Tompkins County
New York

Report or Discussion Item

Proposed Green Street Conference Center


Department:Housing and Economic Development CommitteeSponsors:

Meeting History

Nov 22, 2019 10:30 AM  Housing and Economic Development Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Coleman provided a PowerPoint presentation entitled The Downtown Ithaca Community Conference Center: Presentation to the County that included an overview of a project for a conference center located at the Green Street Parking Garage Redevelopment Site. Mr. Ferguson stated this was an opportunity to provide information to the County regarding what the project entails and where it is. There is a need to have the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) conditions secured by the end of January 2020 for this project to begin in a timely manner. A grant from New York State will also be needed for this project to move forward and currently applications have been submitted for Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) - Empire State Development and Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) grants with anticipated award announcements by the end of the year. Revenue obtained from a tourism improvement district fee imposed county-wide could be used to financially support the project. Further exploration of a workable financing model continues. In addition, ownership of the facility will need to be determined. Mr. Ferguson explained there may be a need for the County to provide some degree of back stopping for the project but exactly what that would entail is yet to be determined.

Ms. Koreman inquired about the Tourism Improvement District (TID) fee and a possible increase in the Occupancy Tax including an increase on Air BnB units. Mr. Molino explained that he and Mr. Wood have done research regarding the implementation of a TID fee county-wide and based on the information they have found, it would not be possible to implement a county-wide TID. If he receives different information he will let the Committee know. He further stated the occupancy tax rate is currently 5% and an increase could be requested through home rule legislation but the use of those additional funds would need to be identified. Six-percent is the highest occupancy tax rate charged in the State. The monies collected from Air BnB are done through a voluntary agreement at a rate of 3%.

Mr. Granison inquired about how a TID would differ if imposed by a municipality instead of the County. Mr. Molino said villages, cities, and towns have different home rule authorities than counties and a municipality could establish a special district that mimics the intent of the TID. Ms. Tavares and Mr. Ferguson explained that a TID imposed only on the City of Ithaca would not generate the revenue needed for this project based on the various projections and scenarios their team has considered and discussed.

Mr. Granison asked when award notification regarding the grants applied for would be released. Mr. Ferguson expects the Combined Funding Award to be announced in early December and the URI application was submitted earlier in November and they expect to know if they have advanced to stage two of that process by the end of December.