Ithaca Builds

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Tompkins County Selling Biggs Property to Ohio Development Group

September 26, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

The NRP Group LLC of Cleveland, Ohio partnered-up with Better Housing for Tompkins County to respond the the County’s July 2012 Request for Proposal (RFP) for acquisition and development of the former Biggs property, a 25.52-acre wooded site right across from Cayuga Medical Center, at the end of Harris B Dates Drive on the left (see tax map and google map below). The site is assessed at $340,000 and the purchase offer is set at $500,000 with proposed contingencies that the County will provide funds for off-site pedestrian and transit improvements.
The NRP group mainly focuses on multi-family development, senior housing, and LIHTC (low-income housing tax credit) projects, and Better Housing for Tompkins County is a local not-for-profit that promotes and incentivizes affordable housing in rural areas by offering purchase assistance, rental housing, and various home repair programs. Since this project will be next door to Cayuga Medical Center, I imagine that the target housing demographic is low-income seniors. Post-publish, there was an Ithaca Times article introducing the project as a 30-90% median income clustered townhouse project with 60 units of one to four bedrooms. The rents translate from $300 to $1300, some units single story and others two story.
If I had a bone to pick with this proposal, it’s this: I think incentivizing low-income housing and senior housing is appropriate, but this sort of development is exactly the kind of thing that gets municipalities into fiscal and transportation trouble. Single-use facilities beyond urban fringes without realistic walkable neighborhoods and amenities aren’t as desirable or fiscally-sustainable as urban mixed-use developments with walkability. Ithaca is a tough development scenario because there’s a shortage of flat, developable land in the urban core, but I think if land held by the public is being transferred to private hands for a specific project, there should be a public disclosure of the lifecycle public costs, as well as a fully-fleshed-out plan for development. (The Town of Ithaca Planning Board will be reviewing this Fall)
Given the new information in the article, I think mixed-income is a good move, and it will be interesting to see the actual proposal in Town Planning, and whether or not there is housing demand information from Cayuga Medical Center staff. The article references plans for walking paths and a neighborhood-style layout, but we’re still looking at a single-use facility 3 miles up West Hill from downtown.

Assessment report and Tompkins County Legislature minutes embedded below.