Ithaca Builds

Mapping, photos and information for Ithaca construction and development projects

INHS’s Greenways Project

May 18, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

Greenways is a project by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, proposing to build 46 affordable townhouses in a three-phase approach along the East Hill Recreation Way in the Town of Ithaca with a similar style to the Holly Creek Townhomes. Ithacating released details of the plan in 2013, which had formerly been a project between Cornell and a private developer, with the idea of building 67 townhomes for Cornell employees. INHS has since picked up the process, and is planning to tie-in the adjacent Strawberry Hill Road, Harwick Drive, and Eastwood Avenue in woonerf-style roads, with the townhouses clustered at each side. The sketch plan project proposal will be heard at the Town Of Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board Meeting this Tuesday, May 20th, in the Town Hall.





Amabel Zoning Resolution & Revised Site Plan

March 6, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

The Town Board of Ithaca will be deciding on a resolution at their meeting Monday, the 10th to recommend re-zoning for the parcels of New Earth Living‘s proposed Amabel project from Low Density Residential to Medium Density Residential, in order to allow for 31 housing units on the two parcels, 619 Five Mile Drive, and a 3-acre sub-parcel of 617 Five Mile Drive, which was divested by the City of Ithaca back in December.

The project has a revised site plan, showing that most of the 3-acre sub-parcel that was purchased will be kept as a natural area. Most noticeable is the change in the type of development: the previous plans called for rental or condominium shared housing units in five clusters of six or seven households, whereas the revised plans are for a lot subdivision, much like Belle Sherman Cottages, where the common utilities, roadways, and sitework are developed, then individual lots are developed and built as they are sold. This plan shows two pockets of eight lots each, and an L-shaped line of 15 lots on the southern and western borders, with two sections of parking and a shared roadway heading south off Inlet Road, then east.

The project letter states that the change resulted from consultation with their attorney and numerous bankers, and the financial implications of the previous plans could not be supported by the project, which is understandable: building-out the shared housing units, even in phases, would imply the development entity to hold construction debt obligations that may not have been sustainable, given that quick absorption of the housing units providing adequate revenue is not a sure bet (Belle Sherman Cottages, although a lot development, is a good example- it will eventually fill, but it takes time). In addition, shared housing implies an HOA-arrangement (Homeowner’s Association), a legal entity that shared owners pay into in order to maintain the grounds, common areas, etc.- which is commonly cost-shared with the development entity until a certain absorption percentage is achieved. For condominiums, the legal arrangements are even more complicated and costly, although it’s a novel development concept that has become a norm in urban areas, where strong pre-sales can be guaranteed.

Here’s the full resolution with attachments



Cayuga Meadows Final Site Plan Review (Conifer Realty)

December 4, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

The Cayuga Meadows project (formerly Conifer West Hill) by Conifer Realty was fully approved by the Town of Ithaca back in 2012, but the parcel needed to be rezoned in order for the development to move forward. The process of rezoning, granting of variances and public works approval have all been completed, and now the Town of Ithaca Planning Board has voted for final site plan approval. The site is across from Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Medical Center.

The plan is for a 19,520 SF footprint three-story building with 68 independent living units for seniors. The proposal sits on a 4.8 acre lot subdivision out of the existing 34.7 acre lot, with a right of way for a new dedicated road off of Harris B. Dates Drive Extension.

The initial announcement was covered in Ithacating back in 2010, when Cornell had suggested partnering with Conifer to develop the site. The original site plan concepts from B.C.’s blog are embedded below. I don’t see any indication that Cornell is still involved, but perhaps again in the future, since the rest of the site is still open for development. The original plan was for senior housing, a hotel school center, and parking for commuters from Trumansburg, but neither of the latter two suggestions have been in the news recently.

Conifer Realty owns and manages Cayuga View Apartments (part of Linderman), Conifer Village at Ithaca, Ellis Hollow Apartments, Linderman Creek Apartments, and The Meadows Townhomes.





Some Basic Data on Home Sales & Reported Costs in Ithaca

November 26, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

I generally don’t dig into single-family home development, but for the sake of sharing some basic information, here’s a series of charts I put together not long ago.

Most of this data is from the US Census Bureau, so the term “housing unit” can be confusing. Here’s the official definition:

A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live and eat separately from any other persons in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall.

