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Discussion Continues Examining Potential Acquisition of Tioga Street Property

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Discussion Continues Examining Potential Acquisition of Tioga Street Property

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Legislature’s Facilities and Infrastructure Committee today received an update, with additional detail, regarding the County’s ongoing study examining properties in the 400 block of North Tioga Street in Ithaca, looking toward whether the properties might be acquired by the County to help meet its office space and parking needs.  The committee first reviewed preliminary information last month.

As authorized by the Legislature late last year, the County has a four-month purchase option regarding 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. 

Through construction of a three-story municipal office building (of approximately 37,000 s.f.) at the site, the property would offer the potential to consolidate various operations, accommodating departments now leasing space, and to expand parking options for employees and visitors.  Alternatives under study also include the potential to subdivide the parcel to create three to five units of affordable housing along Sears Street.  Representatives of HOLT were on hand today to guide the committee through the feasibility study and to present the potential design alternatives, which have now increased to eight.  All scenarios include the office building, but set out differing options for parking design, and whether and how affordable housing might be accommodated, should the County choose to subdivide the property.

Though the issue before the Legislature right now will be whether the Legislature should exercise its option and purchase the property, HOLT’s Graham Gillespie presented the committee with some rough preliminary cost estimates, should the County eventually opt to proceed to develop the site.  He said total project cost, including construction of the building at LEED-Silver standards and associated site development work, is estimated at roughly $12.8 million.  Gillespie said that additional space-related renovation at other County buildings (which includes renovation of the Old Jail Office Building already planned) could increase cost by over $3 million beyond that.

Legislator Michael Lane, who has stressed the importance of legislator involvement, remarked that the Legislature should proceed judiciously.  “We have to make a decision to buy this property (I  hope we do), but I don’t think we should jump into a $16 million project until legislators have had a chance to review it,” he said.  County Administrator Jason Molino stressed that legislators have been involved (including their suggestion of design options), and will continue to be as the process moves forward.  The administrator stressed that the only decision before the Legislature right now is whether to acquire the property and to appropriate the money to purchase it; if and after that decision is made, the next step will be how to proceed with alternatives and programming.

The Legislature will receive a full report on the project at its next meeting April 2nd, followed by a special joint meeting of the Facilities and Infrastructure, and Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committees April 10th.  The Legislature is scheduled to consider a resolution to purchase the property at its meeting of April 16th, prior to expiration of the County’s purchase option April 21st.