News Tidbits 8/27/13: Gannett Expansion Gets Greenlighted

27 08 2013


With the donation of $5 million from the chair of trustees Robert Harrison ’76 to launch the fund raising aspect of the project, the Gannett expansion has now solidified into a concrete project in the planning stages. Initial plans call for an increase in the size of the building from 38,000 sq ft to 96,000 sq ft, and a targeted completion date for October 2017 (which means the vast majority of kids that just started at Cornell this week will never see the building completed while students at Ezra’s university). I imagine that, giving a year or so for construction, and an expected price tag of $55 million (one-third of which will be funded via donations), that a couple of years of fund raising is more than enough time for some deep-pocketed alumni to throw their cash into the kitty, and end up with a waiting room or doctor’s office named for them in return.  Gannett Health Center opened its doors in 1955 (named for Frank Gannett 1898, the mid-century media titan), and expanded in 1979.

Proposals to expand Gannett have been floating around since at least 2005, and shows up in Cornell’s 2008 master plan. At the time, the plan called for a 90,000-130,000 sq ft building, which means that the above firm proposal falls within those nascent specifications. HOLT architects did a 2007 design study proposing a 119,000 sq ft building. It’s nice to see this one come out of the hazy ether of vague proposals and become a formal proposal. The next question, of course, will be what the design of the structure will be. Given the university’s trend, my inclination is to expect another hypermodern box.

Update 8/28: Ithaca Builds’ Jason Henderson has kindly passed on a link from Chiang O’Brien, a local firm started in 2012 by some former employees of also Ithaca-based HOLT Architects. The two follow similar themes, simple forms but big on geometric detailing, and most of their designs could be described as revamped modern or hypermodern. Looking at their website, I see some massing diagrams of the current facility, but nothing yet for what’s planned.


The Final Draft of Harold’s Square

21 08 2013


Given the previous re-design for Harold’s Square, I’m willing to accept this. The glazed curtainwall banding on the south face makes it a little less brutal on the eyes.


Ithaca Builds notes that the developers hope to have fencing up (i.e. initiating site prep) by Labor Day, for completion in late April 2015.



Dear Cayuga Place, Please Settle On A Design

17 08 2013


This building has become the bane of this blog’s existence. From the Planning Board:

The applicant is requesting modifications to site plan approved on August 28, 2012, including: a reduction in the site footprint to 6,920 SF (from 9,400 SF); an increase in total floor space to 49,244 GSF (from 47,075 GSF); an increase in the number of stories to 7 (from 4); an increase in the number of units to 45 (from 39); a reduction in the height of the first‐floor elevation to 409’6” (from 410’); a reduction in floor‐to-floor height to 11’4”without mezzanine loft (from 15’6” with mezzanine loft); an increase in total building height to 81’4” (from 63’6”);the addition of 21 unit balconies and 18 false unit balconies; the addition of 4 unit walk‐outs; and the use of auger‐ grouted steel core displacement piles for the foundation (from a spread‐footing foundation).

So in sum, a taller building with a smaller footprint is being proposed, with a few more units of apartments. The gross area only changes slightly, and the ceilings aren’t as high as before. Given the prelim renderings of this latest version, the general design elements remain the same, although at just over 81 feet tall, the building should now fully mask the wall of the parking garage next door.

So let’s see here…here are original renderings v1, v2 and v3….an updated version of V3, v3.1 if you will….v4…..and now this latest one, which we’ll call version 5. This building has changed its “image” more times than a teenage girl.

At least with the current revision, the change may have been less for market concerns, and more out of engineering concerns. Note the change in the type of foundation; spread-footing foundations are shallow foundations, which spreads the weight out and doesn’t go as deep into the soil (you often see these in flood-prone areas). The replacement is a deep foundation, which is selected when the soil is poor in the shallow layer. My guess is that they were doing site testing, the near-surface soil was worse than expected (perhaps due to the presence of Six Mile Creek), so Bloomfield and Schon decided to build upwards on the more stable portion of the parcel, rather than out. Deep foundations are usually more expensive, which could explain the increase in number of units.

Will this be the incarnation that actually gets built? Good question. I’m kinda tired of flavor of the season, so I’m kinda hoping it just goes up already.