Home sales data from the Tompkins County Assessor’s Office:


And the obligatory comparison to the rest of the nation:


The following three charts are reported data from Building Permits, which can be imprecise due to the inherent incentive to “lowball” the projected build cost in order to decrease the permit fee, since it is based on a percentage of total cost, but I still found it interesting that the double-unit cost has been reported so much lower than single-unit. It’s probably due to a slew of complicated factors like intended market (finish quality), renovation versus new build, etc., but it’s not what I would have guessed.


MSA stands for Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is an area of Census blocks used to form combined statistics. The Ithaca MSA is the whole of Tompkins County.




The 2010 Census Data has scant information at the block level, however, it still has housing stock and population information per each block, so I took a selection of blocks within a 1.75 mile radius from the center of downtown. Although it’s not exactly apples-to-apples, the pricing above takes the 2010 weighted mean City & Town home sale price from the first chart divided by people per housing unit to get us a crude estimate of the cost of housing per person at the 2010 market. So, for a family of three in the City & Town, a $235,000 home price may be typical, which would be about a $2,200 monthly PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) payment on a 30-year mortgage at 5% with no down payment.


Sources: US Census Bureau, Tompkins County Department of Assessment, City-Data

Ithaca College’s Whalen Center New Facade

October 30, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

I went way overboard on photos, but Ithaca College is picturesque, especially at sunset. Last time I was here, Hill Center was wrapping-up, and the Whalen Center had just begun Trespa Panel installation, as all of the previous concrete precast panels had been removed. The work looks nice, and the facade now blends well with the major facelift for Hill Center next door- the windows on Whalen looked immaculate as well. I doubt they were replaced (maybe polished), but the interior blinds are different. In fact, I got word via email that all these windows have been replaced for this renovation- single pane with doubles, and the former East-facing wood slats have been removed to expose new bay windows, while the North-facing ones have been kept. [credits to Jenny & Erik for emailing- thanks!]
Hill Center has fresh landscaping and benches all along the front walkway, and of course, a nice view of the lake to forget about final exams. The interior and most of the exterior was complete last time (mid-September).



Aerial shot from before renovations:








This is IC’s Athletic and Events Center, finished back in Fall 2011 at a cost of $65.5 million. The huge tower got LEED points for natural cooling and ventilation. It also looks cool when it is all lit-up at night from the across the hill.

Tompkins County Biggs Property Will be Sold to NRP Group

October 1, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

The resolutions regarding the sale of the Tompkins County Biggs Property to NRP Properties, LLC have passed, so the project will go before Town of Ithaca Planning Board meetings next. The final resolution to approve the sale passed 11-4.

The project’s working titles are “Cayuga Ridge Village” and “Cayuga Village Townhomes”.

There would be a Homeowner’s Association managed by Better Housing for Tompkins County.

The units would have an option to purchase after a 15-year period due to the requirements of the tax credits that would be sold to investors in order to finance the project.

60-Unit Townhomes, one to four bedrooms; from the renderings and floor plans, they look as if they would be modular.

Total development cost: $13,500,000 +/- ($225k build-out cost per unit)

Developer: the NRP group LLC, Cleveland, Ohio

Architects: RDL Architects – Shaker Heights (Cleveland), Ohio

A gentleman from the NRP group gave a short presentation and answered questions from the legislators, as well as Ed Marx, the planning commissioner. Ed summarized the history of the project, and the results of the meetings with residents on West Hill.

The legislators spent a lot of time going over the structuring of the tax credits (the fact that the units can’t be sold until 15 years in), and how the project is ultimately financed, as well as some site plan questioning. There’s a lot that has yet to be determined at this point, and there was a considerable amount of dialogue on the future property taxes, the current assessment, the affordability criteria, and the ultimate sale pricing.

The main discussion just before the resolution passed went over the opposition points: the site placement relative to the City, traffic congestion and pursuant costs, violence since the beginning of housing expansion on West Hill, and the inequity of City taxpayers subsidizing the housing and transit implications of the Town’s development decisions.

There’s a petition from Ithaca West and a large number of individuals that have opposed the sale for the use of this project. The pages with the objection letters and a letter of support are particularly good.

Here’s the Community That Works site, setup to communicate about the project. Much of the project’s impetus comes from a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant for Climate Showcase Communities, and the program is modelled on EcoVillage-style development.


Here’s the Project Description:



Here’s a memorandum on affordable housing from Ed Marx, the Commissioner of Planning: