Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 11/2016

30 11 2016

At the Cayuga Meadows site on West Hill, LeChase Construction has fully framed the new 68-unit apartment building. Windows and doors have been fitted into the wood stud walls. The roof looks to be pretty much complete, with the exception of trim pieces.The first floor is getting a brick veneer, and the balconies are built out but are also lacking their trim for the moment. The Tyvek waterproof housewrap will be covered over with Certainteed fiber cement “Savannah Wicker” Dutch Lap Siding and “Cypress Spruce” cedar-like shingle siding. Basically, beige and grey-green. Looks like the new access road has also been paved.

It might not be the most exciting design, but it’s one of Conifer LLC’s tried-and-proven approaches – an L-shaped structure with bumpouts, typically hosting small private balconies. One need only go a couple miles south to Conifer Village at Ithaca to see a similar example, albeit with some different material finishes. While Cayuga Meadows might not be especially unique, it does have its advantages – LeChase, who does nearly all of Conifer’s work through a partnership, has extensive experience with the design, and that familiarity should help with producing a high-quality and on-time product.

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602 West State Street Construction Update, 11/2016

29 11 2016

It’s been a busy period for construction starts. Elmira savings Bank has started work on their new branch office at 602 West State on Ithaca’s West End.

The project itself isn’t controversial. But the $1.75 million purchase in December 2015, followed by the very controversial eviction of three low-income families so that their homes could be turned into parking lots…well, that didn’t go over very well, nor should it have. Now with the chance to do some retrospective, it appears that the primary malefactor was the previous property owner, who signed new leases with the tenants but didn’t tell Elmira savings Bank when he sold them the properties. Elmira Savings Bank could have saved themselves many headaches if they had done some due diligence by meeting with the tenants of the properties they were purchasing, but, live and learn, sometimes the hard way.

Plans call for renovating the 5,000 SF building that once housed the Pancho Villa restaurant, a 1,600 SF addition on the north side of the building, and a new drive-thru for bank customers. 16 parking spaces will be included. Edger Enterprises of Elmira will be the general contractor for the $1.7 million project, which is expected to be completed in March 2017. HOLT Architects, headquartered just across the street, is the design firm on record. The primary change during the review process was to limit the house demolitions – the board strongly encouraged ESB to find a partner to develop those lots rather than convert them to parking. At the moment, one of the houses has been torn down to make way for the drive-thru, but the other two will be left as-is and vacant for the time being.

The new addition will incorporate a limestone base, red brick similar to that of the existing structure, Alucobond anodic satin mica colored metal panels above and below the aluminum window curtainwall, and Hickman sandstone-colored metal roof coping. The blue painted brick will be restored to more historically accurate grey-green, and the bricked-in windows will be restored. Bronze-colored metal sunshades will be installed over the windows, and the steel drive-thru canopy will be the same color. The roof will be a white single-ply membrane.

In the construction photos, the new addition has had its foundation excavated and it looks like the concrete is in the process of being formed and poured, with subsurface utility lines poking out in the excavated, yet to be poured portion. The small windowless addition and fire escape on the western wall of the existing structure have been removed as the building advances through renovation – the first and second-floor doors will be replaced with appropriately-sized and historically-accurate windows to match the bricked-in window towards the front.

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The Cherry Artspace Construction Update, 11/2016

28 11 2016

I don’t mind doing these summary posts – I just wish that several projects didn’t start in the same two month span.

The Cherry Artspace, to be located at 102 Cherry Street in Ithaca city, is a multidisciplinary theatre and arts venue planned by The Cherry Arts, a performing arts non-profit led by Artistic Director Sam Buggeln (Bug-ellen). The building is intended to not only house performances by The Cherry Arts, but other local and traveling theater groups, concerts, poetry and jam sessions, and just about anything else in the name of creative arts and artistic expression. The building will join Ithaca’s active and productive performing arts scene, including venues such as The Hangar Theatre and the State Theatre. College towns like Ithaca love their arts, be they visual, spoken or both.

The plan is for a one-story, 1,900 SF space designed by local architect Claudia Brenner to blend in with the industrial architecture that comprises the Cherry Street corridor. To do this, the building is basically the big brother to the former Renovus Energy building next door – similar colors, similar materials, and a shed roof, which Renovus put on to make the 1,154 SF building more amenable to solar panels. The space on which it is being built previously housed parking spaces and a utility shed, since moved. Buggeln purchased the building and lot in August 2015 for $240,000, and the construction and furnishing costs for the Artspace are estimated at $375,000. The Cherry, which can host up to 180 patrons during performances, has a parking agreement with the business next door to use their parking spaces, and it works out since the two organizations will be busiest at different times of the day.

The approval process was a bit lengthy, all things considered. The city created its TM-PUD zone as a way to legally deter the Maguire car dealership proposal for the waterfront, but the Cherry Artspace fell into the waterfront zoning overlay as well, so it not only had to go through the Planning Board, but the Common Council. The Artspace held its public information meetings at the end of March and mid-April. It enjoyed fairly broad public support, but two of the eight voting councilmen still voted against its construction at the May meeting. One was concerned about noise, the other was kinda out of the blue. The project also had to apply for several zoning variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Construction on the Artspace officially began November 7th. This was a few months later than originally anticipated, and according to Buggeln it was due to contractor delays. I a rather unusual setup, that’s a slab foundation going in, but it’s made of styrofoam blocks – given the waterfront location and high water table, the relatively light building will “float” on top of the blocks.

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312-314 Spencer Road Construction Update, 11/2016

28 11 2016

I’ll start off by saying I struggle with how to title this project. It has no official name, and the street address for the two new two-family homes has yet to be determined – presumably, they would be assigned addresses for the 200 block of Old Elmira Road. The developer, Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals, uses the address of the properties from which there were subdivided from – 312 and 314 Spencer Road, the two houses in the rear of the first photo.

Originally, 312 and 314 had three lots with some pretty unusual lot lines, but with .607 acres, there was a lot of unused backyard space, especially for city parcels. Seeing an opportunity, O’Connor negotiated a purchase agreement with property owner Giuliano Lucatelli, who ran a restaurant in the building adjacent to the houses (and perhaps a couple of readers remember Lucatelli’s Ristorante). With the benediction of the city, the project team consolidated the three parcels together, and then subdivided the newly-created parcel to create two buildable lots facing Old Elmira Road, and a third lot containing the two existing houses. The plans were approved back in June, and O’Connor officially purchased the houses and land for $193,000 in mid-July. On November 1st, the project received a $500,000 construction loan from local businessman Bryan Warren of Warren Real Estate. That would seem to cover most of the hard costs; the site plan review application estimated the construction cost at $513,000.

Plans call for two two-story houses with footprints of 23.5 feet by 48 feet (1,128 SF). Each floor will contain a three-bedroom, two-bath unit. The houses, designed by prolific local architect Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative, have been fashioned to blend into the early 20th century homes that comprise most of Ithaca’s South Side neighborhood – gable roofs, window bay projections, shake and lap siding, and modest porches. An earlier design shown on Modern Living Rentals’ website shows a larger and more contemporary window design on the buildings’ front faces, but it looks like that was scaled back to two more-traditional looking windows as the project went through planning board review.

To accommodate the new homes, some trees were removed, but as a mitigation measure, new trees will be planted closer to the street. The western tip of the properties intrudes into the 100-year flood zone, but that part should remain undisturbed. Each three-bedroom unit will have one parking space, in line with the city’s R-2a zoning (one space per three bedrooms).

An ad on Craigslist suggests the 3-bedroom units will be run for $1700 total, a premium price point as new units often are, but well below the prices that one would see in Downtown or Collegetown. Advertised features include stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, in-unit washer/dryer, ample closet space and custom-tiled bathrooms. Parking will be in off-street gravel lots.

If the photos below are any indication, those tiled bathrooms and granite counter tops are still a ways off. The foundations have been excavated, formed and poured, but the framing has yet to begin. Subterranean utilities have been laid and prepped. Note that the foundation of the western house includes a bump-out for a window bay projection, but the eastern house does not.

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Ithaka Terraces (215-221 West Spencer Street) Construction Update, 11/2016

26 11 2016

Ed Cope’s Ithaka Terraces have made modest but noticeable progress in the past couple of months. Building A is up to the third floor, while Building C is undergoing foundation work. The other two buildings, B and D, will come along in later stages.

Since the 12-unit South Hill condo project is going for net-zero capability, its construction is a little different from the norm. Quoting the sales website:

“The building features nominal 12 inch thick double stud exterior walls with a total of R39 continuous dense packed cellulous insulation and 18 inches of R63 loose fill cellulous insulation in the attic. The walls and attic are completely air sealed with Zip sheathing with all seams taped to prevent vapor migration through the walls and ceiling.”

The exterior walls are a combination of thick wood stud walls, thermal plastic filled with concrete and Huber Zip sheathing. In between the cavities of the stud walls, local contractor AquaZephyr will be blowing in dense cellulose insulation (pictures of that process here). This will allow the condos to achieve a very high degree of energy efficiency, and assist in making the project net-zero capable.

More info on the project can be found here.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 11/2016

24 11 2016

The last phase of Collegetown Terrace is fully framed up. Novarr-Mackesey‘s 344-bed project is mostly closed up, just in time it seems. The maroon waterproofing material covers nearly all of the structure, windows have been fitted in most of the openings, the vinyl “fish scales” are still being applied and the aluminum metal panels are slowly making their way from west to east. One critique I have about the grey panels is that they are not perfectly flat – bumps, dimples and seam pressure spots are visible in direct light (see second-to-last photo for reference). Getting the rest of the water-resistant wrap and exterior materials will progress more slowly now that winter’s set in, but the meat of the work at this point will be focused on the interior – getting the utilities installed, stud walls assembled, drywall hung, and fixtures in place. Work on the roof (EPDM synthetic rubber most likely) will have to wait for spring as well. Welliver is expected to have phase III ready for occupancy by August.

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Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 11/2016

23 11 2016

Definitely seeing a lot of progress on the Vet School Expansion. The new glass curtain wall on the Vet Research Tower is nearly complete, and the final finishes are due to wrap up by the end of the month. The new library/dean’s wing by the front entrance is undergoing interior framing and utilities installation. The new atrium and lecture hall are now visible from the street, now that some of the structural steel has been erected. Floor slabs and roof decking are also being laid.

The new atrium and lecture hall are expected to be closed up by January, and the whole $74 million project is aiming for an August 2017 opening. The Community Practice Service Building, a separate $7 million project on the Vet School campus, is expected to start construction in early next year with a completion in late fall 2017.

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Upson Hall Construction Update, 11/2016

22 11 2016

Because of the multi-phased, tiered buildout of Upson Hall’s renovation, it’s easy to miss the changes. For example, in the first photo, there really haven’t been any exterior changes to the fourth or fifth floor, but on the third floor, there’s been significant progress – the old stone has been removed, the new stud walls have been erected, gypsum-based glass mat sheathing has been laid and waterproofed, and new windows have been fitted. You can see the latest batch of exterior wall progress on the third floor of the west face, third photo below. The first and second floors have had their old exteriors stripped as well, but at the moment the frame is exposed. The interior has been gutted and new utilities rough-ins are being routed.

On the side facing the Engineering Quad, the progress has been similar – the third floor has seen the most work recently as the renovations work their way from top to bottom. Turning to the east face, sheathing extends to the bottom floor, and it looks like an aluminum roof cap has been installed on the new bump-out. The general contractor for Upson is The Pike Company, which is touting the project with computer-generated images of construction staging on its front webpage.
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Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 11/2016

22 11 2016

Introducing a new project to work into the rotation – work has begun on Cornell Law’s renovations of Hughes Hall. Coincidentally, I broke this story for the Voice almost a year ago to this date.

In Summer 2012, the Cornell Law program embarked on a three-phase renovation and expansion program to their facilities. The first phase was a 17,500 SF, mostly-subterranean addition of an auditorium space, two large-group classrooms. foyer space, and a renovated courtyard. Designed by Boston-based Ann Beha Architects and constructed by Welliver, that $23.8 million phase, certified LEED Platinum, was completed in late summer 2014. Plans for phase II came forth in November 2015, and were approved by the city this past March. Phase III, which calls for renovations to the law school library, has yet to be presented.

Hughes Hall was built by the university in 1963 and named for former professor Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes only spent two years at Cornell, partially because of the need to make better money from private practice, and partially because of familial pressures to leave behind a “one-horse town like Ithaca”. He would later serve as governor and a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hughes was a source of inspiration for mid-20th century megadonor Myron Taylor, and so the new law school dorms were named in his honor. The building served as the dorm and dining facility for the law school until 2005, when the first and second floors were renovated for administrative and faculty office space.

The Hughes Hall remodeling will have three basic components: enclosing the open-air loggia that currently connects Hughes Hall with Myron Taylor Hall, adding a staircase to the west side of Hughes Hall, and repaving the dining terrace by the Fork and Gavel Café. Administrative offices and event spaces will be on the lower floors, and faculty offices on the upper floors. The renovations will be seeking LEED Silver certification – this is two levels lower than the LEED Platinum of phase one, but it’s a lot easier and cheaper to achieve energy savings when a project is underground.

As a result of the remodeling, the last law school dorm units, totaling 47 student beds, were removed. At the time this was announced, Maplewood had yet to come forth, and I did a rare editorial for the Voice calling Cornell out on a lack of planning and poor stewardship. Minor site plan and landscaping improvements are planned.

Design work is by KSS Architects, with offices in Princeton and Philadelphia. Frequent Cornell collaborator Welliver will serve as the general contractor. The project is expected to cost about $10.2 million and take about 13 months to complete. The project was initially slated to begin in June 2016 and wrap up in July 2017, but it appears the construction launch ended up being a few months later than anticipated.

In the photos below, some of the exterior stone veneer has been stripped from the wall, and on the lower levels the windows and some of the concrete masonry wall has been removed. This will be where the new glass-enclosed staircase will go. Work on closing up the loggia has yet to start.

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Gannett Health Center Construction Update, 11/2016

21 11 2016

Phase II of Cornell Health is advancing. A lot of the progress in the couple of months has focused on retrofitting the existing 1957 and 1979 additions – there will be a new three-story wing on the northeast side of the building, but it looks like only the foundation and subsurface utilities have been completed. New steel has been built on the 1979 wing, and rough window openings have been punched into the northern face. Meanwhile, the 1957 wing sports some new and very big panes of glass – recall that the building used to sport three levels of window bands separated by beige concrete panels. These large panes give the effect of a squatter, smaller structure, even though the external dimensions of the wing haven’t changed. The new entrance is still being built out. Looking closely, one can see new steel stud walls going into the interior as the old wings get completely gutted to meet the needs of a 21st century health center.

The renovations and new 18,000 SF northeast wing should be complete by August 2017. The $55 million project is being built by The Pike Company’s Syracuse office.

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