Cayuga Flats Construction Update, 12/2019

31 12 2019

Apologies for the blurry pics, near sunset and rain are a tough combination to work with.

Non-profit housing developer Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service’s (INHS’s) next major construction project to get underway in the city of Ithaca isn’t so much a new development as it is a replacement for existing housing. The $9.2 million INHS Scattered Site Preservation Phase 2 project involves the renovation or redevelopment of 29 existing rental units at 203-209 Elm St., 111 W. Clinton St., 406 S. Plain St., 227 S. Geneva St., and 502 W. State St., including six units of housing for special needs households. Most of the projects are renovations, except for the 203-209 Elm Street project at the base of West Hill, which will replace the existing structures on-site with a new 13-unit apartment building. Most of the units will serve households making 30-60% of area median income.

The Elm Street properties have been under INHS ownership since the mid-1980s, and INHS more recently purchased the single-family home at 205 Elm Street (which is tucked back from the street). Plans for the new housing were announced in April 2016, with the advertisement of an open house for West Hill residents.

As quoted at the time, the older four-unit building at 203 Elm Street had already been vacated. “203 has had serious structural issues for the past five years. 203 is settling too much, and we decided it wasn’t safe to rent . It would also be very expensive to fix, we could build a much higher quality new building for the same amount of money,” said INHS Senior Developer Joe Bowes. My understanding is that the issue stemmed from critical flaws with the settling of the foundation. 207-209 Elm Street is a 9-unit apartment building that had been renovated in the 1990s but was in need of further work, and INHS’s cost-analysis found that a new construction would cost about the same in the short-term, and less over the longer-period since it would have new utility systems and a stabilized slope.

The new build here would be a 12,585 SF, 13-unit apartment building, two stories from the front (northwest) and three from the back (southeast), further downslope. Now, you might notice that 13-units of housing is less than the 14 units already present on the three properties. That’s intentional, and was done to minimize potential blowback from neighbors.

Of the 13 units, ten will be one-bedroom units, and three will be two-bedroom units. The building’s design, penned by Rochester firm SWBR Architects, is a fairly modern look with fiber cement siding with wood-like fiber cement and masonry accents. I’ve never been sure which render I have on file is accurate since INHS uses one dated from April 2016 on their website and the project was only 12 1-bedroom units at the time, and a 13th unit and a few more bedrooms were added during review. I suspect the elevation drawing I have below is the more accurate one.

Engineering-wise, the project will be built on a 5″ concrete slab resting on a vapor barrier and compacted stone base, with concrete masonry unit (CMU) or poured concrete walls and footings. This foundation wall will also serve as a retaining wall. The floord above will be a traditional lightweight wood frame common in low-rise multifamily construction. Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing systems were designed by Fuegel Engineering of Syracuse. T.G. Miller P.C. of Ithaca did the civil engineering, and Seeler Engineering P.C. or suburban Rochester did the Environmental Site Assessment.

The project was approved in October 2017. Located in R-3a zoning (less-dense multifamily), two zoning variances were sought and granted for the Elm Street housing – one for six parking spaces vs the required thirteen, and another for a rear yard setback so that INHS can build a two-tiered retaining wall instead of one very tall retaining wall.

As with most affordable housing, funding for the project is a rather complicated mix of federal and private funds. Unlike market-rate housing where construction costs are typically covered by the developer and a commercial lender, the low return on investment for lenders leads affordable and supportive housing to seek alternative funding to cover the financial gap so that construction can begin. Affordable housing financing is like a puzzle, to be put together from a variety of public and private funding sources, from bank loans to tax-exempt bonds to tax credits, and all these different sources have to fit together in a certain way for maximum financial leverage. Funding for Cayuga Flats includes $5,364,532 in Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs, you can read about how those work here), $1,639,911 from the NYS Housing Trust Fund Corporation, $100,000 from Tompkins County Community Housing Development Fund, awarded in 2018, $194,014 from a NeighborWorks grant, $228,662 from the City of Ithaca’s federal HUD HOME and CDBG 2019 Allocations, and INHS is providing funding in the form of a Seller’s Note for $1,340,000, and deferred developer fee for $14,774. The project is fully taxable.

At present, interior demolition and the first stages are site prep are underway. Exterior demolition will follow once any asbestos has been abated and the buildings are safe to come down (I think this is a demolition and not a deconstruction). Build out will take about 12 months.

 

 





Ithaca Tompkins International Airport Construction Update, 12/2019

29 12 2019

With the new Customs and Border Patrol station opening this spring, the airport will be able to receive charter flights from Canada, so that makes it an “international” airport. The other news outlets popped in for opening day, and these photos are from a couple of days before, which gives an idea of the mad dash construction crews were doing to have everything ready in time. Give a hand to Streeter Associates and their subcontractors for getting the job done.

The $34.8 million expansion and modernization includes a larger terminal, six new passenger gates and three new boarding bridges (for a total of four), upgraded dining, seating and amenity spaces, tech improvements, a solar canopy system in the parking lot, and a 5,000 square-foot customs facility outside the main terminal. The expansion creates about sixteen new permanent jobs and is expected to provide a boost in tourism and general business revenue. When your community is “centrally isolated” from the main highways, it helps to have a top-notch airport.

The sources of funding for the $34.8 million project include $14.2 million in state funding, $10 million in federal funding and $10.6 million from Tompkins County. The total is well above the $24.7 million initially estimated, so the additional costs are being covered by the feds and as the Ithaca Times reports, a small fee on all tickets through the airport.





3105 North Triphammer Construction Update, 12/2019

28 12 2019

S.E.E. Associates/Andy Sciarabba’s new office building at 3095 North Triphammer Road was approve for construction last spring and started construction this past fall. What’s there right now is the basic frame of the building, a fairly utilitarian clear span one-story wood-framed design with a large gable roof atop an insulated concrete slab. A projection of the front eave will give space for porch columns and smaller gables advertising five of the seven tenant spaces being built in the 9,600 square-foot building, and the exterior will be finished out in vinyl siding and cast stone veneer. Also included are landscaping improvements, stormwater facilities and parking for 48 vehicles. Alternative/renewable energy sources, likely air-source electric heat pumps, are being explored for the project.

The commercial spaces are intended for either office or commercial retail tenants. The $500,000 project is expected to be completed by next spring. Per an email from Sciarabba that came in after the Voice article:

“We have signed 1 (unnamed) office tenant already, 1300 sf and have a verbal commitment from another tenant, a primary and acute care physician. We can accommodate up to 7 tenants and we are using air source heat pumps. The shell should be ready for tenant fit up in January with first occupancy about March. Our goal is to bring services to this part of Lansing which currently do not exist. We are very flexible as to tenant sf size since the bldg is clear span.”

Local architect George Breuhaus is the creator of the design, and Lansing construction firm D Squared (Doug Dake and Doug Boles), who just wrapped up the construction of the Boathouse Landing project, are in charge of the buildout.

 





Arthaus Ithaca Construction Update, 12/2019

23 12 2019

For Vecino Group of Springfield, Missouri, Ithaca is a match made in heaven. It’s a nationally-known firm with two specialties – affordable housing and student housing, two things that a college town struggling with affordability issues would seem to be a perfect fit for.

Vecino has made a concerted effort to break into the Northeastern United States in the past few years. Among the developments it has pursued are Asteri Utica, Mosaic Village in the Capital Region city of Cohoes (“Kuh-hos”, as living in the Albany area has taught me), Intrada Saratoga, Libertad in Elmira and the 444 River Lofts and Hudson Arthaus in Troy. Perhaps the most well known proposal to Ithacans would be the 218-unit Asteri Ithaca planned for East Green Street Downtown.

There is a logic to the naming. Vecino projects identify segments of their target market through the project names. Asteris, like the one proposed for the Green Street Garage, provide not just affordable housing, but several specialized units for those with developmental disabilities. Intradas, like the 157-unit Intrada going up in Saratoga Springs, provide affordable housing with a handful of units set aside for youth aging out of foster care. Muse is the student housing, Talia provides housing and services for those recovering from domestic violence, and Libertads offer housing to formerly homeless veterans. So, kinda just a neat little quirk there.

Arthaus, as one might guess, is the artist-focused affordable housing. The sort of tough part to make clear is that this is not limited to artists. The housing will be available to anyone who meets the income requirements. It just has amenities geared towards creative types, like a woodshop and storage space and gallery space run by an outside non-profit. 130 Cherry Street, where the project is located, was developed for commercial use in the late 1970s, according to documents filed with the planning board, and operated as an automotive repair facility for the last 20 years, AJ Foreign Auto.

The city planning board were on board with it from the start. Plans call for a five-story, 97,500 square-foot building. Among the features are support service office space, a community room, a gallery/studio (in partnership with the Cherry Arts, according to state docs from October) and a fitness room. It’s about 123 units (48 studio, 55 1-bedroom, 20 2-bedroom) of affordable housing, 50-80% of area median income, plus a one-bedroom unit for the property manager for 124 total. A breakdown of units and rents is at the end of this post and on the NYS HCR website here. Forty units (the ESSHI grant units in the rental breakdown table) will be set aside for young adults aged 19-26 for formerly foster care and homeless youth, and administered by Tompkins Community Action.

Along with the housing, the building would include parking for about 36 vehicles within and outside the building ,and 7,748 square feet of potential retail or office and amenity space geared toward artists. Also included is space for 52 bikes and 4 motorcycles, and access to Ithaca CarShare. The exterior will be finished out in light grey, medium grey and red fiber cement panels, with the internal courtyard areas having white stucco finishes. The ground level will have dark grey fiber cement panels and dark grey masonry.

A public promenade will run along the west side of the property next to the waterfront, pending approval from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The project was designed by Vecino’s in-house team, BW Architects and Engineers (remember, they’re a big firm that can afford to have their own architecture team). The project is also seeking to get arts groups involved in the design, to give it a unique local flair. The project will be built to state (NYSERDA) “Performance Path for Energy Star” standards for sustainable housing (Tier II, >25% energy savings above code). The city was looking to start off on the right foot with the upzoned waterfront, and this is exactly the kind of creative, affordable project they were hoping for.

The project pursued and has been awarded a PILOT agreement from the Tompkins County IDA. The PILOT request included a one-time sales tax exemption request on building materials, a one-time mortgage tax exemption on the mortgage recording fee, and a non-standard property tax abatement request. In lieu of the typical seven-year or enhanced ten-year abatement, Vecino asked for and received a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that would save them about $3.54 million off the lifetime of the tax deal. With the sales and mortgage tax exemptions, the total tax savings comes to $4.54 million, with Arthaus still generating an additional $3.73 million in new tax revenue over the life of the PILOT (note that the $3.73 million figure does not include existing tax payments, and is calculated using the current property taxes as a baseline; the PILOT would not eliminate existing property tax revenue, it reduces the rate of new tax revenue growth). The total project cost is $31,948,378. The PILOT approach has been used previously, with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services’ 210 Hancock project in the city’s North Side neighborhood.

Neighbors to the site were generally supportive of the plan, while the council members who represent the site (George McGonigal and Cynthia Brock of the First Ward) were not, deeming it too big and too much of a concentration of affordable housing. The Arthaus project was approved by the city in April 2019.

NYS Homes and Community Renewal docs say $14,078,249 is being provided in a HCR Supportive Housing Opportunity Program (SHOP) subsidy loan, and $10,871,535 from Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Vecino is only pursuing 4% credits vs. the more lucrative and harder to get 9% credits, which made obtaining financing easier – it pays to be big and be able to leverage cost efficiencies elsewhere. The tax credit and loan package was approved by the state in October.

Alongside Vecino on the project team are Fagan Engineers of Elmira doing the civil engineering work, local firm Taitem Engineering as energy consultants, and Ithaca’s Whitham Planning and Design for landscape architecture and community outreach. CRM Property Management of Rome (Oneida County) will manage the property on Vecino’s behalf.

With the fence and dust guard up, it seems plausible that this project’s in site prep, taking apart the old body shop and readying the site for excavation and foundation work. December was the approximate date given for a construction start back when it was approved, and the plan is to open for occupancy in late summer or early fall of 2021. 150 construction jobs and four permanent jobs will be created by the Arthaus project.





Heights of Lansing Construction Update, 12/2019

23 12 2019

Forest City Realty (the Bonniwell and Jonson families) is continuing work on the next six-string of for-sale townhouses as part of their Heights of Lansing development at the end of Bomax Drive in Lansing village. The units currently under construction (65, 67, 69, 71, 73 and 75 Nor Way) will be 3 bedroom/3.5 bath with 2,500 sqaure feet of living space and a price tag of $398k-$408k, the higher price tag being for the units on either end of the string (one less party well and a pair of additional small windows).

The biggest difference between this six-string (hexplex?) and the previous is that the older set across the street steps down in elevation a little bit for each pair going southward, while this newer set is all the same elevation. In terms of finishes, they should be similar, but not the same. The gables, entries and fenestration are nearly the same, but I suspect the colors of the finishes will be different than the blue shingle/beige stucco on the older string.

