Dairy One and Binoptics Construction Update, 4/2015

14 04 2015

Neither one is especially pretty, but the local benefits are substantial.

Over on Warren Road in Lansing, two business expansion projects are underway just across the street from each other. The first one is the Dairy One project at 720 Warren Road.

A quick walk-by of the site shows that the exterior of the building is complete, finishes have been applied, and the grass landscaping has been seeded and covered with straw to protect it from the wind and birds. The new research center looks ready for its spring opening.

The new “Northeast Dairy and Food Testing Center” is a 50-50 collaboration between local firm Dairy one Cooperative Inc., and Chestnut Labs of Springfield, Missouri. The  17,000 sq ft building is a $3.5 million investment and will add 11 jobs at the outset, 3 through Dairy One and 8 through Chestnut Labs. 4 more jobs would be added over the following two years if all goes to plan.

According to the TCIDA report, Chestnut opted for Ithaca as its first satellite office because of a desire to expand into the Northeast and its proximity to Cornell. The design by Syracuse-based Dalpos Architects.

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Across Warren Road on its west side, the new addition to Binoptics is underway. Technically the address for Binoptics is 9 Brown Road, but the property sits on the corner of Brown and Warren Roads.

The plywood has yet to be sheathed and covered in exterior facade materials, but windows have been fitted into the new one-story, 2,800 square foot addition.  The addition is pegged at a cost of $7.7 million, mostly on new equipment. The design of the addition is by Rochester-based Architectura P.C., who also did the Cayuga Medical Associates Building just south of the Route 13/Warren Road intersection.

BinOptics, a laser developer and manufacturer, sees the addition as part of its plan to add 91 jobs over the next three years, including 35 jobs this year as the new addition is completed.

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Belle Sherman Cottages Construction Update, 4/2015

12 04 2015

Over at the Belle Sherman Cottages off of Mitchell Street, work is underway on the first set of five townhomes, lots 25-29. The CMU block wall foundations have been assembled and look ready for the Simplex modular pieces to be brought onto the site and fitted. The houses are built using four modules, but the size of the townhouse lots suggests these might have only two modules per unit. The townhouse units sold out fairly quickly, just a few weeks. Sales are underway for the second set of townhomes (lots 20-24), which are expected to be built this year as well.

Elsewhere on the site, the “Classic Bungalow” on lot 12 has been assembled and is undergoing lap siding installation (“Mountain Cedar” color, with a lighter “Savannah Wicker” tan color planned for the dormer). The porch is being assembled and exterior trim is being installed. If you’re interested in learning more about the construction process, there’s a little more info in my previous post here, and on Ithaca Builds here and here. Once completed, there will only be two unbuilt home lots, the already-sold “Autumn Yellowfarmhouse planned for lot 11, and the unsold and un-marketed lot 9.

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News Tidbits 4/11/15: Not Feasible As Presented

11 04 2015

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1. If my inbox has been any clue over this past week, there are some folks who are pretty unhappy with the results of the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Old Library site. One more applicant has dropped out of the process – DPI chose not to respond to the RFP. DPI had proposed 76 condos and 8 apartments for the site, a move that was cheered by some residents who spoke passionately about the new for purchasable housing in the city. That leaves three contenders of the original six:

-The Syracuse-based Franklin Properties project, now called the West Court Lofts and Wellness Collective, would renovate the existing building and include 22 residential condominium units (down from 32 units in the RFEI), medical offices, a café, and community room.

-The Rochester-based Cornerstone Group project, known as the Dewitt Senior Apartments, would build 63 residential units of senior housing (down from 70-80 units in the RFEI), and include community space for nutrition education by Cooperative Extension.

-The Ithaca-based Travis-Hyde Properties project would build 60 residential senior-focused units (up from 48 units in the RFEI), and would include space for Lifelong, professional office, and a community room.

There have been no renderings published as of yet, but there will be a stand-alone post when they show up on the county’s website. The three proposals will be judged against each other over the course of the next couple months. A quick glance at the judgement criteria can be found in the Old Library meeting notes here.

