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The Tompkins County Legislature’s Old Library Committee today received a status update regarding redevelopment of the site of the Old Tompkins County Library from preferred developer Travis Hyde Properties. The project continues to be under review by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well as the City Planning Board. Since it is located within the DeWitt Park Historic District, the project needs a Certificate of Appropriateness from the ILPC before it can formally proceed to the Planning Board for site plan review. The Committee received its last update in April.
Developer Frost Travis and Graham Gillespie, of HOLT Architects guided Legislators through the evolution of project design—from the original through a series of six proposed modifications—since the Legislature awarded Travis Hyde preferred developer status in August 2015. The new designs came in response to concerns expressed by the City, as well as the changed role of the senior citizens organization Lifelong in the project. Lifelong will no longer move its headquarters into the building, although it will have program space and responsibility for the building’s community room.
Among the proposed changes as of the latest proposal: a slight decrease in units, from 60 to 57, modified façade, materials, and roofline, and changes in response to concerns expressed about massing and setback. The building would decrease to three stories (from four) on the Court Street side, with greater setback from the street, and four stories to the rear. The biggest impact to accommodate these changes has been on parking—from 50-some spaces at the beginning to only ten now—a number described as not acceptable to the developer. Mr. Gillespie said the parking issue is “complex,” and the hope is to restore parking capacity to 20-30 spaces on-site. Legislature Chair Michael Lane, who chairs the Old Library Committee, and has expressed concerns about parking throughout the review process, said he finds the lack of parking proposed at present “really troubling.”
Asked about the project timetable, which is running behind the County’s anticipated schedule, Mr. Gillespie said developers will return to the ILPC with a revised proposal in January, which if approved could proceed to the Planning Board. While he said that the Commission had a generally favorable reaction to the latest proposal, he cautioned that developers are nearing the end of their willingness to continue in this process. If the ILPC denies the application in January, “I think we’re done,” he said.
Many expressed frustration with how long the City review is taking and the repeated modifications that have been called for. Commissioner of Planning Ed Marx noted that the County had been proactive in consulting with the City at the beginning of the process, and officials at that time indicated there would be no additional restrictions placed on the project, beyond the City’s zoning requirements.