228 Dryden | Ithaca, New York

Report by Kelsey Coats

Photo of 228 Dryden taken by Kelsey Coats on March 8, 2022.

228 Dryden, Source: Kelsey Coats, March 8, 2022


228 Dryden has a long history of housing students in the area. The Cascadilla School, a preparatory eighth grade through twelfth grade institution, has local students as well as students from around the country and the globe (Cascadilla School, 2022). The Cascadilla School use to own 228 Dryden and maintain it as a dormitory for their students. More recently, prior to the property’s sale, the property has been rented out to university students from either Cornell or Ithaca College (see Appendix C on page 19 for 228 Dryden Facebook page archive).

From the outside 228 Dryden looks like a reasonably well-kept building, as shown in the image on the cover page above. It certainly does not look unlivable by any means. It looks old, but certainly not as old as some homes in the Ithaca area. Purely from the outside, it looks to be in better condition than a lot of buildings in Ithaca. However, in a capitalist society people are always looking to invest and seek the highest returns on their investment. When a developer looks at 228 Dryden, they are not focusing on the existing structure, they are focusing on the development potential of the land.


Courtesy of Tompkins County Tax Maps. Close up of City of Ithaca Tax Map #64. The parcel to the lower right that says "Cascadilla School" and "19" on it is 228 Dryden.

228 Dryden is located in Collegetown, just South of Cornell University. Figure 1 above shows 228 Dryden’s location; it is the parcel to the lower right that says “Cascadilla School” and “19” on it. Not only is it conveniently located to the University, it is also steps away from the intersection of Dryden and College Avenue which has many places to eat and shop, as shown in Figure 2 above. From the curb of 228 Dryden, an observer can see the intersection. It is also close to the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. Therefore it is close to shopping, school, and recreation opportunites. 228 Dryden’s location makes it desirable to Cornell students and, therefore, desirable to developers and landlords seeking high returns on investment.

Context of the Parcel

Current Structure

The current building’s effective year built date is 1985 and is 2,232 square feet (Tompkins County, 2022). It has two stories of apartments and dormitories (Zillow, 2021). Before being sold to 228 Dryden Road LLC for $1,250,000 in February of 2021, the property belonged to the Cascadilla School (2022). The Zillow listing posted for the sale frames the property as a place for investment and redevelopment. The photos in the listing (see Appendix B on page 11) focus on showing the size of the lot and its location in proximity to the heart of Collegetown and Cornell University. There are also pictures of the exterior of the building, although they are posted last, and there are no pictures of the inside of the building. The Zillow listing calls the property an “incredible investment opportunity” and highlights that the property would allow for a building with up to 4 stories (2021). It seems the Zillow listing is selling the property with demolition implied in the investment oppportunity.

Parcel Zoning and Use

228 Dryden is zoned as part of the CR-4 use district and its current land use is multifamily housing. Section 235-45 of the Ithaca Zoning Ordinance permits the primary use of CR-4 to be single family dwellings, two family dwellings, cooperative housing, multiple dwellings, rooming or boarding houses, townhouses or garden apartment housing, church or related buildings, libraries, fire stations, nursery schools, child day care center or group adult day care, nursing or equivalent homes, or public parks and playgrounds (2022). A special permit in the CR-4 use district may allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, hospitals or aniotorium, neighborhood commercial facilities, public utilities, and all school or related buildings.

The CR-4 district allows for developments up to four stories (above the ground) and fifty percent parcel coverage (Crandall, 2021a). As long as there is a Transportation Demand Management Plan, the CR-4 district does not require on-site parking. 228 Dryden’s location is convenient enough for one not to be car dependent. Because 228 Dryden is in Collegetown, it is subject to Collegetown Design Guidelines (Crandall, 2021b). Therefore, any changes or redevelopment must go through the Planning Board’s design review process.

Surrounding Area Land Use

Much of the surrounding area’s land use is defined as multifamily housing, as shown in Figure 3 above. There are also properties with land use defined as commercial centers, accommodation, office, special use, primary/secondary education, and single-family on the same block as 228 Dryden. The majority is multifamily, with commercial and accommodations taking up the second most of the land use on the block. The Cascadilla school is behind 228 Dryden on the same block (see Figure 2 on page 4). The land use of the parcel defined as special use property around the block is St. Luke Lutheran Church. Most blocks around college town have a similar mix of land uses to the block where 228 Dryden is located, although some have more commercial properties than others.

228 Dryden’s story is quite common in Collegetown. Collegetown is seeing a lot of investment and redevelopment. On my site visit, I almost mistook 228 Dryden for another demoliton and redevelopment only a few parcels over. The City of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan describes Collegetown as an urban mixed-use area, a place mostly occupied by students, and an area that lacks owner occupied housing (City of Ithaca Planning Division, 2015). The plan also acknowledges that while there is a lack of vacant parcels, many sites have the potential for redevelopment. However, redevelopment in Collegetown is expensive. Figure 4 (below) shows the ratio of improvement to land value ratio. The deeper teal parcels have a high improvement value compared to the land. This may be a reason why many, like the previous owner of 228 Dryden, are selling to developers. 

The City of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan warns about a lack of green space and the need for an investment in streetscape development in Collegetown (2015). The plan highlights that Collegetown has the highest pedestrian traffic in the area, but the area needs to improve and expand pedestrian infrastructure in the area.


Photo taken by Kelsey Coats on March 8, 2022. The photo shows the street view of 228 Dryden. The purple piano is an attention grabber to anyone walking along the street.

