News Tidbits 6/6/14: 115 The Knoll Finally Sells

6 06 2014
Photo courtesy of LoopNet

Photo courtesy of LoopNet

This house continues to fascinate me, given its highly changeable occupancy and ownership. Back in January, I noted that the house was up for sale for $1.35 million. In the same time frame, one of the recent occupants, campus Christian group Chesterton House, launched a $1,000,000 capital campaign to buy two Greek houses for use as men and women’s housing (the women’s housing is called Sophia House).

Looks like that capital campaign was successful – according to the finalized property sales just published, the LLC that owns 115 The Knoll sold the property to Chesterton House’s LLC on May 22nd for $1.15 million. In other words, Chesterton House now owns the house, and intends to operate it as their men’s residence. The operator of the selling LLC made a killing on the sale; while it’s down from the $1.35 million originally requested, it’s still a heck of a lot more than the $700,000 it sold for in January 2010. Looks like the rough ownership is Delta Phi Epsilon sorority pre-2010, O’Connor Apts. 2010-2014, and now Chesterton House.

This will probably wrap up my writing on this property for a while, but I doubt it will be the last I write about Chesterton House: they’re still looking for another “Greek-style” house to purchase and become the permanent home of the women’s Christian center.

 





Six Years Later

18 06 2014

7-26-2013 057

Birthday number six. As blogs go, Ithacating is an old-timer. Many blogs stop within weeks, months, sometimes they limp into a year or two. Going into its seventh year of writing is something of an accomplishment. As with each birthday, here’s the statistical summary:

yr_6_stats

In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216 and 182 hits daily. At this time last year, I was actually pretty concerned about the drop in traffic, thinking that the blog’s best days were behind it, and it would just be a slow decline until I finally gave up the ghost.

Before taking that drastic step, I figured I’d change up tactics first. For one, the twitter account was started on February 2nd; I try to keep many of the twitter posts unique, so that followers aren’t just getting rehash of the blog. About 500 hits have been from twitter (the vast majority from the Ithacating account), which accounts for about 2% of the blog visits over that Feb-Jun period – not enormous, but notable. After search engines and facebook, it’s the third largest source of visitors. I also started to leave links to other entries in posts, a practice I had shunned for years as a form of shameless self-promotion. I came to realize that, for easy info access, convenience outweighed modesty. However, I firmly maintain no one will ever see links to this blog on my personal Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

Second, I decided to borrow methods from Ithaca Builds; in some ways, Jason was the kick in the rear this blog needed to get back on its game. A daily check of city document uploads allow this blog to be among the first, if not the first, to report on new proposals and developments, and when I get around to a photo tour every few months, I break them up into individual projects – much less photo lag, and a steadier flow of entries. The old maps I did for a couple older entries were also “retired”, seeing as the HTML version on IB is much more useful. Jason has his strengths, and I have mine; I like to think we’ve both found respectively niches that complement the other writer’s work.

Another small detail is seen here – many blog posts are now written in advance and scheduled. I wrote this two days ago, leaving out the actual numbers until today.

Over the years, the content of this blog has also evolved quite a bit. At the start, it was largely Cornell, Cornell facilities and Cornell history. However, I eventually started to work my way through most of those topics, and ideas became fewer and further between. The Ithaca development entries, which were a small portion in the beginning, began to take up a larger proportion of the topic matter. I don’t regret this move, but it definitely changed up traffic patterns and what visitors come to this blog for. If anything, it makes me feel a little self-conscious when I get emails or comments give me far more credit than I feel is due. If I became an expert on Ithaca development and urban planning, it wasn’t my intention. I just prefer to not look like an idiot when I write something up.

mothly_numbers

Anyway, the numbers: as of 3 PM today (note that the blog time is GMT), there have been 56,700 hits, a daily average of 155 hits over the past year. But, looking year to year by month since the big drop after January 2013,  numbers are up 20-50%, a pattern that looks to continue this month. It took some work, but this blog is bouncing back.

Looking over the past years, there have some Cornell-related posts, a topic near and dear to my fingers, if not my heart. Buildings named for “friends” of Cornell, Cornellians in the Olympics, and the “Fast Facts” entries.

