ITHACA, NY -- The Planning and Development Board got its first look at a proposal for projects in Collegetown in the 200 and 300 blocks of College Avenue. If the Catherine North and Catherine South project names sound familiar, it’s because late last year the same developers proposed the Collegetown Innovation District, which included similar projects as part of the Planned United Development (PUD) application.
A PUD is used when the Planning Board and Common Council agree that the long-term community benefits of a project outweigh any effects of zoning changes made to accommodate the plans; developers make the decision to apply for a PUD. The original plan comprised 10 buildings, eight of which would have required fairly significant height variances. After a lukewarm response, developers John Novarr and Phil Proujansky have decided to go at the project in sections.
Kathryn Wolf, an architect at Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture, presented the sketch plan to the board. The project is called Catherine Commons and is located on the west side of College Avenueat the intersection with Catherine Street. Catherine North is the name of the portion on the north side of Catherine Street, and Catherine South is on the south side of Catherine Street.
“The Catherine Commons site was included in a PUD app last year and included other properties, and as we tried to move that project, it became clear it was overly complicated and moving too slowly,” she said.
The developers decided to “focus on getting this area revitalized,” Wolf said. The proposal is designed to predominantly comply with existing zoning, and will include 340 apartment units, commercial space on College Avenue, a fitness center for residents, expanded sidewalks, pedestrian plazas and streetscape amenities.
While “predominantly” in compliance with existing zoning, the developers are seeking a height variance. At Catherine North, which comprises three buildings, the zoning allows for six stories and 80-foot buildings, while they’re proposing a 10-foot height variance with two additional floors. Catherine South, which has two buildings, includes a 78-foot building with seven floors, while the zoning allows up to 70-foot buildings with five floors.
The thought is the project would mainly be aimed at college students given its location, but the board thought it would appeal to young professionals as well. Overall, board members were very supportive of the project.
“I really like this proposal,” board member Emily Petrina said. “I’m so excited about the streetscape. Those renderings are what Collegetown should be.” She also added that she supports the height variances, though that is a decision the Board of Zoning Appeals will make.
Board member Mitch Glass said he thinks it’s a good proposal for the area.
“I think it’s the right project for Collegetown, and I’m surprised it’s taken this long to do something this nice,” he said. “I really like it.”
401 E. State St.
McKinley Development Company’s 340,000 square-foot apartment building was back in front of the Planning and Development Board on April 27 with one noteworthy change. Developers proposed to reduce the six-story building from 302 parking spaces to 267. Of those parking spaces, 115 would be reserved for residents, 122 would be for downtown office and retail tenants and 30 spaces for Gateway Commons residents. The 122 spaces would also moonlight as public parking after business hours.
These changes were accomplished partly by eliminating parking on the first floor along the east wing and adding rentable storage units for both residents and the public.
The development team also ran through some updated landscaping ideas, which has been a topic of much discussion throughout this process, as the board wants to make sure the space is attractive due to the public use of the property to access the creek walk.
Overall, the board was pleased with the changes proposed.
“I’m super excited about the removal of some of that parking,” Petrina said.
Board member Garrick Blalock echoed that, adding “everything is an improvement.”