Northside United meeting

A member of the development team presents plans for the Carpenter Business Park at a Northside United meeting on Feb. 4.

The new Carpenter Business Park development, near Route 13, is almost finished its preliminary design phase but is still facing criticism from members of the public, particularly the vocal Northside United neighborhood group. The group held their monthly meeting Monday night at the Quaker Meeting House to discuss the proposal.

One part of the design that people are concerned with is the location of the affordable housing building, which has become the proverbial half empty/half full glass of water. For some members of the community they are looking at the buildings location as towards the front of the site, while many others see the building as another segregated affordable housing building.

Since the other buildings on the site, like a downtown location for a Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) office and some other mixed-use buildings, are centered more towards the middle and rear of the site, many residents want to ensure that the affordable housing building isn’t going to be built in a way that separates it from the rest of the complex. Some residents gave suggestions on how to fix this issue, but the design team, Whitham Planning and Design, has run into a few constraints.

One problem is that the site borders the Community Gardens and is near several NYSEG power lines which render several sections of the site either unbuildable, or strictly height-limited. The designers have worked around that and are still tinkering with the layout of the design, planning to submit them to the City of Ithaca some time next week. Since the buildings are supposed to be market rate, which one resident said was “slang for luxury housing,” some of the community members are worried about gentrification and how this could adversely affect their neighborhood.

Many urban centers have been over-run with overpriced housing that has impacted and changed the monetary landscape of neighborhoods, with attendees noting the new City Centre development as an example of market rate housing secretly meaning luxury housing. Designer Scott Whitham said that rental price hasn’t been determined as of yet.

Despite this reassurance, one resident was concerned about the requirements that will be implemented for people to be eligible for the affordable housing building. The salary requirement is going to be somewhere between families and people who earn $29,000 and $34,000, though this may shift throughout the design process. Another question about the affordable housing building was about who will be living there. While the design calls for multi-use apartments, many people wanted to ensure that families who are eligible for affordable/low-income housing will be able to get it with ease.

Other questions and comments related to whether or not the design shown last night was going to be the one presented to the City of Ithaca. Whitham responded no, saying that in the coming days, the design will be changing to iron out any flaws, but also so that any changes community members have will be taken under consideration.

Despite their concerns, it did seem that most community members at least appreciated the amount of community outreach Whitham and his team have done during the process to garner feedback. Throughout the design process, they have been routinely consulting the community on the layout of the buildings to best ensure that the community gardens will remain unaffected by the development and any construction that goes on.

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