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Tompkins County is considering the future use of the County-owned property located on the 400 block of N. Tioga Street in the City of Ithaca. This property was purchased by the County in 2019 for the intended purpose of constructing a building and parking to address the County organization’s space needs. In 2021, additional properties adjacent to the County’s downtown campus became available and were purchased by Tompkins County (300 and 308 N. Tioga Street) with similar intended purposes. At that time, the County Legislature also authorized the sale of a portion of the property along Sears Street to allow for the development of permanently affordable housing by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services.
The structure located at 408 N. Tioga Street is located on the County-owned parcel and it lies within the local City of Ithaca Dewitt Park Historic District. This building was most recently used as office space housing several law offices. When the County purchased this property in 2019, a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) was completed considering the potential sale or reuse of the property. When any new property uses are considered (including developing a surface parking lot or potential deconstruction of building at 408 N. Tioga Street), another SEQR determination will be required.
While no final decisions will be made until SEQR documents are reviewed and evaluated, as of January 2023 the Tompkins County Legislature is discussing several options regarding the future of the property, as outlined below:
- Renovation and reuse of the building by Tompkins County, with an estimated cost to the County of at least $1.25 million to bring the building up to code
- Sale of the property, as-is and without further County investment to a private entity or developer, who may be able to access historic preservation tax incentives to renovate the building
- Deconstruction of the building at 408 N. Tioga Street, as possible based on the community’s ability to salvage and reuse the materials, with the expectation that the land under the current footprint would be re-developed by the County to address organizational space needs
The intended purpose of all N. Tioga Street property acquisitions by the County since 2019 are to address the organization’s space needs. In addition to the goals of retaining staff and County services in Downtown Ithaca and the desire to be a good neighbor in the area of County facilities, the following space-related challenges are currently being considered by Tompkins County (as outlined in the July, 2022 Space Utilization Study update):
- Tompkins County is facing a shortage of space for staff, including the need to vacate leased spaces and offices in the Main Courthouse building for use by New York State
- Tompkins County is considering a “Center of Government,” where many departments and their services would be centrally located in one building with the goals of increasing access to the public and centralizing government operations
- Approximately one-third of County employees commute into Tompkins County from an adjacent County, increasing the likelihood that they would need to drive a vehicle to commute to work, thus increasing the need for parking near County facilities
In addition to the considerations detailed above, Tompkins County has received documentation from the City of Ithaca and Historic Ithaca regarding the 408 N. Tioga property and its historical and architectural significance.
It is anticipated that the Legislature will continue to discuss the property in advance of a resolution as well as determine the ultimate use of downtown Ithaca properties to meet the organization’s needs.