Milton Meadows Construction Update, 2/2019

24 02 2019

Out to Lansing for this latest addition to Tompkins County’s deeply underserved affordable housing market.

Here are the spark notes: Milton Meadows, a project by Cornerstone Development Group of Rochester, is a 72-unit, $17.3 million affordable housing complex in the Lansing Town Center consisting of ten buildings, nine eight-unit apartment buildings and a community center. 71 of the units will be set aside for individuals making 50-80% of area median income, and the last unit is for a live-in property manager. Veterans who meet the income guidelines will get preference in the application process. The project will use electric heat pumps and be built to LEED Silver standards.

Now for the in-depth. This apartment project, to be built on 13.5 acres, is the first development to get underway at the 156-acre Lansing Town Center, across from the town hall and near the intersection of Triphammer Road and Route 34B. This location comes with its pros and cons – the pro is, the town’s pretty keen on getting the land developed into a tax-generating, mixed-use environment, and has been generally supportive of development in this area, even though it dropped the ball with the first attempt several years ago. The con is that Milton Meadows is the only project underway, and looks to be the only project underway for some time yet. That means there is not much nearby- the Lansing Market the town library, a gas station, and a few other homes and small businesses.

This puts up in the affordable housing conundrum. It’s easier to get approval in rural areas where there are fewer neighbors, but it also isolates residents from needed goods and services, and often forces them to own and maintain a car, which makes living in these developments on the suburban fringe that much less affordable. However, when your alternatives are Trumansburg residents advocating the village seize land through eminent domain to prevent affordable housing, or going through the wringer down in Ithaca, one can understand why something this far out in Lansing might have some appeal.

This project is a little hard to follow through Google, because its name changed three times. It debuted as Lansing Commons in August 2017, changed to Lansing Trails in September, and then to Milton Meadows a few months later. Milton was actually the original name for Lansing, indirectly – Milton was changed to Genoa in 1808, and Lansing was split off from Genoa in 1817, the same year Tompkins County was established. It’s worth noting that “Lansing Commons” is the name of the housing development at the end of Woodsedge Drive, and “Lansing Meadows” is already taken.

For the sake of pointing it out, there was plenty of opposition here. The chairman of the town of Lansing Planning Board, typically one of the easiest boards to get approval from in the whole county, voted against the customary declaration of lead agency on the affordable apartment complex The reasoning was a fear that its lower-income occupants would create more crime. More appropriate commentary was made about taxes and increases in student enrollment. The chairman recused himself from further discussions after that outburst. Town supervisor Ed LaVigne has spoken in favor of the project as needed workforce housing by a responsible developer and property manager, and the project was approved last November.

Substantial funds were awarded by the state in May, and Cornerstone paid the town $337,500 for 22 acres at the end of October (for the approved phase and potential second phase). Construction work began in December.

Plans for a second phase of 56 units were shelved during the review process; Cornerstone can always revive it later, but it will be a second approvals process if/when that time comes. The reason for this was to provide space for the on-site sewage treatment field. The project will eventually hook into the town sewer when built, which will allows plans for the second phase to move ahead, expected in 3-5 years.

Gross rents (rent plus utilities) will range from $680 to $1,400 a month, with 64 units for households with incomes 50 to 80 percent of the area median income ($29,500-$47,200/year for a single person, $33,700-$53,900 for a two-person household). The remaining units are expected to rent at market rate. Along with veteran’s preference on all available units, five apartments will be set aside for veterans with physical disabilities. More specifically, expected rent ranges are $680 to $750 for one bedroom units, $835 to $850 for two bedroom apartments, and about $950 to $1,100 for three bedrooms. Market rate units may rent as high as $1,400 for a three bedroom unit.

Nine of the structures will be apartment buildings ranging from 6,600-10,200 square feet (SF), with 8 apartment units apiece. The buildings are designed so that all the units in a structure are the same size range, so all one-bedroom buildings (4), all two-bedroom buildings (3), and all three-bedroom buildings (2). The last building would be a 3,100 SF community center with a computer room, laundry room and gym. Also included are 139 parking spaces, a community garden, sidewalks, playground, and stormwater management facilities. SWBR Architects of Rochester is the architect. Cornerstone and its general contractor, Taylor the Builders of Rochester, have deployed this design in other towns, so they have a familiarity with the design, which allows for more efficient deployment of labor and a higher fit and finish because they know the design’s quirks, and where they’ve had issues in the past. Passero Associates served as project engineer.

As it often is for affordable housing, the financing comes from a variety of public and private sources. The project is supported by a NYS Homes and Community Renewal award of federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) that generated about $9.9 million (from $5.1 million in credits; quick rehash, LIHTCs are sold to banks and similar financial institutions so that they get the tax credit, and the affordable housing developer gets the money they need to move forward with a project), and a $4.05 million loan from the Housing Trust Fund. The Community Preservation Corporation is providing a $2 million permanent loan through its funding agreement with the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Additionally, the Tompkins County Community Housing Development Fund is providing $256,875; NYSERDA is providing $63,200; and private firm Column Financial is providing a loan of $850,000.

Separately, Woodsedge Road, just to the south of the project, will be reconfigured to make a four-way intersection with the development. This is a $75,000 grant with in-kind labor from the town.

Site grading and prep work is currently underway at the project site. The access road is crushed stone for now, the asphalt planned are closed for the winter season. It will be paved in the spring, and christened “Louise Bement Lane” after the longtime town historian. The access road will be built by Cornerstone to town standards, and deeded over to the town for public use after the apartments have been finished. The internal road for the apartments will be Robin’s Way, after Robin Rubado, Cornerstone’s Vice-President of Housing. The prep for the interior roads is underway, but it will not be paved until most of the buildings are built. The first buildings will be opened by the end of June, with full occupancy by the end of September 2019.

More formation about the Milton Meadows project canbe found here.

The Frances Apartments in the town of Sweden, a nearly identical design.


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25 05 2019
Milton Meadows Construction Update, 5/2019 | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] More information about the Milton Meadows project, including site plan details and project history can be found here. […]

9 09 2019
Milton Meadows Construction Update, 9/2019 | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] The nine apartment buildings generally progressed in the same order as their addresses. 1 Robin’s Way (42 Auburn Road), the community center, is essentially done. 2 Robin’s Way, the southeast corner building with eight 1-bedroom units, will be ready for occupancy by the end of the month. In this southern portion, the lighting and sidewalks have been installed/poured and even the grass seed has been laid. From there, buildings go backwards in the construction timeline – vinyl siding (probably Certainteed), a couple varieties of housewrap (Tyvek and a second blue-faced material), window and door fitting, and framing. 10 Robin’s Way, another building with eight 1-bedroom units, is just getting its shingles attached to the roof, and is otherwise fully framed but not much further along than that. 10 Robin’s Way will be ready for occupancy in the December time-frame, about three months late…. […]

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