Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 11/2014

7 12 2014

Officially, the downtown Ithaca Marriott is underway with site prep. Perhaps because it only just started, there was hardly anything to speak of on its site. An orange plastic construction fence blocks off the perimeter of the property, and there appear to be some pipes and concrete blocks on site. IPD had the parking lot blocked off, presumably to keep the lot closed to downtown patrons, and to use Green Street to meet their monthly ticket quota.

Although multiple sources indicate a Spring 2017 completion, the sign attached to the front of the site displays Spring 2016 as the completion and opening period. Binghamton-based William H. Lane Inc. was selected as contractor for the project, and opened an Ithaca office to oversee the operation. The $32 million, 10-story, 160-room hotel was designed by Cooper Carry Architecture and is being developed by Urgo Hotels out of Bethesda, Maryland. Urgo’s nearest other hotels are the Whiteface Lodge in the Adirondacks, and several in the NYC area, and Ithaca is well outside their normal scope. I suppose the Marriott could be used as an example of how Ithaca is attracting the attention of out-of-town investors and developers.


This project really has had quite the drawn-out process, originally proposed as the Hotel Ithaca back in 2008. At that point, it was a 9-story, 102-room hotel with a cost of $17 million, to be developed by Rimland Development and operated by boutique firm Gemstone Hotels. Well, a lot happened along the way. The project was approved, the recession hit, the project stalled due to an inability to get financing, the cost kept going up from $17 million to $25 million to $27 million, and the number of rooms went from 102 to 125 to 140. Then the Marriott version came into play in 2012 with a $19 million price tag, it was approved, it too failed to get financing, and went back to the board with a value-engineered design for the now $32 million project. With money from Ensemble Investments, the project has been able to launch. There have been three separate designs with ballooning price tags. To actually have something underway is a welcome denouement to this saga.

The Marriott is one of only several hotels planned for Ithaca, with the new 123-room Canopy a couple blocks away intending to start construction shortly, and 76-room and 37-room hotels for Elmira Road. With high room rates and low vacancy rates, the market is expected to comfortably absorb at least two of those. All of them might cause an older suburban hotel to be closed.

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News Tidbits 12/6/14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

6 12 2014

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1. Not exactly a development, but this will make things interesting: As reported by the Ithaca Journal, INHS and Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) are merging. Both of them have the same purpose, which is to provide low-to-middle income housing and structural rehab services, but INHS has traditionally focused in Ithaca city, and Better Housing in the rural towns. INHS also holds far greater assets, $24 million including 241 rental units , vs. BHTC’s $3 million and 121 rental units.

Over the past few years, INHS has put a lot of feathers in their cap. $2.13 million in grants has been awarded to the non-profit in just the past few months. Breckenridge Place and Holly Creek are complete and nearly complete respectively (total 74 units), while Stone Quarry and Greenways are prepping for site clearing and construction (total 81 units). Along with Cedar Creek and several single-family and duplex units, INHS has had a hand in over 120 units of housing in the past five years alone. With the Neighborhood Pride site undergoing concept design and the recently-awarded grant money, that number will almost certainly be greater in these next five years.

The story for BHTC has been quite the opposite. The 65-unit Lansing Reserve proposal failed due to neighbor opposition, and the 58-unit Cayuga Trails project for West Hill failed due to wetlands on site being greater than anticipated (and the neighborhood opposition didn’t help). BHTC has five older facilities in Trumansburg, Newfield and Slaterville Springs.  With any hope, the merged non-profit will qualify for larger grants, and BHTC can finally get some shovels in the ground in the hamlets and villages outside Ithaca.

On a separate note, it looks like INHS did its annual website update, formally announcing plans for a single-family home at 304 Hector Street on West Hill. The lot was purchased in late October after a plan to buy and renovate a home in Northside fell through. Stone Quarry will begin occupancy next September, and Greenways hopes to start in 2015.


2. Here’s the site plan for 112 Blair Street. I’d include renders, if the sketch plan had any. Two buildings with two units each and three bedrooms per unit -> 2 x 2 x 3 = 12 bedrooms. Nothing large, just an infill project tucked away from the street. The design will be created by local firm Schickel Architecture, the same ones doing the Maguire project in Ithaca town. As noted by Planning Board member John Schroeder in a recent Sun article, projects like these won’t alleviate the housing crunch by themselves, but every little bit helps, and all the better if it recaptures living space from an underused parking lot.


