ITHACA, N.Y. — Architecture is always a matter of taste. Some prefer classically-inspired, more traditional motifs, others want something more contemporary, even cutting-edge. This is definitely a case of the latter.

The Ithaca Planning Board reviewed plans earlier this week for a new apartment building proposal at 109-11 Valentine Place, a dead-end street adjacent to the Collegetown Terrace housing complex. Currently, the property hosts a pair of apartment houses with eight bedrooms. The rental property was owned by the Nitsios family for about 36 years before being purchased for $1.25 million last September by an LLC with an address tied to local development firm Integrated Acquisition and Development (IAD), which is affiliated with the developers of Collegetown Terrace, Phil Proujansky and John Novarr. Novarr was confirmed as the developer at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Plans presented by local landscape architect Kathryn Wolf call for replacing the apartment homes with a four-story, 30-unit apartment building, hosting a total of 48 bedrooms, with units ranging from one-bedroom apartments to potentially a couple of four-bedroom units. A leasing office would be located on the ground level.

The building design, created Cornell architecture professor Caroline O’Donnell with fellow architect Shawn Daniels, is certainly something different, with sharp edges, subtle façade variations that give it a rippled appearance, and a modern aesthetic. As a sort of sentimental nod to its location on Valentine Place, an illuminated heart lights up the front left (northwest) corner of the building. As explained by the architects at the meeting, the building makes use of a rather unique façade material – perforated gold-toned metal.

Also on the development team for the 111 Valentine Place project are landscape architect Ian Tyndall in partnership with local firm Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture and Ithaca’s T.G. Miller P.C. as the project site surveyor and civil engineer.

The project would need two zoning variances in order to move forward. One would be for the off-street parking requirement. 34 are required in the initial proposal, but only two off-loading (delivery) spaces are provided on-site; the proposal states renters would make use of the parking garage of Collegetown Terrace across the street, whose parking garage has been underutilized (around 50% capacity for its 650 spaces) since it opened almost a decade ago.

The other variance would be for minimum lot size for a building of its size – 26,250 SF is required, but the site is 17,153 square feet. The building does comply with the maximum permitted 35% lot coverage for R-3a zoning for its lot and complies with height regulations, it’s just that the lot itself is considered too small for a 30-unit apartment building. As always, variances are weighed on a case-by-case basis.

The project’s reception was warm if cautious. As reported in the Planning Board summary yesterday, the reactions from the board were favorable, lauding the unique and interesting design. However, they did stress the importance of making sure transportation demand management, and that the materials and design would need to be of high quality on all sides of the structure.

Novarr and his project team plan to bring this project forward quickly – the formal Site Plan Review is expected next month, and according to Wolf, the goal is to have approvals in place by July 2022, which could allow for an August 2023 occupancy if construction starts right away.

Brian Crandall

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