ITHACA, N.Y. –– Back in January 2019, the Aeroplane Factory business campus on Ithaca’s West End was purchased by a trio of local businessman, Gregar Brous, Robert Sparks and Jerry Dietz. Dietz noted at the time that the property offered both an opportunity to preserve buildings that are part of Ithaca’s historic fabric, and expansion sites for when they were ready.

Well, they’re ready.

Plans to be reviewed by the city of Ithaca Planning Board show the “first phase” of new development at the 2.38-acre site. Currently, the three-building collection consists of the 6,976 square-foot Aeroplane Factory Building at 120 Brindley St., the 5,740 square-foot Hangar Building at 140 Brindley Street, and the 6,163 square-foot 902 Taber Street.

The proposal both expands on existing assets and gives a nod to the increasing residential interest in the West End Neighborhood. The larger of the building projects calls for a new 14,328 square-foot, four-story 45′ tall building on a mostly vacant site within the parcel. Currently, it hosts a shed; a small house that previously existed at 900 Taber Street was demolished several years ago by the previous owners.

The new building, dubbed “Taber Tower” in the construction documents, would have a variety of uses. On the first floor would be a street-facing cafe and office space at the rear; the second and third floors would each host a two-bedroom apartment and office space; and the top floor would hold two one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment. In total, it’s 1,100 square-feet for the cafe, about 5,000 square-feet in office space, and five apartments. Also in the works is a 2,000 square-foot, one-story office expansion on the south side of the Hangar Building at 140 Brindley Street. Given the high water table at the waterfront property, the new building will utilize a deep pile foundation and have no basement level, while the Hangar Building addition is light enough to utilize a concrete slab without piles.

Both additions are being designed by local architect Jason K. Demarest, best known for his historically sympathetic building designs (and to note for clarity’s sake, he’s the brother of STREAM Collaborative’s Noah Demarest). Demarest’s other projects include the Chapter House and Simeon’s Rebuilds.The intent is to use brick and wood shake siding on the lower floors, in deference to the new building’s century-old neighbors. More contemporary insulated metal panels are proposed for the top floor. The exterior stairwell may be glassed in (glazed) to give it less of a presence.

Both projects fully comply with zoning constraints, though the interior lot lines will be adjusted slightly since they cut through the site of “Taber Tower.” A project narrative provided by Demarest states that existing surface parking at the Aeroplane Factory has enough space to accommodate the new additions. From a development standpoint, it’s urban infill, developing underutilized space within the property and joining a growing list of projects in and near the Cherry Street corridor, including the Arthaus affordable housing development under construction now, the recently-built Cherry Artspace, and the Urban Core mixed-use proposal.

According to the Site Plan Review (SPR) document, the project would cost about $2,958,000 and take about a year to build. The estimated building time frame is June 2020 – June 2021, but keep in mind those dates are tentative and dependent on a number of external factors like the ability to obtain construction loans and what contractors and construction crews are available in Ithaca’s busy development scene.

Brian Crandall

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