Are Rents (Finally) Dropping in Ithaca?

29 12 2015

20150727_145641

So here’s something that one doesn’t see very often. Real estate information company RealtyTrac, in its recently-released study of rental affordability, is calling for the Ithaca metro (a.k.a. Tompkins County) to have one of the biggest rent year-to-year decreases in rent nationwide from 2015 to 2016.

Are the economic woes and job losses real? Has their been progress made by new units hitting the market? Are fewer people renting?

Maybe. But before jumping to any conclusions, let’s take a look at the way the numbers were created. According to RealtyTrac, the rent numbers were based off of 50th percentile rents (median) for Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016 estimates on 3-bedroom properties.

That it’s limited to 3-bedroom units should probably be caution light number one. In most urban markets, 3-bedrooms make up 10-15% percent of the rental market. In Ithaca the number of all rental units with 3-bedrooms or more was 19.1% in 2011. In the Ithaca market especially, units with a higher number of bedrooms tend to be marketed to undergrads in neighborhoods like Collegetown. In other words, RealtyTrac’s numbers might not be getting a good reflection of the local market, and maybe a rough idea of the student market at best.

So that’s the initial impression. Now to go straight to the source. Here’s the Federal HUD rental data for 2015 and 2016 in Ithaca:

Ithaca 2015 Monthly Rent 50th Percentile

Studio $852

1 Bedroom $1044

2 Bedroom $1251

3 Bedroom $1733

4 bedroom+ $1739

Ithaca Anticipated 2016 Monthly Rent 50th Percentile

Studio $903 (+6.0%)

1 Bedroom $1035 (-0.9%)

2 Bedroom $1198(-4.2%)

3 Bedroom $1554 (-10.3%)

4 bedroom+ $1776 (+2.1%)

For the sake of acknowledgement, according to the HUD Docs, when determining rents for units above 4 bedrooms, the agency adds 15% to the 4-bedroom rent for each additional bedroom, so a 5-bedroom rent is 115% of the 4-bedroom rent and a 6-bedroom unit is 130%. The 50th percentile rent for Single Room Occupancy is 75% of the 0-bedroom (studio) rent.

The gut feeling looking at this is that something really odd happened with those 2016 estimates. The calculated median rent for 3-bedroom dropped over 10%. Digging in a little further, let’s pull the 50th percentile (median) rent data for 2010 to 2016 and see how the bigger picture looks.
ith_median_rent_2010_2016

Looking at the past several years, there are a few cases of numbers dropping slightly. Studios from 2012-2013 and 4-bedrooms from 2011-2012 show bigger drops, but there’s also fewer units in those categories, they make up much smaller percentages of the Ithaca rental market. The 1 and 2 bedroom units, which make up the lion’s share of apartments on the market, show the occasional year-to-year drop, but the effect is slight and the overall trend is steadily upwards – from 2010-2015, the median rent on a 1-bedroom increased 20.8%, and a 2-bedroom increased 21.2%, well above wage gains.

As for 3-bedrooms, from 2010-2015 the median rent increased from $1,232 to $1,733, 24.4%. While not impossible, a 10% drop in the average rent for 3-bedroom units to $1,554 seems unlikely.

And that’s fine. The HUD released the 2016 numbers as estimates. They will be revised and finalized next spring.

But being estimates, they’re prone to error. One that RealtyTrac incorporated into their analysis, and leading to what’s likely an incorrect conclusion, though not any fault of their own.

So, not to be the bearer of bad news, but this housing crisis doesn’t look like it’s abating just yet. Though, there’s always the chance that the rents are actually dropping fast. We’ll just have to wait to see if the revised numbers back this conclusion up, or prove it wrong.

 

 

 

 





News Tidbits 12/26/15: Do You Hear What I Hear

26 12 2015

1. Not as visible, but still important – Student Agencies Inc. has secured a $3 million construction loan from Tompkins Trust Company for a major renovation of its building at 409 College Avenue. Although details about the project itself are a bit scarce in the paperwork filed on the 18th, it is likely the eHub entrepreneurial space being built for Cornell students, faculty and staff. The eHub space will include space for PopShop (a space for student business planning and development), the eLab business incubator, conference space, mentors-in-residence, and basically all the physical space and things a budding businessperson would like to help them succeed.

According to a previous write-up by the Cornell Chronicle, the lab should be open later this Spring, with 10,000 SF on the second and third floors of 409 College Avenue, and 4,000 SF of space in Kennedy Hall on the Ag Quad. STREAM Collaborative of Ithaca will be the interior architect for 409 College, and Ithaca-based Morse Project Management LLC is the general contractor.

