What Will Replace the Green Street Garage?

Categories Housing & Development, Ithaca, Politics

By Josh Brokaw

ITHACA – At least one developer has expressed serious interest in replacing the Green Street parking garage with a 15-story, two-tower project that includes a re-build and expansion of the parking garage and a 25,000 square foot conference center.

Read More: Can Ithaca Handle 15 Stories Downtown?

The question that Common Council, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency* and city officials next have to answer is whether Jeffrey Rimland and Peak Campus are the right developers with the right project.

That process will take many meetings, many of them first things in the morning or late at night. For the public to be fully informed on this project, we’ll have to follow the process along at every step. Your correspondent will do his best to make many meetings, but TruthSayers can always use more help.


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Top deck of Green Street parking garage facing east. September 2017. Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

At 8:30 a.m. on this Thursday, September 28, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency [IURA] board decided it would table a proposal to approve the transfer of the Green Street garage property from the city to the IURA. The board decided it would wait to vote until Common Council has a chance to review and, presumably, approve the transfer at its October 4 meeting.

If and when Council approves the transfer, the IURA takes over the nitty-gritty work of putting out a “request for proposals,” commonly called a RFP, which will ask developers to submit proposals for how the property should be re-developed. The proposed RFP before Common Council next week calls for many elements that are in the Peak Campus proposal, including the conference center and “approximately 350 housing units specifically designed to appeal to a diverse demographic.” The RFP could be written with less detail, though, if council members and the IURA committee sees fit.

Once the RFP has been circulated, Nels Bohn, IURA director of community development, said he hopes the IURA can start reviewing proposals from developers within a month.

The city didn’t ask for the Rimland/Peak Campus proposal, Mayor Svante Myrick told the IURA board on Thursday morning. Instead, the city had told Rimland, whose Ithaca Properties LLC owns the building under the east side of the Green Street garage, that a rebuild of the garage was in the near future.

“It was more like warning him that we would be evicting his tenants when we rebuilt the garage,” Myrick said. “He said that’s unacceptable … you’ll have to pay this much in restitution.”

The city was “resigned” to paying Rimland something for making the building under the east side of the garage unusable during construction, Myrick said, but then Rimland and Peak Campus showed up with their design.

Because Rimland’s building will be vacated by Tompkins Trust when their new headquarters is completed in spring 2018, city Public Works was planning to schedule repairs for the east side of the garage next spring.

Once IURA has accepted a proposal and then negotiated a deal with a developer, then a public hearing is required. Typically, Bohn said, those are scheduled at Planning & Economic Development committee meetings. In this case, the IURA will likely take any proposal to sell the garage to a preferred developer to committee a month before scheduling a public hearing.

Featured photo: Top deck of Green Street parking garage, facing west. September 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

*The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency is a “local authority,” essentially a public corporation, under state law, like the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency. Here’s a good summary of what an urban renewal agency’s mandate is under state law, from an April 2015 report on local authorities by the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

“New York’s 44 urban renewal agencies were created by the State to combat urban blight, such as vacant and abandoned property, broken windows and other signs of decay, through property clearance, reconstruction, restoration and rehabilitation. Urban renewal agencies generally use federal grants, such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), to fund programs for the redevelopment of
blighted areas, which may include certain housing rehabilitation activities.”

Help Support TruthSaying Reporting

If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too. Founding reporter Josh Brokaw is getting paid from nowhere else for this work; this story took about 3 hours of his time. $10 from 3 people would pay him a bit above minimum wage, which would be pretty cool.

Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with tips, story suggestions, and gentle criticism.
Twitter: @jdbrokaw

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