ITHACA, N.Y. — Generally speaking, the recent trend in new Collegetown housing proposals has been on the more modest side of size and stature. It makes sense: many of the choicest sites, with larger lots and buildable zoning envelopes, were either developed in the initial rezoning and “Collegetown construction boom” of the mid-2010s, or land-banked by developers for future projects, as we’re seeing with the Novarr-Proujansky proposal for the multi-phase Collegetown Innovation District.

Recent Collegetown projects that have completed or are going through the Planning Board site plan review process include Josh Lower’s 121 Oak Avenue, with 35 units and 40 bedrooms, and “The Ruby” at 228 Dryden Road, which will host 40 studio apartment units. The next project lining up for the Planning Board’s critique is in the same, more modestly-scaled context.

The properties involved are a pair of apartment homes on the corner of Dryden Road and Elmwood Avenue. 325 Dryden Road is an apartment house with ten bedrooms, and 320 Elmwood Avenue is a duplex with a total of six bedrooms. As planned, the houses would be taken down and replaced with a single apartment building on the corner. The new building would host about 15,000 square feet of interior space, 13 units with 31 bedrooms, plus a basement gym.

The project is proposed by a pair of Collegetown owner-developers. Greg Mezey is the co-owner of student housing firm Red Door Rentals (the name may sound familiar as he just won the Democratic primary for Legislative District 13 in Dryden) and Chris Petrillose has been a rental property developer around the area for about a decade.

Heading eastward from Inner Collegetown, one rapidly approaches the affluent owner-occupied neighborhood of Belle Sherman, which requires a heightened degree of sensitivity, or otherwise risk the wrath of well-to-do homeowners while going through Site Plan Review. This project is far enough east of the College Avenue/Dryden Road intersection to be in that transition area between student rentals and upscale owner-occupied homes.

Design-wise, the project attempts to fit in by limiting scale and adopting architectural elements common to the neighborhood. It’s 2.5 stories tall with a pitched roof, dormers, and a front porch. The architect, Jason K. Demarest, is a local specialist in historically sympathetic building designs, and crafted the Chapter House and Simeon’s rebuilds.

The project will require a number of zoning variances, most of which are related to the quirk that it straddles two property zones. The Dryden Road lot is CR-3 and the Elmwood Avenue lot is CR-2, which only allows up to two units on the Elmwood Avenue portion of the combined lot. For instance, one of the variances sought is for lot coverage, which is normally calculated per lot, but the developers are seeking to have treated as a combined lot that calculates it as the proportion in each zone. So If Zone A allows 25 percent coverage and Zone B allows 75 percent coverage and the two zones each make up half of the site, then the developers’ request the treatment of the combined lot coverage to be 50 percent, rather than 25 percent on one lot and 75 percent on the other. Similar issues pop up for green space and yard setbacks. A variance for less parking than legally required (13 required, six proposed) is also sought.

Even if the review is relatively smooth, the project will require 3-4 months to go through the Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals. According to the Site Plan Review filing, if approved, the $2.6 million development would begin site prep in May 2022 and be ready for occupancy by the following summer.

Brian Crandall

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