News Tidbits 8/11/13: Emerson’s Powerful Possibilities

12 08 2013

Image property of Welch Construction Inc.

Following up on Ithaca Times and Ithaca Builds, the big development news of the week is that a potential buyer is about to close on the Emerson Power Transmission property on South Hill. The discussions have been going on for quite a while; the last Emerson entry I wrote six months ago notes that a member of the Chamber of Commerce was dropping hints that negotiations for the sale of the property were ongoing.

The “sleeping giant” term the Times uses is certainly fitting. At nearly 94 acres and 800,000 square feet of space, the property is one of the most massive in the Ithaca metro. For the sake of comparison, the Collegetown Terrace project is redeveloping 12.4 acres (with another 4 acres of apartments being left as-is), has 610 units and about 629,000 square feet. Certainly, zoning would allow for demolition and reconstruction to suit the developer’s plan, and for this market, the possibilities are comparably limitless.

The article notes that the buyer has 12 to 18 months to choose to execute the purchase option, but they’ve committed for the time being by paying out for a multi-million dollar master plan and feasibility study. Given the span of the site, it’s no big surprise that the developer is looking into mixed use, with some residential components, and some industrial/manufacturing components. With 94 acres, there’s definitely a wide range of possibilities, and buildout will take years. But a redevelopment of Emerson could effectively mark an expansion of downtown Ithaca southward.

It appears Ithaca’s development boom has some big projects still coming down the pipeline. Or more links in the chain, if you will.

Lock Up Your Damn House

4 08 2013


Back during my own Cornell days, I can remember an incident where over Spring Break my freshman year, my fraternity (I was pledging at the time) had one of its code-key locks substantially damaged, which given that it looked like it was attacked with a blunt object, we assumed was an attempted burglary. It is no big surprise that wealthy Cornell students have a habit of leaving expensive things in their rooms, and that with a cunning and conniving mind, those things can easily end up in the hands of a thief. Luckily in our case, the thief gave up and went elsewhere (although we had a $300 grill stolen right off the property not long after I graduated).
That is why stories like this don’t surprise me. From the Ithaca Independent:

Two suspects have been arrested in the Sunday burglary of 55 Ridgewood Road, home of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house.  Ithaca police were called to the address after a resident returning home caught a burglary in progress.

Using a description of the two suspected burglars and the vehicle they used to leave the scene with a list of stolen items, a 28-year-old Lansing woman and a 35-year-old Elmira man were arrested Monday…(cont.)


The cops only found the burglars because the two were reported to the police for a domestic incident, and left in their truck.  They essentially gave themselves away, since they and the vehicle matched the description provided by the witness.

In sum, although Ithaca is generally safe city, Greek houses would do well to limit access over breaks, and for its members to discreetly make use of a strongbox for valuables.

A Random Mix of Project Updates 7/2013

1 08 2013

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Over at Breckenridge Place, the installation of the brick facade is nearing completion, and some of the windows have been installed in the six-story building. Originally slated for occupancy this fall, it looks like this has been pushed back a few months to very early 2014, according to the INHS website. This seems reasonable, as the vast majority of interior work still needs to be completed, not to mention the rest of the facade, window installation, and finishes/landscaping. An application lottery is underway for qualifying individuals.

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Looks like I can mark Collegetown’s 107 Cook Street as complete. Developer Dan Ligouri’s four units (12 bedrooms) will welcome their first tenants this summer (June/August thereabouts).  Replacing it in the queue of small residential projects, local nonprofit INHS will be launching construction on a 4-unit townhome project at the sharp corner of South Cayuga and South Titus Streets, just south of downtown. This is in addition to the aforementioned Breckenridge, a few rebuilds/renovations they have underway and the second phase of the Holly Creek townhomes, which will add another 11 units to be completed in late 2014.

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Ithaca makes this almost too easy. Ithaca Builds has been keeping tabs on the Planned Parenthood development, where foundation work is underway. The other two won’t start for a few more months.

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It sure is odd to see a treeless Ithaca Commons.  Excavation and utilities replacement will be underway through December, with reconstruction and new surfacing planned for next spring and summer.