Now, this could be a great thing for Ithaca, because it leverages Cornell’s presence to foster business development. Sort of like a Cornell-centric Rev. And Rev, for what it’s worth, has had several successful associated firms in the past couple of years – Ursa Space Systems was named a STARTUP-NY partner and will be hiring 22 people, and Ithaca Hummus is looking at hiring 50 over the next five years. Even the Ithaca Voice grew from what was basically a one-person operation when it launched in June 2014 (hat-tip to Jeff Stein), to having several full-time staff as well as giving Ithaca a higher profile through viral hits like the Key West promotion and the Harry Potter Wizarding Weekend.

Anything that allows Ithaca to grow and diversify its economy is a great thing, and if it can utilize Cornell’s presence to help that cause, all the better.

20151205_124218

2. The Lansing Star is reporting that 2015 was a banner year in Lansing, with 200 single-family homes, apartments and townhouse in the works. Along with the 20 or so plans reviewed, the town is also looking at revising its Comprehensive Plan, and the town may even consider the adoption of form-based codes in certain locations such as the proposed and stalled Lansing Town Center.

One caveat I’d add is that the key word is reviewed, meaning approved. Not underway. The 102-townhome Cayuga Farms project still had major issues to work out with its proposed package sewer system. If one were to look at permits, it’d probably be 36 or so units with the Village Solars, and probably as many with scattered single-family homes and duplexes, which would make for an average-to-above average year – final 2015 values will be available from the HUD in March. The village could see a big boost from its usual single-digit permit total, if the Cayuga View project gets its construction permit this year.

cayuga_view_1

3. Speaking of Cayuga View, the price point came up at a Lansing village meetings, the minutes of which came online this week. Drumroll please—

The targeted price point is $1600/month for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit (of which there will be 12), and $2700/month for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit (of which there will be 48).

That’s quite a high figure. Applying the standard 30% affordability threshold, the targeted income bracket for seniors is $64,000-$108,000/year. That’s comparable, or a little more than, the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek. It also draws parallels to inner Collegetown projects like Dryden South, where rents will be $1350/bedroom. But those projects fall in traditionally high land-value areas.

If it’s financed, then a lender must believe there’s a market for it, and given the general difficulty in financing projects in this region, that really is saying something. Increased affluence and number of retirees moving in? Hoping to capture the older, richer Cornell faculty/staff crowd? Bad judgement? Who knows.

tfc_v2_1

4. In the briefest of blurbs, the Times’ Josh Brokaw, who I applaud for attending even the less interesting city Planning Board meetings, reports that the Tompkins Trust HQ has been approved, with a permit likely once they get a minor curb-cut issue worked out. The contentious Printing Press Lounge debate also received the Planning Board’s go-ahead, if not necessarily its blessing. Expect a late winter or early spring construction start with the Tompkins Trust HQ, with completion the following year.

biggs_1

5. A couple of interesting developments for the Biggs Parcel in Ithaca town. According to the Times’ Jaime Cone (new writer, guys?), a member of the ICNA, Roy Luft, is prepared to make an offer for the Biggs Parcel that would preserve the vast majority of the land. Luft owns a 10-acre parcel to the south (street address 1317 Trumansburg Road). He proposes to take a non-wetland portion on the southern end of the Biggs Parcel, combine it with the open field behind his house, and pursue a cluster subdivision of homes intended as owner-occupied senior housing, which on the surface seems like a decent plan and location, given that owner-occupied senior housing is in demand and the land is adjacent to Cayuga Medical.

With this offer aired, the county, in a 4-1 vote, is giving the ICNA until January 15th to make an offer, otherwise they’ll put the land for sale on the general market. There is no assessment figure publicly available (though a new value has been determined); the ICNA says that’s unfair, while the county legislators have countered by saying not having the assessment value doesn’t stop the ICNA from making an offer, and that the neighbor group has already had a year and a half to make an offer.

20151205_134719

6. Once again, a double-feature house of the week. The theme of this week – high-end homes. Here we have home #1, 8 Pleasant Grove Lane in Cayuga Heights. The house has been mostly framed and the sides have been sheathed, but from the looks of the exposed roof trusses, if would seem that when this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, the dormers still needed to be decked and the interior was still just stud walls and rough openings.

Design-wise, the home seems to fit in pretty well with its neighbors, which were mostly built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The property was purchased in 2012 for $132,500 by an LLC traceable to a coach for a Cornell athletics team. Previously, the lot had been owned by its Pleasant Grove Road neighbors, and was sold in an estate sale.

20151205_131313 20151205_131331

7. House of the week #2. I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the one house under construction that seems to have the entire lakefront mansion community so utterly pissed off. For the record, this house on the Captains Walk cul-de-sac has been under construction for years – you can see it in the satellite imagery for Google maps, which dates from 2013. It also appears to be even larger than many of its million-dollar neighbors. Three-car garage? Check. Courtyard-type entry? Check. Windows have been fitted, the roof has been shingled and the exterior has been sheathed with Huber ZIP System panels. A spring finish would be a good guess. Records indicate a couple from Pennsylvania, the founders of a chain of assisted care facilities, bought the undeveloped parcel for $213,800 in 2013.





News Tidbits 12/19/15: So New Even the Pavement Shines

19 12 2015

cayuga_view_1

1. We’ll start off this week with some eye candy. Over in Lansing village, the planning board is hammering out details regarding signage and covenants related to the Cinema Drive senior housing project. But it also gives the project a new name – from C.U. Suites to “Cayuga View Senior Living“. Lo and behold, one types that into Google and up comes the following partially-finished website. The name sounded familiar, and as it turns out there’s a good reason for that – Cayuga View is also the name of a portion of the Linderman Creek apartment complex in the town of Ithaca.

According to the website, the 55+ (“55 and BETTER”, as they tout on the page) apartment building at 50 Cinema Drive will contain 48 2-bedroom units and 12 1-bedroom units with four different four plans. The 4-story apartment building will have retail space on the first floor, “and will offer underground parking and storage, wireless internet, cable, business center, fitness center, rooftop garden, and scenic views. A companion dog or cat under 30 pounds will be allowed.”

No word on the project architect, but the project is being developed by the Thaler family, and Taylor the Builders out of suburban Rochester is the general contractor. The site was originally conceived as an office building several years ago, and then around 2012 it was proposed as a 39-unit mixed-use apartment building with an eye towards graduate students.

amabel_v4_1

2. Sticking with residential development and fancy renders, here’s the latest render for New Earth Living LLC’s Amabel housing development, courtesy of their Facebook page. Final approval was granted just this week by the town of Ithaca. The 31-unit eco-friendly housing development (consisting of one standing farmhouse and 30 new homes facing inward from a loop road) will be located on undeveloped grass/woodland behind 619 Five Mile Drive. In the project literature, the site is said to be designed around a “pocket neighborhood” concept, with the houses facing towards each other for interaction, and away from the street for privacy. The houses may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but are designed for net-zero efficiency. Houses range from 1-3 bedrooms and 1,200-2,100 SF. No specific prices yet, but expect marketing to begin sometime early next year.

3. For the aspiring developer who wants to get a head start on planning – the 11.71 acre Bella Vista site at 901-999 Cliff Street in the city’s West Hill neighborhood is for sale for $395,000. As the advertisement on Homefinder notes, the project has received approvals for a 44-unit apartment or condo building (what it doesn’t say is that those would have to be renewed via a reaffirming vote by the planning board, since the project was approved more than two years ago). The property is currently assessed for $210,000.

w592-h-q

Primary Developers Inc., a company founded by local businessman Mauro Marinelli, purchased the land for $175,000 in 2002 and received approvals for the 44-unit Bella Vista project in 2007, and the units were marketed by local realtors as condominiums. But as the recession set in, sales foundered and the project never moved forward. Primary Developers Inc. sold the medical office building on the adjacent southern parcel and two other neighboring parcels of land to another local real estate company for $945,000 earlier this year.

chapter_house_materials

4. Some minor tweaks to the Chapter House project since its November sketch plan presentation to the Ithaca city planning board, which looks to mostly be a slightly lighter brick color and a little more detail on the rear wall. From top to bottom, the Chapter House reconstruction proposes Rheinzink zinc shingles, white trim of unknown material, a Redland Brick Heritage SWB bricks, Inspire Roofing Aldeora Slate Coachman (790) simulated slate shingles over the first floor bump-out, SDL (Simulated Divided Lites) transom windows with LePage Morocco textured glass glazing over the picture windows, Sherwin Williams “Tricorn Black” paint on the Chapter House bar exterior trim, and genuine bluestone not unlike the famous Llenroc bluestone used in many of Ithaca’s historic buildings. As far as they look online, they appear to be attractive, premium finishes.

The owner, Sebastian Mascaro of Florida and represented by Jerry Dietz of CSP Management, hopes to start construction in late January or early February for an August 2016 opening.

cornell_novarr_6

5. Note that there was ever much doubt, but it looks like local developers John Novarr and Philip Proujansky have secured the construction loan(s) needed to build 209-215 Dryden Road in Collegetown, a six-story academic and office building in which Cornell has committed to occupy 100% of the space for use in its Executive MBA program. According to loan documents filed with the county, there were two loans, one for $6,482,295.33 and the other for $9,430,528 (for a total of $15,912,823.33). Wells Fargo Northwest was the lender, and it looks like some of the funds are going through a “pass-through” trust.

The 73,000 SF building will host about 420 Cornell MBA students and staff when it opens in late Spring 2017, later increasing to 600 as Cornell fills out the rest of the square footage. Hayner Hoyt Corporation of Syracuse will be the general contractor. Ikon.5 of Princeton is the project architect.

20151205_094944 20151205_094957

6. Going to do a double-feature for house of the week this week, mostly because I have a backlog of images. Here’s number one.

The last house is underway at the Belle Sherman Cottages. After not hearing anything about it, I had presumed they had just decided not to build Lot #9, which is smaller than the other lots and was going to have a unique “cottage” design. Well, color me surprised. The town of Ithaca issued a permit in early November, and by the 5th of this month, the CMU block foundation was excavated and poured. Looking at builder Carina Construction’s facebook page, the modular units have since arrived and have been hoisted onto the foundation, assembled and secured. Custom interior finishes, porch framing, siding, backfilling and landscaping will follow as the house moves towards completion.

No renders for the finished house, unfortunately, although I suppose STREAM Collaborative might have something on file. Agora Home LLC of Skaneateles is the developer of the Belle Sherman Cottages, which includes 18 other single-family homes and 10 townhouses, all of which have been completed and sold.

20151205_095437 20151205_095453 20151205_095528

424_dryden_rd_1

7. Now for House of the Week #2. 424 Dryden Road’s subdivision earlier this year turned the rear parking lot into a second lot, and the owners, William and Angie Chen of Lansing, decided to build a duplex on the land, which has been bestowed the address of 319 Oak Avenue.

It seems a little odd that the trim already seems to be applied to the house when the windows haven’t been fitted yet. The standard Huber ZIP System sheathing is being covered with a mahogany-colored vinyl siding. Wooden wall studs can be seen from the rough window openings and there appears to be electrical wiring on the rear of the house, so it’s a fair guess that utilities rough-ins are probably underway.

Local architect Daniel R. Hirtler of Flatfield Designs penned the design, and according to the construction loan agreement on file with the county, Tompkins Trust Company lent the Chens $400,000 to help bring their duplex from the drawing board to reality.

416_e_state_v2_1

8. For those hoping for something new and exciting in next week’s Planning Board agenda, it’s going to be a downer month. Here’s what’s planned.

A. Revisions to the internal sidewalk plans at 804 East State Street to allow stripped asphalt vs. concrete.
B. Tweaks to the signage for the downtown Marriott currently under construction.
C. The “Printing Press” bar debate at 416-18 E. State Street, again.
D. Final approval for Tompkins Financial Corporation’s new HQ.

The agenda also includes a couple zoning variance reviews for house additions at 105 First Street in North Side, and 116 West Falls Street in Fall Creek. The board is planning a joint meeting with the ILPC to review and comment on the Travis Hyde plan for the Old Library site, tentatively scheduled for January 12th.





Simeon’s Reconstruction Update, 12/2015

16 12 2015

The intersection of State Street and Aurora Street is a busy little hive of construction activity. Steps from the Marriott and the Carey Building addition, the Griffin Block, better known for its tenant Simeon’s, is continuing reconstruction after June 2014’s tragic crash.

The chute and open windows indicate interior renovations underway in the salvageable part of the ca. 1872 structure, while structural steel framing serves as the the largest indication of the faithful reconstruction planned for the front entrance on the Commons. The outline of the steel approximately outlines where the rebuilt bay windows will be. It’s hard to tell just what work is specifically underway on the basement level and first floor.

According to the October Ithaca Voice article:

“The interior, however, will be thoroughly modernized and reworked. An elevator will be retrofitted into the existing building near where Simeon’s former Aurora Street entrance, and a sprinkler system will be installed throughout the building. Simeon’s will not only occupy the first floor in the new building, the restaurant will have a 40-seat dining area on part of the second floor as well.

Five luxury apartments, a mix of one and two-bedroom units, will also be built on the second and third floors. The Shens did consider applying for historic building restoration federal tax credits, but given the application complications posed by the interior renovations, and the slow process by which the credits are approved, they decided it wasn’t in their best interest.”

The new restaurant is expected to be open around the start of spring (end of Q1 2016), with the apartments ready by late summer. Local architect Jason K. Demarest is in charge of design, and Ithaca-based McPherson Builders is the general contractor. The Shen family received a $1.3 million building loan from the Tompkins Trust Company to pay for the renovation and reconstruction.

