307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing) Construction Update, 2/2016

29 02 2016

307 College Avenue, also known as Collegetown Crossing, is nearly topped out. Structural steel has reached the sixth floor, and it looks like a few crossbars towards the front and top of the building are all that’s needed to declare the project fully framed-out. Once that happens, the crane can be dissembled.

Most of the building is wrapped in translucent plastic sheets as early interior work progresses through the cold Ithaca winter. Since this still early on in the interior construction process, workers will be doing things like sprinkler pipe fittings and erecting metal stud walls, maybe even fitting plumbing risers and pipes in some of the more advanced parts of the building. A peek from the back shows that the structural steel has been sprayed with fire retardant.

Developer Josh Lower of Urban Ithaca hopes to have the building open by late July/August (and signs of a warmer and drier than normal spring ahead would help keep things on schedule). Hayner Hoyt Corporation of Syracuse is the general contractor for the $10.5 million mixed-use building, and Jagat Sharma is the project architect. Apartment rents for the 44 units are expected to be in $950-$1250/bedroom range. Grocery co-op Greenstar will occupy either a 3,200 SF space on the first floor, which will also host two smaller retail spaces, a laundry room and a fitness center. A pocket park and pedestrian walkway connecting College to Linden is being built as part of the project.

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327 Eddy Street (Dryden Eddy Apts) Construction Update, 2/2016

29 02 2016

It was a little difficult to get good vantage points at the 327 Eddy Street construction site. Several cement trucks were coming and going during the photo op, and the crew from G. M. Crisalli and Associates were less than inclined to let anyone get close to do some photo taking.

Of the trio of Collegetown midrises currently underway, it would appear from what is visible that 327 Eddy is the one that is least furthest along. This might be because of the complicated topography of the site, since the building steps back into the hill. On the upper section, cinder block walls have been assembled; on the lower section, there are additional cinder block walls with vertical rebar poking out. I’m not 100% sure what’s being poured, as I thought the lower-level foundation was complete. According to someone familiar with the project, the flowable fill used in the foundation for this project was poured three feet deep. Flowable fill can’t handle as much weight as concrete, so I wonder if that factored into the decision to lop the sixth floor off the apartment building.

Plans still call for the 22-unit, 53-bedroom apartment building to open by August 2016. 1,800 SF of retail space will be located on the first floor of the lower level. Steve Fontana is the developer and Jagat Sharma (who actually updated his website for the first time in four years) is the project architect. According to the Fontana’s website (conveniently linked with the shoe store), unit prices range from $930 to $1250 per bedroom.

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Carey Building Construction Update, 2/2016

28 02 2016

To be 100% honest, I was a little worried about how the building would look before the exterior materials started to go on. But thankfully, those worries seem to have been overblown. The terra cotta that graces the front and side looks good, and being a similar color to the original mid 1920s building allows the new five-story overbuild to pay its respects without mimicking the original brick.  The peach-colored material is NuTech Direct Applied Finishing System (DAFS) stucco. While not as visually interesting perhaps, the rear of the building will be mostly hidden by the new Hilton Canopy hotel when that begins construction later this spring. There have been plans for a mural on the Carey’s western wall as well.

Many of the new windows have been fitted, although in some areas like the third floor, the window openings were more likely to be covered in plastic sheets rather than panes of glass. Someone familiar can correct me if I’m wrong, but the boards on front of the curtain wall are placeholders a brown or dark brown-tinted glass. The small openings on the west face will have a clear, marble-block glass. Roofing still needs to be taken care of, and taking a guess, drywall and interior finishing is underway in the more complete areas (I want to write lower floors, but I wonder if the lower residential floors are actually further along than Rev’s third-floor space), and utilities rough-ins on the floors/spaces that aren’t as far along.

Although it’s a fairly modern shape in a city that loves its historic designs, it looks like it will be a nice addition to the downtown skyline.  Local firm John Snyder Architects penned up the design, Travis Hyde Properties is the developer, and those guys hoisting the Old Glory are either direct or indirect employees of general contractor LeChase Construction.

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News Tidbits 2/27/16: A Leap Year, But Not A Leap Forward

27 02 2016

1. Let’s start this week off with some maps. The two below come courtesy of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) agenda, submitted by INHS Director of Real Estate Development Scott Reynolds.


Each marker is the approximate location of current of an individual on Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services’ (INHS’s) apartment wait-list. Dozens and dozens. As breakdowns go, 48% of waitlisted applicants live in the city of Ithaca, 38% outside of Ithaca but somewhere within Tompkins County, 8% live in other counties of New York State, and 6% come from outside the state. Counting the markers, my back-of-the-envelope calculation comes out to about 160 households.

The map implicitly describes the wealth of Ithaca’s neighborhoods – an increased number of applicants for affordable apartments come from South Side, the West Village area, and Northside, and further out, Dryden village and the apartment complexes in Lansing village. Wealthier areas like Fall Creek, East Hill, South Hill and Belle Sherman have very few or no individuals on the wait list.

The next time someone says affordability isn’t an issue, think of each dot on this map, and remember that’s someone, maybe even a while family, struggling but hoping to find decent, affordable housing.

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2. The Farm Pond Circle development in Lansing has finally sold on the 23rd for $164,840, well above both asking prices from last year. The purchaser was Dryden-based Schickel Construction, the same company responsible for the Boiceville Cottages. The restrictions on the ten for-sale lots carry over with the deeds. All things considered, Bruno Schickel knows this area well and his company could be one of the very few in the region interested but also capable in fulfilling Jack Jensen’s vision.

The development first went up for sale for $155,000 last March after the owner/developer, Jack Jensen, passed away suddenly in October 2014. In October, the price was knocked down to $125,000. Along with the lots Schickel picked up in the primary sale, a second purchase of $39,160 gave him three more undeveloped lots owned by other members of the Jensen family.


3. On the other end of the sale scale, Ithaca real estate developer Modern Living Rentals has put their multi-family property at 1015 Dryden Road up for sale.  The asking price for the 5-unit property is $650,000. 1015 Dryden is home to a single-family home built in 1938, and a 4-unit apartment building from about 1980. The apartment building was badly damaged in a fire in 2011, renovated, and the site was sold to MLR for $425,000 in March 2014. The tax assessment is also $425,000.

Plans on MLR’s website shared a to-be-built 2,790 SF triplex designed by STREAM Collaborative, but the real estate listing notes plans filed for two side-by-side duplexes (4 units). All units when built would equal 24 bedrooms, but the bungalow house is just one bedroom, and although I can’t find total number of beds for the 4-unit, at 4,032 SF it’s probably 2 beds per unit, so…that’s 9 exisiting, plus six from the triplex, plus 9 bedrooms from the two side-by-sides? Not 100% sure. Potential landlords can contact the listing agent here.


4. As noted by the Ithaca Journal this week, Elmira Savings Bank now has regulatory approval to move its bank branch from 301 East State Street to the old Pancho Villa Building at 602 West State Street. The project would still need site plan review for the renovation of 602 alone, even if the rest of the site isn’t altered. However, if less than 10,000 SF, a non-residential structure may only need limited SPR, staff-level like a single-family house (I was a bit uncertain, but I have confirmed with a member of the planning board). So although the move is okayed, the bank may still have to go through the board before renovations can begin. In theory, they could move into the un-renovated building without board approval, since it would only be when substantial exterior alterations are planned that it would then fall under the board’s purview.

The bank still has no plans for the other properties acquired in their December purchase.

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5. Now for some weekly eye candy. Additional images from Monday’s Ithaca Voice on the Chain Works District redevelopment, PDF here. These were left out because although these images are strictly conceptual and years away from reality, they show many new buildings, up to 5 floors in places, which could have had people freaking out that Chain Works was a Manhattan-izing of Ithaca and that a derelict brownfield was a suitable alternative. What gets written is tailored for its audience, and I didn’t think the Voice’s more general and broader reader base would handle these images well. Case in point, the ICSD shutting off drinking water in all of the schools as a precaution sent people into the Voice’s comment section panicking that every household on the municipal water system was contaminated with toxic levels of lead a la Flint. So, here are some visual extras to the much more rational readers of this blog.

The conceptual renderings are by Rochester-based Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects, the same group behind the design of Harold’s Square.

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6. House of the week. Or rather, duplex of the week. From the outside, William and Angie Chen’s 2-unit, 6-bedroom duplex at 424 Dryden Road is nearly complete. Trim details like the porches have yet to be attached, and the foundation still needs to be backfilled, but most of the exterior looks good to go.

However, the parking lot has been a source of some BZA debate. The lot would require five off-street parking spaces, which the Chens can do with the construction of a three-car garage that tears down mature trees, but they would prefer to create uncovered five spaces that include two in the rear yard. CR-2 Zoning doesn’t allow for rear yard parking, so an area variance is required. The application also comes with a letter of opposition from a neighbor who seems to have mixed up the choices, asking for the variance to be denied for tearing down trees, when it’s the non-variance option that tears down trees.

Local architect Daniel Hirtler of Flatfield Designs is handling the duplex and the zoning variance.



7. Status: It’s complicated. In Ithaca town, the Iacovelli family, longtime local landlords/builders, want to tear down a ca. 1845 house at 341 Coddington Road to put up two duplexes, which from the schematic appear to be the Iacovelli student special. To do so, they need to subdivide the property, one for each duplex.

On the one hand, the Iacovellis, who have been on South Hill since the 1920s (they’re the namesakes of Iacovelli Park at the end of Juniper Drive) and bought the property last year, have a right within existing law to do what they want with the property, which is next door to Orlando Iacovelli’s house. They want to subdivide the land into two parcels, and the only way to create two legal lots is to go right through the existing house.

On the other hand, it would be a shame to lose a 170-year house that’s in fair shape and has many of its original features intact, just so two fairly spartan duplexes can be built.

The town’s planning board seems to be cognizant of both sides in this dilemma. They asked at the last meeting to examine an alternative to allow subdivision and keep the 1845 house intact. The engineer for the project, Larry Fabbroni, did so, but the applicant is uncomfortable with trying to get zoning variances for the non-conforming setup, area, setback and a third claim about use for unrelated occupants (which the town planning department disputes).

This all comes at a time where the town is weighing a moratorium on 2-unit properties, and if this house comes down, there’s a good chance the town will vote the moratorium. Then Iacovelli won’t be able to build any duplexes, and no one else in the town of Ithaca would be able to either. But even if Mr. Iacovelli couldn’t build, he could still demolish the house and wait, should disagreements came to a boil.

Ideally, there would be a compromise where the 1845 house is preserved (by planning board/BZA stipulation or otherwise), and Iacovelli gets to subdivide so he can build a duplex on the other parcel. That way, he gets some economic return, and the town gets to keep an undesignated but arguably historic house. Few town board members want to come off as being anti-business to local families, and few developers want to come off as greedy or exploitative. A concession on both sides and some good will could go a long way in a time where tensions about student-focused housing are rising.

Comments can be sent to the board via the town clerk (Paulette Terwilliger) at townclerk@town.ithaca.ny.us . The board is expected to take a vote on the subdivision on Tuesday the 1st at 7 PM in the town hall.

Simeon’s Reconstruction Update, 2/2016

26 02 2016

The sheathing is on. Fire-rated Gypsum boards produced by National Gypsum shape the rough openings for the windows, which are covered in plastic sheeting enclosing the interior while work on the new restaurant on the first and part of the second floor, and five new apartments on other part of the second and the third floor. In the original portion of the building, the chute and slide are a sign of major interior renovations.

