East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 6/2018

24 06 2018

If the name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s okay. For the past two years, the common reference to these was either “The Bomax Drive Apartments” or the “Park Grove Realty Apartments”, either of which was used interchangeably. The official name according to Park Grove Realty’s webpage is “East Pointe Apartments”. East of what, I dunno.

Park Grove Realty is a new company headed by a group of long-time developers and real estate professionals. Andrew Crossed and Andrew Bodewes cut their teeth at Conifer Realty, a regional affordable housing developer based out of Rochester (readers might be familiar with some of their local projects, including Linderman Creek, Cayuga Meadows, and Poet’s Landing). They knew their way around development and had familiarity with the area. Not only that, they were working with Tom LiVigne, who has been on the board of many local projects and recently retired as the president of real estate operations at Cornell.

While LiVigne was at Cornell in 2008, the university purchased a 19.46 acre parcel on Bomax Drive. The property was zoned for business and technology, which is intended for commercial office, warehousing or tech-focused industrial space, which is what Cornell originally had in mind. But, with the onset of the Great Recession, and a re-assessment of Cornell’s needs, nothing ever came forth for the property.

A little bit of speculating here, but because Conifer’s Cayuga Meadows had been floating around since the late 2000s, LiVigne would have been professionally familiar with Crossed and Bodewes. It seems likely that as LiVigne retired in early 2015, and Crossed and Bodewes launched their company a few months later, they might have approached him with the idea of an Ithaca project, knowing the market’s strong economics and housing deficit. LiVigne was familiar with Cornell’s excess holdings, and whatever discussions he had with Park Grove post-retirement led to the idea of a project on this property.

The project was first conceived and brought before the village of Lansing in July 2016. East Pointe is a 140-unit townhouse complex, fourteen strings of ten units, plus a community building, situated on a wooded vacant parcel on Bomax Drive. The intent was to explicitly avoid Collegetown and Downtown, and do a project geared towards the upper-middle class market segment, more specifically empty nesters and young professionals who may be moving in for work, but have yet to buy a house (this is exactly the same sub-market and words used by the developers of the 102-unit Cayuga Orchard project over in the town of Lansing, and even bears a passing resemblance). Arguably, a modest slice of graduate/professional students is possible as well.

To make the project possible, the zoning would have to be changed to high-density residential – the village planning board wanted a traffic study and wasn’t excited that there was no affordable housing here (the project team argued the asking price Cornell wanted made affordable housing infeasible), but was otherwise open to the idea of the zoning change; no one had developed a business and technology space since 2005, and residential was seen as a downzoning from what could have been done there, should Cornell have really pushed for a large office of research building. The neighboring developer, however, was not okay with the rezoning.

I don’t intend to rehash Forest City Realty and the Jonson family’s attempt to stop the project, but the argument was that it was a “spot rezoning” and that it was illegal. The Jonsons felt the units would decrease the desirability of their own project, the luxury for-sale townhomes in the Heights of Lansing. It became so impassioned that Lisa Bonniwell (Ivar and Janet Jonson’s daughter) ran herself and allies to try and take over the village Board of Trustees and mayorship last year in an effort to stop the proposal – they lost by a large margin. They also took the village to state court, lost, appealed, and lost again. The village estimates, with considerable distaste, that although they won, the court cases cost them close to $50,000.

It’s because of the lawsuit that the timeline gets a little muddled. The rezoning request was filed in September 2016, the public hearing in October, and the zoning change was made in November 2016 – to make it clear, that was the rezoning, not the project. The project wasn’t approved until November 2017, after the lawsuit was rejected and had gone to an appeals court. For a little while, Park Grove had a “continue at your own risk” for preparing final drawings and legal paperwork, given that the appeal was not declined by the state court until February 2nd 2018. The first real sign the project was moving forward came on March 16th of this year, when Cornell sold the land to Park Grove for $1.5 million, $300,000 more than what the university paid in August 2008.

Each string will have four units on the first floor, and six units on the second floor. Each unit has their own entrance, and the project is being described by the developer as “walk-up garden style“. The mix of units is 36 one-bedroom units, 90 two-bedroom units, and 14 three-bedroom units – since 36 and 90 don’t break down evenly by 14, I’d expect slightly difference unit mixes per building, and perhaps that will result in some slight design differences for things like window and door placement. However, they’ve only ever shown one apartment string in their official renders. The renders above are from early in the process (top), and the one they uploaded to the company website last week (bottom) – note the differences in the end garages and in the second floor/roof on the right side of the image. it may be a change in design, or it may be two different building designs they plan to utilize depending on unit layout. Have to wait and see on that one.

