Cayuga Medical Associates Construction Update, 11/2017

8 11 2017

According the the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and educational services are the largest component of Ithaca’s economy, and among its fastest growing. While the colleges are growing incrementally, medical services have boomed as people live longer (up 5.2 years in Tompkins County from 1980-2014), and Baby Boomers’ need for medical services grows – Cayuga Medical Center has added several hundred jobs in the past decade alone.

In March 2016, Cayuga Medical Associates, a for-profit business partnered with Cayuga Medical Center, announced plans to build an outpatient facility at Community Corners, an early-suburban style shopping and office center located at the five corners intersection of Cayuga Heights (the official project address is 903-909 Hanshaw Road). While the core of the plaza dates from the late 1940s, additions such as the Chemung Canal branch and the renovated Island Fitness gym branch have been built in the past several years. CMA had been looking for sites in northeast Tompkins County, and found that Community Corners was the best choice for their needs.

Initial plans called for a 3-story, 39,500 SF building designed by local architecture firm HOLT Architects, which has a well-known specialty in highly technical medical structures. the first floor would host cardiology and cardiac care services (later revised to neurological services), and internal care (prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases) on the second floor. The third floor was still rather speculative when first proposed. The building was expected to host about 72 staff and 400 patients per day. The project was going to be a bit of a slog – Cayuga Heights has what’s likely the most stringent planning board of any municipality in Tompkins, and the project would need variances for height, setbacks and lot coverage. Landscape architecture firm TWMLA’s Kim Michaels would represent owner Tim Ciaschi and the project team at meetings.

After a few months of back and forth, it became clear the the village was not going to be comfortable with the 3-story plan, and having no tenants locked down for the top floor, the scale of the project was decreased to 2 floors and 28,200 SF (23,200 SF lease-able space) in July 2016. Now only expecting 300 patients per day, the variances needed were generally more minor – while the height was contentious, a few percent over the maximum lot coverage isn’t as much of a concern. The village has eyed a denser, mixed-use Community Corners, if not necessarily the traffic and people that go with it; neighboring property owner Mark Mecenas has been mulling over plans for several years. The more modern-looking original design was replaced by one that better fit the plaza’s 1940s building, with gables and dormers.

Although concerns were raised over traffic, aesthetics, and those who felt Community Corners was the wrong place for a medical facility (they wanted street-level shops with condos above), the board was reasonably pleased with the changes, and after a few more months of SEQR review, the project was approved in November 2016. However, it was approved on the stipulation that parking demand mitigation measures be prepared and approved by the village first, as well as a customary submission of planned exterior finishes. Since parking had been underused at the rear of the site, only fifteen parking spaces are being added, for a total of 300, which brings it close to capacity (estimated daily use upon full occupancy was 262 spaces for the 3-story version). The submitted and approved parking plan allows for a small amount of overflow into neighboring lots, a partnership with the Gadabout bus service for seniors, talks with TCAT and a shower station for those who wish to bike to work. The parking plan was approved by the village back in August.

Along with the building, the project provides revised internal circulation with new driveways and sidewalks, landscaping, and stormwater facilities.  A one-story 1950s office building and a 1960s former Tompkins Trust bank branch were demolished to make room for the new building. The exterior will be faced with off-white brick and a grey brick header course, with a metal roof and aluminum windows. Current plans call for the building to open during summer 2018.

According to county filings, Chemung Canal Trust Company is providing the $7.8 million construction loan. McPherson Builders of Ithaca is the general contractor, which is offhand the largest project I can recall for which a local firm has served as GC. Along with HOLT Architects designing the building and TWMLA doing the landscaping, Ithaca’s T.G. Miller P.C. provided civil engineering and surveying work.

As of the end of October, demolition of existing structures has been mostly completed, with only the slab foundations remaining. The new building will also use a slab foundation, four feet thick according to the elevation drawing below.

Pre-development, April 16th 2017:

October 24th, 2017

 

August 2016 revision. The version approved in 2016 used fiber cement boards, later revised to brick.

 


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9 11 2017
CS PhD

I sure am glad they were forced to replace that hideous modern design with something more aesthetically pleasing. Maybe there’s something good about having a stringent and ornery planning board. Of course, it’s still too bad that Cayuga Heights is reinvesting into this suburban strip mall instead of trying to replace it with something more walkable and community-friendly, but the whole village is pretty much a cars-only design, so maybe that’s too much to ask.

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