ITHACA, NY – The Planning and Economic Development Committee has received an update on the two Green Street garage projects, neither of which have yet started construction.
As a reminder, the Vecino group is in the process of constructing a 12-storey building called the Asteri where the western part of the garage is located. It will include 181 low- and moderate-income apartments on the upper floors, while the first three floors will house a 49,000 square foot conference center, 350 public parking spaces and a small commercial space. The eastern part will be built by Ithaca Properties, LLC. The building, called Ithacan, will be a 14-story building housing a garage, market-rate apartments and the Ithaca College medical assistant school. The central part which houses Cinemapolis will remain intact.
The garage closed at the end of March, with the belief that construction would be imminent. However, residents probably noticed that there had been no movement on the project.
Nels Bohn, director of Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, said things were starting to move forward after a few hiccups in the process.
âThere were a myriad of contingencies that had to be met before the city could pass ownership to developers,â he said. “This is what we have been working on since January and February.”
The main problems with the Asteri building were to get construction costs within the range of their original projections, a feat according to Bohn has now been accomplished. In addition, they had to get their approval from the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) on the allowances for construction of below-market housing and wait for the enactment of the hotel room tax. With all of these things accomplished, they are working on the bond close. It is expected that all funding will be in place by the end of June, and work on the project can begin immediately thereafter.
The Ithacan project was also to secure funding through a bank and work with IDA for incentives. Bohn said one of the longest delays was negotiating the rental agreement between the city and the developer.
âThis has been going on for at least six weeks,â he said. “We have reached a conceptual agreement.”
The city’s administration committee is expected to vote on the deal at its May 26 meeting, and then Bohn said he would be before full council in early June.
âEverything is moving,â he said. “Not as fast as we thought, but we are heading towards closure.”
Tom Knipe, the city’s deputy director of economic development, added that the conference center team is still on the verge of finalizing a contract with third-party operator ASM Global, which operates more than 300 locations worldwide, including including the Albany Capital Center in Albany and the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
âThey are top notch, they are the best,â Knipe said. âThey help us review the designs of the conference center and make recommendations for changes. It’s really good to have them at the table.
While it’s certainly good news that the funding is being finalized, it seems to mean that initial estimates of construction times will now be staggered by at least about three months. The initial hope was that part of the garage would be finished before the holidays to help shoppers come downtown, given the late checkout which now seems impossible. Following the completion of the garage, there will still be approximately two years of work left to complete the towers.