Seeing the new bay window structures reminds me of an often-overlooked fact. The original Griffin Block building did not have bay windows when it was built in 1871/72. The copper-clad bay windows were installed as part of a 1904 renovation.

Keep an eye out for a late spring opening for Simeon’s (perhaps in time for the very lucrative graduation weekends), and the apartments are expected to be ready for rental by the end of the summer. Important if subtle detail, the reconstruction of the Griffin Block, often called the Simeon’s Building, and Simeon’s reconstruction itself, are two distinct projects occurring at the same time.

The owners of Simeon’s, Richard Avery and Dean Zervos, have applied for a sales tax exemption on building materials and furnishings worth $27,079 by the county IDA’s estimate. Their specific renovation is estimated to cost $660,000, retains 27 jobs when Simeon’s reopens, and provides for 14 new jobs over 3 years.

Local architect Jason K. Demarest is in charge of design for both projects, and Ithaca-based McPherson Builders is the general contractor of the Griffin Block rebuild. Fahs Construction Group of Binghamton is the contractor for Simeon’s restaurant renovation.

Hsueh-Yung and Hsueh-Lang Shen received a $1.3 million building loan from the Tompkins Trust Company to pay for the renovation and reconstruction. The Shens inherited the building from their parents Shan-Fu and Ming-Ming Shen, a Cornell engineering professor and his music-teaching wife who bought the building in 1981, and passed away in 2007 and 2011 respectively.

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Ithaca Beer Construction Update, 2/2016

25 02 2016

From the outside, work to Ithaca Beer’s $7.2 million, 23,800 SF addition is complete. The new wing will hold a new bottling production line, an expanded packaging area, and more barrels for aging the yeasty brew. According to the Voice interview I did with Ithaca Beer marketing director Gregg Stacy back in November, the new equipment should be on-site by March. The new wing should be fully up and running sometime this spring.

The new addition and expanded capacity are expected to create 22 jobs, according to the project’s tax abatement application. As an economic development project, Ithaca Beer applied for and received standard 7-year tax abatements from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Authority (TCIDA). Local firm HOLT Architects is listed as the designer(s)-in-charge.

In addition to HOLT, Rowlee Construction Inc. of Fulton is the Design-Build Contractor, and Syracuse-based Fortune Engineering Group was involved with the structural design (a big thanks to HOLT’s Maria Livingston for the additional info).


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Chapter House / 406 Stewart Avenue Construction Update, 2/2016

24 02 2016

Not so much construction as a look at what the site as it currently stands. The Chapter House has been approved, and the apartments house planned for 406 Stewart Avenue, being a smaller project, just needs the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to sign off at this point, as the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) has given their tentative blessing. No specific numbers on number of occupants/bedrooms in the new Chapter House, but expect it to be fairly close to the total lost in last Spring’s tragic fire. 406 will be slightly larger thanks to improved interior circulation and the addition of a floor – 4 apartments and 7 occupants vs. the previous building’s 5 apartments and 6 occupants. Because of that one-floor increase, a reconstruction cannot be done as-of-right, so the project will need to be granted several area variances from the BZA.

In keeping with the ILPC’s fairly stringent approach, the buildings are designed to be sympathetic to the originals without being replicas (which is generally advised against by historic preservationists because it cheapens the value of buildings that have managed to survive the past century). The Chapter House will have GAF Sienna asphalt shingles on the roof and Inspire Aledora simulated slate shingles on the first-floor overhang, Redland Heritage SWB brick and bluestone.

The Chapter House project is paid for by Sebastian Mascaro of Florida, and 406 Stewart is funded by Jim Goldman of suburban Philadelphia. Jerry Dietz of local company CSP Management is representation both owners for their respective projects. Local architect Jason K. Demarest (brother of STREAM Collaborative’s Noah Demarest) is the designer-in-charge.

Work on the new Chapter House is expected to begin shortly, with a late summer or early fall opening. 406 Stewart expects a May construction start with completion in January 2017.

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