The next meeting of the Old Library committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 30th at 9 AM. 5 PM Meetings will be set up during May for developer presentations to the public. Comments on the proposal can be emailed to Ed Marx, the County Planning Commissioner, at emarx@tompkins-co.org with the subject title “Old Library Property”.

2. Local credit union CFCU (Cornell-Fingerlakes Credit Union) is making some moves by buying a retail commercial strip with an eye towards redevelopment. The property, 501-507 S. Meadow Street, sold for $1,555,550 on March 30th, well above its assessed value of $950,000. According to a statement taken by the Ithaca Journal, “the current intention is to ultimately use the site for credit union-related purposes”.

The one-story, 9,203 sq ft strip buildings date from 1980 and 1990 and previously housed a Thai restaurant and offices for Lama Real Estate, the business of previous owner Robert Lama. The site is currently zoned the suburb-friendly SW-2, but like much of big box land, it has been targeted for urban mixed-use in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. CFCU is currently headquartered in about 30,000 sq ft of office space in two 1990s office buildings at 1030 and 1050 Craft Road in Lansing.

In short, nothing immediate going on here, but definitely a property worth keeping an eye on.

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3. The proposal for a Texas Roadhouse on in Southwest Ithaca is getting a couple minor revisions. According to a cover letter from the restaurant chain, plantings have been revised to break up the expanse of blank walls, handicap ramps are now present in the new elevations, and signage has been tweaked. All in all, not a big change from the previously-shown drawings. It doesn’t look like this one will have too many issues moving forward.

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4. At the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) meeting on the 8th, the city voted to approve the sale of land at 320-324 E. State Street to Lighthouse Hotels LLC for construction of the new Hilton Canopy Hotel. Also up for discussion was the removal of 30′ setbacks on all sides of the special MH-1 zoning at the Nate’s Floral Estates mobile home park on the west side of the city. With the 30′ rear yard setbacks already in place and vegetative buffers installed by the big boxes to the south, it was felt by the city economic developer planner that the additional setback was redundant. The removal would facilitate setbacks reduced to 10′ on one side and 5′ on the other side, if I’m reading this right. According to the notes, the mobile home park has a waiting list of tenants. The proposal looks like it will allow a few more units in the park, though it looks pretty tightly packed as-is.

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5. According to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) notes from the April 2nd meeting agenda, the board was not impressed with the Flatiron proposal. On page 6, it gives the project low pritority, with the description “not feasible as presented“. On the other hand, the INHS Hancock Street project was well received and given high priority.

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6. Looking at the March Planning and Development Board meeting minutes, 402 S. Cayuga Street has been approved, pending BZA approval of the variance (which was granted this week, if I have my notes right). The 4-unit, 9-bedroom project may be small, but it’s thoughtful infill and will help bring some affordable owner-occupied housing back into the city.

Approvals were also granted for the city project to replace the Lake Street this summer and fall, and refurbish the pocket park to its southeast. 210 Hancock was discussed without any voting, and sketch plans were presented for the TFC HQ downtown, and the 215 West Spencer Street apartment project, which have been written about previously. The board also discussed added additional questions to the CEQR (the city’s version of the SEQR used in project impact analysis), and the revised paperwork will be reviewed at a later meeting.

Oh, and on a more personal note, this totally made my day:

D. 2014 Planning Board Annual Report

[Senior city planner Lisa] Nicholas briefly walked through the annual report, observing it was a very busy year with a considerable number of additional housing units built. [Board member Garrick] Blalock asked if the annual report is publicized. Nicholas replied, no. Blalock replied it should at least be sent to the “Ithacating in Cornell Heights” and “IthacaBuilds” web sites. Nicholas agreed to do so.
I’ll be excited to have a copy. This would make scouting locations where construction photo updates are required a lot easier.

7. Wrapping this up with one final news piece, it looks like Dunkin’ Donuts is moving into the old Johnny O’s space at 406 College Avenue in Collegetown. So there will be one corporate coffee shop next to another corporate coffee shop and sharing a wall with a trendy fro-yo place. There’s probably a sociology thesis to be had in studying the changing retail scene of Collegetown.





