ITHACA, N.Y.—They told everyone it was coming a couple of months ago, and now the plans are making their public debut. Ithaca’s Visum Development Group has filed its proposal for a multifamily building on the former Ithaca Gun factory site.
As previously reported back in December, Visum bought the property at 121-125 Lake Street from Travis Hyde Properties for $5 million. Travis Hyde had submitted plans for a 74-unit senior apartment building on the site, but the plans stalled during the site plan review process and were never approved by the city Planning Board.
Visum’s plan, called the “Breeze Apartments,” calls for a four-story, 77-unit market-rate apartment building on the site, with 4 studio units, 41 one-bedroom units, and 32 two-bedroom units. The project also proposed 77 parking spaces, about thirty in a surface parking lot and the remainder in a covered garage that will comprise a portion of the building’s lower levels. The project also includes the usual complement of landscaping, lighting, bike racks, stormwater bioretention areas, and unique to the location, a publicly-accessible scenic overlook.
Rather interestingly, the building’s amenities and smaller unit sizes seem more inclined towards the general rental market rather than the student market, though the location close to Cornell University will draw its fair share of student tenants regardless. The building sits across a downhill parking lot from a wooded sloped site at 261 Lake Street that DTG Investments seeks to develop for a new student apartment building to be incorporated into its Auden Ithaca apartment complex.
“Our goal is to contribute to increasing Ithaca’s supply of modern multifamily housing and to accommodate Tompkins County’s ongoing population growth through infill development,” stated Visum Vice President Patrick Braga in the filing.
In the Site Plan Review application, Visum notes that a pair of zoning variances may be sought. One is for off-street loading spaces, which it explains is requested due to the need for 77 parking spaces and still be able to have fire trucks and aerial fire equipment navigate the tight site safely. The other is a potential small exceedance on 40-foot zoning height due to the average grade plane of the sloping property, though the exact size of the variance has yet to be determined, and the building will comply with the zoning code’s mandate of four floors or less.
As anyone familiar with the history of the property is aware, one of the key aspects of any proposed redevelopment of this land is cleaning up the site. Chemicals and lead used in the manufacturing and testing of guns at Ithaca Guns led to significant contamination followed by ineffective and incomplete cleanup. The application states that Visum’s LLC will be named as a participant in the Brownfield Cleanup Agreement in the coming weeks, and that soil and groundwater contamination is still present. Most of the site’s lead-laden soil will need to be removed in disturbed areas, and a few less-contaminated spaces will be capped. The smokestack parcel will be undisturbed. The NYS DEC and DOH will have to sign off on remediation plans.
Building plans designed by Rochester-based SWBR Architects show a contemporary design with a mix of fiber cement (cementitious wood) finishes. SWBR has locally been engaged with several projects, primarily with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services. Local firm T.G. Miller P.C. has been retained as lead engineers for the project.
According to the application, the project has a total construction cost of $16.11 million, and would take about a year to build. Under optimal circumstances, Visum would hope to have approvals and financing in place to begin construction in August 2022.
Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More by Brian Crandall