I sill do construction updates once in a while, though mostly I’ve left those to Jason’s domain. About the only ones I visit more often are the Belle Sherman Cottages and the Boiceville Cottages; I actually feel a little bad about the Boiceville updates, because I have the remarkable ability to make the place look unattractive every time I take photos, due to  it always being grey or cold when I pass through. In the past year, Seneca Way finished up, the Argos Inn opened (and I hit up its bar), Collegetown Terrace continued construction, and Breckenridge welcomed its first renters. Harold’s Square received approval, the Marriott and Hotel Ithaca dragged along (but at least one has started and one is about to start). Many projects were announced, including hotels at 339 Elmira and 371 Elmira, a new apartment building for Collegetown, 323 Taughannock, the Chain Works District, and everyone and their grandmother wants to redevelop the old library. It’s been busy, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, which I consider a good thing. History has taught me that not everything proposed will be built, but I’m optimistic much of it will, to the benefit of the city’s bottom line.

Over at Cornell, the Gannett addition was formally announced, the Statler planned yet another makeover, Gates Hall opened and the Dairy Bar reopened. Klarman Hall is underway and a new “Sesquicentennial Grove” is planned for Libe Slope. Lastly, I had my random topics, usually on the weather, the keyword bar, or my borderline obsession with 115 the Knoll.

It’s occurred to me that I have never written a “birthday” entry in the same place. Last year, about a week after that post, I did an interview for an air quality scientist job in Albany; after having an attack of conscience and turning down a job in California in December 2012 (the pay was great, but if I was going to hate the work, it wasn’t worth the move), I had felt that I was stuck in a rut. A few days after that June 27th interview, I received a phone call at 1:55 PM on July 1st, extending to me a job offer. It was great, because I was working night shift as a ship router, and had been woken from my nap; the excitement was tempered by drowsiness. I put in my notice, moved up here in late July, and here I am. I don’t want to “settle” in one tier of one job for too long, but it’s not a bad place to be for the time being. In a way, these anniversary entries are a timestamp of my life, one of many things I’ve enjoyed in these years of writing. I hope to make more timestamps in years ahead.





News Tidbits 1/23/2014: Cashing in One’s Chips

23 01 2014
Property of O'Connor Apartments

Property of O’Connor Apartments

About six weeks ago, I made a quick little news tidbit entry regarding 115 The Knoll, which had turned to Craigslist to try and fill its quarters starting this June. Now, we can also mention that the house is not only looking for renters, it’s also looking for buyers. From Warren Real Estate:

Gorgeous arts & crafts mansion steps from Cornell. Built circa 1915 with up-to-date sprinkler & fire alarm. Living room, chapter room, dining room, commercial kitchen. 13 rooms for up to 25 occupants. There is also [a] 1 bedroom cottage with a separate driveway. Approximately 18 parking spaces.

The real estate listing uses the same photo from the rentals website, so this is indeed the same house (the listing agent is Edelman Real Estate’s John O’Connor, who by my guess is likely associated with the family-run O’Connor Apartments). If interested, this house could also be yours for a cool $1.35 million (Ex-Ithacan take note). Taking a stab in the dark, my assumption is that the current owners have finally given up the ghost, and no longer want to be responsible for the property and its taxes.

Notably, this isn’t the first time the house has been on the market, but in summer 2009, it was only asking for $795,000. The house waited until January 2010 for a sale to be finalized. Whether it ends up a private home, home to another GLO, or yet another parcel owned by Cornell, remains to be seen. If 210 Thurston was any indicator, this one could be on the market for a while.

Around and around and around she goes, where she ends up, nobody knows.





How Does One Fill A Former Sorority House

8 12 2013

Image property of O’connor Apartments

This one was forwarded to me by an observant reader, L.D. It’s a listing on Craigslist for rentals available for June 2014 at 114 the Knoll (I always thought it was 115 the Knoll, but the listing photo matches my photos), which has served as a chapter house for a few different sororities over the years, the last being Alpha Xi Delta, which moved to another house on Ridgewood Road in 2010. More recently, the house has been occupied by a campus Christian group, Chesterton House. Chesterton’s house website notes a 2014 goal for purchasing a property near campus to serve as their permanent home, and I’m assuming that if this posting is up, then there’s a strong chance they succeeded in achieving that goal (if anyone knows where they decided to settle, feel free to comment or email me).

