ITHACA, N.Y. — Library Place, or the Old Library project, came up before the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency last week seeking a tax abatement. However, a public hearing will come first before an abatement is approved.

Library Place, at the now-cleared 316 N. Cayuga St., will have 66 market-rate, age-restricted apartments for people 55 and older. It will also have 26 to 30 parking spaces, a community room operated by Lifelong, a public restaurant, spa and wellness center, and an office meant for a home health care agency that residents can elect to contract with for home health care services, according to their IDA application. The rents of the units are expected to range from $1,900 per month for a one bedroom up to $3,000 per month for a three-bedroom apartment.

The total project is expected to cost about $31 million.

Related: Old Library demolition to start Monday, despite continued asbestos concerns

Related: Time capsule from 1968 dug out from cornerstone of Old Library

Travis Hyde Properties is seeking a 10-year Energy Incentive enhanced property tax abatement and sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions. The exemptions would save the project about $5.32 million in new taxes and generate about $1.7 million in new property tax revenue over 10 years on the previously tax-exempt property, according to the application. In its application, Travis Hyde Properties said it has taken three years for Library Place to get to this point and eight design iterations. Without the property tax incentives, the project will be “rendered financially infeasible,” the application states.

“If the incentive application is not successful there will be no senior housing units built and the development site in the downtown core will sit vacant and underutilized. It will also cause a loss of projected tax revenue to the taxing jurisdictions in which the tax parcel is located,” the application states.

Fencing around Old Library building, Nov 30 2018 (Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice)

The project has been opposed at many turns — most recently for the demolition process, which was changed from a “contained” to a “controlled” demolition due to the building’s roof being declared structurally unstable. In the fall, at least 750 people signed a letter circulated by Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, calling on Mayor Svante Myrick to stop the controlled demolition. The public outcry did slow down the process, as the city contracted a third-party structural engineer to assess what demolition process was needed. Ultimately, the third-party engineer came to the same conclusion that a controlled abatement was necessary.

There was an expectedly robust comment period during Wednesday’s IDA meeting. Ithaca resident Robert Lynch addressed members, summing up what many came to say, “Reject the abatement.” Attached to Wednesday’s agenda were several letters urging that officials not grant a tax abatement to Travis Hyde for the Library Place project. In some of the letters, local residents were unhappy with the high cost of the units at a time when the city needs affordable housing. At the meeting Wednesday, several people also called on the IDA to require local labor when granting tax abatements.

But not all comments were negative. One person who spoke said this property has not been on the tax rolls for the last 50 years, so the space will now bring some tax support for the community.

Related: Mayor to leverage tax abatement to get further asbestos investigation at Old Library

In response to some of the people who were unhappy about the addition of expensive housing to Downtown Ithaca, Legislator and IDA member Martha Robertson, pointed to the county’s Housing Strategy which calls for market-rate senior housing with services. However, the call for market-rate senior housing in the strategy does come with an “although” which says affordable options and a Medicaid Assisted Living Program for seniors are the greatest need.

Other projects came up during Wednesday’s IDA meeting, including the Arthaus project and Hilton Canopy. Similar to Library Place, Arthaus will go to public hearing before a vote on an abatement.

The board unanimously approved a public hearing. No date has been set yet, but TCIDA Chair Rich John said it will likely be scheduled in the next two to three weeks. After the public hearing, the TCIDA will vote on the abatement at the meeting following the public hearing.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.