Ithaca Builds

Mapping, photos and information for Ithaca construction and development projects

Purity Ice Cream

Purity Ice Cream Phase II Photo Update

March 16, 2015 // by Jason Henderson

Long overdue photos here, but the Phase II section of the Purity Ice Cream project was completed back in late January, and here are some photos of the new space. The expanded seating area greatly increases interior seating in the renovated rooms formerly used for kitchen and dairy processing, and work is currently underway on Phase III: renovating the former storage area in the west side of the building into retail and business operations. Stop-in and check it out: Pancake Saturdays and Sundays launch March 28th!

The project was designed by John Snyder Architects, and work completed by Strawbridge and Jahn Builders, along with specialty trades from the area.

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New glass canopy added to the main entrance:

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Purity Ice Cream Re-Opens

May 9, 2014 // by Jason Henderson


Purity Ice Cream has re-opened and their renovated counter, serving area, seating, and bathrooms are ready to go. The side entry should follow-up shortly, and a new canvas awning will be going over the new steel canopy above the outside seating.

The renovations began back in January with some significant interior demolition of the entire serving, seating, and bathroom areas. The electrical, plumbing, and HVAC have all been completely re-done, and the finish work is all new, minus the lovely old menus.

The re-opening comprises the first phase of the project, with the interior demolition and re-furnishing of the old prep and production rooms for a large area of additional interior seating to follow. The back (west) portion of the building will be built-out for commercial tenancy, as the existing building contains ample room for a nice office unit. At this time the roof plans from the initial January plan are undetermined, so there may or may not be areas built-out above.

As the temperatures finally rise to sweat-weather in Ithaca, swing by Purity at the intersection of Meadow St and Cascadilla St and get yourself some ice cream!

The project was designed by John Snyder Architects, and work completed by Strawbridge and Jahn Builders, along with specialty trades from the area.





Concept Render:

A couple interior shots from May 21st:

And more from earlier this week:

Purity Ice Cream Construction Photos & Final Interior Design

April 12, 2014 // by Jason Henderson


The Purity Ice Cream project is reaching drywall-finish stage as demolition finished-up back in February, then the bathrooms, former entry, new entryway, seating, and serving areas were re-framed by Strawbridge and Jahn Builders and outfitted with mechanicals. A new trench was dug and filled across the parking lot for an improved underground power service, while all the electric was re-wired by Richardson Brothers Electric. New lighting fixtures, an entirely new HVAC system, and plumbing have been roughed-in. Drywall and cement boards have been hung, taped, mudded, and the seams were being sanded down this past week.

Stop by Purity this weekend to take a look, they’re serving 12-6



Architecture & Design by John Snyder Architects



Important Tip for this Spring: no longer a door here; new entrance will be to the right


Purity Ice Cream Site Walkthrough Photos

January 31, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

I had a walkthrough of the Purity Ice Cream project this past Wednesday with Bruce Lane, so here are some photos of what’s being worked on. The work is being done by Strawbridge and Jahn Builders.

From the outside, it’s probably not too noticeable yet- there’s a section of brick facade that has been removed on the opposite (north side), which will be replaced with a grayer toned brick, along with the walls towards the western end. The original building was built rather recently- back in 1953, and there have been three additions since then, and various renovations.

The current owners, Bruce and Heather Lane bought the business back in 1998, about a month before it was ready to close its doors due to financial insolvency. Ithaca seems rather fortunate in this regard: we have an abundance of individuals and local leaders investing their personal time and capital in order to keep cherished places and businesses alive.

The Purity operation used to distribute all sorts of goods around town beyond ice cream- almost like a general goods delivery service. Once large national distribution companies like SYSCO began to emerge and compete, typically the smaller town-based and regional distributors were either bought out, shifted business, or went out of business.

View from South on Meadow Street:

Former line queue and serving counter- the space will be reworked for more efficient serving:


Former bathrooms for customers- new bathrooms will be slightly larger, with a shared hallway:


Future prep area and mechanical closets (part of the second addition- the windows and concrete block wall to the left were the original face of the building, then this new section was added, where you can see the corrugated steel on the ceiling):


Former production room to become a generous seating area:


Render from North edge of the lot:


Future floor plan for first floor:


More information here:
Purity Ice Cream
John Snyder Architects

Purity Ice Cream Demolition Phase

January 24, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

The Purity Ice Cream project has been moving ahead, with the demolition phase closing-in on completion as interior walls and built-ins are removed, some asbestos containing materials are remediated, and the brick facades removed. The asbestos removal is wrapping-up by early next week- the whole project is closed-up at the moment so particles don’t escape during the process. Following Purity’s Facebook Page will get you some great photos and updates about the project as it is unfolding, and here’s a selection of photos from just before demolition and during, taken from the posts so far. I’ll be swinging by next week to take a look at the progress, and should have some new final renders from John Snyder Architects to post shortly- their Facebook page also has some nice shots from photographer Gary Hodges.




