ITHACA, N.Y.—Whether you drive gas or electric, a truck or a compact, there’s a desire to keep one’s car clean. Given New York State’s love of salt, as well as the ubiquitous dust and pollen, regular washing helps remove corrosive grime, protects the paint finish, and prolongs the life of a vehicle. Plus, a lot of people take pride in that just-washed paint shine, even in famously cloudy upstate New York.

Maybe it’s with this in mind and our convenience-driven lifestyles that a local car wash chain has decided to expand its presence. Squeaky Clean Car Wash has set its sights on a fifth location in the city of Ithaca, at 501-507 South Meadow Street.

Squeaky Clean, founded in 1997 and led by Lansing businessman Gary Sloan, currently operates two locations in Tompkins County, one on the southern end of Ithaca city and one in the village of Lansing, and two more locations in Cortland County, one of which was built just a couple years ago.

The latest business expansion at 501-507 South Meadow Street calls for the demolition of the existing one-story brick office/retail buildings on the 0.6-acre site and construction of a new automated car wash ‘tunnel’ building, vacuum stations, site pavements, utility extensions and landscaping. The project will remove three curb cut entrances on South Meadow Street and four on South Titus Avenue, to be replaced by one curb cut entrance on South Titus Avenue.

As one can imagine, a car wash building isn’t the most exciting project. The floor plans shows a 3,550 square-foot building with car-wash tunnel, electrical and equipment rooms, and a small office and bathroom. Designs by local architect Ernie Bayles show a modest one-story building with a pitched roof with a concrete belt and textured block for visual interest.

CFCU Community Credit Union currently owns the Meadow Street property. The statement issued back when they purchased it in 2015 was that they were considering “credit union-related purposes” on the property. However, an opportunity came up Downtown with the renovation of Bank Tower on the Commons, and they decided to opt for that plan instead, with the lower floors of Bank Tower becoming the 14,000 square-foot “CFCU Transformation Center” in 2019.

Zoning on the property is SW-2, which is the city of Ithaca’s catch-all suburban retail zoning. Pending a few verifications, the project appears to be in full compliance with zoning and will not need to take a trip to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Assisting Squeaky Clean with the project are the aforementioned Bayles as architect, T.G. Miller P.C. as engineers, Chiuten Trowbridge Landscape Architects. The $2.5 million project hopes to start demolition/site prep in October and open for its first cars in need of washing by July 2023.

Brian Crandall

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