The one-bedrooms will be about 900 square feet and go for $1,400/month, according to an early interview with the Ithaca Times. The 1,300 SF two-bedroom units will go for $1,700/month, and the three-bedrooms, which will be about 1,400 SF, will for $1,900/month. The Lansing Star gives similar stats. Renters will get “high end finishes and amenities”, with possible amenities including  the community building with swimming pool, bocce ball court, walking trails, a community garden and a dog park.

I have not seen any building costs or local lending activity associated with the project, but if it’s in the ballpark of the nearby Village Solars (which is $2-$3 million per building), then it would not be unreasonable to expect something in the range of $30 million (of course, I am not the county tax assessor, so don’t take my word as gospel).

The architect, James Fahy Design Associates of Rochester, has a lot of experience with newer suburban developments, both single-family and multi-family. A google search (their website hasn’t been updated) shows similar gable-loving, shake siding and stone veneer embracing projects in the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany areas. Jess Sudol of Passero Associates is the engineering consultant.

Right now, the site is being cleared and graded, with subterranean utilities installs (water/sewer) and early foundation excavation work is underway. The first two apartment strings are expected to be ready by Spring 2019. DGA Builders of Pittsford (suburban Rochester), a division of Pennsylvania-based DGA Construction Group, appears to be the general contractor, and A.E.Y. Enterprises of Macedon (Wayne County) is the site work subcontractor.

 

 





News Tidbits 6/23/2018

23 06 2018

1. The Town of Dryden has rejected the Planning Board’s suggestion for a Varna moratorium. The vote was 3-1, with one absent. This means that Trinitas may continue with the project review process – it does not mean Trinitas will automatically be able to build their proposal as currently drawn up, since planning board review, town board approval (Special Use Permit) and zoning board approval are still required.

Unfortunately no members of the press were present at the meeting – I found out through reader email. Most were covering the Democratic Party NY-23 candidate forum, and the first mention of the moratorium vote online was in the uploaded board agenda that went up just a day earlier.

Image courtesy of the Lansing Star

2. When I first broke the Lansing Senior Cottages story for the Voice, there was something I was concerned would happen, but didn’t include in the write-up, because speculating gets me in trouble. But these are homes looking at middle-class seniors, placed next to $500,000-$700,000 homes. The residents of those luxury homes aren’t happy, as reported by Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star.

They’re angry, which is fair in the perspective that when the property was plated, there was no sewer available here, and the plan was to keep it all high-end 2500+ square-foot homes. But the owner/developer of the land is selling off the future phases without any of the old covenants in place, meaning it’s subject to standard village zoning. 800-1200 SF cottages for seniors, some of which may potentially be for sale, is a welcome proposal to the eyes of the county. It seems unlikely this is going to hurt their home values; this is mid-market senior housing, not college student apartments (the only beer on the front lawn you’re going to see is if developer Beer Properties puts up signage). Plus, if you’re going to poll public opinion on this one, wealthy homeowners vs. middle-class seniors is not going to engender support for the homeowners. They could try a lawsuit against the landowner, but I’m doubtful it’s much of a case unless their covenants explicitly said what the undeveloped land would be used for.

The project is currently 107 units over multiple phases, about twenty more than allowed by zoning as-of-right, so it will need to go through a PDA with the village Board of Trustees’ consent, and Planning Board approval.

3. The Crossroads Life Center planned for the 100 Block of Lansing’s Graham Road is no longer alive. The project, which called for a meeting and retreat space to be owned and maintained by the Cornell International Christian Fellowship, fell through, and the land it was proposed for is once again up for sale. The 9.35 acre property (about 3-4 acres were to have been subdivided for the project) is for sale for $239,000. A couple half-acre home lots could be easily subdivided off along Dart Drive, but further development would have to address an old family cemetery towards the rear of the property. Zoning is medium density residential. Maximum buildout without special planned development area (PDA) rules is about 20 units under the village’s Medium Density Residential zoning.

4. Speaking of land for sale in Lansing, Cornell is actively marketing the remaining vacant parcels in its Business Park. Most of the park was built out in the 1980s and 1990s, with only a few building additions in recent years. A 5-acre parcel is available between 20 and 33 Thornwood (foreground in the aerial) for $63,000, and a 22-acre parcel is available for $276,000 (it may be subdivided further), and a 6.89 acre parcel next to airport is available for $86,500.  Lansing zoning doesn’t allow housing here, and so a commercial or industrial project will need to deal with the gas moratorium. A run-of-the-mill office building might be able to make the finances work, but an industrial or lab building with high energy needs is probably is out of the question until some gas is freed up (i.e. the airport renovation), or energy alternatives become more cost efficient.  The county is working on financing a Business Energy Navigator Program to help interested businesses determine their needs and options. Should something happen up here, look for an update.