Revised Purity Project- Correction: Fails Supermajority Straw Vote, But Special Meeting Wednesday

November 27, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

This one came as a surprise- the revised Purity project has been voted down. Correction: There was a straw vote 4-1, but the project requires a supermajority of 5 due to the County’s concerns on the parking lot, referencing the West End Urban Design Plan (the County can issue a letter to force a supermajority vote under GML 238-m, Number 5). There will be a special meeting next Wednesday to vote. My thanks to Govind for the correction.

I think in these situations, it’s important to seek to understand where people are coming from on both sides. In a model world, planning is a craft that endeavors to determine what best to do with land for the benefit of the local residents, and developers take financial risks in order to seek the reward for building improvements on private property. These goals are commonly at odds.

In this case, the vicinity of the proposed expansion lot is housing, and neighbors have expressed their interest in keeping the land free from use as a parking lot for concerns of noise and disruption that parking lots tend to bring to an area. I think it’s a valid point, although I do think concerns of that nature can commonly be overstated. Another consideration can be made from a planner’s perspective: I think most planners would desire a building there (the parcel is zoned West End Zone 1b).

The proposed lot was approved in the original plan for the apartment tower, which seems like a trade-off consideration: tolerate undesirable parking for new desirable housing units. This can be confusing though- if the proposed parking is not outweighed by the benefits of this revised project, then at what point is it? An outsider would have to logically assume that somewhere between the apartment tower and this revised project, there’s a break-even juncture on the social utility curve.

Developers and builders can be put off by uncertainty; there’s an associated cost for lack of information, and especially, uncertain permission.

Land use regulation should seek reform to alleviate this disconnect. The development process would be more desirable given a code that says plainly “this is what you can build, no meetings if you build it” rather than what we have now: “this is what you can’t build, and any site change must be approved in a public meeting.” In addition to the outdated code, some if it disincentivizes the very things we want most as a small city.

The objective of code models like SmartCode is exactly that: zone form-based building districts that mimic the order of nature, and perhaps just as important, provide a zoning document that is genuinely clear. Buffalo’s GreenCode effort will culminate in a new form-based code in Buffalo, NY. There was also a recent demonstration study done by Randall + West and Noah Demarest of Stream Collaborative for an area of land in the City and Town of Ithaca.

Of course, nothing changes overnight, but a better code and a better process would help to avoid future situations like these. Development is an investment, so if the costs of uncertainty are too high, and the process too frustrating, the finances for development may turn to a different investment to seek a return. In this instance, it seems sad that the plans for an overhauled building may be decided by another parking drama.


2010 AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic) for Ithaca, about 32,000 vehicles a day pass by Purity:



Original approved proposal for 24 apartment unit tower and two additional parking lots for Purity and apartment residents:

Purity Render



Revised proposal that is being considered, which included overhaul of the existing building, new office on the second floor with a terrace, and one additional parking lot at the corner of Cascadilla and Meadow Streets:




Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s recent expansion, at the corner of Fulton and Cascadilla, a block down the street from Purity. It’s zoned West End Zone-1a, which allows parking as of right.


Purity Ice Cream Updated Site Plan Documents

November 6, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

Still bummed that the tower is a no-go, but the new scaled-down design for an expanded Purity Ice Cream store space and new second-story office by John Snyder Architects looks spiffy. As was announced back in October, the new plan calls for an expansion of Purity Ice Cream’s store operations, and a buildout of the second story and roof level above to include 2,640 square feet of office space and a terrace area, slated to start January next year. The PDF below contains a further revised design, full site and landscaping plans, as well as a code review on the first page. The facade improvements call for new sections of accent brick and aluminum curtain walls.




Purity Ice Cream Project Scales Down- No Apartment Tower

October 14, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

Bummer news here, but I imagine there are some strong reasons: The Purity Project has scaled down, and will no longer be seeking to build an apartment tower on the site. The revised project narrative (page 2 below) cites market conditions as the cause. The new plan is for an expansion of Purity Ice Cream’s store operations, and a buildout of the second story and roof level above to include 2,640 square feet of office space and a terrace area. The project is looking to start January 2014 with a construction schedule of 10-12 months. Here’s the first paragraph of the architectural narrative, providing a good summary of the revised project:



New Site Plans and Parking Evaluation embedded below:



Purity Project: Resolution Vote on Tuesday July 23rd

July 19, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

The off-site parking lots made it into the final resolution here, and the next Planning Board meeting is Tuesday for the vote. It’s nice to see this project moving through site plan review. Resolution and Draft FEAF (Full Environmental Assessment Form) Part 3 below.

City Transportation Comments on Current Projects & Purity Responses

June 25, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

See below- some comments from Tim Logue, the City Transportation Engineer on Harold’s Square, Purity, and 130 East Clinton St. Major concerns pointed out here are: during construction, the Harold’s Square project would be occupying southern portions containing easements for neighboring properties, Purity’s initial planned driveway from Meadow St. is a no-go with the NYSDOT, and 130 East Clinton Street’s possible effect on the new Clinton St. retaining wall.

Here is the response letter from John Snyder Architects on the Purity Project: