Ithaca College is in the process of negotiating the sale of Two Fountain Place, which has housed the past six Ithaca College presidents, with a potential buyer.
The college is currently negotiating the sale of 2 Fountain Place with Ashleigh Zimmerman ’98 and her husband, Cornell University alum Ryan Zimmerman. Dave Maley, director of public relations, said the college will currently not be disclosing the amounts that the residence or its adjacent carriage house, 2 Willets Place, are being sold for. The mansion was previously listed for $1.5 million by Warren Real Estate, according to a statement released by the college last April.
“The potential sale is still under negotiation, and therefore we are not disclosing the price at this time,” Maley said.
The Zimmermans are interested in renovating the Fountain Place mansion and turning it into a bed-and-breakfast, but their purchase of the mansion hinges on whether or not they get the city’s approval for the necessary zoning changes for them to run a bed–and–breakfast in the mansion. Fountain Place — which has over 9,000 square feet of living space, with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms — was designed by architect William Henry Miller and purchased by the college in 1938.
In addition to purchasing 2 Fountain Place, they are also interested in purchasing 2 Willets Place, an adjacent carriage house that previously served as a guest house for the college, had an asking price of $450,000. The college also allowed the potential purchaser of Fountain Place to have the right of first refusal to buy Willets Place.
According to their appeal letter, they want to have permission to have up to 10 guest rooms in the mansion and three guest rooms in the carriage house. The letter also says they have not proposed any major exterior changes to the house. The Zimmermans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Zimmermans cleared the first major hurdle toward approval for the proposed zoning change by getting a conditional recommendation from the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board at its meeting Oct. 23. The Planning and Development Board advises the Board of Zoning Appeals, which ultimately has the final say in the matter.
The Planning and Development Board recommended that the BZA approve the Zimmermans’ request as long as they do a thorough assessment of the parking conditions of the mansion, how the mansion would be used as an event space and a traffic impact analysis.
The Zimmermans currently own and run Aa to Zz Child Care and Learning Center, a childcare business with eight locations in Pennsylvania that they co-founded in 2004.
The board of trustees decided to put the residence up for sale last fall after determining that it needed too many costly repairs for the college to take on. The board decided to build a residence on campus for all future college presidents, including current President Shirley M. Collado, that will be built near Emerson Hall and is projected to be completed sometime in Fall 2019. The profits from the sale of Fountain Place will be put toward the cost of the new presidential home. The college purchased a house on South Hill to serve as a temporary home for the president while the new residence is being constructed.
Maley said the college is very pleased with the prospect of the Zimmermans’ purchasing 2 Fountain Place.
“We are excited by the prospect of having the former home to Ithaca College presidents owned by a couple with deep ties to the Ithaca area,” he said. “They have a wonderful story to tell about their love for this community and desire to return here to raise their family, and we look forward to finalizing the sale.”
Barbara Lynch said she lives just below 2 Fountain Place. Lynch expressed her concerns at the meeting about the number of people that might be staying there at any given time.
“If that becomes a parking lot for 10 cars or perhaps more than 10, we would suffer,” she said. “During the daytime, people could be disturbing our peace on our back porch and our garden.”
She said she is also concerned about what events they may host there. She said she will be very unhappy with weddings or bar mitzvahs occurring there and is concerned about smaller events as well.
“I would be particularly worried if they served dinners or alcohol on the premises because, as you well know, that creates a noise problem, so I would be very unhappy,” Lynch said.
The BZA will consider the proposal Nov. 6.