5. The town of Ithaca is looking at expanding their Public Works Facility at 106 Seven Mile Drive “to better accommodate [their] growing employee base”, and is doing a feasiblity study to see how much and what costs they can expect. The study would be conducted by HOLT Architects with several engineering and landscaping partners (the usual retinue of T. G. Miller (Civil Engineering), Elwyn Palmer (Structural Engineering), TWMLA Landscape Architects, and a mechanical/electrical engineering firm, Sack Associates), and is projected to cost about $21k for all parties. The town board will vote to authorize the study next Tuesday.

6. The good news for the county was that the state gave Milton Meadows a big grant to move forward. The bad news is, they were hoping for three grants, the others for NRP’s Ithaca Townhouses and Lakeview’s West End Heights (709-713 West Court Street). The county is trying to find other funding streams with which to get these affordable housing projects to move forward this year.

The Ithaca Townhomes would add 106 units in two phases near Cayuga Medical Center. West End Heights would add 60 units, including units for those with special mental health needs, and units for those currently experiencing homelessness.

7. Not a big city planning board agenda meeting this month, but still some interesting details. Here’s the rundown.

1. Agenda Review 6:00
2. Privilege of the Floor 6:01

3. Subdivision Review

A. Project: Minor Subdivision 6:15
Location: 508-512 Edgewood Place
Actions: PUBLIC HEARING – Potential Determination of Environmental Significance – Potential consideration of Preliminary and Final Approval

This subdivision at the end of a private street in the East Hill neighborhood would re-subdivide a double lot that had been consolidated after the original house burnt down in the late 1930s. Any news structure on the newly created .326 acre lot would be subject to Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission design review. No specific plans are on file.

B. Project: Minor Subdivision 6:30
Location: 101 Pier Road
Actions: PUBLIC HEARING – Determination of Environmental Significance – Potential consideration of Preliminary and Final Approval

This subdivision is to partition out the square of land Guthrie Clinic would be using for their new medical office building as part of the City Harbor development – they want to own their own building and parcel.

4. Site Plan Review

A. Project: Major Subdivision (3 Lots), Two Duplexes, One Single Family Home & Site Improvements 6:45
Location: 128 West Falls Street
Applicant: Ron Ronsvalle
Actions: PUBLIC HEARING – Consideration of Preliminary Subdivision Approval – Recommendation to BZA

This project came up earlier this month in a previous news roundup – a five-unit infill project in Fall Creek, originally approved in February 2015, and revived now that the developer has found a way to continue working after a debilitating accident. Don’t foresee any issues here.

B. Project: GreenStar Cooperative Market 7:15
Location: 750-770 Cascadilla Street
Applicant: Noah Demarest for the Guthrie Clinic (Guthrie owns the land)
Actions: Consideration of Preliminary and Final Site Plan Approval

Since the last round, plantings were added, the lighting and front entrance was revised, and the project team is in discussions with the gas station next door to add planting and landscaping there as well.

C. Project: Apartments (60 units) 7:35
Location: 232-236 Dryden Road
Applicant: STREAM Collaborative for Visum Development Group
Actions: Consideration of Approval of Revised Transportation Demand Management Plan

“The applicant has revised the site plan such that the previously proposed off-site parking is no longer included in the project and has updated the TDMP narrative to reflect this.”
D. 327 W Seneca St- Housing 7:45
The new shiny. 327 West Seneca is a B-2d-zoned property on the edge of the State Street Corridor – B-2d allows multi-family housing up to 4 floors and 40 feet with 75% lot coverage. It is currently a nondescript 3-unit apartment building, that’s been for-sale for almost a year now (asking price $264,900).
A cursory search of LLC filings finds 327 W. Seneca LLC was recently registered in Tompkins County, and the address it is registered to, is the business office of Todd Fox, CEO of Visum Development Group. This may be the project alluded to in the New York Main Street grant to be written by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which talks about a 12-unit project by Visum planned somewhere in the State Street Corridor. No guarantees, but this seems likely to be that project.
5. Zoning Appeals 8:10
#3099, 314 Taylor St, Special Permit
#3100, 128 Falls St., Area Variance
#3101, 437 N Aurora St, Area Variance




Cayuga View Senior Living Construction Update, 6/2018

21 06 2018

We can practically call this project complete – the first tenants move in on July 1st. Somewhere along the way, the number of units was reduced from 60 to 58, and it’s not clear whether those were one-bedroom or two-bedroom units (the initial breakdown was 48 two-bedroom and 12 one-bedroom units). No tenants have been named for the twin 1,340 SF retail spaces either.

