Ithaca Developer Gains Momentum with “Collegetown Terrace”
The Cornell Program in Real Estate (PRE) is looking forward in anticipation to a large real estate development project breaking ground in Ithaca. Collegetown Terrace, a student housing development proposed by Novarr-Mackesey Construction, will add 589 net additional bedrooms to the student population, and will provide 1,226 new bedroom units as the project includes the demolition of many existing buildings. The preliminary approval for site plan review was addressed at the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board meeting on February 22, 2011. John Novarr, the developer and principal of Novarr-Mackesey Construction, suspects that demolition will begin in late May and that project completion of Phase 1 will enable occupancy for the fall 2012 semester.
Novarr commented, “Delivering a product like Collegetown Terrace to Ithaca will completely change the rental landscape for student housing, as it adds a significant number of quality bedrooms to the Cornell University rental market. The project will be a culmination of my work to date as a developer and investor, and I am excited to see it break ground in the upcoming months.” Phase 1 includes all of the buildings with frontage on State Street, and several plazas with benches and tables that will bring the public into the development and add a feeling of integration into the community. The buildings facing State Street (Phase 1) have been designed to fit the historical context of the area, while the buildings farther into the site (Phase 2) have more contemporary elements which reflect Novarr’s design aesthetic. Phase 2 construction will be dependent on the absorption and pre-leasing of the Phase 1 units and could start construction as early as May 2012.
The development involves the demolition of 29 buildings, all roads, and some landscaping on site. Three existing apartment buildings will remain (Quarry Arms, Casa Roma, and Boiler Works) which include 162 beds and are all located within the East Hill Historic District. In addition, 901 East State Street, known as the George C. Williams House, is to be renovated to meet the requirements of the historic district. In order to get the approval of the East Hill Historic District, Novarr must renovate the Williams House in such a manner that they receive a Certificate of Appropriateness. The two parties are close to an agreement on the renovations.
The 16 proposed new buildings will have up to four stories of residential use and up to two stories of parking underneath. The total size of the Collegetown Terrace site is 16.4 acres, 12.4 of which will be redeveloped. The environmental review for the site was completed on October 2010, when the Planning and Development Board adopted the Findings of the Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The approved FEIS reflects all the compromises and mitigations to which Novarr and the city of Ithaca Planning Board have agreed. Additionally, Novarr was granted a lot line adjustment and, on February 1, 2011, was granted a height variance for taller buildings in the interior of the development.
Although the project is coming together well at this point in the development process, the developer, the neighbors, the historic district and the city have all had competing interests in the property. In response to requests from all the different parties, Novarr redesigned much of his original 2009 proposal to minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. In a February 9, 2011 article in the Cornell Daily Sun, City of Ithaca Councilmember Ellen McCollister was quoted as saying, “Overall, I would say that the Collegetown Terrace project is vastly improved over the original site plan proposals presented last year.” Novarr’s redesign changed the design of the buildings facing State Street, the number of Historic buildings, and the number of total units in the development. After working through many sets of design documents the project is nearing construction. As preliminary approval materializes, the final product is beginning to fulfil the vision of the stakeholders.
To find out more about Novarr-Mackesey apartments, please visit: http://www.ithacastudentapartments.com/index.php.