News Tidbits 12/12/15: Money Money Money Money

12 12 2015

canopy_hampton_rev4_1

1. Time to do a little rumor-killing. There’s been some confusion as to whether or not the Hilton Canopy is actually happening, since it was supposed to have started construction by this time and it hasn’t. There was also an article in the Ithaca Times that suggested that construction costs much higher than original estimates had caused the project to be cancelled.

Well, the project has definitely been delayed, but it looks like it will still be moving forward. According to a utility easement resolution at the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Economic Development Committee (IURA EDC) meeting, a project financing commitment has been secured and the developer of the Hilton (Neil Patel of Lighthouse Hotels LLC) is planning a construction start in the first quarter (Jan-Mar) of 2016, which would suggest a mid-2017 opening.

inhs_pride_design_v5_3

2. Also in financial news, INHS looks to have secured grant funding that will allow it to move forward with its 210 Hancock project in the next four months, according to INHS Executive Director Paul Mazzarella. The grants were officially awarded in an announcement from the governor’s office on Tuesday. $3.6 million will come from the state’s Housing and Community Renewal program, $500,000 from the state low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, and $1.03 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s LIHTC program. In total, the award is valued at $5.13 million, about a quarter of the estimated $20 million development cost. The project has received about $17 million in grants and tax credits to date.

The money awarded covers only the rental units – 54 apartments in the four-story mixed-use building, and five townhouses. The seven owner-occupied townhouses remain unfunded.

The apartments, which include a 30-child low-income daycare facility and commercial office space for non-profits, will welcome their first tenants in Summer 2017. They will rent from 27% to 105% of local median household income, depending on the unit. Descriptively, it’s a mixed-income project with residents’ incomes ranging from $25,000-$60,000 per year.

ith_big_plan_map_v2

3. From the Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, there are a few things of note this week –

A. The city seems to be looking towards greater encouragement and flexibility with redevelopment of waterfront parcels by making WF-1 and WF-2 zones Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). What a PUD does is allow greater flexibility in uses and design by removing or loosening zoning constraints on site use, and being more accommodating to mixed-use projects (the Chain Works District proposal is a PUD, for example). Previously, PUDs could only be applied to industrial sites. The other stipulation, however, is that the applicant would have to work with the Common Council to determine appropriate development of the site.

The Waterfront Zoning allows up to 5 stories and 100% lot coverage. The PUD will give flexibility beyond that, dependent on what the Common Council is comfortable with for a given site and proposal.  So if Applicant X shows up with a huge apartment building or a big industrial building, it’s probably not going to get very far. But if it’s well designed and has affordable units? Maybe the council will grant a little more density or another floor. It depends on a developer showing up with something that they feel offers some kind of community benefit and fits with the Comprehensive Plan, and whether the Common Council agrees with the developer’s reasoning.

There is great potential in the waterfront – those views can fetch a premium (i.e. higher land values, and more tax dollars), it’s far enough removed from the colleges that students would be unlikely residents, and many of the properties are underutilized, with only marginal public benefit.  So potentially, if someone wants to work with the Common Council (one can count on at least 8 or 9 of the 10 being willing to cooperate), there could be some benefits in the long-term.

B. The Commons first-floor active-use zoning ordinance looks to be heading for a Common Council vote in January. More about that ordinance here, Item 5.

C. That damned backyard chickens thing again. Only this time, it might be moving forward with a pilot program involving 20 families.

D. Per the Times’ Josh Brokaw, expect incentive/inclusionary zoning to be up for PEDC review in January.

tfc_comparo

4. Hey look, this week’s eye candy. Tompkins Financial Corporation’s proposed downtown Ithaca Headquarters at 119 East Seneca Street will be reviewed for final project approval at this month’s Planning Board meeting. As part of that, here’s the final project design, part of the final Site Plan Review submission here.

From the front, it looks like some of the window layout has changed on the top floor and southwest corner, and there are fewer sunshades above the windows. There’s a third tree in the planting plan, and there’s variation in the cladding materials on the west wall facing the DeWitt Mall.

tfc_v3_1

In fact, it’s the non-primary facades that have changed the most, with different (and generally lighter-colored) brick and aluminum panels when compared to the previous rendition. Although there’s less glass than before, the lighter colors and greater variation in materials de-emphasize the bulk from the perspective of its townhouse neighbors at the rear. The 7-story, 110,000 SF commercial office building should begin construction in early 2016 with an eye towards completion the following spring.

elmira_savings_1

5. There was quite a sale on Ithaca’s West End last Friday. Nine properties outlined in red on the map above – 106, 108, 100 and 116 North Meadow Street, 607, 609 and 611 West Seneca Street, and 602 and 604 West State Street – were sold for $1,725,000 to Elmira Savings Bank.

Now, there are a few reasons why this is worthy of attention. For one, banks don’t typically shell out almost two million dollars without some kind of plan. For two, Elmira Saving Bank has been moving forward with expansion plans in the Ithaca area in hopes of capitalizing on the growing local economy. For three, there has been a lot of development in this neighborhood as of late – the Iacovelli Apartments (2013) and Planned Parenthood (2014) are right across the street, and it’s worth noting that the 18,000 SF HQ for Alternatives Federal Credit Union (2002) is on the other side of the block.

The properties are currently home to parking lots, several older, non-historic houses (most in poor condition) and a two-story 4,500 SF commercial building previously home to the Pancho Villa Mexican restaurant. The restaurant building had been on the market for $699,900.

The zoning here is all WEDZ-1a. West End Zone 1a allows for 2 to 5 story buildings, 90% lot coverage in the case of large assemblages such as this, and no off-street parking requirement. That means these parcels have a lot of potential. The previous owner had been rumored to be planning a mixed-use building on some of the properties, but nothing official ever came forth.

Two phone calls were placed to Elmira Savings Bank’s headquarters in Elmira, and two voicemails were left, but neither received a response. But these properties are definitely something to keep a close watch on over the following months.

6. That 9100 SF store being developed on the corner of East Shore and Cayuga Vista Drives in Lansing that was mentioned last week (here, Item 4)? It’s going to be a Dollar General. Not sure if that’s better than the auto/tire store speculated last week.

20151108_152102

7. Lest it be forgotten, it appears Lady Luck and some state bureaucrats smiled at the Southern Tier this week, awarded the region one of the three $500 million prizes of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, known colloquially as the Upstate “Hunger Games”. Rochester/Finger Lakes and Syracuse/Central are the other $500 million winners. Seven regions competed, and the four losers will receive $80-$100 million for their priority projects. The money will be paid out in five annual installments of $100 million. A copy of the Southern Tier’s plan is here.

I wrote about Ithaca’s plans for its share on the Voice here. The first year projects alone will have a range of impacts, ranging from job creation and training to municipal construction projects to quality of life projects like museum expansions. Potentially, it could result in hundreds of jobs in Tompkins County, financial capital for several major projects, and make the area more attractive for investment for both local and external entities. As these projects move forward, they’ll receive their due write-ups here and on the Voice.

Of course, the key things are that the community can manage this monetary award, and that someone can track and guide these projects to completion – something the Southern Tier has struggled with, when one looks at the result of previous, much smaller awards.

8. The state’s just shoveling money into Ithaca this week. The New York State Office of Community Renewal (part of the state’s HUD equivalent, the Homes and Community Renewal agency) has awarded $500,000 towards the rehabilitation of the Masonic Temple at the corner of East Seneca and North Cayuga Streets in downtown Ithaca.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1926 and designated a local historic landmark in 1994. The property is owned by Ithaca Renting Company (Jason Fane), who purchased the building from the Masons in 1993. Fane’s never been a fan of the historic designation because the ILPC can be expensive and onerous to work with, nearly everyone else hasn’t been a fan of his long-deferred maintenance of the 90-year old building (if you have ever wondered why that CIITAP rule was added about an applicant being in building code compliance with all their other properties…now you know). A few years ago, Fane had not been shy in his interest in demolishing the building.

