October 24, 2010

Finances Delay Hotel Ithaca Construction

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The plans to construct Hotel Ithaca — a $27 million hotel at the eastern edge of the Commons between East State Street and Aurora — are “pretty much alive,” although currently on hold due to financial constraints, according to project developer Jeffrey Rimland and Phyllisa DeSarno, deputy director of economic development for the city of Ithaca.

The project has been in the works since early 2008 and gained approval from the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board in September of 2009. The new structure will be a 10-story, full-service boutique hotel housing 140 rooms on the site of the historic Ithaca Hotel demolished in the 1960s.

DeSarno and Rimland agreed that the sole reason why the project has yet to break ground is due to a lack of proper financing.

“Although we have met with a lot of banks to find the financing necessary for this project, nothing has materialized from these meetings,” DeSarno said. “Most of the people we have met with said this would be a larger project they would finance in better economic times.”

DeSarno said that the team behind the project has looked for financing from both local and larger banks.

Similarly, Rimland attributed the project’s delay to the country’s financial crisis.

“I don’t need to tell what has happened to our country in the last 24 months,” he said. “Until banking is back on its feet, we cannot do anything about it.”

Rimland explained that the project’s approval at the city level took approximately two years and consisted of almost 30 meetings.

“Nothing has changed since we got the approvals to move forward,” he said.

Still, despite the discouraging financial situation, both DeSarno and Rimland said they remain hopeful about the project’s future.

“We are still in dialogue with the financial institutions that might take on the project,” Rimland said.  “It is actually a very viable project for the city.”

According to DeSarno, recent meetings with a financial institution in Rochester appear promising and could allow the project to move forward.

The hotel is designed by Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm headed by Art Gensler ’58, and will be managed by Gemstone Resorts Inter­national.

Architecturally, the development team explained in its proposal to the City Council and Planning Board that the hotel is “designed to both fit in and stand out.” This proposal said designers wanted to use conventional materials, but to implement them with a fresh new scope.

The building’s design, inspired by local geology and rock formation, will be appreciated differently during different parts of the day.

During daytime, developers explained, they wish to accentuate the qualities of the masonry that will clad the structure. In the night, however, the hotel will be perceived in a completely different way because of glass block in its tower, a “retro material” that will glow amid its surroundings.

At its lobby, the hotel will host a restaurant and bar, while open public space will be available at its level adjoining the Commons. The project will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez