Planning Board & Landmarks Commission

Members of the city planning board and landmarks preservation commission listen to testimony about the proposed DeWitt House at the Old Library site, Jan. 26, 2016. 

City Hall's meeting room was full on Tuesday night, particularly at the front table. A combined session of the city's Planning Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission was held to discuss plans for the DeWitt House, at the Old Library site at 310-314 N. Cayuga St. 

Kimberly Michaels, of landscape architects Trowbridge Wolf Michaels, told the room the developers need to know "footprint, massing, and placement" for the DeWitt House to move forward in its planning. Over 50 rentals aimed at seniors, along with a new Lifelong office, are planned for the site. 

Two plans were presented: the "streetscape and garden" proposal, which leaves green space along Cayuga Street, and the "urban edge" option, which brings the building closer to the street. The former option covers 39 percent of the lot, and the latter 46 percent; both are 46 feet tall and four stories high. 

ILPC and Planning Board members all gave their thoughts on the proposals, with calls for less parking -- there are 56 spots currently, with no parking required by zoning on the site -- and a less "boxy" design. Everyone was supporting the "streetscape and garden" idea until the last speaker, Robert Aaron Lewis of the planning board, gave his mind. 

DeWitt Park is an urban square, defined by "hard edges," Lewis said. "I'm really scared of this little garden half alley nonsense hanging off the edge of the park."

Jack Elliott pointed out that both the proposed footprints don't seem to "reuse the existing library structure." 

Michaels said that "if we're not physically using foundation, we're hoping it can stay in place ... we haven't had the structural engineers fully address that, because we don't have a footprint yet." 

Graham Gillespie of HOLT Architects said there was a possibility some of the building envelope might be used as fill on site

"For promotional purposes, rather than saying you're reusing the building foundation, say using the building envelope on site," Elliott said. "You're not utilizing the body, energy, and strength of the building, but just leaving it there." 

A lengthy schedule of meetings stretching into the summertime on this project was appended to the plans, including two more of these combined meetings. 

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