Given that this was the last vacant high-density mixed-use parcel in the village of Lansing, it seems like they got a good project out of it. 58 market-rate units to seniors aged 55+ is a welcome addition the the Tompkins County market, especially as the retirement of Boomers only continues to grow (the market will create demand for another 70 senior-focused units per year over the next several years, as well as market-rate and affordable housing for those without specialized care needs). While not exactly an urban location, it is walkable to nearby shops and restaurants at Triphammer Mall and the Bishop’s Mall across the street, and it will have a bit of an active ground-floor presence through its small commercial spaces. 5% of the units will be built handicap-accessbile, but all will be handicap-adaptable, and the rooftop solar panels are a plus.

The project was built and developed by Taylor The Builders in conjunction with the Thaler Family. NH Architecture did the design work, and Cornerstone Group will manage the property.

Some cool aerial shots of the site can be seen here courtesy of Taylor and photographer Mick McKee. Interior photos of the nearly finished units and rental information can be found on Craigslist here.





Cayuga Medical Associates Construction Update, 6/2018

21 06 2018

McPherson Builders is continuing work on the $7.8 million Cayuga Medical Associates Building at 903-09 Hanshaw Road in Community Corners. The concrete masonry block stairwells have been assembled, steel framing is complete on the first floor (with interior framing and some early utilities rough-ins underway), and exterior wall assembly is ongoing for the second floor and the roof – structural steel beams will be bolted together, and the stud walls will follow. Interestingly, it looks like HOLT Architects incorporated large diagonal structural beams into the building frame, perhaps for extra stability.

Most of the steel gable trusses are stacked neatly off to the side, and they’ll be craned into place as the second floor is built out. Note that most of the roof is flat, but the gables are to go up along the exterior edge. This adds a traditional design to an otherwise modern building, and better complements the existing structures at Community Corners. Early in the permit process, the target was a late summer (August/September) delivery, but it seems more likely to be early fall (October?) at this point.

Background info and specs for the project can be found here.





Amici House Construction Update, 6/2018

19 06 2018

There has been significant progress at the Amici House construction site at 661-701 Spencer Road. The 7,010 SF Harriet Giannelis Childcare Center (which will host headstart classrooms and daycare facilities) is fully framed, roofed, fitted with windows, and most of the exterior siding (unsure at a glance if it’s CertainTeed vinyl or fiber cement lap siding, though the top color looks like CertainTeed “Autumn Red”) has been attached. Even some of the trimboards have already been attached along the front entry/porch. It would seem likely that, if logistics provide for it, the building could be open for its first students in the fall.

To be honest, the design is a bit of a surprise – the original building design by Schickel Architecture was the same size but looked quite different, and the revisions were never uploaded (maybe the planning and building department had something on file, but there was nothing online). Note that most of that front-facing concrete slab is going to backfilled (partial refilling of the excavated area).

As for the five-story mixed-use structure, that is just getting underway with structural framing. The first floor, which will have offices and meeting space, has its steel skeleton and some of its exterior stud walls have been attached. The second floor is just getting underway, and the masonry blocks for the elevator core have been assembled. It appears the existing TCAction building will be getting a new roof as part of the construction work – note that they are not able to work here while construction is ongoing, and have temporarily relocated to 609 West Clinton Street. The 20,712 SF building, with its offices and 23 efficiency units for homeless and/or vulnerable young adults, will be completed early next year.

The background information and planning for the project can be found in the March introductory post and photo set here. Prolific regional contractor Welliver is the construction manager for the $8.25 million project.





Ten Years Later

19 06 2018

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around for ten years.

Most years, I’ve done a modest update highlighting some statistics and some things that have happened over the past year. Except last year, where it just totally fell off the radar and I didn’t even remember the anniversary day until the end of the month. Even the best time management fails to keep track of everything.

Since I’m not 100% sure how many views I had at about 6 PM on June 18th of last year, it’s a little hard to gauge precisely how many views a day I’ve been averaging. If we assume it was consistent for the month of June, then there were about 103,652 views from 2017-18 (just about one visit for every person in Tompkins County), which comes out to about 284 views per day. Over the years, the annual averages have looked something like this:

2008-09: 82

2009-10 166

2010-11 199

2011-12 216

2012-13 182

2013-14 155

2014-15 219

2015-16 266

2017-18 284

Or, going by the WordPress calendar year stat, 2016-17 was down a little bit, but 2017-18 has seen a tick upward. Nothing has yet surpassed the infamous spring of 2010, when a series of high-profile suicides at Cornell dominated the news both locally and nationally.

