Vecino Group's Arthaus project had its turn before the public on Tuesday as they pursue a tax abatement from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency.
The meeting started with a presentation from Vecino's Molly Chiang to refresh the crowd about the specifications of the project. It's still 124 affordable units, with 40 of the unites set aside for formerly homeless you th and families with on-site supportive services from TC Action, as well as artist-focused amenities. "Affordable" in this case will include rents for people making 50-80 percent of Area Median Income, which means that rents for studios will be between $737 and $1180 per month, up to 1,095 and 1,752 for a three-bedroom apartment, the highest price.
In total, the project is asking for slightly over $4.5 million in tax breaks over 30 years, and projects $28.79 million in private investment generated by the project. During those 30 years, Vecino is proposing to pay $3.73 million in new property taxes as the land's value increases from the project.
Bill Benson, a neighboring resident, said that while he supports the sentiment of the project, he feels that it is too out of character with the rest of the surrounding area.
"There's no one I know, both living on the West Hill or any of my friends, that are in any way opposed to trying to get affordable housing into Ithaca in the best way possible," Benson said. "What I'm here to point out is this is a totally out of character, huge complex that does not fit into my neighborhood. [...] It is one big block of concrete, with windows the size of prison slits."
Most of the criticism for the proposal was reserved for the building's design, which was alternately described as both ugly and too large. There isn't much of a chance for the project's leaders to respond during these types of meetings, though it might set up questions that can be asked when the TCIDA officially decides on the project's abatement at their May monthly meeting.
"I'm very disappointed that after lots of thought, this is what we come up with," Ithaca resident Kathleen Halton said.
Common Council member George McGonigal also weighed in, reiterating his previously stated remarks that while the Waterfront District was rezoned to include housing, its primary use should still be industrial developments.
"I admire Vecino and their purpose," McGonigal said. "My concern is that the size of this project is so large that it will decrease the industrial viability of our last remaining industrial zone. This is where we should be growing jobs, and the size of this project compromises that."
The project will return before the TCIDA on May 8.