3. Final design for the proposed Canopy Hotel? Possibly. In comparison to the last design, this latest incarnation adds more windows to the east face. I’m not going to lie, after six or so sets of designs (include three complete re-dos), I’m starting to lose track of the changes. On the upside, the latest project plan from the city’s documents includes some neat context views, renders of what the building would look like from various vantage points in the city.


4. 114 Catherine has been approved, its Spring construction date looks good to go. When completed in August 2015, 17 more bedrooms will enter the Collegetown market – a drop in the bucket, but a valuable drop nevertheless.


5. Towards South Hill, review of the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) continues for the massive Chain Works District proposal at the former Emerson Power/Morse Chain site. A scoping document of that DGEIS can be found here. In a nutshell, a DGEIS is part of the State Envrionmental Quality Review (SEQR), where the leading agency looks at a project, determines if any adverse project impacts are properly mitigated, and if so, issues a statement giving a negative declaration (approval). In this case, the NYS DEC also needs to be on board, approving the contaminated site for residential use. This is a pretty complicated project. There’s 800,000 sq ft of space to be removed or re-purposed, in an environmentally compromised site split between two political entities who are conducting joint meetings with their planning boards in an effort to try and move this project forward (the town of Ithaca board deferred to the city of Ithaca for lead agency; and both have been evaluating using their respective specialized mixed-use zones).

So far, there have been no nasty surprises on the polluted site. The site is mostly clean but still needed a little more for residential use, and Emerson will be flipping the bill for that. The comment period on the draft runs through the 10th, and the DGEIS will be finalized on the 16th. According to the project website, developer Unchained Properties LLC hopes to start Phase I, the renovation of four on-site buildings (21, 24, 33 and 34) into mixed-use and manufacturing space, during summer 2015. The mixed-use was initially proposed as office space only; but the developer behind the LLC (David Lubin) has struggled to fill the proposed office space in his Harold Square project, and seems to realize that having less office space would be a better plan for Chain Works as well.

6. The Cornell Daily Sun is reporting that the owner of CTB (Collegetown Bagels) is buying the Rulloff’s property and reopening the restaurant after it abruptly closed over the Labor Day weekend. The property was on the market for $395,000, and it’s fair to say the price was probably close to that figure. The murderous Edward Rulloff lives on.

Lofts @ Six Mile Creek (Cayuga Place) Update, 11/2014

5 12 2014

As much as I hate to entertain the currently-fashionable use of prepositions in project names, and the “@” symbol to make it modern and hip, that is the official name for what was the condo portion of Cayuga Green. More notably, the project website describes these as apartments rather than condos as initially planned. Apartment projects are easier to get financing for since it’s generally easier to find renters vs. buyers, but given some of the discussion about the need for owner-occupied units that has come up lately (the Old Library redevelopment comes to mind), this is a mild disappointment.

The 7-story, 45-unit, 49,244 GSF apartment building topped out on October 2nd. The concrete floors were poured and the balcony pads were craned into place and secured throughout the fall. Peering into the building from the parking garage, some steel wall frames have been erected on the upper floors, while rough interior work seems to be underway on the lower floors. The plastic sheathing is to break the winter winds and keep the space above freezing.

Developer Bloomfield/Schon + Partners planned to release leasing/pricing details last month, but I haven’t heard anything yet. Completion for the project is set for late Spring 2015, which according to their facebook, is a little later than intended due to material supply delays created by the rough November weather (curse you, polar jet stream). If the last photo is any indicator, the upper-floor units are going to have some fantastic northeast views.

As noted before, this project makes the completion of 15 years of planning and construction. At 45 apartment units, It’s also one of the largest non-student-related projects slated for a 2015 completion – the 35-unit Stone Quarry Apartments and the 21-unit 323 Taughannock are also pegged for 2015 completions.

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Belle Sherman Cottages Construction Update, 11/2014

4 12 2014

Over in Belle Sherman, work continues on its namesake housing development, the 29-unit Belle Sherman Cottages. From a glance, some site clearing might be taking place for the first set of five townhouses (lots 25-29), which are aiming for an April 2015 completion. Several homes are in various stages of construction, with some still wrapped in breathable plastic, and others undergoing final exterior and interior work. Since September, lot 18 (Craftsman Bungalow), lot 15 (Craftsman Farmhouse), lot 10 (Craftsman Farmhouse) and lot 3 (Craftsman Farmhouse) were completed or are nearly completed, while lot 17 (Victorian Farmhouse) and lot 5 (Classic Bungalow) are underway. That’s six houses in less than three months. Carina Construction and Agora Home and Development more than outdid my September estimate of 1-2 more homes before the end of the year.

