When you're talking about 60-feet tall, what's another 30 feet?
Well, it would be one-third of a building, if the redevelopment plan for Collegetown is enacted with a new maximum height for buildings in the College Avenue-Dryden Road core area listed under the revised plan.
That buildings could be as high as 90-feet-tall in the already congested area seems impossible to fathom. Permanent residents of the area are concerned that if developers decide to go for the maximum height it will create a canyon-like effect, and they are right to be concerned.
In fact, the height issue is so debatable the Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee only approved it by a 9-7 vote in July. In August, however, the committee voted 11-2 to send the plan on to the Common Council - with the height allowance still intact.
To be fair, raising the height is only one of three scenarios laid out in the June 14 revised draft of the Collegetown Urban Plan and Design Guidelines for making it attractive for developers to build or acquire property in the College Avenue-Dryden Road area - the others call for reducing or eliminating parking requirements at the site of buildings, to be replaced by payment of an annual in-lieu of parking payment.
But, with congestion and parking already a concern in Collegetown, why is this plan proposing actions that will only exacerbate the problems?
According to the revised June 14 draft of the plan, it states in the College Avenue-Dryden Road redevelopment section that "even without land costs, the economics of development fail to satisfy normal investment thresholds; the return-on-cost should be a least 7.5 %."
Sure, the return-on-cost may be most desirable at 7.5 percent, but that doesn't mean it has to be. It doesn't mean it should be a primary concern, especially if the city cares about what it looks like.
Before we allow eight- or nine-story buildings to dominate the College Avenue-Dryden Road portion of Collegetown, it's important to look at the impact it might have - beyond making it more cost-beneficial for developers who, as they should be, are only looking out for themselves.
Let's not forget that most upstate New York municipalities have at least one horror story about what was done in the name of progress during the 1960s and 70s. Such as when parks were paved over to create four lanes and historic homes were torn down for shopping plazas. Think about the debate that rages on still about whether or not to keep The Commons closed or extend State Street through it again.
It's unrealistic to live in the past, but shouldn't we take a moment to look at what our actions now might create for our future.
It's understandable that developers won't go where they can't make a profit, but aren't there more creative ways to entice them to build here? Some may say this is naïve and a rose-colored glasses way of thinking, but hasn't that always been an element of the mindset of the City of Ithaca? Haven't the residents of this city looked for alternative ways to do things? Haven't trends been bucked here?
This is another time when the creative and problem-solving abilities of our residents need to shine through the status quo.
That's exactly the opportunity the city now has, with the extension of the moratorium on development in Collegetown. While some have opposed the extension, even saying the six-month delay could have a long-term effect on development there, this reprieve gives the committee and the city a chance to eliminate the possibility of 90-foot-tall buildings.
This delay is just the opportunity needed for the City of Ithaca to prove its progressive nature is still thriving.