Quoting the listing:

“Beautiful arts and crafts house on North Campus available for June 2014. $750 per bedroom for 16 bedrooms plus utilities. Can hold up to 22 for the same price. Large living room with leather furniture. Banquet size dining room. Cook’s kitchen. You have to see to believe. Use [sic] to be a sorority. Email or call [redacted]”

This seems like a more unusual, and perhaps somewhat more difficult way to fill a large group home. Although the email links to the O’Connor Apartments property group, I don’t see it in their property listings, and I think they’re only handling the rental aspect of the house on behalf of another entity. My guess is that Delta Phi Epsilon sorority still owns the property, and with no short-term prospects of restarting their chapter, they need some way to try and keep revenue coming in for upkeep of the house. On one hand, they could sell to Cornell, which takes care of the tax issue, but then they’re at Cornell’s mercy – the house most likely becomes a dorm and there’s nothing Delta Phi Epsilon would be able to do, especially since they’ve gone a decade without an active chapter (there were attempts to re-colonize about three years ago, which did not materialize – the whole process being the subject of enough gossip at the time that one could have written a book about it). Yet another option is another private sale, like the home at 210 Thurston that was sold a couple years ago to the wealthy parents of a Cornell wrestler, renovated, and now serves as the home of Cornell wrestling team.

This is one of those houses that seems to routinely pass between groups at Cornell. I’ll be curious to see what happens.

Edit 1/23/14: Maybe I’m wrong about DPhiE still owning the property. I forgot that it was listed in July 2009 and sold in January 2010. Perhaps now the O’Connor Apartments firm owns the building.





News Tidbits 3/6/12: From Orthodox Greek to Christian

7 03 2012

…and by Orthodox Greek, I mean your normal Cornell Greek house. But I enjoy a little bit of word play.

I had come across a piece in my Cornell feed about a Christian house at Cornell on The Knoll called “Chesterton House”. I thought it was unusual that I had never heard of it, but I wrote it off as being some low key residential organization, like many at Cornell are (for example, Telluride, the Co-Ops and a few of the professional fraternities). I noticed its location was 115 The Knoll, which failed to ring a bell – I thought it was a rowers’ house or home to some of the Big Red Band. I’ve been vaguely aware that there were five houses on the Knoll, so there was bound to be some non-Greek component.

Then I glanced at their website – it’s Alpha Xi Delta’s old house. The one I profiled a couple years ago.

According to their website, the house is named for Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an early 20th century writer and “defender of the Christian faith”. The house holds 15 and is all-male, with the female equivalent being Sophia House at 315 Thurston, the house with a stucco finish and the extremely high-pitched tile roof. Apparently that house is being rented, so it is not under the organization’s possession. Now, the house on the Knoll is owned by Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, the last I checked (for the record, they’ve owned it since 1962). So I’m going to venture that this is a fairly recent endeavor, and a big step for an organization that was established only 12 years ago. Although a relatively young organization, it’s certainly garnering its share of alumni support.

I for one welcome them to establish themselves as one of the many opportunities afforded to students at Cornell. In my mind, I see it as something similar to the Jewish Living Center on West Campus. My one encouragement is that they adopt a policy similar to the Jewish Living Center and encourage freshmen to live with the other freshmen. I’ll willingly admit that as the brother of a fire-and-brimstone evangelist, I’ve been wary of religious groups in general (one tends to be that way when your sibling tells you you’re going to hell at every Thanksgiving dinner, for being a secular  Christian). But it’s also addressing a niche group at Cornell and offering more for some individual’s Cornell experience.





Rumor Mill: Alpha Xi Delta’s New House?

9 06 2009

Being in another part of the country sort of limits my ability to keep this blog as active as it usually is. That being said, occasionally some tip or rumor comes along, and if it piques my curiosity, I’ll sooner or later get around to addressing it.

