January 23, 2002

Developer Plans New Downtown Retail, Office Space

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Representatives of a real-estate development company presented their plans at City Hall last night to renovate the industrial site at the bottom of East State Street.

Travis and Travis Real Estate Development, which also developed 407 College Ave. and Eddygate, purchased the area in July, 2001 and plans on constructing apartments and a retail building in a $7 million project called Gateway Plaza.

The site — located near the intersection of East State St., Seneca Way and East Green St. — currently houses the Tompkins County Museum and a Domino’s Pizza, among other restaurants and offices.

According to current plans, the Dean of Ithaca building, which houses the museum, will be renovated while other structures on the property will be replaced by a new retail building and apartments.

The new retailers are expected to bring 130 new jobs to the area.

“Jobs that might have gone out of town or elsewhere in the town would locate to this area,” said Mack Travis, owner of Travis and Travis Real Estate Development.

“Hopefully, the museum will stay here,” he said noting that the Dean of Ithaca complex could stand alone as a retail building.

The plan includes the construction of 36 apartments along Six Mile Creek on a site that formally housed the Wilcox Press.

“We will market the apartment for people who work downtown and for some senior citizens, but not to students,” said Bob O’Brian, a company representative.

Creating the apartment complex has raised community concern because it will be taller than current zoning rules allow. The proposed apartment site must be re-zoned before construction can begin.

“I have qualms about putting a high-rise building next to a gorge,” said Jane Marcham, a member of the Planning and Development Board.

The new retail building, on the other hand, will only be one or two stories tall.

Travis announced at the board meeting that his company could not reach an agreement to house a CVS Pharmacy. No retailer has thus far agreed to lease the building.

Another issue raised at the meeting was pedestrian traffic to the buildings once they are completed. Pedestrians from The Commons would have to cross East Green St., a busy roadway, in order to reach the new retail district.

“I’m concerned about access from The Commons to the whole project [site],” said David Henderson, an audience member.

To help alleviate possible problems with pedestrian and vehicle traffic, traffic signals and stop lines will be slightly adjusted at the intersection.

The company hopes to begin renovations on the Dean of Ithaca building in May this year, and the company hopes to complete the entire project by next spring.

Before any construction begins, however, the Planning and Development Board must approve the plans and the site needs to be re-zoned to construct the apartment. Revising its plans based on the board meeting, the company will present an updated plan next month.

Archived article by Peter Lin