Longtime Ithaca residents voiced their concerns at a Tuesday City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board meeting over the proposed construction of a new bar and lounge, The Printing Press Lounge, within an existing building on a property just east of the Argos Inn at 416 E. State St.
At the meeting, the planning board decided that the new bar’s project managers would have to return with further research and plans before final approval of the project.
Several neighbors expressed concerns about the potential increased traffic, disruptive late night noise of congregating bar patrons and a lack of parking which could result in non resident cars lining the streets at the meeting.
Catherine Akenbomb, whose home is adjacent to the Argos Inn and only 11 feet from from the building, said that even if the sound in the building was kept at a minimum, she was concerned people spilling out of the building could contribute to noise.
She added that she was also worried about the atmosphere of any future bars that could one day replace The Printing Press.
“I think you can call it something like a jazz lounge, and who doesn’t want to go to a jazz lounge, I certainly want to go to a jazz lounge, but look to the future and it can suddenly be a punk rock bar and that can be very troublesome because we don’t know what the plans are,” Akenbomb said.
Additionally, Akenbomb said she believes that the property, which began as one commercial space, may soon evolve into three parts — a hotel with a bar, offices and now a potentially second bar. Preserving the integrity of the neighborhood should be an important consideration, according to Akenbomb.
“An environmental impact is not just saying, ‘What is the building like, are we having more cars?’” Akenbomb said. “It’s also essential to a neighborhood and preserving a part that is really dear to all of us, the historic district.”
However, those involved in the planning and construction of the project present at the meeting said they are devoted to remedying the potentially problematic aspects of the bar and reassuring the neighborhood.
Scott Whitham of Whitman Planning and Design LLC described how hard the team has been working to accommodate the concerns and opinions of neighbors.
“We’ve attended a neighborhood meeting. We understand quite clearly that there are still concerns, but I think we’re working through those issues, particularly the issue of noise,” Whitham said. “We have brought on a sound engineer, and we have an initial report from the sound engineer. We expect a further conversation and to be back in front of the board probably with that engineer if we could.”
The owner of the building, Ben Rosenblum, addressed residents’ concerns about noise levels by explaining that the bar would maintain a casual atmosphere.
“We would work with Seth Waltz, an acoustical engineer, to model what we’re expecting the music level to be, and this is really kinda of a bar and lounge atmosphere where the majority of the time the music will be at a level so that it’s easy for people to talk,” Rosenblum said.
With regards to external noise, Rosenblum said he will most likely implement physical treatments — such as window treatments, landscaping and fencing — to attenuate sound.
Addressing potential parking issues, architect Jason Demarest said the proposed bar and the current Bar Argos would share parking spaces, because the two would not be operating simultaneously. Bar Argos would use the 16 parking spots located on the side of the building from 1 to 9 p.m., and The Printing Press Lounge would use these same spots from 9 to 1:30 a.m.
Planning board members said they were receptive to the project and appreciative of the team’s efforts to address the concerns of the neighbors. The board unanimously decided that the bar would have to return again with updated information on the continued research into managing the sound of bar patrons congregating outside of the building before they could obtain final approval from the board.