The function of this blog has definitely changed over the years. The primary focus in its earlier years was history, mostly Cornell-focused. A look at how the physical imprint of the university evolved into a greater interest into the way the greater urban network of buildings and streets evolved, and from there, an increasing interest in business and real estate and economic news. As a result, reading through blog posts from 2009 is a very different experience than reading through posts from 2014.

To be honest, I had planned to shut the blog down in June 2014. It had seemed to run it course, and Ithaca Builds was in full swing. But on April 28th, a day I only remember because it was the evening before my mother’s birthday, Jeff Stein had reached out asking if I would be willing to help him out with his attempt at local news. I was incredulous in our first conversation, but the Journal was slipping pretty quickly by that point, and that’s how I became a part of the Ithaca Voice.

Since I’ve started writing for the Voice, I’ve chosen to divvy up what ends up in the blog, and what ends up in the Voice. Smaller news details or things that are too vague or lacking in information to make into a full article usually make into the Friday night/Saturday roundup, “News Tidbits”. Same goes with most of the photo galleries, although I will often select a set to share on the Voice first, while sharing other sites first on the blog. For example, most of my Lansing construction photos will be used in a gallery piece this week, and after that they will show up with only a brief description here (because the longer description will be in the article, and it’s in the interest of time management).

The blog has taken on a utility that I never expected it to. Every day, I’m surprised when visitors email me and say this is their go-to for real estate and development news in Ithaca and Tompkins County. It’s flattering, but it’s also a bit worrying. When this blog launched, there were still over 20 writing staff at the Ithaca Journal. Today, it’s two, and Gannett advises them to not live in Ithaca and commute in, because Ithaca is too expensive.

Unfortunately, we’ve been watching a major decline in local journalism. A few bigger organizations can sustain themselves on reader subscriptions, but many smaller news outlets have had to cut to the bone or make major layoffs. The Voice is no-frills. No full-timer makes a living wage there, and the same goes for the Times (except the editor position IIRC, but it isn’t by much). They all have side gigs to survive. I’m always considered myself really lucky to be the opposite, where I have a “high-pay, low-stress, boring job” to counteract my “low-pay, high-stress, exciting job”.

Both of these organizations face an uncertain future. In lieu of any support of the blog, which is purely a labor of love, please consider donating or even becoming a member or sponsor of the Voice. Not only are you supporting a worthy cause of an informed community, it makes getting screamed at on the phone for being “fake news” (twice already) more tolerable.

Anyway, with nearly three-quarters of a million views, I’d like to take a moment out and say thank you for taking the time out to visit. Thank you for your emails, your comments, your thoughts and tweets. I would have never imagined where this blog would have gone over ten years, when I was 19 and writing from a dimly-lit Cornell Heights apartment, the skies still dark from bouts of thunderstorms that day, and deciding that evening to share my interests and cultivate my “weird little hobby”. I hope this blog has been and continues to be a valuable resource, with some entertainment along the way.

 





South Meadow Square Construction Update, 6/2018

18 06 2018

The new endcap spaces on the former KMart (now Hobby Lobby) Plaza at 742-744 South Meadow Street. The first set of photos are the northern endcap with 7,315 SF of retail space, next to PetSmart. The southern endcap is a 14,744 SF space being built where K-Mart’s garden center used to be, which I think explains the huge chunks of concrete slab piled out in front.

With no tenants formally announced, these spaces will not be completely finished on the inside – all utilities will be in as well as structural supports and insulation, but the space will be fitted out to the needs of the tenants, so things like flooring, fixtures and interior finishes will wait until someone has signed a lease with Benderson Development. I did not see anything on file for a fit-out in the city of Ithaca’s building permits paperwork (however, I did see last week that Elmira Savings Bank landed an unnamed tenant for its second floor office space at 602 West State Street).

Oftentimes you’ll see retail real estate managers try to find tenants that complement each other, say a salon and a cafe, or a sporting goods store with a women’s clothing store (the somewhat sexist argument there is that the ladies go to one while their male partners go to the other). Increasingly, entertainment and recreation options are becoming tenants – take for instance the announcement that a live theatre company will be taking 12,000 SF of space in the Shops at Ithaca Mall. That can help existing tenants by drawing in unique customer traffic that may choose to browse, shop and dine at other mall venues.

Back to the site at hand, the decorative facade appears to be initially shaped with plywood over steel stud walls, with a layer of fireproof gypsum laid over the top of that (except toe cornices, which appear to have no plywood layer, only gypsum). The bases are concrete masonry walls. The textured stone veneers and fiber cement panels will come later.