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Committee, in Split Vote, Recommends Travis Hyde Group to Redevelop Old Library Site

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Committee, in Split Vote, Recommends Travis Hyde Group to Redevelop Old Library Site

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The process of seeking a new use for Tompkins County’s Old Library site took another step forward today, as the Legislature’s Old Library Committee, in a 3-2 vote, recommended that the Legislature select the Travis Hyde Properties team as preferred developer of the site.

Travis Hyde would develop 63 residential market-rate senior-focused units, along with professional office space, and a community room.  It is the only proposal of the three before the committee that includes space for Lifelong as part of the project.  The full Legislature, which is not bound by the committee’s recommendation, will take up the matter at its next meeting June 16.

Also before the committee were proposals from Rochester’s Cornerstone Group, to develop a comparable number of affordable senior housing units, and the Franklin Properties team, which would renovate the existing building to include 22 residential market-rate condominiums and uses including medical offices.

In 90 minutes of deliberation, committee members, at Chair Mike Lane’s request, presented their individual views on the projects.  They also heard brief statements from representatives of each of the developers, and from eight residents, most of whom expressed support for the Franklin Properties project.

In the recommendation vote, Legislators Mike Sigler and Kathy Luz Herrera, and Chair Lane voted in favor of Travis Hyde, and Legislators Dooley Kiefer and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne voted no.  Prior to the vote, Luz Herrera said the purpose of her vote would be to move the process along to timely consideration by the Legislature.

In moving the resolution, Legislator Sigler cited density as an important factor, as well as the fact that the project would redevelop two properties—the Old Library and Lifelong—while preserving and incorporating Lifelong’s older white building on site.  Chair Lane, in comments before the vote, praised all three proposals as very good, but said he believes Travis Hyde best addresses needs cited in the County’s Request for Proposals, including parking issues, and will keep Lifelong downtown.  Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera said that  no one project provides exactly what she was looking for, such as providing affordable housing for working people living downtown.  She agreed density is important, but believes all three proposals could have done more. 

Legislator McBean-Clairborne said she’s not particularly happy with any of the projects and would not support any at this stage.  She said affordability and maximum housing are among factors important to her.  And, while supporting Lifelong is extremely important, she noted that was not among the criteria referenced in the RFP.  Legislator Kiefer said that, while she favors the concept of preserving the existing building, as would the Franklin proposal, that proposal’s condominiums would not permit a ground lease option, which is important to her.  And she said more specifics are needed regarding energy issues in proposals including Travis Hyde’s.  Ms. Kiefer unsuccessfully proposed amending the resolution to reference negotiations to attempt to secure a ground lease.

The three proposals, as submitted, are posted on the County web site at http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/planning/community-planning/oldlibrary

Video files of the three developer presentations to the Old Library Committee, as well as updated proposal information in some cases, may be accessed through the County’s Meeting Portal at http://tompkinscountyny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.  (To access the information, select the “Old Library” meeting group, then click on the May 1, 8, or 12 meeting date; for the video files, click on “Media”.)