707 East Seneca Street Construction Update 4/2015

10 04 2015

Another infill project is underway in the East Hill Historic District between Downtown and Collegetown. 707 East Seneca, like 202 Eddy Street and 140 College Avenue, had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board and zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals have been granted.

The ILPC-approved design is made to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the building. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) last summer, and the lot was sold for $130,000 on December 22nd (the market asking price was $175,000, and the assessed value of the land is $100,000, so the final price looks pretty reasonable).

The apartment building planned is a 3-story, 6-unit, 18-bedroom structure with 4 garage parking units in a basement built into the hillside, and five surface parking spaces. According to documents filed with the city, target completion is July of 2015. Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

Without getting a good look at the back of the now fenced-off property, it looks like the site has been cleared and excavation is underway for the retaining walls and foundation. Being a sloped site, retaining walls will be built on the west edge of the property (right side of the photos) and for tree wells, and the east portion will use a sloped bank built using fill material. Offhand, I think I remember seeing that the building itself will be assembled from modular pieces, craned into place on the foundation over a day or two, not unlike the method used at the Belle Sherman Cottages.

The design of the building is by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, and the developer is Ithacan Todd Fox.

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140 College Avenue Construction Update 4/2015

9 04 2015

Just up the street from 114 Catherine and a couple blocks from 202 Eddy is 140 College Avenue, also known as the John Snaith House. Since last fall, work has been underway on a 3,800 sq ft, 12-bedroom addition to the 1874 structure.

John Snaith was an English builder, stone cutter and architect who came to Ithaca in 1869 to do work on Ezra Cornell’s Llenroc mansion (under construction at the time) and other buildings for the nascent university. Snaith lived in Ithaca for over a decade. He built the original Ithaca High School (destroyed by fire in 1912) and did work on the Sage Mansion, where he was fired by the ever-impatient Henry Sage.

After Snaith moved to Albany, the house was used as a boarding house, a B&B in the 1980s, and a private single-family home. The house was rented out to a landlady and her boarders when it was partially destroyed by fire in 1894. Snaith rebuilt the home shortly before his passing in 1896, but redesigned the top floor with mansard trusses and added dormer windows. Today, it’s student-oriented housing.

The addition is a sympathetic design approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (the house was designated a historic structure in 2011), separated from the original house by a glass “hyphen” connector. In the photos below, lap siding has been installed on the street-facing east wall, and uncovered plywood and house wrap can be seen in the rear. The slight variation in the mansard roof tiles are a nice touch. Windows have been installed, and I’d venture a guess that interior framing is complete and rough-in (plumbing, electrical) is underway in the addition.

The project is designed by local architect Jason Demarest and developed by Po Family Realty, a smaller Collegetown landlord.

None of the larger projects in Collegetown are underway just yet, but that will likely change when their current tenants’ leases are done June 1st. The following year or so should be very hectic in the neighborhood, with 307 College (96 beds), 327 Eddy (64 beds) and 205 Dryden (40 beds) all expected to start this summer, and Collegetown Terrace expected to start construction of its 300+ bed phase III this year. A quick check of the neighborhood showed that construction has not yet started on two other small projects, the 6-bedroom duplex planned behind 424 Dryden and the 18-bed 3-building project at 804 E. State Street.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update 4/2015

8 04 2015

Work has commenced on the foundation for the new 3-unit, 17 bedroom apartment building at 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. Plans were approved by the city of Ithaca late last year, and with the worst of winter over (though snow in early April definitely makes one second guess that), construction has been able to proceed on the new building.

The parking lot that once fronted the street is gone. Wooden forms are in place for holding the concrete once it is poured, and rebar criss-crosses the space between the forms. Rebar is used to strengthen and reinforce concrete, the concrete bonds with the steel bars as it hardens. It looks like the east wall of the foundation has already been poured. A blue waterproof membrane can be seen on the concrete in the last photo.

The architect is a Collegetown favorite, local architectural firm Jagat Sharma. The building is being developed by Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed by August in time for the fall semester.

