News Tidbits 4/2/16: The Walls Come Tumbling Down

2 04 2016

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1. Demolition and site prep work has begun for the Hotel Ithaca’s new 5-story addition. The work appears to be right on schedule, since a March construction start had been planned. The $9.5 million, 90-room project replaces a two-story wing of rooms built in the early 1970s. Hart Hotels of Buffalo hopes to have the new wing open for guests this fall. NH Architecture of Rochester is the firm designing the project, which received some “sweet burns” when it was first presented with cross-hatched panels and “LEED-certified stucco”. Eventually, the planning board and developer settled on a design after review, and the project was approved late last year.

For those who like to see walls a-tumblin’, the Journal’s Nick Reynolds has a short video of the demolition on his Twitter feed here.

2. Looks like there’s a little more information about the 16-unit “small house” subdivision planned in Varna. A Dryden town board document refers to the document as “Tiny Timbers”. Which is a name that has come up before – in STREAM Collaborative’s twitter feed.

Making an educated guess here, STREAM is working with landowner and businessman Nick Bellisario to develop the parcel. It would also explain the huge mounds of material that had been on the site as of late – compressing the very poor soil so that something could be build onto it, even if they’re merely “tiny timbers”. It doesn’t look like these are more than one or two rooms, with an open floor plan on the first floor and either a room or loft space above.

At first impression, these are a great idea – relatively modest sizes tend to be more environmentally sensitive, and with the subdivision, it’s likely they would be for-sale units with a comparatively modest price tag. On the other hand, tiny houses are something that a lot of local zoning laws don’t accommodate well (minimum lot size, minimum house size, septic), so that would be something to be mindful of as the project is fleshed out more and starts heading through the town’s approval processes.

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3. Here’s some good news – the initial reception to Visum’s 201 College Avenue project was favorable. Josh Brokaw at the Times is reporting that apart from debates over a more distinctive roofline and setbacks from the street (which is more ZBA than Planning Board), the board was supportive of the project.

Meanwhile, as for something they were not in support of, the possibility of removing the aesthetic parts of site plan review as a benefit to affordable housing incentive zoning was not something that sat well with them. One thing that does get missed in the article, though, is that that benefit would only be in areas with form zoning guidelines for building appearance and siting (right now, that’s only Collegetown).

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4. Never a fan of being scooped, but the Journal’s Nick Reynolds broke the news of a 3-story, 39,500 SF outpatient medical facility planned for Community Corners in Cayuga Heights. Owner/developer Tim Ciaschi (who also did the Lehigh Valley Condos on Inlet Island) will build-to-suit for Cayuga Medical Associates, with design work by HOLT Architects.

In most towns, this would be fairly cut and dry. But this is Cayuga Heights, which probably has the most stringent board in the county. The village routinely says no to anything that could draw students in (mostly housing, but historically it also included taverns and restaurants), and people prepare multi-page tirades against two-lot subdivisions, let alone what happens when a sorority tries to move in. In the project’s favor are its distance from homes and its modest densification of Community Corners, which the village has been slowly migrating towards in the past few years. The board’s raised concerns with not enough parking, so a traffic study was included with the March materials. We’ll see how this all plays out, a medical office building might work well with Cayuga Heights’ older population.

5. The city decided to take action on the owner of the Dennis-Newton House by fining him $5,000 for building code violations. Steven Centeno, who picked up the property from the Newtons in 1982, was initially charged with over 11,000 violations, and pleaded guilty to 35 counts. According to the city, Centeno was ordered to make repairs in 2012, and got the building permits, but never commenced with repair work. If he fails to bring the property up to compliance within six months, a further fine of $42,000 will be levied. This is not unlike the case last April where the city fined lawyer Aaron Pichel $5,000 for code violations on 102 East Court Street, the “Judd House”. Work on that property is underway.

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6. Likely to be some bureaucratic progress on the Maplewood Park redevelopment next week. The town of Ithaca will be looking at declaring itself Lead Agency for environmental review of the 500-600 unit project. designs and exact plans are still in the formative phases, so no new news on those quite yet. In order to build the new urbanist, form-based project as intended, Cornell will be seeking a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which will give them flexibility in how they can lay out the site. The portion in the city of Ithaca, the two buildings towards the northwest corner (boundary line goes down Vine Street), will be built as-of-right, and it looks like a sketch plan will be presented for the city’s portion during their April Planning Board meeting.

A FEAF is included in the meeting agenda, but since the project will have to undergo a Environmental Impact Statement (much more detailed than a FEAF), it’s not very descriptive.

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7. Ugh. I give credit to the town of Ithaca’s planning board for trying to accommodate a solution where the 170-year old house could at least be moved to a different site. I’m disappointed in both the town of Ithaca’s Planning Committee (members of the town board) and the Iacovellis, neither of which seem to be devoting much thought to an amenable solution. The town’s planning committee chair is hell-bent on keeping students out, and the Iacovellis are now trying to rush the demo permit since they feel their livelihood is threatened. This is an unnecessary loss due to intransigence.


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One response

5 04 2016
Ex-Ithacan

Item #1. Great to see some tangible progress on this project. I like that video too.

#2. I’m actually kind of surprised that the Ithaca area hasn’t embraced the tiny house movement more fully.

#3. Look forward to architectural drawings of this rascal.

#4. That is a good location for Cayuga Heights to put a medical facility.

#5. I hope this finally forces the owner to do something.

#6. I doubt it will happen, but this needs to be fast-tracked.

#7. Hard to believe this BS could result in the loss of such a structure.

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