ITHACA, NY â In the villages of ancient Greece, the agora was an open public space used for assemblies and markets. It was their public square, their gathering place for special occasions and the center of their social life. It is a presence that Lambrou Real Estate of Ithaca and its business partners hope to capture with their âAgoraâ proposal for the Ithaca waterfront.
The project, which has been underway for two years, was implicitly made public with the competition to redevelop neighboring municipal property across the water on Inlet Island. The Rimland-Flash proposal emphasizes connectivity with the neighborhood as part of its bid, with a substantial openness to the Lambrou project, to be developed alongside their business partners Edger Enterprises and Elizabeth Classen. Steve Flash, who had previously worked with the development team on Inlet marine issues, was the first to suggest further inclusion in their Inlet Island submission.
âIt was in the Inlet Island bid package even before JoAnn (Cornish, Planning Director) and Lisa (Nicholas, Senior Planning) saw it. This may have caused kerfluffle. We should have announced it some time ago, but we were waiting to see what would happen on Inlet Island, âsaid Costa Lambrou.
Plans for the site, which runs north along the east side of the West Buffalo Street waterfront, call for mixed-use council development. Lambrou said that while their goal is to create a new waterfront neighborhood, the Agora site is a miniature neighborhood in itself. Most important in the plans, and perhaps most in the spirit of the name “Agora”, is the adaptive reuse of the former Space @ GreenStar warehouse in what the development team calls an “entertainment center” , with partnerships with Dan Smalls Presents (DSP Spectacles). Luna Street Foods and Lucky Hare Brewing. The concert hall will accommodate from 600 to 700 people for public events, organized and promoted by DSP Shows, with catering and microbrewery spaces next to the live entertainment area.
âIt’s in its early stages, but there are some parts that are more concrete. The Dan Smalls room is pretty locked down, we’re looking for funding sources because it’s no small task a 17,000 square foot warehouse down to code for assembly. It’s going to take a bit of insulation and plumbing, HVAC and electricity, it’s boring but it’s super expensive. Everyone’s excited, Luna’s Kevin Sullivan is involved, Lucky Hare would be on the finished side where The Space @ GreenStar was. They and Luna will function as separate tenants in the building. Not yet fully set in stone, âsaid Lambrou.
The Entertainment Center is designed to host events larger than The Haunt, but also events less suited to the business sitting that the State Street Theater hosts. âThe idea is to create a flexible space there, so that it can host big shows standing up that there’s nowhere to do that here. The State Theater is ideal for large seated shows, The Haunt was ideal for small standing and dancing shows. We’re trying to reach 650 people and the Haunt wasn’t even half of it. Cleaner than the Haunt too.
âI defer to Dan (Smalls), but according to him, and he’s on the board of the State Theater, they and that serve two very different purposes. This space is meant to poach shows from Syracuse, Binghamtonâ¦ it hits that gap in the Ithaca market where a rock concert would be best suited here, although they could still use the state if they wanted. It would also increase the frequency and quality of this kind of artist coming to Ithaca. It would also be an event space managed by Kevin Sullivan, but much smaller than the planned downtown conference center.
In addition to the entertainment / event facility, the site would have additional commercial uses with a 40-60 room boutique hotel, with the idea being thrown that each room would be themed by a different well-known artist (the name working place of the hotel is the âRÃ©sidence Auberge des Artistesâ). A cafe and restaurants would be included in the hotel building, along with micro-retail space (units under 1,000 square feet, like Press Bay Alley). âThe idea is to put the quieter uses on and along the water where it’s quieter, and the brewery and concert hall are closer to the bustle of Fulton,â Lambrou said.
Residential equipment is also included in the overall development package. A three-storey apartment building called âThe Lake House Apartmentsâ would provide a lobby and service area on the ground floor with rental accommodation on the upper floors. Although no number of units was included in the Rimland / Flash bid, Lambrou estimated it would fall in the range of 20 to 50 apartments, saying the rentals had not been highlighted in the project by due to the large number of apartments built or which should be built elsewhere. in Ithaca. Also included are plans for approximately 20 to 30 townhouse units for sale, located at the north end of the site to provide more privacy. Several single-family and duplex units recently purchased by developers on the 300 block of North Fulton Street between West Buffalo and West Court Street would be donated or sold to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services to be renovated into units for rent or sale. moderate income housing.
Arguably the most controversial aspect would be the sizable amount of parking, especially along North Fulton Street between the renovated homes. At least four homes on North Fulton would descend to create an indoor parking lot to serve as an overflow parking lot. Lambrou noted that a regional concert hall is going to have a substantial need for parking, and here it would be split between the Agora site and the Rimland / Flash âAt the Helmâ site across the inlet, which would be accessible from both West Buffalo Street and a pedestrian bridge over Six Mile Creek, connecting Inlet Island just north of the new Boathouse Landing project at 323 Taughannock Boulevard.
âMost shows start at 9-10pm. People have left the lake by then, the Boatyard Grill is coming to an end, Island Health and Fitness is coming to an end, there will be a glut of parking there by that time. This is the idea behind the pedestrian bridge, it connects the sites and in a way extends the grid of the city, thus facilitating movement on either side. We firmly believe in the shared parking aspect, âsaid Lambrou. To be clear, the Agora project does not depend on the Rimland / Flash proposal.
As the plans progress, the Agora project would be divided into three phases. The entertainment hub is the first, followed by homes for sale, followed by the hotel and apartment building. These plans are subject to change depending on who is selected for the redevelopment of the Inlet Island parking lot. For example, if the Morse proposal is selected with its Cambria hotel, the boutique hotel would be removed from the Agora plan. “It’s quite risky to build another hotel in Ithaca, let alone two more in Ithaca,” he joked. Lambrou expressed optimism that the worst of the pandemic seemed to be over and business was improving for retail tenants like GreenStar, but soaring building material prices was a major risk factor for their plans. as well as those of other developers in the region.
âThe price of a 2 Ã 4 at Home Depot was $ 2, now it’s $ 7.50. It’s at Home Depot, you get a bit of bulk buying, but even that is 2-3 times more, and steel 2-3 times more. There is going to be a very interesting development over the next few years with the pace of real estate. With those inflated prices, it would have exploded our budget with City Harbor. All of these projects are approved and everyone has these great ideas, but it’s a question mark as to how many of them will actually be built, âsaid Lambrou.
If rising construction costs don’t prove to be an insurmountable hurdle, the plan is to bring the entertainment center to city councils within three or four months, with townhouses to follow at an undetermined later date. , because once built, the north end of the site will no longer be disturbed. The hotel and the apartments will follow. Meanwhile, existing boats gliding along this segment of the waterfront are being repaired and refurbished to take advantage of what has been a sustained, if not pandemic, rise in recreational boating over the past few years. year.