After rejecting a purchase offer to turn the building into a community center and space for the New Roots charter school, Fane decided to go the preservation route earlier this year and apply for a grant to renovate the interior and add an elevator to the building to make it ADA-compliant. This would make the building much more marketable to commercial tenants, many of which have shunned the 17,466 SF building. Fane laid out a few different options this past summer, including one where four commercial spaces (rental, office, restaurant) would be created. Based on the grant announcement, it looks like that will be the option pursued.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance backed the application, as did the Common Council by unanimous vote at their July meeting.

The renovation will cost at least $1 million, and according to the grant announcement, seeks to start construction in summer 2016. Expect more info when it hits the ILPC and Planning Board at a later date.

20151205_121714 20151205_121736

9. House of the week. This week, INHS’s new 2-bedroom, 1150 SF single-family home underway at 203 Third Street in the city of Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood. The house is framed, roofed and sheathed. Siding (Hardie board?) and trim is being attached on the sides, and one can expect a nice gracious porch to be attached once exterior materials are installed on the front. A home of the design was previously built at 507 Cascadilla Street.

203 Third Street was a vacant that the city seized in a tax foreclosure in 2011. It was transferred to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, who sold it to INHS for $17,000 in December 2014. The process is pretty similar for a lot of the home lots that INHS builds on – the non-profit buys dilapidated or vacant properties from the IURA, which they build or renovate into affordable single-family and duplex houses. In the case of 203 Third Street, INHS competed for the site, outscoring Habitat for Humanity’s submission in an IURA examination of proposals.

As with all INHS homes, this one will be sold to a buyer of modest means, which means someone making at or a little less than the county’s median household income of $53k/year (I think 80% of MHI is the low bound offhand, so about $42k/year). The houses will be a part of INHS’s Community Housing Trust, limiting the price it can be sold for and requiring that if put up for sale, it is sold to another family of modest means. It may just be one house, but it will mean a lot to one family.

Claudia Brenner is the architect, with Rick May Construction and Mike Babbitt in charge of construction (thanks to Claudia for the builder info).

 


Actions

Information

4 responses

13 12 2015
Ex-Ithacan

Yippee, a good news post. I’m wondering what Fane is going to put in there. On a different note, I saw Josh Brokaw’s article on the Marriott and noted the new GM hinted at Urgo thinking about a convention center.

Wha – What?

16 12 2015
Cornell PhD

Am I the only one who wishes the Masonic Building were just taken down and something more street-friendly (and denser, to allow for more and more mixed uses) would replace it? Sure, it has some nice art deco accents but the architecture isn’t exactly unsurpassable.

I hope the Elmira Bank project, if there is one, isn’t just some kind of drive-in facility. Is there zoning against that?

And sadly the Tompkins Bank building looks like a bit of a freak with that 90s style neotraditional shell tacked on the back (which will actually clash more with the townhouses behind; a more modern rear would have highlighted them) but it’s not the most visible part of this project by far so w/e I guess.

17 12 2015
B. C.

I get the feeling while part of the reason why the Masonic Temple was designated an individual historic landmark in 1994 was its architectural qualities, it was mostly done as a rebuke to Fane. If one analyzed Fane and the city’s relationship in the context of the Masonic Temple, they could probably find several actions in bad faith on both sides.

31 10 2017
Hilton Canopy Hotel Construction Update, 10/2017 | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] redesign in January 2016 courtesy of Philadelphia’s spg3 Architects, now Bergmann Associates. It turned out the project had struggled to obtain financing due to rapidly rising construction costs, and underwent some “value engineering”. The […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: