815 South Aurora St rendering

Renderings from the 815 South Aurora Street proposal. 

As several projects before the Planning Board enter the final stages before approval, the May 28 meeting saw all met with mixed results.

Most fiery was the discussion around the proposed student housing development at 815 South Aurora Street, about which angered residents from South Hill flocked to the meeting to speak in opposition of. 

Those who spoke want the proposed site to remain as a green space or just build the development further up on the hill. Some of the primary concerns of the residents were about the traffic increase along South Aurora Street as well as potentially losing their view of the lake. Other residents commented on how unnecessary the development is, considering Ithaca College is predicting a decrease in student enrollment for the next year.

For 815 South Aurora Street JoAnn Cornish, head of the Planning Department, found that the building’s apartments are going to be much smaller than those of other developments like the affordable housing Arthaus project. She also commented that the building’s exterior seems to use the cheapest materials and that the project seems too focused on profit.

Board Member McKenzie Jones agreed with Cornish’s criticisms. Jones added that the building doesn’t seem to have a mission and noted the great deal of community resistance towards it. She also said the building might be better further up the hill, though, developer Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals said that’s not possible due to the cell phone tower’s location on the site.

Residents also came out to support the preliminary approval of Arthaus at 130 Cherry Street. Peter Wissoker, a resident of North Tioga Street, suggested that the developer, out-of-town firm Vecino, should do an Air Quality Study on the site, due to the potential fumes from the neighboring scrap metal yard. 

“These types of facilities have been linked to health problems in surrounding properties and while the conditions may or may not be the same as those in this case,” Wissoker said. “It is an issue that should be addressed prior to giving the go-ahead to house some of the city’s most vulnerable population on the site—a constituency that would have few resources to combat this type of problem should it arise.”

According to Wissoker’s comments, the air quality of the site was not taken into account by the city, nor was it addressed by developers. Wissoker’s comment got the board to reconsider the preliminary approval vote due to the lack of information about the site’s air quality. When the project was discussed by the board members, they requested an air quality study done before they would vote for preliminary approval of the project.

The board declared lead agency on a new project at 510 West State/MLK Street. The project will consist of permanently affordable housing making it 50-70% Area Median Income (AMI). Amenities of the building include a community room, bike, and general storage, a laundry room and a fifth-floor lounge with access to a rooftop terrace. The new building will have frontage on three streets: West State/MLK, Corn, and West Seneca Streets.

After hearing about the project, the board requested that the developers look into having an asbestos inspection for the current building. The project applicants, Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative and Charlie O’Connor took this into consideration. They will be returning to subsequent meetings to apprise the Board of all further developments.

Other items on the Board’s agenda were preliminary site plan approval of the Chain Works Development project. During the public hearing for this project, some residents spoke about the lack of consistent snow removal by the city on Turner Place. Residents have had to call the city each year to remind them to clean the snow off the street. Also, the new Greenstar Project at 770 Cascadilla Street presented new signage layouts to the Board, which received positive feedback from board members.

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(1) comment

Peter Wissoker

Peter Wissoker here. Just to clarify, I suggested that the air quality on the site should be tested. When I suggested it, I assumed that the city would arrange for the testing. It was not my intention to say that Vecino should be the one doing the testing.