Per the advertisements online, this one for 65 Nor Way:

“Brand new, luxury townhouse with Italian villa vibe in the contemporary Heights of Lansing neighborhood. End units have extra windows. Marbled flooring in entrance vestibule leads to sunken Great Room with 10′ ceilings, crown molding, rounded corners, beautiful floor to ceiling windows, gas fireplace with marble and stone mantel. Open Mediterranean style gourmet kitchen shines with stainless steel appliances and ample Ubatuba granite counter space. Back patio features stamped concrete design and privacy fence. Upper level landing with built-in shelving/office area, and balcony access. All bedrooms en suite with radiant heat in baths. Upper level laundry. Energy efficient ductless heating/cooling wall units with 5 zones will save you money, improve interior air quality, and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Attached 2 car garage with its own heating/cooling unit. Low HOA $185/mo. Convenient to Cornell, Cayuga Lake, downtown, dining, and shopping. Bellissima!”

In case you’re wondering, Ubatuba is a very dark-colored and trendy Brazilian granite. These are fully framed, roofed and are being sheathed and housewrapped now, but it doesn’t look like much more than interior framing has taken place within the townhouses, with perhaps some utilities roughs-ins just getting underway. These are likely heading for a late spring (Q2 2020) finish. For those interested but looking for something move-in ready, two of the six townhouses in the last string (64 Nor Way and 68 Nor Way) are still on the market.





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Going to go ahead and say these are substantially complete. All 14 townhouse strings appear to be occupied or at least ready for occupancy. According to the rental advertisements, the prices will be in the upper/premium side of the market, though not as high as some of the luxury units in Ithaca: one-bedrooms are $1,695-$1,795/month, two-bedrooms $1,895-$1,995/month, and three-bedrooms $2,445/month. Units come with fiber optic internet connections, cable TV, USB ports in outlets, vinyl plank flooring, 42 inch cabinets, fitness room and lounge access, pool/clubhouse, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, washer/dryer, ample parking and smaller dogs and cats (for a $299 initial fee plus another $35/month).

DGA Builders made quick work of what is a relatively large project by Tompkins County standards. It’s not clear if they’ll be a part of Park Grove Realty next local project, the multi-family and mixed-use buildings at the Carpenter Business Park / Cayuga Gardens site. Park Grove’s 51-unit Downtown Elmira building just opened and a Buffalo project is expected to launch in the next couple months.





Village Solars Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Over at the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 SF 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards is just getting underway. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out).

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It is undergoing framing now and has yet to top out with roof trusses. If I had to take a guess, I’d say 36 Village Circle North will be ready by the end of April, and Building M will be ready by the end of July.

So, avoiding the political question of whether the town supervisor should have voted on approving the PDA amendment on the community center because that’s not this blog’s wheelhouse, it was granted, but the outcome for the community center is still murky. As previously discussed back in September, it could either be built at its original location in its original ground-floor community/commercial with 20 one-bedrooms above, or with a different design in a location further east, more central to the property next door for sale by Rocco Lucente Sr.’s estate.

A few weeks ago, an ad showed up on commercial real estate website Loopnet advertising Lucente Sr.’s holdings, listing the property for $10 million. For that price one gets 96.44 acres and 42 existing units in four buildings, as well as plenty of development potential. Now, my gut is that the negotiations between Steve Lucente and his father’s estate were either not going well or had fallen through completely, but no one in the family is talking, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that big merger of the two sites will happen. If it doesn’t, Steve Lucente will start work on the originally-planned community center building next year, as the modified Planned Development Area states.

I did not realize TCAT Bus Route 37 now passes through here (it appears to have started to make stops here earlier this year) but it makes sense given the population growth. At the start of the decade there were about 56 bedrooms here and about 30 on the elder Lucente’s property next door. When the latest building open next year, it will be 420 or so bedrooms on this site and 54 next door (the elder Lucente built a final 12-unit building with two-bedroom units in 2011-12). When all approved construction is complete in about 2022 (the three remaining rebuilds and the community center mixed-use), that will be up to 507 bedrooms in 333 units, not considering future growth on the property next door. It’s not quite the scale of Cornell’s dorm projects or Collegetown Terrace, but it’s probably the next largest single development site after those, it’s just no one notices because it’s rather out of the way and the build-out has been modest but steady.

According to a county deed filing just after this post went up, Northwest Bank, a regional bank mainly operating in Western Pennsylvania, is lending $4,935,000 for the construction of the two buildings.