NYS DOT Sub-Residency Facility Construction Update, 3/2020

23 03 2020

The NYS DOT county facility plans are moving forward. The state bought its 15 acres from Tompkins County for $840,000 according to a deed filed on April 2019, and on its second try, the state secured a competitive bid from Streeter Associates of Elmira. The building is classified as a sub-residency facility, a step below a primary regional facility (the main office for Region 3 is in Syracuse).

The project has been in the works in some form since at least the mid 2000s. The existing waterfront property built in 1958 is cramped, local traffic impinges on operations, and it poses environmental risks (the salt barn is too close to the inlet). The joint planning efforts between the NYSDOT and Tompkins County identified a 10.8-acre site in the Village of Dryden, at the intersection of Ellis Drive and Enterprise Drive, for a new maintenance facility. That property was acquired by NYSDOT in 2006, but it was never built out because internal analyses raised concerns about how quickly trucks would be able to get to state-maintained highways on the west side of Cayuga Lake. DOT still owns that property.

With the waterfront study completed by Fisher Associates in 2015, it became clear that an ideal location would be closer to Ithaca. By the fall of 2016, it became clear that the site near the airport suggested in the previous study, was the location that the county and the state wanted to go with. The county has seen the DOT site as a major component of a proposed airport business park, but lack of demand as noted in the 2016 Camoin Associates study put the kibosh on that plan, and so the NYS DOT will be there by itself for at least the next few years.

To review, the plans consist of the 30,000 square-foot sub-residency maintenance building, a 5,000 square-foot Cold Storage unit, an 8,200 square-foot salt barn, and a 2,500 square-foot hopper building (covered lean-to). The proposed maintenance building will have vehicle storage for 10 trucks, a loader and tow plow, with one additional double depth mechanical bay and single depth, drive-thru truck washing bay. It also includes an office area (three rooms), lunch/break room (30 people), toilet/shower/locker rooms, storage rooms and mechanical/electrical rooms. The site will also contain stockpile areas for pipe, stone and millings, and ancillary site features include parking for 40 vehicles, and stormwater management facilities. A new access drive will be constructed from Warren Road (more specifically, the address will be 960 Warren Road).

The town has been less than pleased with the project, which is not bound to zoning code because it’s a public resource facility owned and operated by a government entity. Rather than voice approval, the planning board voted to acknowledge that they simply had no authority to control the project (in fact, the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] was the lead agency for environmental review, since the site is in the flight path of the airport’s runway). Some modifications were made to the plans at the town’s request, such as the fueling station being moved onto airport property across Warren Road, but neighbors are still unhappy that snowplows and heavy-duty maintenance vehicles are about to be their next-door neighbors.

The facility is expected to be open by the end of the year. Once all staff and equipment have been moved in, the county may pursue a request for proposals/requests for expression of interest for the current DOT property on the shores of the inlet near the Farmer’s Market. A 2015 feasibility analysis found that the site could conceivably host a $40+ million mixed-use project, and the site has become more amenable towards redevelopment with the enhanced density and use provisions made to the city’s waterfront zoning in 2017.

Presently, the site is being cleared, graded and underground utility connections are being laid. It would appear this will be likely be a “T-shaped” slab foundation – excavate the perimeter for the footers, build forms for the footers and foundation walls, lay down gravel and rebar grids for the slab, pour the concrete for the footers, let cure, pour for the foundation walls and let cure, and then after they’re checked for any flaws after curing, the slab can be poured. The earthwork has been subcontracted out to Binghamton’s Gorick Construction, who also did the demolition and foundation work for Library Place in the city of Ithaca.

Image from the Lansing Star.





Village Solars Construction Update, 3/2020

22 03 2020

This mostly reuses the Voice gallery writeup, but it’s a chance to publish all the unused photos as well.

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At the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 square-foot 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards has yet to happen, perhaps because the Lucente family’s in-house construction team was waiting for warmer weather.

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It too is now fully framed, sheathed, and roofed. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out). The 50 year-old blue apartment building in the photos below will be torn down later this spring to make way for a larger apartment building.

As previously reported in late February, Rocco Lucente Jr. gave the following timeline for buildout: “We are on time, on budget, the project is going very well. We should have our current two (#36 & #119) completed by June and July. The next two (community center and #117) will come the next summer, and the final two (#2 & 22) will be the summer after that! So by Summer 2022 the current project will be completed.”





3105 North Triphammer Construction Update, 3/2020

22 03 2020

This mostly reuses the Voice gallery writeup, but it’s a chance to publish all the unused photos as well.

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S.E.E. Associates/Andy Sciarabba’s new 9,600 square-foot office building at 3095 North Triphammer Road is coming along. The cast stone veneer has been attached, the doors and windows have been fitted, and interior steel stud walls are being built for its tenants (units can be merged if desired). At last check just after the holidays, Sciarabba passed along a note to give an update on the business end.

“We have signed one office tenant already, 1300 square feet and have a verbal commitment from another tenant, primary and acute care physician. We can accommodate up to seven tenants and we are using air source (electric) heat pumps. The shell should be ready for tenant fit up in January with the first occupancy about March. Our goal is to bring services to this part of Lansing which currently do not exist.”

The $500,000 project is expected to be completed by next summer. Local architect George Breuhaus is the creator of the design.

Additional project info can be found here.





Lansing Meadows Construction Update, 3/2020

22 03 2020

This mostly reuses the Voice gallery writeup, but it’s a chance to publish all the unused photos as well.

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There’s been a little bit of controversy lately with developer Eric Goetzmann’s senior housing project on Oakcrest Drive in the village of Lansing. Goetzmann has approached the village and the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency for permission to convert the rental project to for-sale senior housing. Physically, the changes would be very limited, as it’s mostly the creation of interior lot lines. In terms of concept, though, it’s a more substantial change. The IDA went into private Executive Session to discuss the matter because it involved Goetzmann’s finances and topics of potential future legal action, and the result was that they objected to making them for-sale. The village is willing to consider lot subdivision if Goetzmann and the IDA can work out their differences. Not to delve into speculation behind the Executive Session, but as proposed, it sounds like a 55+ person could buy the unit and let their college kids occupy it, and hope a future Homeowner’s Association handles it. That doesn’t sound like the senior housing the county had in mind.

As approved, the residential components consist of two phases. Four one-story triplexes (12 units total) will be ready for occupancy by the end of July 2020. Two more triplexes (6 units) will be built in a second phase to be ready for occupancy in December 2020. One of the triplexes has been roofed and fitted with windows, a second is fully framed, the third was being framed out, and the fourth was just a concrete pad with sub-slab utility hook-ups poking out. Project planning, design, and construction services are being provided by an all-in-one firm, McFarland Johnson of Binghamton.

A history of the project and an overall description can be found here.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 1/2020

25 01 2020

Harold’s Square on the Commons is moving right along. The Commons-facing side of the structure has been mostly finished from the outside. The brown terra cotta used on the exterior, seen in the Commons-dacing photos, is Avenere Cladding’s NeaCera Rain Screen Terra Cotta product. As you can see in the street-level photo, once the mineral wool was on, steel rails were attached to the building and the panels are clipped into place atop the rails. The westernmost face has its expansive glass installed (with metal “fins” to provide some respite from the direct sun), while the waterproofed exterior awaits its aluminum metal panel finish.

In the taller, southern side of the building, window installation has begun on the lower levels. The rough opening is coated along the edges with a blue waterproofing material. A black flashing material is attached, an exterior frame with the nailing flange is installed into the opening, leveled to make sure it fits properly, the interior frame is fitted and installed, and then the exterior is finished out along the edge with more waterproofing and metal flashing. The whole point is to make it a tight fit and prevent water infiltration. (a window installation how-to video for the curious is here). With a building of this size, the process is repeated a few hundred times.

Also included below are a couple of interior shots from a construction tour, courtesy of Councilman Ducson Nguyen (2nd Ward). The photos, about a month old, are from a one-bedroom unit the construction team was putting together. The rough-ins were complete in this unit, and they were on to the next steps. Drywall had been hung and cabinetry was just being installed. Fixtures, flooring and finishes come later. All 78 apartment units should be ready for occupancy by August.

According to the new website, monthly rents will range from $1,300 for a studio, to $3,000 for a top-of-the-line two-bedroom. The floorplans are included below. Note the studios are about just a little above the legal minimum, at 332 SF. Truly for someone who likes to live with a small footprint, I guess. Most units come with their own washer and dryer, studios will share a common room with a washer and dryer.

There are 6 studios, 42 one-bedroom units, and 29 two-bedroom units. Units come with quartz countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless steel fixtures and Energy Star appliances, vinyl plank floors, and everything is that marketing-friendly neutral color palette of subdued whites, beiges, greys and browns. Fiber optic internet is included in rent, and the units are “pet-friendly”. Higher-end units also have balconies.

Shared amenities include a dog washing station, 12th floor rooftop terrace, “Amazon Hub” apartment lockers, keyless entry, private storage and bike storage, trash and recycling chutes on every floor, a security system and access to two high-speed elevators. All units are non-smoking. 60 kW from a solar array in the Schuyler County town of Dix will be utilized to offset the building’s carbon footprint. More information can be found on the website.

The Ithacating project description can be found here.





Visions Federal Credit Union Construction Update, 1/2020

21 01 2020

For regional businesses, Ithaca and Tompkins County are attractive markets to try and break into. Compared to its Southern Tier and Finger Lakes peers (Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn), it’s a sizable market that’s more affluent and more economically prosperous, two things that bode well for business growth if a company thinks they can make the initial investment costs will pay off.

Visions Federal Credit Union appears to making the leap. Founded in 1966, Visions FCU is headquartered in the Binghamton suburb of Endwell (where it recently doubled the size of its headquarters) and currently hosts 52 branch offices across three states. The not-for-profit financial institution boasts over 200,000 members, $4.1 billion in assets and 650 employees. Currently, the closest location to Tompkins County is the branch office in the Tioga County town of Spencer.

Site plans first submitted to the city in May 2019 indicated that the new credit union branch would be built at 410 Elmira Road, on a vacant lot fronting the Elmira Road Shopping Plaza, which houses Home Depot, Kohl’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Widewaters Group, the Syracuse-based firm who owns the plaza, had quietly marketed the outparcel space on since at least early 2018, envisioning a restaurant or similar small-scale establishment would one day occupy the site, along with a sizable amount of parking.

Here, Visions Federal Credit Union is proposing to build a 3,320 SF branch office with a parking lot containing 20 spaces and drive-up ATMs. The building will be finished out in a fairly standard mix of painted aluminum metal panel system and fiber cement, with a CMU base and aluminum window system. More interestingly, the majority of the lot would be fenced in from the adjacent roadways and turned into an outdoor amphitheater. A 940 SF stage structure would be built at the southern end of the property, and the lawn would be maintained for use as an outdoor event and entertainment venue – rough estimates put the seating capacity at about 500, with the shopping center parking lot to double as a parking area for concert series attendees (the initial plan is five concerts from May-September, with smaller events in between). The remainder of the property would be fitted out with stormwater retention areas, landscaping improvements, a small amount of sidewalk, electric vehicle charging stations, a pet-friendly outdoor waiting area next to the building and bike racks.

According to the Site Plan Review (SPR) document, the $1.25 million project will take about eight months to build out – the original construction period was to be October 2019 – May 2020, but as these projects often go, the actual groundbreaking was delayed until just a couple of weeks ago (or rather, at least the site prep is underway; I did not see a building permit filed with the city when I visited the permits office last week, but then again, that’s an 800-page stack of paper including everything from bathroom remodels to new multistory buildings). The number of jobs that would be created is not stated in the filing, but a bank/credit union branch office of this size typically employs eight to 10 people. Design/build firm PWCampbell of Pittsburgh is listed as the project designer, with Rochester-based Costich Engineering serving as the engineering consultant.

Some details were tweaked during review – the amphitheater was adjusted away from the road because of safety concerns. There will be a heavy-duty three-rail wood fence and some trees between the road and seating area. The building itself was largely unaltered, which is rather unusual, but this is a less fussed-over part of the city and the project fully complies with the SW-2 zoning. The supplemental docs say they were looking into heat pumps and a solar canopy for their electric charging stations, but it’s not clear if those will be installed. Approval was granted in August 2019.

According to the Visions FCU press release, “Visions brings a new banking option to the Ithaca community that includes lower interest rates on loans, competitive earnings on savings, a shared network of fee-free ATMs, and more. As a member-owned not-for-profit, Visions is committed to both member and community service.” The credit union is looking to make a positive first impression through some monetary charitable donations to local non-profits, and plans to sponsor and participate in community service events to ingratiate itself with the greater community.

The site is being cleared and graded for construction at the moment. The elevated pad in the first photo is where the new branch office will be built. The third photo shows the graded site pad for the amphitheater.





Perdita Flats Construction Update, 1/2020

19 01 2020

Let’s start this off by taking the broader view. Climate change is real, and is increasingly harming our natural and built environments. In order to mitigate the worst of its effects and help ward off a potential global crisis, it is necessary to limit our environmental impacts. Building construction and urban planning is a major part of that, by using sustainable materials, construction practices, and following planning initiatives to limit the carbon footprint and wasted resources of older conventional approaches.

Ithaca and Tompkins County have approached this enthusiastically, though with mixed success. There is a robust environmental movement in the community, and many of them choose to practice what they preach, at least in their homes if perhaps not so much their site plans (case in point: Ecovillage, while well-designed structurally, is located so far from most goods and services and relies on vehicular travel and creates elevated infrastructure costs for installation and maintenance – in effect, “green sprawl”). Cornell Cooperative Extension maintains a database of local examples of sustainable housing.

One of the areas that has been severely lacking in truly sustainable housing, however, is the multi-family housing segment. The vast majority of eco-conscious housing built in Tompkins County is one-family or two-family. However, these are often on larger lots on the fringe of the urban boundaries of the Ithaca area. This has its limitations, not just the “green sprawl” issue, but affordability concerns related to land costs and single-family home construction costs. Given that it’s more environmentally efficient to invest in communities where infrastructure is in place and where goods and services allow for multiple transit options other than a car, it’s really crucial to demonstrate workable multi-family options, maximizing sustainability and demonstrating that it can be cost-efficient for a builder/developer to be green. But apart from a few examples like EcoVillage’s TREE apartment building, there are few local structures that really showcase what can be done these days with respect to sustainable building multi-family design and construction, especially in an urban setting.

Perdita Flats is an attempt to show that it can be done. In scale, it’s nothing particularly impressive. The site is an undeveloped lot at 402 Wood / 224 Fair Street, previously a double-lot with the neighboring house at 404 Wood (in fact, I noted its development potential when the lot was subdivided). The building itself will be 3,524 SF, three stories with a total of four market-rate units on a 36′ x 36′ footprint with a wrap-around porch. There will be one three-bedroom unit, one two-bedroom unit and two one-bedroom units – in other words, “missing middle” infill, smaller multi-family of similar unit density to many inner ring urban neighborhoods. (Apparently, the three bedroom is being reduced to a two-bedroom, but this was a very recent change.)

The building, a work of local firm STREAM Collaborative, is designed to fit in with the older homes in the neighborhood by using visual elements like the porch and the gable roof. The exterior will be finished out in natural shiplap wood siding and black standing-seam metal siding.

Where the building really shines is with its sustainability features – this is a net-zero project, meaning that all the energy it uses is provided by renewable sources. Energy-efficient features include a rooftop solar array with on-site battery energy storage, simple square shape, super-insulated building envelope (double stud wood framing and triple-pane low-e fiberglass framed windows), maximized natural daylighting through window placement and light-reflective paint, high-efficiency appliances, plumbing and fixtures, air-source heat pumps, low-emissions and non-toxic natural materials and finishes, and rainwater harvesting. To put it in perspective, the Ithaca’s Green Building Policy in the works requires a score of six points for approval, and this project would earn 17 points. The landscaping will include a shared garden plot, new sidewalk, and native greenery.

The project is the work of Umit Sirt and Courtney Royal. The husband and wife pair are staff of Taitem Engineering, a local engineering consulting firm that specializes in energy efficiency and the use of alternative (renewable) energy sources in building projects. Putting that knowledge to use, the couple recently built a net-zero energy home for their family in Ulysses — net-zero meaning that all energy produced comes from on-site or nearby renewable resources.

To give a rough timeline, Royal and Sirt bought the land for $70,000 in June 2018. The Perdita Flats project was first proposed in February 2019 and approved in April. The project sought and received a zoning variance on parking, two spaces instead of the four required, to allow for the garden space, and a reduction in the rear year setback from 20 feet to 10 feet, to better accommodate the garden and solar panels. To those fretting about the parking deficiency, on-site bicycle storage is provided as part of the project, and the Fair Street location has easy access to both stores on Meadow Street, and to Downtown Ithaca. Apart from the occasional Carshare use, life without a car here would be plausible.

The site plan review document estimated the development costs at $520,000. NYSERDA, the state’s energy sustainability agency, awarded the project $70,560 as part of its Buildings of Excellence program. Instead of the traditional hazardous refrigerants used for the internal circulation within electric heat pumps, Perdita Flats will use a more advanced carbon dioxide-based system (yes, CO2 isn’t good in large quantities, but it’s much less harmful ounce-for-ounce than refrigerant). To quote the application, “(i)n virtually every way, this building will be an example of what is possible for new construction in terms of reduced energy use and a complete lack of reliance on fossil fuels.”

Royal and Sirt’s colleagues at Taitem Engineering helped with the mechanical and plumbing design. The construction manager will be Mike Carpenter, along with the developers themselves. In case you’re wondering, Perdita is “a mythological child who brought a love of the natural world to humans”, according to the project’s website. (At this time, the website is mostly bare except for the landing page.)

At the site, not much has happened yet, though it looks like some trees were cleared. A project of this modest scale should take a half year or less once ground is broken.