACA, N.Y. — It looks like we have ourselves a competition for the redevelopment of the Green Street Garage redevelopment – four separate applications were filed for the May 31st deadline.
Technically, these first-stage applications are actually Requests for Qualifications, RFQs. Project teams have submitted a Sponsor Application Form, which is a suite of pre-application documents with their credentials, team members, a basic questionnaire and a notice of intent to apply. Assuming no big red flags turn up during evaluation, the team may proceed to design and submit a plan before the next deadline at the end of July (in other words, they now get an additional two months to work on their applications).
As a reminder, the city’s stated preferences, which will be taken into account in the scoring process of applications, calls for 50-60 affordable housing units at a minimum, 450 publicly-accessible parking spaces, retention of Cinemapolis, street-level active uses to generate pedestrian traffic, and a conference center or suitable equivalent (the city’s Planning Committee floated the idea of a new City Hall). Applicants may redevelop all the garage, or just a portion.
Let’s take a look at the applicant groups:
1. McKinley Development, a/k/a Rimland-Peak
This is the known proposal, the one submitted last fall that triggered the city’s initial RFP request, and the only applicant in the first round, which some developers criticized as being too short. According to Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency Executive Director Nels Bohn, no revised sponsor application form was received from Rimland-Peak, so it is presumed that the project team remains the same, though their proposal itself may change between now and the end of July.
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.
2. Visum Development Group jointly with Newman Development Group
It appears Upstate New York’s fastest growing company wants to have a shot at redeveloping the garage. Visum and Newman Development Group (the developer of City Centre a block away) have assembled a number of high-profile local and regional firms in their application for the site. Included are Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for affordable housing, HOLT Architects, T.G. Miller and Taitem on the engineering side, Purcell Construction Corporation, Whitham Planning and Design and Carl Walker Inc., a national parking infrastructure specialty firm.
Most of the firms above have been involved in numerous projects over the past several years, and their reputation among city staff is well established. Visum did show early concept plans at the April IURA meeting, but those may be altered before a final submission is completed and submitted.
3. Harold’s Holdings LLC (David Lubin with McGuire Development)
As the developer of the 12-story Harold’s Square project next door, David Lubin and his project partner, Buffalo-based McGuire Development Company, are keenly interested in anything that would be built adjacent to their $40+ million project. Keenly interested enough such that they have submitted a pre-application of their own for the Green Street site.
Included as a partner with Lubin and McGuire is architect John Driscoll, who has railed against density and large-scale development in downtown Ithaca, as recently seen in a four-part series in Josh Brokaw’s Truthsayers website. As with Visum, Driscoll previously showed the city a concept plan, but the actual submission may differ. STREAM Collaborative his signed on to be the architect for the Harold’s Holdings proposal, and Taitem Engineering has agreed to work on this plan as well.
The fourth submission is a newcomer to the region – The Vecino Group of Springfield, Missouri. It was previously noted that Vecino had gone on a site tour of the garage along with Visum, Purcell Construction and INHS back in December, and has been in an expansion mode into New York State, opening an office in Troy last year. Vecino is a national firm with projects underway or completed in eleven states, including a historic rehabilitation in Utica and an urban housing development in Cohoes, near Albany.
Vecino lists INHS as a co-developer in their project (there are no rules saying INHS can’t be a part of multiple applications), and plans to use an in-house architecture and engineering team for their proposal. A glance at their portfolio shows that Vecino specializes in two forms of housing – affordable and supportive service housing (for example, housing for domestic abuse victims), and student housing.
We’ll have to wait until August to see what the four applicants have in mind, but at the very least, we know that this second attempt to redevelop a key downtown parcel and rebuild the parking garage will be a fairly competitive process.