Currently, 228 Dryden is still standing, as shown in the photo on page 1. There are toilets, doors, and washing machines sitting out on the lawn. The parcel has a steep incline; there are currently many stairs to go up to get to the building. If the mail overflowing from the mailbox is any indication, it does not seem like anyone lives there. There are luxury apartment buildings looming over the property to the right of it and behind it. The relatively new neighboring apartment buildings are indicative of what is to come. As previously mentioned, Collegetown is going through a lot of similar redevelopment due to it’s prime location near Cornell’s campus (City of Ithaca Planning Division, 2015). All of this factors in to the developer’s decision to demolish and redevelop the property. The Zillow page markets the property as a redevelopment investment opportunity (2021). It is no wonder the property sold to someone who would demolish it and build something larger to make more money.

Developer Boris Simkin is planning to build a 39 unit apartment building in place of the modest structure that sits there now (Crandall, 2021d). The development is called “The Ruby” to fit in with Cornell’s school color. All of the units will be studio apartments and will have either a patio or balcony. There will be no on-site parking, as the development is aimed at students and only a block away from Cornell’s campus. The architects on the project presented at Planning Board meetings throughout 2021. The Board has shown support for the project. The only major concern shown by the board is landscaping of the new development (2021b). The new apartment building will cover more land than the existing structure. The Planning Board’s concern over landscaping matches with the City of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan’s concern over green space in Collegetown (2015). The drawing (shown in Figures 6 and 7 on pages 8 and 9) shows benches along the sidewalk which also matches the comprehensive plan’s desire for investment in streetscape development.

While this is a demolition project, the Ruby’s construction could affect the preservation of nearby structures. As Figure 2 on page 2 shows, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church is on the other side of the same block as 228 Dryden. During one of the Planning Board’s meetings, a representative from St. Luke’s spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. They requested that the developer take precautions so that the demolition and construction process does not damage the church’s foundation (Crandall, 2021c). The architect was receptive to the request.

It is also worth mentioning the property has a purple piano on a pole in the front of it (shown in Figure 5 below). In the July Planning Board meeting, the architect said they plan on keeping it and it was in the September project drawing (Figure 6 below) (Crandall, 2021c). However, it does not show up again in the October meeting drawing (Figure 7 on page 9), so it seems like it might not stay (Crandall, 2021e). The purple piano does not have a functional purpose, but it is a unique feature that could be used for way finding purposes. A resident could tell a friend looking for the apartment, “it’s the building with the purple piano in front of it.” To many this is small in the scheme of things, but it would be nice to preserve something from the current property.

Concluding Reflection

Site Development Plan Review July Meeting Notice: (Tompkins County, 2022)

Redevelopment is a gray area. On the one hand, the redevelopment of 228 Dryden into the Ruby will result in higher density of people living on the same amount of land. This is cost effective and greener than if the 39 individuals there all had single family dwellings. However, demolition, rather than deconstruction, is wasteful and contributes negatively to climate change. Looking at Collegetown as a whole, and Ithaca, for that matter, it has become a place of renters rather than people living in the homes they own. Was there a point in time where a happy medium was possible? Perhaps this is simply the nature of college towns as they grow. Right or wrong, the case of Collegetown shows how places change. Not just how they look or the buildings but how the sense of place changes. Right now there is a mix of old single family dwellings and newer apartment complexes, such as the Ruby, towering over them. In ten years, Collegetown may be entirely taken with newer multifamily apartment buildings. People may not even think about what it was before.

Reference List

Cascadilla School. (2022). History. Cascadilla School. https://cascadillaschool.org/history/

City of Ithaca Planning Division. (2015). Plan Ithaca A vision of our future city of Ithaca comprehensive plan. City of Ithaca Planning Division. https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/4054/Plan-Ithaca?bidId=

Crandall, B. (2021a, May 7). Developer hopes ‘the ruby’ sparkles in collegetown. The Ithaca Voice. https://ithacavoice.com/2021/05/developer-hopes-the-ruby-sparkles-in-collegetown/

Crandall, B. (2021b May 26). Planning board recap: water works gets approval to launch voyage. The Ithaca Voice. https://ithacavoice.com/2021/05/planning-board-recap-water-works-gets-approval-to-launch-voyage/

Crandall, B. (2021c July 28). Planning board recap: KFC building plan is “finger-lickin’ good” to go. The Ithaca Voice. https://ithacavoice.com/2021/07/planning-board-recap-kfc-building-plan-is-finger-lickin-good-to-go/

Crandall, B. (2021d September 29). Planning board recap: carpenter park project trimmed at NYSDOT’s insistence. The Ithaca Voice. https://ithacavoice.com/2021/09/planning-board-recap-carpenter-park-project-trimmed-at-nysdots-insistence/

Crandall, B. (2021e November 10). Planning board recap: cliff street retreat, revised cayuga park plans receive approval. The Ithaca Voice. https://ithacavoice.com/2021/11/planning-board-recap-cliff-street-retreat-revised-cayuga-park-plans-receive-approval/

Facebook (2020). 228 Dryden. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/228dryden/?ref=page_internal

Google Maps. (2022). 228 Dryden road Ithaca NY 14850.https://www.google.com/maps/place/228+Dryden+Rd,+Ithaca,+NY+14850/@42.4418088,-76.4857662,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x89d0818dc755c1f7:0xbb2c631fd12d4cc6!8m2!3d42.4418088!4d-76.4835775

Ithaca Zoning Ordinance, Chapter §325, Section 45.2: District Regulations for CR-4 Use District. (2022) https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/1750/CR-4?bidId=Tompkins County. (2022). Tax maps.

Tompkins county NY. https://tompkinscountyny.gov/assessment/taxmapsUrbanFootprint. (2022).

UrbanFootprint. https://app.urbanfootprint.com/Zillow. (2021). 228 Dryden road Ithaca NY 14850.

Zillow. https://www.zillow.com/homes/228-Dryden-Rd-Ithaca,-NY-14850_rb/2081228803_zpid/

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