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Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Presents Plans for Former Parker Elementary School – Residents Raise Concerns


Last night at the former Parker Elementary School at 89 Madison Street, the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) shared their proposal to turn the former school into a residential community.

Presenting the new proposed project was Lynn Truame, Director of Real Estate Development for INHS. The new residential project would include housing for modest income workers, and for people with intellectual, developmental, and mobility needs. The Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services is the only organization to submit a plan for the former school.

At the meeting INHS shared the overall project details of an apartment complex with a range of 44 to 51 units in a mix of studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments. Out of the units, about 15% of the units would be set aside for people with intellectual, or developmental disabilities with services provided by Racker.

Sketch rendering. Not final design. Image courtesy of INHS.

The rent for the units would be set affordable for households making between 50-60% of area median income. Rent would be based on the unit size and household income with an anticipated range of $590 to $1,450 a month.

Total estimated cost for the project is $16 million.

The goals of the INHS would be to preserve the existing structure, noting its historical importance in the community, expand the quality of life, add to the City of Cortland tax base (the property would pay taxes), and possibly include a childcare center if a provider shows interest (The YWCA and CAPCO reportedly showed little interest).

Parker Elementary School has had a very rough 5 years. Cortland Enlarged City School District made the ultimate decision (along with Virgil Elementary) to close the school in June of 2019.

In January 2020, under the previous administration of the City of Cortland, Parker School was sold to the City of Cortland in hopes to create a consolidated child care center by the YWCA and CAPCO of Cortland.

However, due to rising costs (in part with the COVID-19 Pandemic), both the YWCA and CAPCO withdrew from the proposed prospect of converting the school into a child care center in September 2022. The estimated costs had risen to $5.6 million dollars.

Since then, the school has cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 a year in basic maintenance of the building and the Common Council voted in February of this year for a Request for Proposals on the abandoned building.

INHS was the only organization to submit a plan.

Residents though, some shouting questions, argued why the former school can’t just go back to being a school. The short answer, enrollment is down and the Cortland Enlarged City School District is facing financial stress.

Questions continued to be asked about the potential effects on neighboring property values, evicting problem tenants, keeping the playground on the property, privacy barrier between the property and neighboring houses, and more.

“There has not been substantial impact in either direction (increase or decrease in value). So if there is a vacant building you assume repurposing it may raise values in the area. If you have a certain mindset, you might assume that if low incomes move into your area it will depress values. That has not been the case.” Director of Real Estate Development for INHS Lynn Truame said to the audience.

Truame continued to answer questions saying INHS has a legal team that works with evictions successfully with problem tenants, noting a recent eviction that took just two months.

The playground will remain on the property, it was noted it was a requirement for some of the funding INHS looks to receive in the development of the building, and a tree barrier is something that can be added between the homes that line the property.

More discussion is planned on the proposed project and public input and/or questions are encouraged. Resident’s can find more information on Parker School, view Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services proposal, and more by clicking HERE.

INHS, if their proposal is approved, looks to have all work completed on the building by early 2025.

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