April 10, 2012

City: Study Needed to Advance C-Town Bldg. Plan

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Members of the Planning and Development Board said Tuesday that the developers of Collegetown Crossing — a proposed six-story building at 307 College Ave. — must provide the City of Ithaca with a study about future residents’ projected car use in order to move the project forward.

Josh Lower ’05, the site’s developer, is seeking a variance — an exemption from current zoning requirements —  which would allow Lower to avoid building 57 parking spaces for the residents of his proposed building. At Tuesday’s meeting, however, Lower faced a setback when members of the board said he needed to gather information about student car use to advance the development, which includes a ground-level Green­Star grocery store and would add 103 bedrooms to the area.

“The proposed study would not be a full traffic study,” said John Schroeder ’74, a member of the planning board and The Sun’s production manager. “This has to do with their statistics regarding undergraduate car ownership in central Collegetown, and what impact the price of parking has on student car-ownership patterns.”

Rob Morache, a consultant for Lower, said that the developers for Collegetown Crossing were the first people to survey students — potential residents at the complex — about their preferences about using cars and paying for parking.

“We also took into account the price” of parking, Morache said.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Lower added that the study was distributed to 106 people. When asked whether or not they would be willing to pay $240 a month for parking — the rate 312 College Ave., an apartment complex, was charging at the time — “all people said no,” Lower said.

Members of the planning board, however, doubted the methodology of the study.

“There should be an independent third-party consultant who would provide this information,” Schroeder said.

In response, Morache said that the Collegetown Crossing developers would “love to expand the survey.”

Members of the board also expressed concern about various measures Lower has proposed to mitigate the environmental impact of the project. Lower has, for instance, proposed offering residents of the complex several alternatives to driving: providing TCAT unlimited bus passes, incentivizing residents to join Ithaca Carshare through financial assistance and offering space for cyclists to park their bicycles.

“We also asked that there be a single document listing all the proposed mitigations, describing them in detail, how they would be enforced and how they could be made a permanent part of the project,” Schroeder said.

If ownership of Collegetown Crossing were to transfer to another entity in the future, for instance, Schroeder said the board would like to see the bus passes, carshare program and other mitigations remain in place at the complex.

City Attorney Aaron Lavine ’01 J.D. ’04 said that a provision could be attached to the property’s deed requiring subsequent owners of Collegetown Crossing to include TCAT and carshare programs.

Board members also raised other concerns about delivery trucks to the site’s GreenStar grocery store and TCAT buses arriving at the site creating congestion on College Avenue.

Morache said that there would be not a conflict because the truck would unload at 5:30 a.m., which would leave enough time for the first TCAT bus to arrive unimpeded at 6:20 a.m.

Schroeder also raised the issue of providing adequate space for bus passengers and people walking up and down College Avenue in the area between the proposed transit stop and the building’s front facade.

Members of the board also raised concerns about congestion caused by residents moving in and out of the complex.

Lower’s proposal for Collegetown Crossing does not currently include any plans for creating a loading dock for residents, which could cause students loading their belongings into or out of the property to block the street.

Still, Morache said that renters could move in from Linden Avenue, which would ensure that there would be “no impact” on congestion at College Avenue.

Additionally, Morache said that tenants would not need to bring lots of furniture with them, since rooms at Collegetown Crossing will be already furnished. That way, residents will not need to park their cars in the street to unload their belongings, he said.

Original Author: Jonathan Dawson