October 3, 2000

Target Planned in Southwest Area

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Plans are underway for a Target and a new and improved Tops along Elmira Rd. in the City of Ithaca. Whereas the Tops would be a restructuring of buildings on a developed site, the Target is slated for undeveloped land that is a part of the Southwest Area Land Use Plan.

The Target store would be part of a shopping center across from Buttermilk Falls State Park, a site which has generated protests about safeguarding the natural resources and local economy.

Both projects are currently in the sketch plan review process before the Planning and Development Board. Last Tuesday, Widewaters Group and Benderson Development Company described their development to the Board. The committee began the months of review to create an acceptable site plan or to deny approval.

“These two proposals represent the two ends of the southwest area,” said Scott Whitham ’90, chair of the city’s Planning and Development Board. Widewaters has revealed that one of the clients for its proposed 200,000 square foot shopping complex is Target. Target has submitted its plans to the Building Department, according to JoAnn Cornish, senior environmental and landscape planner.

While no decisions will be made by the Planning and Development Board until an environmental analysis review is completed, some Ithacans are protesting the Widewaters plan before the public hearings.

The Citizens’ Planning Alliance (CPA) condemned the Widewaters’ site plan as “totally unsuitable” for the location which is within the viewshed of Buttermilk Falls State Park, according to its press release.

“Our group’s opposition is based on the fact that the site plan now proposed does not have important features that we asked for in 1995, when Wal-Mart wanted to build in the same place,” CPA member Dan Hoffman said.

Following the environmental impact statement for a proposed Wal-Mart development in 1995, the Planning Board found that the 125,000 square foot scale of the site was too large and required that the building be reduced in size and located outside of the Buttermilk Falls viewshed, according to the CPA.

In addition to concern over environmental impacts on the park, the CPA has criticized the entire development process.

“It has been a very sorry process, insofar as information withheld from the public,” Hoffman said.

According to Hoffman, Widewaters sent plans for the Target store to the Building Department in October 1999, but they were sent back to the developers without being put into city records.

“We hope that the Planning Board will scrutinize the plans very carefully and will stand by its decision in 1995 to protect the view from Buttermilk Falls,” Hoffman said.

The Benderson Development Co. is proposing a plan for the Tops Plaza. They would like to construct a new Tops building, where the Ithaca Building Center used to be, and would also like to subdivide the current building into two new stores, according to Cornish.

Benderson development also proposed adding another 5,000 square feet for a Tops-brand fueling facility, according to Cornish. It was also proposed that the current Eckerd should be a stand alone building, instead of being connected to the current Tops store.

“[The Benderson group’s plans] are very similar to the outcome of Wegman’s [final site plans], but we will hold it to a different esthetic standard,” Whitham said.

Benderson’s development and renovation in the existing Meadows Street plaza will also include parking and landscaping changes.

Last Tuesday, the Planning Board asked the developers for more information, better drawings, more site options and information on parking drainage, according to Whitham.

“In the next month, we will be talking with the developers and getting more public opinion before we make any decisions [about the site plans],” he said.

Though no meetings have been scheduled so far, some will be planned for the next few months and will include public hearings, where the community may voice their concerns and opinions about the site plans.

“The Common Council is clearly moving in [the development] direction and with the design guidelines, there really is no reason why [the proposals] shouldn’t go though,” Cornish said.

Archived article by Eve Steele