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Committee Receives Update Regarding Potential Property Acquisition

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Committee Receives Update Regarding Potential Property Acquisition

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Legislature’s Facilities and Infrastructure Committee today received an update report from County Administrator Jason Molino regarding the County’s ongoing study of properties in the 400 block of North Tioga Street in Ithaca—a report that Administrator Molino characterized as “a very preliminary review” of progress to date. 

Late last year, the Legislature authorized the County to enter into a four-month purchase option agreement for adjoining parcels located at 408, and 412-414 North Tioga, located a block away from the County’s Courthouse Complex.   The County has since been conducting a feasibility study analysis, with the assistance of HOLT Architects, as it considers potential purchase. 

The property offers the potential to consolidate various operations, accommodate departments that are now leasing space, as well as expand parking options, Administrator Molino noted.  The feasibility study in progress includes a review of current and future space needs of individual departments; consolidating offices into a single location downtown to maximize efficiencies and minimize lease payments; building a model municipal building; and improving parking options for employees and visitors.  The County could also opt to subdivide a portion of the parcel abutting Sears Street, and sell it to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services to create three to five units of affordable housing.

The report highlighted current zoning challenges for the properties, and presented preliminary concept drawings of four potential design scenarios (plus alternates), developed by HOLT.  All alternatives include a potential three-story building to provide 37,000 square feet of office space (10,500 s.f. building footprint) and restoring the existing house at 408 N. Tioga, but set out differing options for parking design (which would provide 27-48 spaces), and whether and how affordable housing might be accommodated, should the County choose to subdivide the property.

At the beginning of the meeting, prior to the presentation, two residents addressed the committee, saying they would like to retain the residential character of the Sears Street neighborhood.  Legislator Rich John (not a member of the committee), who previously has spoken with neighborhood residents, told the committee that trying to restore the residential nature of Sears Street would be a valuable element.

Mr. Molino said next steps will involve review of the space study report prepared by HOLT, developing a business case analysis (including factors such as potential sale of the County’s Annex C and Sears Street parcels), and developing the process to determine programming for a new building.  The matter will come back to the F&I Committee again in March, before proceeding to the full Legislature, which is scheduled to decide on whether to exercise the County’s purchase option at its April 2 meeting.

Also today, the Committee authorized the Department of Planning and Sustainability to proceed with a Request for Proposals for the Route 13 Dryden Traffic Conditions Study, seeking consulting services to prepare a traffic conditions study and develop recommendations for improvements to the Route 13 Corridor between the western boundary of the Village of Dryden and the intersection with Warren Road, a project approved as part of the 2019 County Budget.  Among goals of the study are to understand current traffic volume and flow; municipal and other external plans for development that could impact traffic flow over the next 20 years, and to identify potential solutions.