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202 Eddy Street Construction Update 4/2015

7 04 2015

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After being destroyed by a fire last March, reconstruction is underway at the site of 202 Eddy Street in Collegetown. Following the disaster, developer Nick Lambrou vowed to rebuild on the site. Being a part of the East Hill Historic District, any new structure needed to be approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council. After thorough review, the ILPC approved plans for a new 12-bedroom apartment building that completely replaces the fire-damaged building.

The new structure is a faithful interpretation of the original building, though it’s not an exact copy. An entrance door was repositioned, exterior emergency stairs will be internalized, and a chimney will not be rebuilt, but otherwise, its a close approximation of the original 19th century home. The architect is Ithaca-based Jagat Sharma, who has previous experience from the reconstruction of Sigma Pi’s house when it burnt down in 1995.

In these photos from last Sunday, the concrete foundation has been poured, and the first two floors are framed with plywood and covered in Tyvek house wrap to keep out moisture. Rough framing is underway on the top floor and cupola, and the mansard roof trusses are complete but the roof itself is still in progress. Rough openings in the walls indicate future window locations, although some spots are not as obvious since they’re covered by the house wrap.

Plans call for the new building to be completed and ready for occupancy by August, in time for the fall 2015 semester.

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Apartments Planned for 215-221 W. Spencer Street

6 04 2015

I owe a big thanks to Charles Pyott with the city of Ithaca for getting a copy of the sketch plans for 215 West Spencer. I had initially thought nothing was presented at the March Planning Board meeting, but the March PDB meeting minutes said otherwise. I made an inquiry, and he was able to obtain a copy of the sketch plan from the applicant. So a big kudos to you Charles.

A copy has been uploaded to the City of Ithaca website here.

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At its March meeting, the city planning board reviewed a sketch plan for a proposed apartment building at 215-221 West Spencer Street, just south of Six Mile Creek and a few blocks from downtown Ithaca.

The steeply-sloped 0.47 acre parcel has been vacant for several years, and currently sees use as an informal 12-space parking lot. The lot is in a R-3a residential zone that allows for a 40′ structure with 35% lot coverage.

Previously, a dilapidated apartment building stood on the site. The building and land were purchased by the city for $530,000 in 2003, and sometime after the building was demolished, the land was turned over to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency in 2013.

The property was originally marketed for affordable housing projects only, but received no purchase bids. Once the affordable stipulation was removed, the parcel was marketed once again, and found a buyer – local developer Edward Cope, the owner of local rental agency PPM Homes, bought the parcel for $110,000 on March 6th.

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In the sketch plan presented by local architect Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative, four apartment buildings are presented in a terraced hillside layout, all connecting to a staircase that bisects the north and south buildings. The upper buildings have three floors of windows on the west side, and one floor on the east side. The lower buildings have three floors of windows on the west side, and two floors on the east side.

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According to the Planning Board minutes, each building consists of a ground floor unit and “two side-by-side townhomes above it” – it’s not clear if that means two units per floor, or two units total on the upper floors. It could be 20 units or 12 units, pending clarification. The 12 parking spaces on the Cayuga Street side of the property would be maintained and paved.

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In the sketch plan document, two versions are presented – the aerial renderings show a different design than the site elevations. It’s not clear which is the current iteration, though the site sections show much greater detail (I suspect they are the more accurate of the two).

 

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Expect some revisions moving forward – planning board members expressed a desire for a more prominent connection between Spencer and Cayuga Streets (a “grand formal stairway”) and reworking the Spencer Street facade to make it more visually interesting.

 





News Tidbits 4/4/15: And They Called It “PlanIthaca”

4 04 2015

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1. According to Ithaca Builds and those on a VIP list-serve, the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek have released tentative rental prices. $1,220/month for a studio to $2,655/month for a top-notch 2 bedroom. Using the affordability rule (30% of monthly income), one gets $48,800-$106,200 year – given the median income in Tompkins County of just over $53,000/yr, these prices could be described as upper-middle tier. I can already hear the grumbling from commenters on the Ithaca Voice if a construction update gets posted.

