News Tidbits 12/31/16: For Ithaca, This Wasn’t A Half-Bad Year

31 12 2016

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1. Another fairly quiet week for that Christmas-New Year’s lull. There wasn’t anything too noteworthy in real estate transactions, but thanks to a construction loan filing, we have a figure for the construction cost of Modern Living Rentals’ 902 Dryden Road project – $1,192,550. The 8-unit, 26-bedroom townhouse project is being financed by Elmira’s Chemung Canal Trust Company, a regional bank which has been looking to expand its presence in the growing Ithaca market. Most mid-sized building loans like this are financed by Tompkins Trust, and this appears to be the largest project CCTC has financed locally; checking the records for the past 12 months, they’ve previously financed a few single-family homes and that’s it. A larger loan like this might be a sign that they’re building confidence in the project and the market.

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2. Sticking with MLR, a glance at their webpage gives an interesting detail – the 87-unit, 87-bedroom 815 South Aurora project is now described as having 125 bedrooms. The multi-story apartment project sought and persuaded the city to reduce cellphone tower no-build radii last spring so that it could be built near the South Hill telecommunications mast, but because the city only reduced to 120% of height instead of tower height plus 10 feet (meaning 206 feet instead of 180 feet in this case), the project has to be tweaked. No revised designs have been released, but should something come along, you’ll see it here.

Side note, the website has an easter egg – clicking on MLR’s Commons placeholder gives you the 2015 downtown market summary from the DIA.

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3. For those interested in learning more about Cornell’s north campus plans, video from one of their meetings can be found online here. The key takeaways – the first building, when it is built, has to be larger enough to function as swing space for Balch Hall, which appears to be first in line for renovations. Balch has 437 bedrooms, to give an idea of the potential capacity of the first new dorms. Dickson is larger (527 beds), but its renovation will be split up over two summers, allowing for partial occupancy while renovations are underway. Lot CC could potentially be replaced with 1,000 beds in multiple buildings, as well as a dining facility (a new dining facility is seen as less urgent and would be further down the line). Those new dorms would eventually be geared towards sophomores, multi-story but “contextual” in height. It sounds like the first concrete plans are expected to be ready by the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

4. The Common Council will be voting on some bond issues next week that will fund several municipal projects. $500k for street reconstruction, $367k for municipal building renovations, $653k for street lights, $600k for a replacement water tank on Coddington Road, $101k for bridge inspections, $181k for the Stewart Park pavilion, $51k for site improvements to the Hangar Theatre property, $134k for design and scoping costs for the Brindley Street bridge replacement, $340k for the Cascadilla Creekway project and a replacement ped bridge at Sears Street, water mains, traffic lights, traffic calming, new police cars, all totaling $6,464,450. A separate measure calls for an additional $950k in bonds to cover the costs of the Stewart Avenue bridge repainting and reconstruction.

Some of the money covers design studies for intersections – of particular note is a study considering a roundabout at the “five corners” intersection at Oak Ave/Dryden Rd/Maple Ave, which could be a welcome change from that awkward traffic light currently there.

The city issues bonds twice a year, in January and July, to cover its various construction projects. Some of it gets reimbursed with state and federal dollars.

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5. I cheaped out on my Voice summary of the top development stories of 2016 – there are only 5, but only because there was no way I had time to do ten this week. Here are five that missed the cut – the cancellation of State Street Triangle and the rise of its replacement, City Centre; the Tompkins County Housing Summit and the Danter Study, which are important but not really attention-grabbing; some progress in affordable housing, with Cayuga Meadows, 210 Hancock, Amici House and Poet’s Landing; the continued growth of Collegetown, with the opening of Dryden South, Dryden Eddy and Collegetown Crossing, and the entrance of the College Townhouses, 210 Linden and 126 College; and the growth of the local economy, which if the numbers hold up to revisions, 2015-2016 will have the second highest year-over-year gain in jobs since 2000 (#1 is 2011-2012).

When thinking about what’s in store next year, it’s a little sketchy because of impacts from the incoming Trump administration, and how that could impact the national economy – but if things stay consistent on a large-scale, than Ithaca can expect continued modest but steady growth, mostly in meds and eds, with a bit in tech and hospitality. We’ll probably see a couple new projects proposed in downtown and Collegetown, and maybe some smaller residential and commercial projects in other neighborhoods, like the Elmira Road strip and State Street Corridor. The town of Ithaca, it’ll depend on if they get their new zoning sorted out; if they do, there might be a burst of new proposals in some areas. The other towns, it’ll be hit or miss, maybe a larger proposal in Lansing or Dryden but otherwise scattered-site single-family, par for the course. Also, keep an eye out for more housing proposals from Cornell.

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6. It’s quiet week, so let’s finish this up with a little water cooler gossip. From the rumor mill, some of the potential tenants being discussed for the Masonic Temple include a microbrewer (good thing the city just updated their zoning to allow microbreweries), professional event space, and a church. That last one seems a little unusual, but to each their own. The renovation plans call for three rental spaces, one of which is geared towards restaurant tenants.





News tidbits 12/24/16: Looking to the Future

24 12 2016

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1. Going to take advantage of this light week to go through some of the photo stash. I thought of doing a Poet’s Landing update, but because LeChase is mostly working on site clearing/prep and excavation at this point, and given the snow on the ground, it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot to be gained from making a unique update. But, rest assured, it’s still underway, there’s just not a whole lot to see at the moment. Once the snow melts off, the slab foundations work should be visible, and there might even be some framing going up by mid-winter. The six new apartment buildings and their 48 units should be ready by the fall of 2017.

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2. 107 South Albany in the city is another one that doesn’t merit its own post just yet, but work should be taking place at some point soon. The building permits have been filed with the city for the 6-unit, 9-bedroom renovation and addition to the rear of the existing building, and from peering inside the existing windows, there’s the impression that interior demolition work could be underway – could explain the broken window on the second floor at least. There was no excavation work yet in the backyard, where the new wing will go. The Site Plan Review document says July 2016 to August 2017. Maybe there will be something to talk about by the next round of downtown updates.

3. Some folks might remember Phoenix Books, the hard-to-miss barn bookstore off of 366 as one approached Ithaca from Dryden. The store closed last year after 30 years of business, and the barn itself is about a century old. Now the property at 1608 Dryden Road is for sale. The barn, a small outbuilding, and 29.3 acres for $229,900. According to the Zillow posting, a sale is already pending.

4. From sales to sold. An industrial property in the Inlet Corridor of Ithaca town has exchanged hands. The property is at 142 Ithaca Beer Drive, next door to the growing brewery and restaurant. According to the listing with Pyramid Brokerage, the property consists of “Two commercial buildings totaling 6,812SF on 2.79 acres at south end and just off of Ithaca’s Elmira Road (NYS Route 13) commercial corridor. Ideal for combo of office (812SF) and industrial/warehouse (6,000SF) with lots of room to expand. All municipal services. Warehouse building has high ceilings, concrete floors, 2 overhead doors and more. Great opportunity for light industrial/manufacturing with array of flex space.”

The Iacovellis used it to house their construction equipment, and had it on the market for $409,000. It sold for just under that, a reasonable $400,000, to Greentree Garden Supply, which has operations a stone’s throw away from the property. Greentree makes their own soil products (potting soils, soil formula), so that may be a potential future use of the warehouse they just picked up. Good for them; they seem to be thriving as well as their garden plants.

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5. Here’s a cool idea – the Lansing School District is planning to build an outdoor classroom as part of $4.95 million in renovations. Cassandra Negley has the full story at the Times. The renovations were approved by a landslide 240-32 vote, which was helped by the fact that the project will be funded with grants and money from the school district’s reserve (rainy day) fund – no additional cost will be assumed by the taxpayers. In advocating for the project, school district staff noted that it would provide for “multi-sensory experiences”, a useful asset during the instruction of natural and environmental science topics, and cited studies that showed students performed better academically when given the opportunity to have classes in outdoor spaces. The space would be used as covered play space during recesses.

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6. Going off into hand-waving territory here. Enter at your own risk.

You might have heard in the news this week that New York State, even though it added 104,500 jobs over the past year, is estimated to have recorded a population loss of about 1,800 people. That’s not a good thing for a number of reasons, but it’s a more acute issue upstate. New York City issued building permits for 101,705 residential units from 2013-2015, with another 13,000-14,000 estimated this year, and the city, just the boroughs and not even counting the suburbs, makes up nearly all the population growth (375,272 through July 2015, vs. 367,179 as the total gain for the state from 2010- July 2016). Upstate continues to hemorrhage people to other states. Not a surprise to anyone who’s travelled outside of Ithaca, Saratoga or the few other bright spots. What can we expect for Ithaca in a bad piece of news for Upstate?

Here are some off-the-cuff tallies for population growth. Ithaca’s estimated to be 30,788 as of July 2015, up 774 since 2010. The estimates due out early next year cover July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016.  What opened in that time frame?

By my count, Stone Quarry (82 beds), the Lofts at Six Mile Creek (66 beds), 804 East State (18 beds), 707 East Seneca (18 beds), 206 Taughannock (10 beds), the Lehigh Valley House condos (6 units, will assume county average 1.7 occupants per unit, for 10 residents), 116 Catherine Street (17 beds), and the 140 College Avenue (12 bed addition). Allow another half dozen or so units with a dozen beds total, for accessory apartments or new single-family homes. Only one of these projects replaced existing housing units – a one-bedroom bungalow came down for 804 East State. The gross gain is about 244 people, if we assume the standard of one person per bedroom or studio unit.

Now let’s do some subtractions. Hughes Hall closed on Cornell’s campus. -47 off the bat, for 197. Now, the math can’t easily accommodate those who had a household member move in/be born, or move out/pass on. But trends suggest a 2% decrease per decade, so we’ll treat it as negligible. So, my baseline prediction for the 2016 estimate is 30,981.

Just thinking offhand of the projects that have opened since July 1, 2016, expect at least 210 more for the July 1, 2017 estimate, and 670 in 2018, because that’s when Collegetown Terrace phase III (344 bedrooms), Novarr’s townhouses (net gain ~60 bedrooms), 210 Hancock (90 bedrooms) and Todd Fox’s latest trio (net gain ~110 bedrooms) are included in the figures. These drive-by numbers are based just on what’s underway, or approved and financed. The 2017, or more particularly the 2018 numbers could go up. So roughly, 30,981 in 2016, 31,191 in 2017, and 31,861 by July 1, 2018, assuming no major catastrophes and that the local economy’s growth and residential vacancy rate is consistent.

For the record, the purely mental figure I use for a 2020 census is 32,500. That would consider Harold’s Square (146 bedrooms), City Centre (250 bedrooms), the first phase of Chain Works (80+ bedrooms), as well as other proposals that may arise in the next year or two and open before April 1, 2020, the official census date. I do not factor in any new Cornell North Campus dorms in the estimate, since the new dorms will initially function as temporary replacements for existing space that will be concurrently closed and renovated.

Now, when thinking about the town of Ithaca, things get really weird because of Maplewood – a loss of 370-380 beds. The town doesn’t have any large multifamily underway – my partially-imputed count from permit reports gives about five newly-occupied duplex units and 20 or so homes for the July 2015 – June 2016 period, and the 10 Belle Sherman townhouses. That’s probably 100-120 beds total. The town of Ithaca will likely show a decrease in population in the 2016 census estimate because of the Maplewood closure, and it will be bad optics because there’s all this talk of affordable housing issues, and seeing a decline in population in the news will inspire a negative kneejerk reaction – either “if it’s going down do we really need housing”, or “hey, it’s going down, then why are the rents so damned high”. Have that talking point ready, Ithaca town board.

For the 2017 count/2018 release, the partially-educated guess is an increase of 150 given Brookdale, but the 872 new Maplewood residents won’t come into count until the 2018-19 estimation period, at which point we’re pretty much at the next census. I’m thinking around 21,500 for 2020 (from 19,930 in 2010), if the current trends continue and major housing projects are completed.





902 Dryden Road Construction Update, 12/2016

19 12 2016

Varna has long been touted as one of those places where development is likely to happen. The hamlet, which has under 1,000 people, sits close to Cornell in the town of Dryden – land is cheaper than most parts of the city, but the area is served by the bus line, which opens it up to Cornell’s deep-pocketed student market. However, Varna can be a tough nut to crack – this far out, the demand is mostly driven by more cost-conscious grad students rather than free-spending undergrads, and the going price for a rental is lower. With a less captive market and less lucrative rents, Varna becomes a trickier prospect.

Plus, although the town itself is fairly accommodating, some members of the local neighborhood group, the Varna Community Association, have a disposition against rentals, preferring that any development that comes along be owner-occupied. Owner-occupied is possible as Tiny Timbers hopes to demonstrate, but it is more difficult to finance since a developer can’t guarantee income the same way they could with rentals.

Since the 1980s, one can find at least six projects proposed in Varna that never came to fruition – the latest and grandest being a massive 260-unit proposal by the Lucente family, which the town turned away from further consideration after concerns about quality of life, and significant pushback from members of the VCA. Concurrently, the town was looking at updating the hamlet’s zoning, and the issues with the Lucente plan helped formulate the new Varna comprehensive plan adopted in 2012, and revised zoning not long thereafter. The zoning identified areas for density and dvelopment (ideally, a walkable core), and preserving more rural lands beyond the main drag.

902 Dryden Road, first proposed in June 2015, was the first project to come along after those planning and zoning updates. It was somewhat unexpected by some residents, because a redevelopment of this property was not envisioned in the town’s 2012 plan (which shows that plans are guidelines, not prescriptions). Initially, it was a 15-unit, 42-bed proposal, rentals aimed towards grad students and Cornell staff. Two of the units, totaling six bedrooms, already exist. Modern Living Rentals, a partnership of local developers Charlie O’Connor and Todd Fox, purchased the property in June 2014 for $215,000. At the time, the units were going to be entirely solar-powered, aiming for net-zero energy (what is produced on-site is equal to or greater than what it consumed).

At this point in time, Fox and O’Connor had done some duplexes and the 6-unit apartment building at 707 East Seneca in the city, but 902 was going to their first “large” project. But, they hadn’t counted on strong opposition, not just from neighbors but from Cornell Plantations (now Cornell Botanical Gardens), who had concerns about the floodplain at the rear of the parcel, where it borders Fall Creek. The town was hesitant to move forward with approval unless there were revisions.

As time wore on and meetings were held with the town and VCA, the project was reduced in scale; the lot size used to determine maximum unit density was calculated incorrectly the first time and two units were removed, and then the project was scaled back further to reduce impacts on the floodplain, moving the gravel parking lot so that it wouldn’t infringe on the plain – the final count came out to 10 units and 32 bedrooms, or 8 units and 26 bedrooms if counting just the new structures. The solar panels had been on the flood plain as well, but were eliminated because they were no longer financially doable at 8 units; it was stated that the infrastructure would be built to support net-zero energy down the line, if power was purchased from off-site. The reduced-size project was acceptable to the town and to Cornell, and 902 Dryden was approved in March 2016.

Along with the existing duplex, two new units will be built opposite a shared wall. Two three-unit clusters will also be built on the east side of the parcel. The middle units of the three-unit clusters will have four bedrooms with 1606 SF of living space; all the rest will be three-bedroom units, and about 1500 SF each. STREAM Collaborative is the project architect.

There are two separate groups of drawings floating around for the buildings, and I am not sure which is correct. The render below, from shortly after approval, shows warm colors. Renders on MLR’s website show what looks like blue, brown and white fiber cement panels. The unit rents range from $1500-$2000/month for the three-bedrooms, and $2600/month for the four-bedrooms. The project cost was estimated at about $1.5 million in early Site Plan Review docs.

It’s a bit of tricky site for photos- the site borders the intersection of 366 and Forest Home Drive, leaving a pull-off in front of the mobile home park, or at the spit of land where the roads split. But it looks like site clearing and foundation excavation are ongoing. If anyone knows who the contractor is, drop me a line in the comments.


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201 College Avenue Construction Update, 12/2016

18 12 2016

The Collegetown construction boom continues. In 2017, the city can expect at least five projects to open in the neighborhood, with a net gain of about 118 beds and $16 million in assessed tax value** – a two-family house at 123 Eddy Street; Cornell’s, 6-story, 76,000 SF Breazzano Center for its Executive MBA Program; the 5-unit, 28-bed 126 College Avenue;  the 9-unit, 36-bed 210 Linden Avenue; and lastly, the 5-story, 74 bed 201 College Avenue. Which has also been by far the most contentious one.

The project was first proposed in March – and from beginning to end, the only substantial change was a mild revision to its upper floors to create a setback as a modern deference to the Grandview House further up the block. That resulted in a loss of two bedrooms, dropping the plan from 76 to 74 beds.

For Todd Fox, who proposed the building through his company Visum Development Group, there wasn’t much room for revisions. He was going to, and paid, a premium on the property – $2.65 million, formally deeded in June by its previous owner, a small-scale local landlord who owned it for about seven years prior. The site held an early 1900s apartment house with three large spruce trees at the front, which became another source of contention during the debate.

To make the project financially feasible, he needed to build to the maximum 5 floors and 70 feet allowed by the site’s MU-1 zoning (the project would have been outright impossible before the 2014 CAFD zoning overhaul, due to the parking requirement), and building micro-units with mezzanines would make the project pencil out – the profit value of the vertical space was effectively maximized. Working with architect Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative, he proposed a fairly modern building with fiber-cement panels, woven bamboo boards and cedar accents.

However, one thing that did not factor in to the calculations was the neighbor of 201, 203 College’s Neil Golder. Neil is a 44-year resident of Collegetown, having moved in in 1972, and buying his house in the early 1990s. As the kitchen manager for Loaves and Fishes and a former Common Councilor for the 4th Ward, he’s well known among the Ithaca community and is well connected to its grassroots organizations, as well as the political movers and shakers. By any account, Neil and his late partner Kathy Yoselson are beloved stalwarts of Ithaca’s progressive scene. However, Neil has generally not been a fan of development, particularly Collegetown’s (with one notable exception – 307 College).

What 201’s debate boils down to is a clash of two strong personalities. Todd Fox, who is probably the most gung-ho and financially adept developer one will find in the city of gorges; and Neil Golder, who was determined as hell to stop the project planned for the house next door, which wasn’t just a development, it was a project that he deeply felt would be a major detriment to his quality of life. Hence, Neil launched the group “Save the Soul of Collegetown“, under the auspices of protecting all of Collegetown, but mostly as a personal vehicle to drum up support to battle Fox and his apartment building.

The point of this summary isn’t to summarize every detail. You can read the 580+ page summary from the city, or all the Voice articles here. But there are a few key plot points.

After review and a negative declaration of environmental significance (meaning, effectively mitigated), he project received preliminary approval in June, and the city and the planning board were promptly slapped with a lawsuit by Golder. The stated case was that the environmental assessment was inadequate and that the project needed an EIS. Although it was quite a stretch given past precedent, it did make the planning board quite uncomfortable. John Schroeder, a longtime board member who served with Neil on the council, did a very deep analysis of the 2014 zoning code and determined that the building may be illegal on technicality.

That technicality was about building facade length, and whether Bool Street was a primary facade – if it was, it would legally have been required to be two separate buildings for having too long of a continuous face to the street. The zoning code, however, illustrated that an approach with indents such as 201’s were acceptable, and the city planning department, in their pre-site plan review assessment and meetings with Fox, had signed off on the plan as legal and acceptable. And they maintained that it was acceptable. So there ended up being a battle between the planning board, which is appointed though knowledgeable community members, and the planning department, which consists of vetted city staff. These kinds of battles are extremely rare, and it is likely that 201 was the first in decades.

While this debate raged, the building far exceeded its intended start date of July 2016. As a result, the site went on the market, and the plans were cast into jeopardy.

Although Fox and his team wanted to avoid a trip to the Board of Zoning Appeals, it was determined by the board to be the only legitimate course of action. The BZA had to decide whether or not the project was legal. And, in a 3-1 decision in October, they decided it was legal, due to ambiguity in the code, and a lack of timeliness on the part of the planning board, as the legality was not considered until after months of review, after preliminary approval was granted. After the BZA ruling, work on the building began the next day.

No one walked away from this one looking good; One reader emailed in and compared it to a Clinton vs. Trump vote. The debate sent a chill down the development community, and created additional bitterness for some of the old-timers who felt Ithaca was selling out to developers and student interests. The planning department and board were also left with some resentment towards the other; now that the code has been clarified, one can hope further battles like this can be avoided.

Anyway, the building itself. Here are the floorplans. The mechanical room, a trash room, interior bike storage, gym and storage space occupy the basement. Four three-bedroom and four four-bedoom units (28 beds), with about 1,000 SF each, occupy the first and second floors. The third and fourth floors have micro-units, 16 of which will be about 392 SF studios, 8 of which will be 670 SF with two bedrooms, give or take a few feet for each (32 beds). The top floor has nearly the same layout as three and fourth, with eight micro-units of about 392 SF and 2 two-bedrooms of about 670 SF. However, the westernmost two units are studios, which have balconies and are about 400 SF each. So, 14 beds on the top floor, for a total of 74. The smaller units make use of mezzanine spaces and netting to increase usable space.

Fox’s rental company, Modern Living Rentals, is handling the leases. The units are currently listed from $1,670/month to $4,170/month, depending on size and location.

In the photos below, note that the excavated portion is only half of the building footprint – the basement only occupies the western half of the structure. The eastern half is slab-on-grade (Collegetown has more stable soils than most of the valley locations, so multi-story slab foundation buildings are feasible). The elevator core will be in the middle bridge of the “H”-shaped structure. Foundation forms are up and the concrete is being poured – through the fence, you can see one of the concrete footers already in place.

William H. Lane Inc. of Binghamton, who just finished up the Marriott downtown, is the general contractor for the approximately $6 million project, which is paying a premium to meet the opening date of August 2017.

**If you add in Phase III of Collegetown Terrace, which is on the fringe of what’s normally considered Collegetown, raise those numbers to 462 beds and $71 million.

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Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 12/2016

18 12 2016

The future headquarters of Tompkins Financial Corporation is starting to rise from the ground at 118 East Seneca Street. The elevator core and south stairwell are being poured section by section. Forms are being put into place to build the next level of the core. It looks like structural steel surrounded by concrete fortified with steel rods (rebar). The small holes within the elevator core are where the structual steel of the superstructure will tie in. The basement appears to be fully excavated with all the wood lagging in place. The four H-shaped steel bars next to the elevator core are piles, which will carry the building load. More on those in a minute.

The basement for the TFC HQ is a bit of an unusual setup. The excavated portion (12-13 feet deep) only encompasses the floor plate for the basement and ground floor. The second to seventh floors will have larger floor plates. The elevator core actually sits at the northeast corner of the ground floor’s floor plate – the area between it and the Hilton Garden Inn will be the driveway, and behind it, the customer parking lot. Stairwells to the upper levels will also rise on the northeastern boundary of the property, and the northwest corner of the first floor, close to the parcel’s lot line with the DeWitt Mall. The upper floors will have the support of additional load-bearing columns along the perimeter of the property (they will tie into the end-bearing steel foundation piles seen here in August, which seem to be capped and at ground level now).

Along with the perimeter piles and the piles within the ground floor plate, four support columns will rise from through the parking area to the floors above. Those appear to be pile caps for two of those support columns in the second to last photo. The four H-shaped steel bars are capped with a thick block of concrete from which the support columns will tie into, and use as their base. The weight of the building will be transferred through the steel structure, through the pile cap and evenly distribute the weight into those piles, which will transfer the load down into very firm soil 65-70 feet below ground level. This is what will give the building its stability.

Anyway, seems like I forgot to take photos of the drive-thru bank branch under construction across the street – which is probably close to completion at this point, if not already. The $31.3 million office building will open in March 2018. LeChase Construction is the general contractor, and HOLT Architects is responsible for the design.

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News Tidbits 12/17/16: So Much In One Week

17 12 2016

1. For the developers out there, it looks like your next opportunity just opened up in Collegetown. For sale are three houses on Linden Avenue – 6-unit, 8-bedroom 230 Linden, for sale at $675,000 (taxed at $350,000), neighboring 4-unit, 8-bedroom 228 Linden at $700,000 (taxed at $460,000), and two doors down, 2-unit, 11-bedroom 224 Linden at $525,000 (taxed at $400,000). All three are somewhat run-down student apartment houses on the cusp of inner and outer Collegetown – as such, their zoning is CR-4, which allows four floors, 50% lot coverage, and has no parking requirement.

The properties were all purchased in the mid-1970s by a small-time local landlord, who was killed in a car accident two years ago. According to the listings, the seller’s agent is a family member, and the units are leased until late 2017 or 2018, meaning that if one were to purchase with an eye towards rapid redevelopment, they would have to negotiate with the tenants, or wait it out. That being said, there’s a lot of potential here, particularly if a buyer combines 228 and 230 into one lot. The city designed the CR-4 zoning with Linden Avenue specifically in mind – the concept render is a northward perspective of a revitalized Linden Avenue. They’re a lot of money, but there could be some interesting news down the line.

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2. Also in Collegetown, here are a couple of concept color renders of 210 Linden Avenue (left) and 126 College Avenue, courtesy of Visum Development’s webpage (currently down, cached link here). I confess to be more of a warm colors person, but assuming these are fiber cement boards and wood trim (or fiber cement that looks like wood), they could turn out quite nice.

On a related note, Visum’s Fox and partner Charlie O’Connor have started earth moving for their townhouse project at 902 Dryden Road in Varna. As it turns out, it is a very difficult site to get photos of, despite its easily accessible location. I’ll do a more in-depth shortly, but the units should be ready by August.

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3. Fulfilling a promise to Fred, here’s the rather upscale McDonald’s/Fasttrak combo under construction North Road in the village. There is a billboard on 366 advertising for new hires for when they reopen, but unfortunately, it was too difficult to attempt a photo of the board and render. The building’s exterior is largely complete, and the gas station canopy is framed – late winter opening? The new construction has a price tag of about $500k. Honestly, for a roadside stop, it looks pretty nice.

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4. More on Dryden, with a couple houses of the week. Looks like some modulars are going into the Maple Ridge development – one recently completed, one in the works. The open space to the right of house number two, the Cape Cod, will host a garage. The land for house one sold to Kenn-Schl Inc, a regional modular home builder and seller, in June for $48k. House two’s land was sold to a Rochester man for $39k in October. At this rate, Maple Ridge is going to fill out their 15-lot phase one in another year or two. Although waylaid by the Great Recession, the big plan is for three phases and 51 lots.

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5. On the 15th, the construction loan for the William George Agency’s new 1-story, 24-unit dormitory was filed to the county records office. The $3 million loan comes courtesy of …. A trip to the property didn’t pan out, it didn’t look like anything was underway even though the building permits were filed with the town of Dryden a few months ago. Then again, as a facility for troubled youth, it’s not the most welcoming place for a random visitor to be taking photos.

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6. So what’s being discussed by the towns? In the town of Ithaca next week, a lot line adjustment between two houses, and more Maplewood discussion, with consideration of preliminary site plan approval. Meanwhile, the town of Dryden has cell towers galore, as well as revised approvals for Storage Squad (1401 Dryden) and Tiny Timbers; plans are in the pipe line for a 7-lot subdivision of the Dryden Lake Golf Course, and a possible sewer extension study for NYS Route 366 east of the NYSEG building.

Image Property of HOLT Architects

7. Speaking of sewer, the town and village of Lansing are negotiating sewer deals so that the town can use village lines to help accommodate future growth. Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star has the story. the report says the town is asking for 700 units of capacity, where a unit is 328 gallons. 700 units would also put the Cayuga Heights plant at capacity. The town’s intent is to extend sewer capacity to encourage development along Triphammer Road (as in the town center concept shown above), with the reasoning that it’s a natural extension of established development, and would help grow the tax base in the event of the power plant closing. Not as grand as the plans that were shot down in 2007, but like the Warren Road sewer built a few years ago, it’s seen as a more organic and cost-efficient approach.

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8. There might be some of movement on Jason Fane’s Bank Tower $4 million renovation from office space to 32 apartments. The windows were inspected and tagged recently, possibly to determine what needs to be replaced where. Most of the exterior of the Commons-facing building will receive a cleaning and re-freshening, with the bulk of the work geared towards the interior.

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9. In economic news, 24/7 Wall Street is reporting that Ithaca has the 25th best job growth in the nation from November 2015 – November 2016. 2,200 jobs equates to 4.4%, by their measure.

Hate to burst the bubble, but don’t buy into it just yet. Initial estimates can be way off due to statistically insignificant sample size for small communities. It may hold, it may not. Wait until March and see if the numbers get revised.

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10. Interesting meeting next week for the city Planning Board. Amici House and Maplewood are up for final approval, and a couple revitalized or new projects. Here’s the scoop:

1. Agenda Review 6:00
2. Privilege of the Floor
3. Site Plan Review

A. Project: Maplewood Redevelopment Project 6:10
Location: Veteran’s Ave. (between Maple Ave. & Mitchell St.)
Applicant: Scott Whitham, Whitham Planning & Design, LLC, for Cornell University
Actions: Adoption of Findings, Public Hearing, Consideration of Preliminary & Final Site Plan Approval

The Town Planning Board filed a Notice of Completion on November 30th, 2016, which can be viewed here: http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/major-projects/maplewood. The Town Board will consider adoption of a Findings Statement on December 20, 2016.

The city will specifically sign off on the bus stop and landscaped area at the northwest corner. STREAM Collaborative is the landscape architect.

B. Project: City Centre — Mixed Use Project (Housing & Retail) 6:30
Location: 301 E. State/M.L.K., Jr. St.
Applicant: Jeff Smetana for Newman Development Group, LLC
Actions: Determination of Environmental Significance, Recommendation to BZA

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C. Project: Amici House & Childcare Center 6:50
Location: 661-701 Spencer Rd.
Applicant: Tom Schickel for Tompkins Community Action (“TCAction”)
Actions: Consideration of Preliminary & Final Approval

Tweaked since last time – a little more glass in the stairwell, and the roofline of the classroom building has been broken up with three distinct gables.

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D. Project: College Townhouse Project 7:10
Location: 119, 121, & 125 College Ave.
Applicant: Kathryn Wolf, Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects, LLP
Actions: Public Hearing Determination of Environmental Significance

The big changes appears to be the switch from boxy bay window projections to curvy ones. Not sure if it works, given all the other boxiness. But on the bright side, we now know what the rear apartment building looks like:

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E. Project: Apartments (5 Units) 7:30
Location: 126 College Ave
Applicant: Visum Development Group
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency, Potential Determination of Environmental Significance

This is what I get for writing things over the week rather than all at once. Confirmed fiber cement panels (wood-like and Allura olive green) and a very light yellow Nichiha panel.

F. Project: Apartments (9 Units) 7:50
Location: 210 Linden Ave
Applicant: Visum Development Group
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency, Potential Determination of Environmental Significance

Charcoal grey fiber cement panels, light grey panels, natural wood trim and red doors. The base will be stucco.

G. 323 Taughannock – Apartment (Redesign) – Sketch Plan 8:10

Steve Flash’s 21-unit apartment building for Inlet Island was approved two years ago, but has not moved forward due to soil issues and parking costs. This new version is still a housing proposal, but I’m hearing for-sale units that may be condo-like. The design will also be new, but the aesthetic will be similar – it will once again be crafted by STREAM Collaborative.
H. Ithaca Reuse Center – Sketch Plan 8:30

I know about this project because a county staffer emailed me by accident. But without official docs, I wasn’t about to report on anything. The plan calls for a mixed-use building, not unlike that seen in design concepts a couple of years ago. TCAction and INHS are involved, so there is an affordable housing component – probably looking at mixed-use overall.

4. Zoning Appeals 8:50
• 3053, Sign Variance, 310 Taughannock Blvd.
• 3055, Area Variance, 113 Farm St.
• 3056, Area Variance, 301 E State St.

5. Old/New Business:
A. Update — Chainworks DGEIS – Transportation Comments/Responses – yes, it’s still going.
B. Update — City/Town Joint Planning Board Meeting Jan 31, 2017 – Maplewood?
C. Update — Joint Planning Board/ILPC Meeting (DeWitt House) – Let’s see how this goes…





Hotel Ithaca Construction Update, 12/2016

15 12 2016

The Hotel Ithaca addition at 222 South Cayuga is topped off and has taken the shape of the final product. Most of the new windows have been fitted into the exterior walls. Air conditioning units will be installed in the smaller openings. Peering inside, it looks like the interior framing is all set, and utilities rough-ins are underway.

In most places, the DensGlass fiberglass mat sheathing is being sealed up with R-Guard FastFlash liquid flashing, to close up the seams, joints and fasteners. Some of the newer sections, like the south wall, have yet to be sealed – in fact, workers were cutring and installing the DensGlass boards on the balconies while these photos were being taken. Since the balconies aren’t meant for full-time occupancy, the fiberglass mats are going directly onto the steel studs, without the R-Max polyiso. Taking a guess here, the gray coat on the front (east) wall might be a primer material for the exterior facade.

Along with general contractor and frequent Hart Hotels partner Krog Corp, it looks like Henderson Johnson Inc. of Syracuse was tapped for some subcontracting, and IBEW-sponsored John Mills Electric of Ithaca is handling the electrical rough-ins for the new wing.

The new $13.77 million addition should open in May 2017, just in time for the big graduation weekends. More background info on the Hotel Ithaca project can be found here.
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