November 9, 2001

Developers Offer Proposals For Cayuga Green Project

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Members of the Common Council met at 7 p.m. yesterday to hear a presentation on the proposed Cayuga-Green at Six Mile Creek Project.

The $41.2 million project involves developing the current parking lot space around the Tompkins County Public Library and expanding the existing Green St. parking garage. Under the proposed plan, the site would be used for retail, intermodal transportation and moderately-priced housing.

Eugenia Brieva, an associate partner for QPK Design, began the presentation with an explanation of preliminary drawings and three-dimensional renderings for the site. The plan proposes to expand the current Green St. garage by two additional levels. The area under the garage would be converted to a bus terminal with the potential to house six TCAT buses as well as four inter-regional buses. Some ground level retail space might also be included.

Another building, connected on the third level by a bridge over Green St., would be constructed east of the library. This building — the “Green” building — would create retail and parking space on the first level, parking on the second through sixth levels, housing on the top level and five levels of housing on the side facing Six Mile Creek.

A similar building — the “Cayuga” building — is planned south of the library on Cayuga St., but would be less tall.

QPK tried to design structures that could be used for alternate purposes in the future, according to Brieva. Another idea explored was the creation of hotel space in one of the buildings, but this idea was dismissed as unfeasible due to lack of space.

Brieva said that the proposed plan will provide “the greenest possible border to the creek” and be “more inviting to pedestrians.” A public promenade would parallel the stream.

The alternative plan would allow for 40 feet of open space between the edge of the creek and the creekside housing. Brieva said that she was “comfortable with this option” and that it might fit better with the “character of the area,” making overall traffic less dense and difficult during rush hours, than an alternative containing more parking and commercial space.

The ultimate decision was “up to the council to decide on,” Brieva said.

Next, Jim Monahan, representing Monahan Development Corp., presented the financial and economic aspects of the plan. Estimates for the total cost varied depending on which plan was implemented, but roughly amounted to $17 million from a private budget, $26 from the city’s budget and $3 million from the TCAT (local bus system) budget.

According to Monahan, at least 95 units of housing would be available and would include studios, one-bedroom apartments and smaller and larger two-bedroom apartments. The expected rent ranges from $725 to $1125 per month. The rate for retail rental space would depend on size and location, but would be competitive with that on the Ithaca Commons.

Brieva said it would be difficult to establish a concrete time frame for the entire project’s completion since it would have to be done in phases.

“I would guess the first phase would take about 12 months. The whole thing might take another 12 months. Projects of this size never get done in less than 24 months,” she said.

Council members were invited to ask questions and make comments at the end of the presentation.

“I don’t know how I feel about housing hanging off the side of a parking garage,” said Alderperson Susan Blumenthal (D-3rd).

Blumenthal later asked if there was any conclusive evidence about how much additional parking space was demanded. Monahan replied that he would “get those studies to [them] soon.”

The Cayuga Green project will provide parking for the anticipated downtown Cornell office building, which will be built elsewhere on or near the Commons.

According to Brieva and Monahan, the next step in the project is to distribute printed materials and the results of the parking studies to the Council, which they said could be expected by the end of the week.

Archived article by Diane Plavecski