May 4, 2006

City of Ithaca Considers New Apartment Complex

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The plans for an apartment complex at the intersection of Aurora and Green Sts. on the Commons, owned and being developed by a Long Island-based company called 4250 Vets Highway LLC, still faces many obstacles before its realization. The project complements downtown Ithaca’s current growth, such as the Seneca Building and the Cayuga Green project.

“Right now, the apartment complex is basically an idea,” said Thys Van Cort, director of planning and development for Ithaca. “It has no legal status and is in the concept stage.”

Jeffrey Rimland, assistant to the owner of the property, said the company is at least a year away from applying for a permit and submitting plans.

The company is looking to purchase a piece of land adjacent to the property it currently owns. According to Daniel Hoffman, city attorney for Ithaca, this land is not offered for sale. However, the City Attorney’s office addresses the question of whether or not the city would sell the parcel of land.

“The parcel of land is not going to decide whether or not we build the apartment complex,” the 4250 Vets representative said. “It’s only a small portion of the process.”

According to Van Cort, the land will increase the feasibility of the project.

The developers have done a massing study to see the shadows the building would cast in the surrounding area, according to Matt Travis, president of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership (IDP).

If realized, the building may be 85 feet tall, one of the tallest in downtown. Other tall buildings in downtown include Seneca Place and the mental health building; both are over 100 feet high.

“The complex would be a very tall building for downtown,” Hoffman said.

The company acquired the property in 2003, according to the representative.

“Having a residential area downtown is a vital part of creating a 24/7 downtown and is a positive step forward,” Travis said. “It’s all part of IDP’s strategic plan for improving downtown, making it aesthetically pleasing and economically viable.”

Before more progress is made with the apartment complex, “things have to be cleared up with the density policy,” according to Gary Ferguson, executive director of IDP.

The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has put a moratorium on new projects until they review the current density policy. According to Ferguson, the current density policy provides tax incentives that make projects in Ithaca’s “historic urban core” feasible.

“The apartment complex project would benefit from the density policy,” Ferguson said. “They will need financial help because the cost of the building will be higher than the rent they can obtain.”

According to Van Cort, the potential apartment building would complement the Cayuga Green project and could be marketed to young professionals or “dinks,” short for “dual income, no kids.”

Ferguson explained that Ithaca is one of the few places in upstate New York that is growing and that has been able to avoid the economic plague affecting other parts of the state. He attributes Ithaca’s resilient economy to the fact that Ithaca does not depend on manufacturing but education.

“People look at Ithaca as a good place to live,” Ferguson said.

To become an official project, the 4250 Vets Highway LLC would have to submit an application to a government agency, such as the IDA.

“A lot of stuff has to happen before this comes to fruition,” Van Cort said.

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer