News tidbits 6/26/16: The Odd Time Out

26 06 2016

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1. In what was ostensibly the biggest news of the week, Newman Development Group (NDG) of Vestal announced plans for the Trebloc site in downtown Ithaca. “City Centre” includes nine floors total, with roughly 250 apartments from studios to 2-bedrooms, about 10,000 SF (square feet) of retail space, 3,200 SF of amenities like a business center, and an underground garage of 70 spaces (the site is zoned CBD-120, which has no parking requirement). Readers might recall that Texas-based student housing developer Campus Advantage had proposed the State Street Triangle project, but their purchase option was not renewed by the owner of Trebloc.

Looking at their portfolio, Ithaca is NDG’s odd market out – most of their projects involve suburban retail centers and chain hotels, with shopping plazas from coast to coast. A smaller division, NDG Student Living, focuses on acquiring and building student housing, with their most recent projects in Binghamton and Oneonta. Ithaca seems to be the only metro where they’ve built general housing; earlier this decade, they worked with local businessman Bryan Warren on the Seneca Way mixed-use project on the east end of downtown.

The gut reaction to Newman as a developer is that, although they’re not very accustomed to urban mixed-use, there is one market where they do know what they’re doing, and that would be Ithaca’s.

Let’s just start right off the bat with one big difference between NDG and CA – the way the news was broken. CA was caught off-guard when the Journal’s David Hill broke the news of a 120-foot building a few days before the Planning Board meeting. NDG, working with local consultant Scott Whitham, emailed the same press release to each of the three major news organizations in Ithaca, which gave them the upper hand on the way information was delivered. The Times ran their copy first with almost no additional details, the Voice came a little later in the afternoon with more details such as unit total and retail space, and the Journal’s version came in the evening with even more details, such as the 70-space underground garage, and plans for the project to pursue CIITAP, the city’s property tax abatement program.

We’ll see what happens next week. The garage, not removing the turn lane, the general housing focus as opposed to students, and an initial design by Humphreys and Partners Architects that doesn’t repulse people are all cards that NDG holds that CA didn’t. But, there will still be sizable opposition. Playing your cards correctly is just as important to a winning hand as having them.

2. It looks like Gimme! Coffee is percolating something new out in Trumansburg. Through an LLC, the local coffee chain picked up 25-27 West Main Street for $350,000 on the 20th. The building is the former Independent Order of Odd Fellows Temple, a fraternal organization which established a chapter in Trumansburg in 1839, with ties to an older fraternal organization going further back to 1818. The 19th century temple is now about 1,700 SF of retail space, and 3 apartments totaling 3,300 SF on the upper floors; recent tenants have included Life’s So Sweet Chocolates and a barber shop.

Ithaca also had a location, first in downtown, and then on West Hill from the late 1920s. The older location was demolished to build the county library in the 1960s, while the West Hill location is a mix of uses today, one of which is the Museum of the Earth.

Gimme! has had a 1,200 SF shop at nearby 7 East Main Street since 2002, but they rent the space from Interlaken businessman Ben Guthrie. Logical guess here would be, they like Trumansburg, they wanted to buy a space and stay near where they are now, this opportunity came up down the street and they went for it. The sale price on 25-27 W Main is a substantial climb from the $288,000 it sold for in June 2010; I guess they call Trumansburg “little Ithaca” for a reason.

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3. So, documents filed with the 201 College project this week were quite intriguing. First off, no action was taken at the zoning board meeting, but the developer of 201 College modified the project so that it no longer needs the setback variance or the entryways design variance. The planters were shrunk down in order to keep the sidewalk 12′ wide as requested by the Planning Board. Some additional 3-D drawings were also sent along, and site elevations and utilities plan here.

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One of the images sent along was a “future context” file of potential nearby projects in the next couple of years. This document likely stems from the Planning Board debate of just what is likely to get developed in the vicinity over the next 5 years or so. There are four massings, merely following what zoning allows.

