Grand plans for a major hotel makeover are unveiled in Ithaca, with one catch. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom tells us about the new hotel and conference center project and why some tax payers are saying enough is enough.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Neighbors got their first look Monday night at what could be the future of the downtown Ithaca Holiday Inn.
"It's going to attract people who are eating at our restaurants, shopping at our local shops and walking around our downtown as opposed to staying up near the mall or near the airport," said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.
Plans for the new "Hotel Ithaca" include demolishing the older wings, renovating the existing tower and building a second one and even providing on-site housing for employees.
"The extra space that we had on the first floor of the tower, we could actually build to suit units that would be adapted for entry level associates and offer significantly subsidized rental on a short term basis," said David Hart, President and CEO of Hart Hotels, Inc.
But the main attraction is the 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
"We have a lot of people who would like to come to Ithaca and bring their conferences, whether it's teachers or scientists or parents or weddings. But they're not able to find space for their events," Myrick said. "So we're excited that this could be that space."
Community members who attended the presentation had few complaints about the project itself. But helping to pay for it is a different story.
"Do we need a meeting place? Probably we do. But do we have to pay for it? That's where I object to it," said Ithaca resident James Orcutt, citing the more than 60 percent of tax exempt properties already in the city.
Hart is hoping to get in on the city's Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program, or CIITAP. The new hotel would pay reduced property and mortgage taxes for seven years after completion, as well as reduced sales tax.
"All of the competitors have to pay that," Orcutt said. "Especially if they have to retrofit their existing buildings. Totally unfair."
The hotel owner doesn't see it that way.
"Of course we're talking about public dollars here, the incentive," Hart said. "But I really think the payoff over a long period of time for the community is going to be very handsome."
He says if he doesn't get the tax breaks, he's not going to build.
"No, I'm not going to do this. We would sell."
An ultimatum left for city leaders to decide.
Hart estimates the program would save the company two and a half million in taxes.
The project next goes before the mayor and the city review committee.
The Ithaca Marriott is the only other project to be granted the Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement so far.