News Tidbits 11/21/15: Building and Rebuilding

21 11 2015

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1. Starting off this week with some eye candy, here are some updates renders of the townhouses proposed for INHS’s 210 Hancock project in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Details and project status here. 210 Hancock has been approved by the Planning Board, and Cornell, the city and county do have dedicated funds ($200,000 total) going towards the affordable housing units, but still needs to be seventeen conditions prior to receiving a construction permit, one of which required revised townhouses to better reflect the neighborhood. The Common Council also need to vote to discontinue using the sections of Lake Avenue and Adams Street on which the new greenways and playground will be constructed, which apart from the time needed and paperwork generated, isn’t expected to encounter any obstacles, with formal conveyance to INHS anticipated by March 2016. INHS is shooting for a May construction start.

The Planning Board will be voting on “satisfaction of site plan approval” at its meeting next Tuesday, which should be a fairly smooth procedure, if the paperwork’s all correct.

Personal opinion, the townhouses, with more color and variation in style, appear to be an improvement over the previous version. These five will be rentals, while the other seven will be for-sale units, and built in a later phase (government funding for affordable rentals is easier to obtain than it is for affordable owner-occupied units, so it could take a year or two for those seven to get the necessary funding). The apartments have not had any substantial design changes since approval.


For what it’s worth, here’s the final site plan. The rental townhomes will be on the north corner of the parcel, furthest from Hancock.

2. Turning attention to the suburbs, someone’s put up some sizable chunks of land for sale in Lansing village. The properties consist of four parcels – 16.87 acres (the western parcel) for $500,000, right next to a previously-listed threesome of 28.07 acres (the eastern parcels) for $650,000. The eastern parcel also comes with a house, which the listing pretty much ignores. Lansing has it zoned as low-density residential, and given the prices (the western parcel is assessed at $397,600, the eastern parcels at $561,100 (1, 2, and 3)) and being surrounded by development on three sides, these seem likely to become suburban housing developments, possibly one big 30-lot development if the parcels are merged. For the suburbanites out there, it’s something to monitor.

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3. House of the week – or in this case, tiny house of the week. The 1-bedroom, 650 SF carriage house underway at 201 West Clinton Street draws inspiration from 19th century carriage houses, which makes sense given that it’s in Henry St. John Historic District. It and the main house are owned by former Planning Board member Isabel Fernández and her partner, TWMLA architect Zac Boggs. The two of them did a major and meticulous restoration of the main house, which used to house the local Red Cross chapter, a couple of years ago (more info on that here).

Anyway, the framing is underway and some ZIP System sheathing has been applied to the exterior plywood. No roof yet and probably not much in the way of interior rough-ins, but give it a couple of months and that 1960s garage will be given a new life as a tiny house.


4. Time to take a look at the Planning and Development Board agenda for next Tuesday. For reference, here’s what a typical project guideline looks like:

PDB (Sketch Plan) -> PDB (Declaration of Lead Agency) -> PDB (Determination of Env’tal Signif., PDB BZA reccomendation if necessary) -> BZA (if necessary) -> PDB (prelim/final approval).

Here’s the meat of the agenda:

A. 210 Hancock – Satisfaction of Conditions of Site Plan Approval (see above)
B. 215-221 Spencer St. – Consideration of Prelim/Final Site Plan Approval  – this one was first presented as sketch plan in March, to give an idea of how long this has been in front of the boards
C. 416-418 East State Street – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – “The Printing Press” jazz bar is a proposed re-use for a former printshop and warehouse that has seen heavy neighbor opposition. The bar has changed its emphasis, redesigned the landscape and moved itself to a more internal location to mitigate concerns, but the opposition is still strong, mostly focusing on noise and traffic. The board has simply and succinctly recommended that the BZA grant a zoning variance.
D. 327 Elmira Road – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – The Herson Wagner Funeral Home project. This one’s had pretty smooth sailing so far, only a couple complaints that Elmira Road isn’t appropriate for a funeral home. The Planning Board, however, applauds the proposal, which replaces a construction equipment storage yard, for better interfacing with the residential neighbors at the back of its property. It has been recommended for BZA approval.
E. Simeon’s on the Commons Rebuild – Presentation & Design Review Meeting – Before anyone throws up their arms, this is only to talk about the materials and design of the reconstruction, and to get the planning board’s comment and recommendations.
F. The Chapter House Rebuild – Sketch Plan – The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) must have come to some kind of acceptance on the proposed rebuild if the Chapter House is finally at the sketch plan stage. the Planning Board will have their own recommendations, which will have to be coordinated to some degree with the ILPC (the ILPC is arguably the much stricter of the two). We’ll see how it looks next week.
G. Hughes Hall Renovations – Sketch Plan – more on that in a moment
H. DeWitt House (Old Library Site) – Sketch Plan – originally slated to be seen a couple months ago, but pulled from the agenda. The 60-unit project is not only subject to Planning Board review, but ILPC review since it’s in the DeWitt Park Historic District.

5. So, Hughes Hall. Hughes Hall, built in 1963, has dorm housing and dining facilities for Cornell students attending the law school, but those 47 students will need to find alternative housing once the hall closes in May 2016 (yes, with Maplewood closing as well, Cornell is putting 527 graduate and professional students out on the open market next year…it’s gonna be rough). However, this has kinda been known for a while. Cornell has intended to renovate Hughes Hall since at least 2011, as Phase III of its law school expansion and renovation. The building was used as swing space while Phase I was underway, and then the phases were flipped and Phase II became Hughes Hall’s renovation, while Phase III became Myron Taylor Hall’s renovation. According to Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, who designed the law school addition (Phase I), the Hughes Hall renovation will “house offices, administrative support spaces, academic programs and meeting spaces.” Well see how the renovated digs look at Tuesday’s meeting.



11 responses

21 11 2015

It’s really shamefull that CU is displacing over 500 grad students, with no plan of where they should go. Shamefull – a large portion (probably solid majority) of Maplewood are international students who A) don’t have families with disposable income to help with security deposits/last month rent, B) come from overseas with no prior visit to understand the neighborhoods and where to live, C) understand the American way of rental markets.

There’s going to be a great many international students getting taken advantage of by predatory landlords overcharging for poorly maintained property. Shamefull Cornell didn’t have bridge housing worked out.

21 11 2015
B. C.

It’s incredibly disconcerting. Tompkins County as a whole issued construction permits for 301 residential units last year, of which only 129 were apartments. This year, with Collegetown Terrace (247 units, 344 beds) finally underway, it’s probably closer to 400 apartment units for the whole county, but the Terrace’s units won’t be ready until 2017. Cornell is essentially depositing 527 students, plus the 200 or so from annual student population growth, into an area physically and politically ill-equipped to handle that many students entering the open market. It’s a terrible situation, not only for the students as you noted, but because those are hundreds of more apartments that will be taken away from the general population in need of housing. Housing costs are going to spike. Cornell’s lack of foresight and stewardship here is appalling.

21 11 2015

Who is responsible for such decision. I’m guessing the Facilities Management folks, but the final approval must come further up the chain.
As you noted BC, this affects the whole area. With such a tight housing market it would seem the city and Cornell should have a line of communication when a major change like this takes place.
Plus the fact that the city is dragging its feet on the Triangle project, which wouldn’t have an impact on this problem, but could on future issues, shows that the region’s citizens are paying the price as well as the students.

21 11 2015
B. C.

Facilities would play a role, but the decision-making process spans several units, with numerous chances for input from regular staff up to the executive level. I strongly suspect Cornell is dragging their feet and trying to reduce their housing capacity because it doesn’t pay itself off quite the same research and educational space can. Lab space and faculty offices are primary, dorms and support services are ancillary and unnecessary in the eyes of Cornell’s senior staff and faculty.

As for SST, we might as well be treating that as a dead project. There’s been no news for months. CA may not want to make an official announcement because that might give the opposition a chance to reduce the zoning, if they know there isn’t something still on the table that could result in a lawsuit.

21 11 2015
Cornell PhD

Are we to understand that not only will Hughes Hall be taken offline temporarily, but that it will be converted from housing to offices permanently? That’s a much bigger problem in terms of Ithaca’s overall housing capacity.

B.C., I feel like the graduate housing issue is something that would lend itself well to an Ithaca Voice editorial. It’s an issue that affects the larger community and it might get Cornell to pay more attention. I mean, they’re shooting themselves in the foot on this; their reputation suffers if they force grad students into substandard/overpriced housing. You can’t have cutting edge, remunerative research at all if the best students are opting to live in places where they can live much better with their money – attracting the best faculty, the best grant money, etc., along with them.

22 11 2015

^ +1

22 11 2015
B. C.

I’ve been thinking about it. Generally, the Voice shies away from editorials nowadays because many of the previous ones have received chilly receptions. But I think there’s a strong argument here. I’ll pitch the idea to Jeff Stein tomorrow morning.

23 11 2015

B.C.- were you able to bring Jeff Stein to the light? It’s a story with juice. There’s a decade of history of CU quietly divesting from housing grads, so that it can replace them with housing the growing undergrads (starting on N. campus). For about a decade+ CU knew Maplewood was toast, but did nothing to notify or rectify appropriate. Now many international students will have a harder time adjusting, the housing market is screwed, and the appeal of CU to grad students could diminish.

Talk to former GPSA presidents. I know this was a hot topic around 2009/2010ish.

23 11 2015
23 11 2015
Cornell PhD

Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention, BC!

23 11 2015

The Voice really should not let the loud idiots who comment on facebook determine what they do. There are probably lots of people who are interested, including some truly influential people, reading Voice articles who won’t comment because they don’t want to go on the very public record taking sides on these political issues. The ones who you want to reach are smart enough to be discreet.

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