302-306 College Avenue – “Avenue 302”, by the Avramis family. Two buildings, one of six floors, one four, possibly in the 2017-2019 timeframe. Nothing formal has been discussed since the 2014 sketch plan, but the houses currently there are leased through May 2017.

215 College Avenue – A Novarr project. All that is publicly known at this stage is that Novarr wants to start construction in Summer 2017. Zoning allows 5 floors.

202 College Avenue – 202, 204, 206 and 210 College Avenue are all Novarr properties (there is no 208), as is the adjacent 118 Cook Street, which is not included in the massing outline. The College Avenue parcels allow 5 floors, 118 Cook 4. There hasn’t been any news with these properties lately.

119-125 College Avenue – three houses (there is no 123) owned by an Endicott-based landlord. I had to put out some inquiries on these houses, and there may be a sale in the works, although nothing’s on file with the county yet. These are CR-4, allowing 4 floors, but they could be tough to redevelop because these houses are seen as potentially historic resources.

Anyway, a vote on the project’s approvals is set for Tuesday. Neil Golder has created a group called “Save the Soul of Collegetown” to stage a rally in front of city hall that evening and try and halt the plans, but the last I checked on Facebook, three of the five people going were reporters.

 

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4. Going more into briefs now, the Amici House funding plan for building a housing facility for 23 at-risk youth, and a second structure for five head-start classrooms and 42 students, was approved by the county this week. Once the sale is finalized, expect the official plans to be presented to city officials not long thereafter. Once those are approved, additional grant applications can be filed and hopefully, construction will be completed no later than 2018. According to the county’s press release, the Amici plan will create about 25 living wage jobs.

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5. Starting on the 27th, Gannett Health Services will begin to transition over to the new addition, while work begins on renovating the older wings of Cornell’s healthcare facility. This marks the rough completion of phase one, and the halfway point for the $55 million project. The Gannett webpage says the whole facility will be known as “Cornell Health” upon completion.

6. Back in November, Ithaca’s second ward saw a competitive election between candidates Ducson Nguyen and Sean Gannon. One of the big differences between the two was on development – Nguyen advocated for urban development in downtown, and Gannon thought there was too much building going on and it needed to be slowed down. Nguyen won by a hefty margin on election night.

A building loan agreement was inked next week to build a new duplex (two-unit semi-detached house) behind an existing property at 512-514 West Green Street. $330,000, Ithaca’s Carina Construction will be the contractor (expect a Simplex modular duplex). The property is bisected by zoning, with the rear falling into the State Street development corridor, so no parking is required for the new rear duplex. At a glance, it looks like a winning plan – it will be modest-sized, it’s in a walkable area, and it supplies much-needed housing. The Ciaschi family is developing the units.

The property also happens to be next door to Mr. Gannon. I’m sure he will be all kinds of amused.

 





Village Solars Construction Update, 6/2016

22 06 2016

For being such a large project, the Village Solars apartments in the town of Lansing tend to slip by unnoticed. Work on Phase 2 is wrapping up, and work has already begun on Phase 3, with what looks like excavation work for the foundation of Building “I”. A rolling stone gathers no moss, I guess. “I” will be an 18-unit apartment building similar in design to Building “G/H”, the building in the fourth photo, and currently the largest individual apartment building in the complex.

Building “D” is essentially complete and has been available for occupancy since May. Building “G/H”, which is just finishing up any remaining interior finishes and exterior trim, will be ready for occupancy this month. Building “E”, which is still attaching exterior trim and finishes, as well as interior work, will be ready for its tenants by about July 15th. If past work is any indicator, “I” will be ready for occupancy sometime next spring. No word on Phase 2A and Building “F”, but it’s a good bet 18-unit Building “J”, the other half of Phase 3, will commence excavation once “G/H” and/or “E” are complete.

With the completion of Phase 2 this summer, The Village Solars additions will have resulted in 77 new housing units since they began construction in 2014. Rents on the units are ranging from $850+/month for a one-bedroom, $1235+/month for a 2-bedroom and $1600-$1650/month for a 3-bedroom unit.

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205 Dryden Road (Dryden South) Construction Update, 6/2016

21 06 2016

With occupancy expected by August, the trio of Collegetown midrises are moving at a pretty fast clip. 205 Dryden (Dryden South) has topped out, and construction crews are installing exterior steel stud walls and building out the structural frames for the projecting bay windows. Some light-colored brick can be seen on the pillars at the front entrance, and eventually it’ll expand to cover the front elevation, with limestone accents providing some visual interest. The interior light well seen from College and Dryden and the roof cap will be faced with colored metal panels in a shade similar to the limestone and brick. These photos are a week and a half old at this point, and since they were taken, the exterior stud walls have been sheathed with gypsum panels and Tyvek.

The building will have 10 4-bedroom suites, and according to the website, only one suite is left (5th floor, $1350/person), with rooms “for singles and small groups also available”.

A quick side note here – although the address when proposed was 205 Dryden, the address being used in the marketing materials is 207 Dryden. Either one is permitted, as the new Breazzano Center going up next door is 209-215 Dryden.

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307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing) Construction Update, 6/2016

20 06 2016

307 College isn’t too far from completion at this point. The angles where with CMU dominates the exterior look nearly finished from the outside. Some of the windows are in on the front side – the projecting section, currently covered in Tyvek housewrap, will be mostly faced with dark brick, similar to the brick used on the rear CR-4 portion. The bare expanses will be a glass curtain wall, and a lighter brick will be used on the sides and for the cornice. Traditional scaffolding needs a certain amount of space and time to be set up and taken down, so given the dense environment and summer deadline of the Collegetown Crossing project, mast climbing work platforms are used being for the bricklaying and other exterior facade work.

Greenstar’s new grocery location on the first floor should be opening August 17th, right around when the first tenants start moving into the apartments. It sounds like it will be a soft opening, with an actual Grand Opening celebration planned for some date in September. A render of the interior of the new Greenstar location, designed by architect Pam Wooster, is included below. Greenstar plans to employ 14 at the new location, and include a cafe/to-go space to complement its full-service grocery (some of the items, like those in the deli, won’t be prepared on site due to space constraints; they will be prepared at their central kitchen and brought in daily). There hasn’t been any news on tenants for the smaller two commercial spaces facing the pocket park.

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327 Eddy Street (Dryden Eddy Apts) Construction Update, 6/2016

19 06 2016

Steve Fontana’s mixed-use project at 327 Eddy Street has topped out since the April update. The exterior stud walls are up on the front facade, as is a little gypsum sheathing. The CMU Block rear portion is also topped out, although it appears that the design of the rear was also changed/value engineered such that it no longer have the larger band of windows on the top floor. The large window at top center is split between two units,  and using the wood stud walls as a guideline, one can kinda get the impression of soaring ceilings and a big, glassy open space. More interior wall faming can be seen from the rear of the building. Units range from studios to 5-bedroom apartments, with prices starting at $950/person and topping out at $1250/person for choice units.

While the apartments are able to command to premium price, Fontana has had issues finding a commercial tenant for the 1,800 SF first floor, and expressed his concerns at a city PEDC meeting where the active-use code for Collegetown was modified to match the slightly more flexible code used with the Commons.

Things should be moving right along for an August opening.

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Eight Years Later

18 06 2016

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It’s kinda hard to believe eight years have passed since this blog was started. Last year, I drafted this post up on the early side, but this year, I’m kinda waited until the “last moment”, mostly because I wanted to figure out just what exactly I wanted to write.

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In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216, 182, 155 and 219 hits daily. Over this past year, 97,401 hits were recorded, just over 266 hits per day, leap day noted.

The blog has its niche. Photo sets for construction projects run every month – Collegetown, Downtown, and projects in Lansing/Dryden occupy even months, while Cornell, Fall Creek, South Hill, West Hill and the rest of the county run during odd-numbered months. Fall Creek and Lansing/Dryden switched places this year to balance the workload. Nearly every Saturday at 0000 UTC, there’s “news tidbits”, the weekly news roundup, and if I’m motivated and have time, the other weekly topical post goes up Tuesdays 0000UTC. I like regularity.

One of the things that changed up over the past year was with role in the Voice. For the first year of so, most of it was Jeff pulling things he thought would work well for Voice content, and using it nearly word-for-word. But, over the past year, the Voice has had a greater proportion of unique content, so one has to read both to get all the development news.

Writing for the Voice on the side of my primary job has its fun times and its stressful times. There’s a lot of curious readers out there, and it’s great to engage with them. The stressful part is time management and just trying to stay on top of everything.

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In the past year, some projects have finished up – the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek, 206 Taughannock, the Carey Building is virtually complete (what a difference a year makes), 707 East Seneca wrapped up on East Hill, and Ithaca Beer finished their addition. Cornell finished Klarman Hall, and the lakeside mansion at 1325 Taughannock was also finished. The modulars at 804 East State were approved, built and finished by the end of the winter. HOLT Architects completed the renovations for their new HQ, Texas Roadhouse wrapped up, and the Belle Sherman Cottages just sold their last house.

Other projects are only just starting their construction journeys. 210 Hancock and Varna’s 902 Dryden were approved, last summer and this spring respectively. Both are expected to start construction this summer. Cornell has started work on the new Breazzano Executive MBA Center in Collegetown, and several block away, John Novarr is building Phase III of Collegetown Terrace. Work is just starting up on Conifer LLC’s Cayuga Meadows affordable senior apartments building on West Hill, while down the road the Brookdale facility is well underway.

Some things are still plodding along through review, like the Travis Hyde plans for the Old Library site, and the Chain Works District. Other proposals are still trying to figure out financing, such as 323 Taughannock and Harold’s Square. Then there are projects that are just big question marks right now, like the Chapter House Rebuild. Maybe there will be some solid development there next year.

There are also new plans presented during the past 12 months – 815 South Aurora and 201 College from developer Todd Fox, Cornell presented plans for renovations to Hughes Hall, and to redevelop Maplewood Park. 1061 Dryden will be sparking the latest development debates in Varna.

Lastly, a few plans bit the dust. State Street Triangle is probably the most well-known, but there were others such as INHS’s Greenways townhouse project, and College Crossings on South Hill. The owners of the SST site still want to redevelop it, but Campus Advantage won’t be involved.

This past year definitely had its share of debates and controversies. Virtually every project from home lots to big buildings has some level of opposition, but some are particularly contentious. State Street Triangle, the Maguire plans, the bar once planned for 416-418 E. State, Black Oak Wind Farm. BOWF is especially worrying. With goals such as affordable housing and renewable energy, there are times Tompkins County’s residents seem to be their own biggest enemies.

Some of my favorite posts this year include the two-part write-up about Ithaca’s Urban Renewal, and the analysis of 30 years of Tompkins County new construction permits. There were looks at the Fall Creek housing market and the NYSDOT Waterfront feasibility study. The Newfield UFO and the tour of STREAM Collaborative’s net-zero house offered diversions from the typical posts.

Eight years is a long time, and there will be some major announcements later this year. Stay tuned.

 





News Tidbits 6/18/16: Wit Fails Me After Eight Years

18 06 2016

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1. Let’s start off with a brief update on 201 College Avenue. My colleague Mike Smith at the Voice did an encompassing article on the topic late last Friday, and there have been a couple more modest developments as of late. Apart from the multi-million dollar sale mentioned last week, the city’s Design Review Committee also gave their input on the project. They said they like the current form of thje building’s front (west) entrance, because it calls forth elements of Grandview House a few doors down. they also recommended darker or neutral grey colors to minimize the appearance of the fifth floor, more windows along College Avenue, warm accent colors, and tweaks to the window and cladding scheme. The resulting revisions were incorporated into the latest building design seen above, and for which additional images, material samples sheet and interior plans can be found here. The project will be discussed at the Project Review meeting next week, and the official Planning Board meeting Tuesday 6/28, at which the public hearing will be held, and consideration of preliminary approval.

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2. Speaking of design review, 107 South Albany also went through the committee this week. Recommendations included projecting window sills, stucco all the way back to the rear balconies, and noting on docs that the large sign on the existing building would be removed during the renovation. Site Plan Review app here, drawings here, Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) here, planting plan here.

The renovation and addition seems like a good example of re-use in a corridor that the city is targeting for new investment. It preserves the century-old structure and adds housing in such a way that, by location and design, doesn’t have a significant visual impact. By zoning, Nick Stavropoulos could have sought five floors if he wanted. This plan will be going through the whole shebang at the June meeting – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Determination of environmental Significance, and Prelim and Final Approval.

Among other things to be discussed at Project Review and the Planning Board meetings – Prelim/Final Approval for 602 West State Street (the Elmira Savings Bank project), signage for Collegetown Crossing, and a few minor zoning variances. New sketch plans, if any, will be announced on the PB Agenda next week.

3. This week in big sales – someone plunked down $680,000 on a house at 107 Catherine Street in Collegetown. I say somebody because they conducted the purchase through an LLC (aptly named “105-107 Catherine Street LLC”) registered by a local law firm last summer. Just like the Maguire purchase of the Carpenter Circle land, this effectively hides the buyer from public view. The same purchase bought 105 Catherine for $780,000 last November. It looks like 105 has 10 bedrooms and 107 has 7 bedrooms, based off assessment docs.

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105 and 107 Catherine make up the edge of the CR-4 Form District. By zoning, an applicant could build up to four floors, no parking required. A development plan would likely consolidate lots. Something to keep an eye on. Collegetown is getting to be a very expensive place.

4. Meanwhile, here’s something that’s just hitting the market. For the budding landlords, 306 North Cayuga is up for sale. The “C. R. Williams House” was built in 1898 (interior/exterior photos from the early 1980s here). The current owner, Jeff Kalnitz, picked it up for $300k in 1997, had it on and off the market a couple of times, and then decided to do a thorough ILPC-approved renovation. The 12,500 SF property, which holds six high-end apartments and approvals for a seventh, is being offered at $1.45 million. It’s worth looking at the listing if only for the glamorous interior shots.

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5. On Tuesday, the Tompkins County Legislature will vote on whether or not to take $118,000 from the county’s general fund to indirectly help build head start classrooms and a living facility for homeless young adults.

The $118,000 would be use to purchase a house at 661 Spencer, whose land would be incorporated into plans for a 23-person facility for homeless young adults (some with children) aged 18-25, and five classrooms. The classrooms would be built as one building, while the housing looks to be an addition to the TCAction building. The one-story house at 661 Spencer, built in 1950 and formerly formerly owned by the Amici family, would be removed.

The plan is the latest incarnation of TCAction’s Amici House project, slated to share their headquarters property at 701 Spencer Road on the southern edge of the city of Ithaca. TCAction first acquired their property with the help of the county back in 2001; the cost of the purchase is paid back to the county in the form of a 20-year lease.

If the legislature approves, the lease would be extended by two years so TCAction can pay them back for the up-front cost of buying 661 Spencer. The Amici House project would be completed by 2018.

6. Poet’s Landing in Dryden will be moving forward with its 48-unit second phase. The rentals, which are targeted at individuals making 60% of county median income, are expected to begin construction in August with a late summer 2017 opening. Phase I, which consisted of 72 units, opened in early 2013. The state awarded the project $1,600,000 from its Housing Trust Fund, and $734,956 in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the apartments’ construction.

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7. Tompkins Trust held the official groundbreaking this Friday for it’s new 7-story headquarters. Plans were slightly delayed after some issues arose with NYSEG. The current plan is to have the 123,000 SF building ready for occupancy by March 2018. Costs have risen somewhat, from $26.5 million to $31.3 million.