ITHACA, N.Y. — The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside-down in many ways, but some of the “best-laid plans” are still moving forward. An example of that can be found on South Hill, where the Coddington Road Community Center is pushing forward with plans to expand their capacity and services to the South Hill community.

The $3.7 million project was in the works well before anyone had ever heard of COVID. The project was awarded a $700,000 grant from New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) back in December, with the explicit purpose to “expand and modernize their facilities, to increase child care and after school care capacity in close proximity to employment centers in the Town and City of Ithaca”.

“As reported by the local childcare resource and referral agency, Tompkins County is currently and consistently experiencing a shortage of childcare, lacking up to 60% of the known (childcare) need. Employers have difficulty attracting new employees to the region and lose qualified staff when there is a shortage of childcare. Our expansion will both create new jobs and support the area business community with attracting and retaining their workforce,” wrote the CRCC in their fall 2019 application to the Southern Tier REDC.

While the pandemic has perhaps changed the way childcare is handled by congregational facilities, it has not changed the need; Ithaca and Tompkins County still lack adequate facilities for the demand. The Coddington Road Community Center expansion is moving forward in an effort to provide some of that needed space. There is much uncertainty these days, but the severe local shortage of childcare facilities remains as clear as day.

As proposed, the expansion at 920 Coddington Road would replace temporary classroom structures with a larger one-story, 9,670 square-foot addition to the existing building. The project includes three new classrooms (for a total of seven), a community room, multipurpose gym space, new kitchen space and additional office space for staff. The project also includes the usual complement of additional parking (35 spaces total), outdoor LED lighting, landscaping and sidewalks, as well as new wastewater treatment and underground stormwater management systems. About 1.5 acres of the 11.9-acre property would be disturbed during construction.

At full capacity, the center will serve 120 children year-round, with more in the summer and less at other times of the year. This would be an expansion of 36 childcare slots from the 84 children it currently serves. Staff working at the Coddington Road Community Center would increase from 18 to 27.

Ithaca-based HOLT Architects is in charge of design for the new building, which keeps a relatively low physical profile so as to not intrude on neighboring homeowners Like many of HOLT’s designs, it adopts a modern aesthetic, with fiber cement panels and wood siding to give it a warmer look. Napierala Consulting of suburban Syracuse is providing civil engineering services to the project. Ithaca’s Taitem Engineering is on board as an energy and structural engineering consultant.

Projects with clear community benefits and unobtrusive designs tend to go through the town’s planning board without too many problems, but the process for review should take at least a few months to complete. A tentative construction completion date is not provided in the project application.

Brian Crandall

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