February 22, 2024
Native developer plans two infill housing initiatives in historic districts

ITHACA, N.Y.—Many builders see Historic Districts as a no-go space. A part of that’s purposeful by communities like Ithaca; historic districts are devoted to guard the neighborhood’s defining options, be that structure, measurement and scale, or another attribute that has historic significance to the group at massive.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t cease renovations and new builds utterly, neither is it supposed to. Buildings themselves must be up to date as utilities put on out and makes use of change. As well as, not each constructing and lot in a historic district is a “contributing property” to the historic character of the neighborhood. Non-historic constructing, double-lots or parking areas could also be alternatives for “sympathetically-designed” additions, and cities like Ithaca typically have an obligation to entertain proposals that befit the neighborhood.

Nonetheless, that “sympathetically-designed” side is what tends to chase away builders, who usually want to keep away from the additional expense and problem of historically-inspired designs, smaller-scale initiatives, and high quality supplies that complement the remainder of the neighborhood. To not point out, within the case of Ithaca, they’re topic to the stringent eye of the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Fee, which scrutinizes each element to find out whether or not a venture is worthy of a “Certificates of Appropriateness”—and that course of is separate from the Planning Board’s assessment.

With all that in thoughts, it’s uncommon to see a developer discover an infill venture in one in every of Ithaca’s Historic Districts, not to mention two. However native agency Fashionable Residing Leases (MLR), led by businessman Charlie O’Connor, are proposing two new additions to Ithaca’s constructing inventory. One constructing can be within the Cornell Heights Historic District, and the opposite within the East Hill Historic District.

The primary proposal is for 200 Highland Avenue, a brief stroll from Cornell’s North Campus. The present dwelling on the positioning is a 15-bedroom condo home, and has served as a house to a number of Greek Letter Organizations, in addition to a short stint as Cornell’s alumni home, because it was constructed round 1905. In these early days, the residence would have been an unwelcome interloper into the unique Wyckoff and Bergholtz plans for an expensive, unique suburban neighborhood of professors and Ithacan elites. However, as fraternities purchased into the neighborhood and extra plebeian houses had been constructed from the 1910s onward, it turned a traditional instance of housing in Cornell Heights, and a contributor to its historic district when devoted in 1989.

MLR’s proposal for this web site depends on the massive, largely vacant garden north of the present home. The plan is to renovate the present home to ILPC satisfaction, decreasing occupancy to eleven bedrooms, with one six-bedroom unit and one five-bedroom unit. MLR would additionally wish to construct a second condo home on the north garden. This second home, design by native agency Commerce Design Construct, would home three residences, one three-bedroom unit and two five-bedroom items. Ostensibly, being near Cornell, the first market is college students of the college. Idea plans counsel one massive tree can be eliminated, however the stand on the nook of Highland Avenue and Westbourne Place would stay.

Zoning over the previous few years has turn out to be extra restrictive relating to a number of houses on a single lot, however MLR plans to make use of a trick used at a number of different infill initiatives to construct the addition. Just like the “Solstice Towers” crafted by native structure agency Barradas and Companions at 504 West Seneca Road, the 2 condo houses would share a typical basement, however seem like two separate buildings above floor. It’s not a brand new condo constructing, it’s an “addition” to the present constructing per zoning.

It’s a reasonably uncommon approach, with its share of detractors—Metropolis Councilor Cynthia Brock has by no means been shy with sharing her skepticism of the Solstice Towers—however it could be a sympathetic method to infill if the ILPC provides the idea the blessing to proceed with additional design assessment. Word that the pictures are sketch ideas, meant to indicate measurement, scale and basic design. Architectural and panorama particulars can be refined per discussions with the ILPC, in the event that they’re keen to contemplate the venture additional.

As for venture quantity two, its web site can be a double-lot, at 601 East State Road, situated within the East Hill Historic District and a contributing member courting from the Nineties. The present home incorporates a four-bedroom condo unit and a five-bedroom unit. The brand new constructing, additionally by Commerce Design Construct, would host six three-bedroom items, constructed partially into the hillside in order that it seems to be two tales from the road, and three from the again. The smaller unit sizes are a mirrored image of location, attempting to attraction to each scholar and non-student renters on the perimeter of the Cornell actual property sphere of affect.

Not like the Cornell Heights proposal, the zoning right here doesn’t pressure any quirky basements. The present home dealing with East State Road can be maintained (MLR already owns it, whereas they doubtless have a purchase order possibility they’ve on Highland), whereas the south garden abutting Ferris Place would host the brand new constructing. The potential challenge right here is that the brand new constructing encroaches on the rear yard setback, so a zoning variance can be required. Lot protection, constructing dimensions, and parking would all conform to zoning.

As with Highland, the ILPC should decide in the event that they’d be comfy with the infill and with supporting the rear yard variance; a venture of this measurement would additionally doubtless require Planning Board assessment. If they provide the figurative nod to proceed, then design and landscaping particulars will be hashed out per their discussions and ideas.

On the one hand, O’Connor has expertise with historically-appropriately infill. A number of years in the past, he developed 707 East Seneca Road on a dilapidated non-contributing lot within the East Hill Historic District. However, each venture is exclusive, particularly in terms of historic districts; prior profitable expertise doesn’t assure approval now.

The ILPC is about to supply “Early Design Steerage,” their model of a sketch plan assessment, at their assembly subsequent Tuesday night at Metropolis Corridor. Even when they’re amenable to MLR’s concepts, the historic assessment, in addition to any Planning Board or Board of Zoning Appeals assessment, would doubtless delay development till Spring 2024 on the earliest.