ITHACA, N.Y. — “Are you 100% positive you can build what you’re going to propose?” Those were the first words that a member of Ithaca Common Council said to me when I started thinking about pursuing the Green Street parking garage development. That member continued to tell me “…that eastern parking garage has less than 24 months before it deteriorates to the point where it will be completely unsafe, and the City would have a multi-million-dollar liability on their hands”. It was in that moment that I realized the complexity and critical nature of this development.
In real estate you always ask the question “what if?”. What if we proposed a project that turned out to be unrealistic, unfeasible and financially unviable? What kind of position would we be putting the City of Ithaca in? Within days of deciding to pursue the development the Visum team together with Newman Development Group, made a commitment to propose a building that could be built with 100% certainty, with no “what if’s” and no room for error.
For our team, which is almost entirely composed of professionals who have lived and worked in Ithaca for decades, making a confident commitment to our community was essential. Achieving this level of confidence in our proposal meant creating the right vision and providing the right due diligence for execution.
Creating the right vision meant designing the building to support Ithaca’s diversity and inclusive culture that brings everyone together. The right due diligence meant partnering with the Danter Group to discover the best housing-unit mix and creating a program that can truly reach every Ithacan. From low-income residents earning $17,700 annually, to workforce residents earning $53,100 annually, and market-rate residents earning $84,250 annually (2 bed/considering 2 people household), this development welcomes everyone.
Creating the right vision meant sensitively maximizing the building square footage to allow for the appropriate amount and balance of housing, parking, and commercial areas. Our due diligence – analyzing the impact of the building mass on the surrounding environment and making architectural adjustments to create comfortable spacing and interactions between buildings. This meant pulling our building back 63’ from Harold Square to emulate the natural width of a city street, creating a new entrance to City Hall, and making a new public space adjacent to Cinemapolis that connects the Ithaca Commons and Six Mile Creek.
Creating the right vision meant designing a landmark building for Ithaca that is buildable and economically feasible as promised. Our due diligence meant figuring out the true cost of the building and vetting design options with our partner WGI Engineers (who designed the existing Green Street garage) to understand the garage’s structural limitations. For instance, it’s financially unfeasible to add housing loads above the parking garage. We understand the structural limitations and we are confident that we are only proposing something that can be built.
Creating the right vision meant putting together the right financial plan – one that was concise, certain, realistic and would not lock-in the City financially. Due diligence meant speaking directly with New York State and financial consultants to determine the likelihood of obtaining tax credits, and once realizing it would be nearly impossible to be awarded them, deciding not to incorporate them into our proposal as a funding source.
Vision and reality don’t always go hand in hand, and having a qualified team and going through a thorough due diligence process is the only way to determine if ideas are congruent with reality. These were just some of the many investigations that our team went through in creating a proposal that was completely realistic, buildable within the City’s timeframe, and fully defined.
The best project is one that delivers the greatest good to the greatest number of people – and can be built. When making a promise to the place where we live, work and play there is no room for error. And with our proposal, the Visum team is making a promise that we know we will be able to keep.
Thank you for this opportunity. We understand what “building the Ithaca way” means and look forward to working together with the City and the Ithaca Community to develop this landmark site and to help keep our City an affordable, and beautiful place to live, work and play.