For comparison’s sake, in December 2013, there were five complete houses and two more underway, and the model house was built all the way back in May 2012. Now the total number of homes built or being built is 14. The project had a great sales year and it shows. Speaking of sales, all houses except lot 9, a new design yet to be published, have been sold. All 5 units that comprise the first set of townhouses have sold as well. Marketing has not begun for the 5 units in the second set of townhouses, lots 20-24.

One of the unique features of this project is that unlike traditional on-site frame construction, these houses are assembled from modular units. The modular pieces are sourced from Simplex Homes in Scranton and trucked up to Ithaca for installation. Once the concrete block foundation has been assembled, the four modular pieces for each home are craned into place, and once the pieces are leveled with the rest of the structure, the adjoining walls and ceiling are secured with steel plates. Interior work goes on while siding, porches and other features are built onto the assembled house. This allows for a faster construction process and cuts down on finishing costs.

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Collegetown Construction Updates, 11/2014

3 12 2014

Next stop, Collegetown.


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Over at 140 College Avenue, framing is underway on a 3,800 sq ft, 12-bedroom addition to the historic John Snaith House. The project is designed by local architect Jason Demarest and developed by Po Family Realty, a smaller Collegetown landlord.

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This house at 205 College Avenue seems confused. Before the extremely vivid paint job and mix-and-match additions, it looked like this, and a photo from January 2014, with the paint but without the additions, is included below. I really don’t know what to make of it. I dunno how long the Lowers have been sitting on permits for this one, but I didn’t see anything go through the city boards.

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Cornell Construction Updates, 11/2014

2 12 2014

The best part about holiday photo tours is that students are few and parking is ample.

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I know this project has been done for a couple of months now, but I was unable to take photos until now. The $650,000, 1,700 sq ft project is essentially Cornell’s history engraved in stone benches and pavers (unfortunately covered by snow and ice here). I imagine it must be a nice spot to sit when not covered in snow.

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Far bigger is the continued construction for the future Klarman Hall, pushing onward to its December 2015 completion. Construction firm Welliver is plodding through the cold weather to undertake steel work, metal decking, and mechanical and electrical rough-in in the basement. The 33,250 sq ft building was designed by Koetter | Kim & Associates.

Lansing/Dryden Construction Updates, 11/2014

1 12 2014

Normally, I use a full-fledged DSLR camera for these construction tours, I accidentally forgot my camera and had to use my phone instead. The resolution isn’t as great, but they still came out better than I expected. These photos were taken on the 28th.


Here we have what looks like a pair of townhomes going up in the Maple Ridge development just east of Dryden village. Maple Ridge was dreamed up as a multi-phase 50-unit housing development when it began in 2008/09, but the recession deflated those plans. Only four homes have been completed so far; the blue house with the very large garage was built earlier this year.

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Going over to Lansing, two more oddly Florida-like homes are underway at the Heights of Lansing development off of Bomax Drive. One is virtually complete with only exterior detailing left on the to-do list, the other home is but a shell, still in the rough framing stage. No new townhomes, but a third home lot was sold a few weeks ago, so another single-family home will likely start construction sometime in the near-future. The development is slated for about 80 units when complete, and since inception in 2006, has completed two homes and 17 townhouses (another project that was hit by the recession; not that there’s too much demand for high-end townhomes in Lansing anyway).

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This building underway at 720 Warren Road is for the “Northeast Dairy and Food Testing Center” I wrote about back in August. Work on the exterior shell continues for the 17,000 sq ft structure by Syracuse-based Dalpos Architects, moving towards a Spring 2015 completion.

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This was arguably the biggest surprise. These four apartment buildings are part of the Village Circle Apartments in Lansing, the later three are likely part of the Village Solars project. The first one has been mostly complete for a year or so, and looks to be readying itself for occupancy. The last three comprise what I would guess to be 36 units; two are topped out and have house wrap on them, the middle one is still undergoing initial framing. This one went under the radar since it was approved in Spring 2013; the Village Solars project seeks to over 300 units off of Warren Road over the next 10 years.

Before heading into town, I drove around to check out a couple of other projects in Ithaca’s suburbia. The Woodland Park development sold one of its pricey single-family homes and work was finishing up on a second; I chose not to stop due to a large number of construction workers at work on the site. I spied three complete sets of townhomes in the gated section as I drove past. No new homes underway in Whispering Pines, but I did see this home under construction near the intersection of Triphammer and Horvath Drive.