ITHACA, N.Y. — There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air during this COVID era, but some developers are still progressing with their future plans. One of them is Arnot Realty (AHR-not). The Horseheads-based developer has submitted plans detailing its proposed redevelopment of the former Bishop’s property at 430-444 West State Street.

The plans have not exactly been subtle. The Voice first reported on Arnot’s $2.075 million purchase of the complex last December. The hodgepodge of interconnected buildings of varying ages, previously home to Bishop’s Carpet One (now at 363 Elmira Road), Mimi’s Attic, and the Mama Goose gently-used children’s clothing and accessories store. On the upper level, it hosts a number of small office suites and was home to the Ithaca Voice’s first office. County records also indicate it hosts two apartments and additional storage space.

Plans submitted by Arnot call for a mixed-use five-story building. The new structure would house about 130 apartments and 5,500 square feet of ground-level retail, to be split for up to three tenants. The ground level would host about 50 covered parking spaces to be accessed from Seneca Street, as well as a landscaped plaza, bike parking, new and wider sidewalks, and other site improvements. Existing shade trees along Corn Street would remain, and a pedestrian sidewalk bump out is being considered for the corner of North Corn and West State, to slow traffic and improvement pedestrian visibility. The corner building that houses Mama Goose would have its facade saved and incorporated into the new building, but otherwise, all existing structures would be replaced by the new development.

“The Owner’s intention is to develop a vibrant mixed-use urban infill project that will enhance the State Street corridor, provide the community with additional housing, and act as a much-needed catalyst for appropriate development in the West End,” says the application. The retail space would front West State, with the Mama Goose building on the corner housing resident amenities (lounge, fitness room) on the ground level.

Initial building designs are the work of a Washington D.C. firm, Eric Colbert & Associates. Local firms Taitem Engineering and T.G. Miller P.C. are providing structural engineering and civil engineering work respectively. Trowbridge Wolf Michaels of Ithaca’s West End is the landscape architect.

The project will need one variance – for the sake of aligning its floor-plates between the site’s two zones, the development team is seeking a variance to build the rear section to 42 feet high, vs. the 40 feet height allowed by the rear B-2d zone along Seneca Street. In other words, a variance to build two feet taller. “Without the variance the first-floor heights would be incongruent on the ground floor, ultimately affecting floor alignment throughout thestructure. We intend to comply with all other zoning requirements,” says the applicant. Zoning in the corridor was recently down-zoned in response to a now-mothballed proposal for mixed-use affordable housing a block to the west at 510 West State Street.

The Site Plan Review document noted that the project cost is estimated at $17.89 million, and would take about fourteen months to build (a timeline of April 2021 – May 2022 is given for construction, but rarely does construction actually happen on the stated timeline, due to contractor selection, the time needed to obtain a construction loan, and other considerations).

The project would be Arnot Realty’s second major foray into the Ithaca development scene. Last year, the developer completed a 16-unit townhouse development, Boathouse Landing, at 323 Taughannock Boulevard. Arnot owns a number of other properties, mostly in the Horseheads area, and including the one-million-square-foot Arnot Mall.

Brian Crandall

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