February 8, 2011

Responding to Community Concerns, Developer Revises Collegetown Terrace Plan

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At a special Planning and Development Board meeting on Monday, John Novarr, his team of developers and the board continued to review and revise the plans for the Collegetown Terrace project, which would demolish 29 buildings and create 16 new ones along the southern edge of Collegetown.

In response to requests from the board, Novarr redesigned much of his original 2009 proposal to minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. On Feb. 1, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted the development a height variance to allow for taller buildings in the interior of the development, an important step for the project.

The new proposal calls for smaller, separated structures along East State Street, instead of the larger apartment buildings that were originally proposed there.

Because the buildings are now broken up into smaller ones, Novarr’s development will have approximately 37 fewer bedrooms and 54 fewer parking spaces than the original proposal. Although smaller than first planned, the development will still add about 586 bedrooms and 279 parking spaces to Collegetown.

“Overall, I would say that the Collegetown Terrace project is vastly improved over the original site plan proposals presented last year,” Councilmember Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd Ward) said.

To minimize the development’s impact on neighborhood character, the architecture of the buildings was also changed.

These changes include varying the designs and emulating the existing buildings along East State Street, according to the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Though many of the neighborhood’s single-family homes are not in buildings officially designated as “historic,” some residents worry the new development will still alter the neighborhood’s character despite the changes, McCollister said.

Novarr first purchased this land in the area of Valentine Place, East State Street, Quarry Street and Six Mile Creek in the 1980s. When Novarr built his first set of apartments on the land in the 1980s, some Ithaca residents were so displeased with the new development that they moved out of their homes on East State Street, McCollister said. Still, she said Novarr’s revised plan for the land is more sensitive to the historic nature of the area.

Some buildings near the development are located in the East Hill Historic District, meaning that they cannot be torn down. These buildings — Quarry Arms, Casa Roma and the Boiler Works — will not be affected by the project.  In addition, 901 East State Street, the George C. Williams House, will be refurbished as part of Novarr’s development plan. However, The Jane A. Delano Home, which includes two buildings located at 113-115 Valentine Place, does not lie in the East Hill Historic District. It will be removed to make way for the building. Last fall, the Common Council voted unanimously not to give the building historic designation.

“Yes it is tragic, and it wasn’t necessarily the notion that this building did not merit historic designation status, [but] it was just too late in the process to have this happen,” McCollister said.

The Planning and Development Board approved the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on Oct. 5. The approved FEIS reflects all the compromises and mitigations to which Novarr and the city of Ithaca Planning Board have agreed.

The project submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2010, and the Lead Agency, the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board, accepted it on June 1, 2010, according to the FEIS.

Original Author: Hank Bao