The 45 units are set to be completed this summer, but those looking to take a sneak peek can sign up for an April 18th tour of the building, courtesy of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

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2. Here’s an updated aerial site rendering of INHS’s 210 Hancock redevelopment. The changes to the affordable housing proposal are largely in site landscaping and layout, the biggest changes being the closure Lake Avenue and moving the playground (which is not rendered in the aerial). Traffic studies, stormwater management plans, and parking studies can be found here (it turns out that compared to the old supermarket, there will be slightly more AM traffic, and a lot less PM traffic), revised site layout here, and about 18 other documents in the April site plan review planning board directory on the city’s website. 210 Hancock will be undergoing review by the city Planning and Development Board at their April meeting.

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3. Turning to another INHS project, the Greenways development is going for final approval with the town of Ithaca’s Planning Board next Tuesday. The full suite of documents can be found here. The designs above, for buildings A, B, C, D, and E in Phase I, are very nearly final, though Building C looks like it was accidentally uploaded in grey-scale. B-E will have three units each, 2 2-bedroom (1,100 sq ft) and 1 3-bedroom (1,300 sq ft). Building A will have 2 2-bedroom and 2 3-bedroom units. In sum, Phase I has 16 units and 38 bedrooms. Assuming the other units are the same configuration, the final product will have 46 units and 110 bedrooms. Build-out could take 6-8 years according to the docs, and Building K in Phase II interferes with 0.09 acres of wetland, which the Army Corps of engineers requires to be filled in before development (wetlands under 0.1 acres and not contiguous with any other wetland can be filled in without need of replacement).

The designs are by local architect Claudia Brenner. The floorplans are designed with nearly identical layouts to save money, but the varied use of exterior architectural details and colors does a nice job of giving each building a unique appearance.

Readers might recall that these for-sale owner-occupied units are being developed for the affordable housing segment (individuals/families with incomes of $38k-$57k), and that Cornell is giving INHS the property for below market price on the condition that Cornell employees that fall into the income restraints have first dibs on the units as they hit the market. The property also makes use of “woonerfs“, so-called living streets that are shared by bikers, pedestrians and vehicles, and typically have a speed limit of no more than 10-12 MPH.

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4. The city of Ithaca’s draft Comprehensive Plan is now online. The 66-page draft, called “PlanIthaca”, can be looked at here, and the proposed land use map here. Over the past year, the Comprehensive Plan Committee has been busy fleshing out the original 16-page draft document to the full-fledged PlanIthaca document above. The city will be hosting a series of open houses throughout the city during April for interested parties to look through the plan and comment, with the first open house on Monday April 13th from 3:30-5 PM at St. Luke’s in Collegetown. Comments can also be submitted by email to city planner Megan Wilson at mwilson@cityofithaca.org.

I’ll probably expand on the plan in a future post, but readers of the blog won’t be surprised by anything it says. The map appears to be lacking the neighborhood mixed-use zoning, which from reading the plan appears to be an accident. Otherwise it’s the exact same map from last spring’s write-up.  There’s a couple of interesting concepts that will be explored as things move forward beyond the plan – ideas such as city-wide form-based zoning and a transfer of development rights between properties would make for a large departure from current policies.

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5. If you’re looking for a little more light weekend reading, feel free to check out the double feature article on the Tompkins Financial HQ plans running the weekend on the Ithaca Voice. Summing up a few salient details here, the total project will cost $26.5 million, add 77 new jobs downtown over the next decade, and run from about June 2015 to January or February 2017. The new headquarters will be about 110,000 square feet in size, 7 stories and 100 feet tall, the maximum allowed by zoning. The first floor will have a 6,600 square foot (66 feet x 100 feet) bank branch, with parking for 20-25 cars behind the first floor and under the overhanging upper floors. A basement floor will also add 6,600 sq ft of space, and floors 2-7 will have 16,300 square feet each. Across the street at 119 East Seneca Street, a new drive-thru will be built underneath the existing building, consisting of revised drive-thru lanes, surface parking, an ATM and a 985 square foot teller building.