As life edges closer to a more familiar post-COVID normal in the city of Ithaca, so too has real estate developer interest in the Collegetown neighborhood at Cornell’s doorstep. With a relatively captive market in the large number of affluent university students, a number of new development plans are in the works. The first of those, called “The Ruby,” will be making its debut with the City of Ithaca Planning Board this month.

Quick aside, one would propose that if you were trying to play on color and be more fitting with your Cornellian tenants, you’d go with “The Carnelian,” especially since ruby and carnelian are visually similar. But, I digress.

Planned for 228 Dryden Road, “The Ruby” would replace an existing 8 bedroom/4 bathroom two-story building that was previously used as student housing for the private Cascadilla School. The school placed the building and its 0.185-acre lot on the market in February 2020 for $2.9 million, and Warren Real Estate had explicitly marketed it as a development opportunity. The zoning on the site is CR-4, allowing a four-story building with 50 percent lot coverage with no on-site parking required so long as there was a city-approved Transportation Demand Management Plan for tenants.

Perhaps as a result of pandemic uncertainties, the property sat on the market for some time before finding a buyer—an LLC tied to local homebuilder Boris Simkin of Westview Partners. Simkin is better known for high-end suburban houses than for urban developments, but perhaps this is the chance to try something different. The sale price this past February was for $1.25 million, less than half the initial ask, and something of a bargain in Collegetown’s lucrative but high-priced market.

As planned, the fully-sprinklered steel-framed apartment building would host four floors above grade and a partially exposed basement level, with 40 market-rate student-oriented apartments. The property slopes down from east to west, so that it appear as four floors from the east, and five floors from the west. The Dryden Road facade, which uses ruby red composite metal panels, has individual entrances for the four-ground-level units, as well as a lobby entrance for the upper level apartments. Grey brick and a planned wall mural are intended to provide further visual interest towards Dryden Road and Bryant Avenue.

According to the filing by Steven Hugo of Ithaca’s HOLT Architects, the only zoning variance sought for the project will be a rear yard variance for setbacks from the rear lot line. The Site Plan Review submissions provides an estimated construction cost of $3,098,040 with a construction period from September 2021 to August 2022. Notably, a smaller eight-unit apartment building by Visum Development will be under construction two doors down during this same time period.

Alongside HOLT Architects on the project team are the Ithaca office of Rochester-based Marathon Engineering, for civil engineering work, Ithaca’s Elwyn & Palmer Consulting Engineers PLLC for the structural engineering, and EC4B Engineering P.C. for the mechanical/electrial/plumbing designs.

Brian Crandall

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