City, developers slowly progress with Green Street Garage projects

first_img ITHACA, N.Y. — A lot has happened since the City of Ithaca named the Vecino Group the preferred redeveloper of the western and central sections of the Green Street Garage last December. For one, the needs for the conference center grew. This made Vecino concerned enough to propose alternative proposals in the event that the conference center can’t be financed, and the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency voted on what it thought would be the most preferable “Plan B” just in case.Second, a proposal for the eastern third of the Green Street Garage emerged. Jeffrey Rimland, the landlord who owns the ground lease for the eastern third of the garage (along with the Rothschild Building and a share of the Marriott), proposed an 11-story apartment building for the site, with a rebuilt garage on the lower levels and rental units above.Behind the scenes, a lot of legal negotiations have been taking place between the city and the Vecino Group. With the conference center changes and the thorough if slow process of discussions, only now are a lot of the details ironed out. The process, known as an Exclusion Negotiation Agreement, establishes the terms for giving Vecino the property (a $1 sale, since Vecino’s paying for all the reconstruction) and creates another 13 pages of legal paperwork called a Disposition and Development Agreement. That’s the physical plan and schedule the city and Vecino agree to for the redevelopment. The city writes it up, and Vecino can accept or offer a counter-proposal.That part is pretty much complete. The plan has changed a little bit over the past several months, but is largely the same: 218 apartment units affordable those making 50-80% are median income (up from 209), 356 new and refurbished parking spaces (350+ was the target), a 49,000 square-foot conference center (up from about 30,000), retention of Cinemapolis, pedestrian corridors with lighting and landscaping surrounding the site, and seemingly a new item, 2,000 square feet of leased space to the city Department of Public Works.If, however, the conference center is determined to be financially impossible by Jan. 23, 2020, the plan shifts to “Plan B” – 273 affordable apartments to those making 50-80% area median income, with a minimum of 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.At this point, there are a couple of details that have to be finalized before this plan heads out for a public hearing – clarifying details in some of the agreements for design, operations and maintenance of proposed features, and a mitigation plan for the displacement of commuters and businesses caused by the construction activity. When those details are sorted out, the DDA may be approved by the IURA, and it’s also subject to Common Council’s approval.But that’s not it. It’s more like the first chapter in a long, rather dense novel. Brian Crandall The project has to run a gauntlet of approvals and reviews. The Board of Public Works will have to surplus the garage and land next month and sign off on that so that it can be “sold.” The Planning Board will review the Site Plan and environmental impacts starting in December. The Planning and Economic Development Committee reviews the DDA next month and the full Common Council also reviews and offers preliminary and final approvals to the DDA (December 2019 and April 2020 expected). It’s at least 11 public-comment permitted meetings between them, not counting other sub-meetings or the IURA. The very earliest the project could be approved is the end of April 2020, and if experience is an indicator, that’s optimistic.Construction-wise, the first stage of the plan is to close the western third of the garage first, while keeping the central and eastern sections open. Cinemapolis would also remain open during this time. The Home Dairy Alley path, however, will be closed through the garage, so users will have to ealk down to the eastern end to get to Green Street from the Commons. The construction above the central portion and the temporary relocation of Cinemapolis will come later in the construction period. Prolific regional construction firm Welliver will be the general contractor for the project. At the earliest, the project would start construction in 2021 and be ready for occupancy in early 2023.An early rendering of the Rimland project proposalRimland project also moving forwardThe process for Rimland’s project is a little simpler. Since his firm already owns the ground underneath the eastern third of the garage, there’s no need to bother with an ENA deal here. According to the pre-site plan application filed a couple of weeks ago, the plan is to convert part of the Rothschilds Building into amenity space (fitness room, community space), while rebuilding the eastern portion of the garage with a ground level and two upper levels, with 160 parking spaces. Atop that will be ten floors and about 200 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments – so it’s now added a floor to become a 12-story building, and just under the 140-foot maximum height allowed at the site, one of the most-densely zoned sites in the city. No new exterior renderings are in the IURA documents, but the shape is still the same as the earlier shown above.However, while the process may be simpler than it is for Vecino, it will still be a very lengthy review, especially since the city owns the garage. It will still need to go through a half dozen Planning Board meetings for environmental review, the project will have its own DDA that will have to go through the IURA for redevelopment terms and conditions, the Planning Committee and Common Council will have their say on the DDA. In addition, there will be a BPW meeting to surprlus the garage itself, and what appears to be a trip to the Board of Zoning Appeals. There will be over a dozen meetings on the project between now and the tentative final approval date in March.As for the timing of construction on that, well, we’ll have to get back to you. While it’s kinda a given that it will have to be scheduled in a way that doesn’t make the parking situation a total nightmare, the specifics will be in the DDA when it’s written, as will the proportion of market-rate and affordable apartment units. Long story short, between Vecino and Rimland, East Green Street could be a very busy construction site over the next few years. center_img Your government news is made possible with support from: Tagged: green street garage redevelopment, IURA, jeff rimland, Vecino Group Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at [email protected] More by Brian Crandalllast_img

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