 

20151204_154029  20151204_154059 20151204_154147 20151204_154154 20151204_154211

simeons_v2_1 simeons_v2_2





Carey Building Construction Update, 12/2015

15 12 2015

Over at the Carey Building on the 300 Block of East State Street, much of the action is hidden behind layers of scaffolding, swaddling the building while construction work continues through this unseasonably warm (but much appreciated) December Ithaca’s having.

Some of the exterior has been furred out, meaning thing metal strips have been attached to the reflective surface cover (Hunter XCI polyisocyanurate exterior insulation) to help with facade installation. Documents filed with the project plans indicate that terra cotta panels will be installed over the gypsum sheathing boards, and in other less prominent sections of the building, NuTech Stucco (DAFS – Direct Applied Finished System) will be used.

Being that it is December, plastic sheeting has been hung over the future glass curtain wall, in an effort to keep winter’s (normally) icy breezes from making their way in. Looking at the backside, the dark material might be some type of waterproofing cover being applied under the exterior insulation. It looks like the new aluminum windows still have yet to be fitted into the vertical addition.

The Carey Building addition will add a third floor and 4,200 SF to the Rev business incubator (nearly doubling it from 4,500 SF to 8,700 SF), and on floors 4-7, there will be 20 apartments, most of which are studios. Local firm Travis Hyde Companies is developing, John Snyder Architects penned the design, and LeChase Construction is the general contractor. Look for a completion date sometime in spring of 2016.

20151204_153437 20151204_153459 20151204_153532 20151204_153601 20151204_153615 20151204_153652 20151204_153803 20151204_153822

carey_rev5_1 carey_rev5_3





Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 12/2015

14 12 2015

With the foundation work completed, the downtown Ithaca Marriott is heading skyward, now up to the third floor as of these photos from last week. From Green Street, one can see the rising south stairwell, the future trash and recycling room (basement floor), future restrooms and offices on the lobby floor, and hotel rooms on the floors above the lobby. Also on the basement floor are the fitness center, maintenance and linen rooms, storage space and utilities. Delivery trucks will pull in and unload under the cavernous space on the left side of the second photo.

The lobby area facing Aurora Street may just be a concrete shell with some temporary lighting rigs at the moment, but in a year or so, that space will host a new 80-seat restaurant, which will be combination of lounge seats, bar seats and traditional tables. The kitchen and prep area will be set back from the street, facing the Green Street garage.

The second floor facing Aurora Street, which will have a glass curtain wall (or as it’s called in the elevations, a “thermally broken translucent linear channel glazing system”), will contain two large meeting rooms. 4 guestrooms will also be located on the second floor. Above that, the third floor will have 14 guestrooms, assuming the 2013 construction docs are still accurate.

The 10-story, 159 room hotel is expected to cost over $32 million and. According to the Ithaca Times, a general manager has been named and the hotel will officially open for its first guests on August 23rd, 2016. Suburban D.C.-based Urgo Hotels is the developer, Atlanta’s Cooper Carry Architecture is the designer, and William H. Lane Inc. of Binghamton (with a new Ithaca office as of last year) is the general contractor.

20151204_115445 20151204_153039 20151204_153059 20151204_153122 20151204_153203 20151204_153246 20151204_153255 20151204_153406 20151204_153422 20151204_154050 20151204_154219

marriott_rev1_1





Village Solars Apartments Construction Update, 12/2015

13 12 2015

There’s been a fair amount of progress during the late fall at the Village Solars apartment complex site off of the 1000 Block of Warren Road in the town of Lansing. 12-unit Building “D” is finish up attachment of its exterior facade, which like buildings A-C, looks to be a combination of a wood grain board and earth-toned fiber cement board. Balcony railings and trim still have yet to be attached. I didn’t look inside, but based on the photos, it looks like the wood stud walls are still exposed near the entry doors on the first floor.

Across the future pond, 18-unit Building “G/H” (backstory here) has been framed out and some Tyvek-type sheathing has been attached (the material is labelled “Croft Lumber“, which is a building supply store down in Sayre, PA). Some first floor windows and doors have been fitted, but most of the future windows and doors are still rough openings. The roof trusses are all in place, and workers were installing ZIP system plywood sheathing while these photos were being taken.

11-unit Building “E” has had its foundation poured and is only just beginning framing, with just one standing exterior stud wall.

20151205_123855 20151205_123932 20151205_123941 20151205_124021 20151205_124106 20151205_124143 20151205_124218 20151205_124235 20151205_124335 20151205_124403 20151205_124407 20151205_124839

village_solars_2 village_solars