In this case, it would appear that popular rumor is ciruclating that Alpha Xi Delta sorority would be moving into Alpha Omicron Pi sorority’s old house. To make a long story short, AOPi closed this past year for a number of reasons, leaving their recently renovated (and rather luxurious, if I dare say) house on Ridgewood Road open. The house itself has a long storied history of being involved in the Greek system, with no less than four different Greek organizations calling at home at some point or another in its nearly one-hundred year history (see other entries).

The rumor has its plausible points. For one, Alpha Xi Delta doesn’t own their house at 115 The Knoll. That house is still owned by Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, which closed about six years ago [1]. Rumor mill seems to suggest that Alpha Xi Delta’s moving to Ridgewood may not be permanent, as AOPi stated that once the last sisters graduate (2011?), the sorority is hoping to reactivate itself, persumably in the house it owns.

I guess my question is, if the rumor turns out to true, then what’s being done with 115 The Knoll? Is Delta Phi Epsilon reactivating, or is the house intended for another purpose? I s’pose only time will tell on this one.

 [1]http://www.rso.cornell.edu/DPhiE/DRhistory.html





Where Frat Houses Go To Die

29 11 2008

Okay, maybe not so much. Reasonably so, Cornell has seen many fraternities in its day, and while many still remain on campus, they often move during their tenure at the university. Other organizations have come and gone with the times. Well, the fraternity and its symbols may be gone to all but their alumni and the old yearbooks, but the houses…what happens to them?

It really depends on luck and the general mood of the times. The most common fate for Cornell fraternity houses is demolition, whether it be for a parking lot, an apartment building, or for a physical expansion of the campus. The Rabco Apartments (the rather worn-down brick buildings on the 300 block of Thurston) sit on the site of what was Phi Kappa Psi’s house. DTD’s old house is now a parking lot, as is Zeta Psi’s first house at Cornell (granted, it burnt down in a fire in the late 1940s). Kappa Alpha Society’s Victorian masterpiece was torn down for Hollister Hall in 1957.

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This view used to be blocked by DTD’s old house. But now it’s a very nice parking lot.

Rather than continue on that depressing tangent, some houses are fortunate enough to find a new life. Some are for university functions. Pi Lambda Phi, having closed in the 1970s, is now the Undergraduate Admissions office. Triangle’s house (pre-1985) is the dorm 112 Edgemoor, and 14 South was home to Kappa Alpha Society (they moved here right before the demo and remained until they closed in 1990). TriDelt’s house prior to 1965 is now the Alumni House on North Campus.Image courtesy of Cornell Facilities website (www.fs.cornell.edu).

14 South was AOPi's house from about 1992 to 2006. In 2012, it became the home of Phi Sigma Sigma.

Some are converted into private residences. The Westbourne Apartments in Cornell Heights are the product of a conversion of Beta Sigma Rho’s fraternity house (they closed in 1972). 210 Thurston, now a private annex house, was the home to Sigma Alpha Mu for decades. On the 300 block of Wait Avenue, the light purple stucco house with the tile roof has been home to two sororities and one fraternity (Eleusis fraternity in the 1920s [1], Chi Omega prior to 1953, and Phi Sigma Sigma from 1954 to 1969).100_2440

Having your house turned into a co-op is another popular option. Examples include-Watermargin: a former house of Phi Kappa Psi).Prospects of Whitby: former house of Alpha Xi DeltaTriphammer Co-Op: Former house of Sigma Kappa and Chi Gamma sororities.660 Wait Avenue co-op: former house of Zeta PsiHowever, The best reuses are the most awkward ones. Like when another fraternity or sorority resides in your old house. Here’s ten examples of that:Theta Xi: Zeta Psi alumni bought the property after Theta Xi closed in 1971. Then Zeta Psi sold themselves to Cornell for a $1 in the 1990s to avoid paying property taxes. Now Theta Xi wants their house back, and their pulling Cornell’s strings. I love real estate drama, especially when I get it first hand from the Zeta Psi brothers.Phi Sigma Epsilon: After they merged with Phi Sigma Kappa in 1985, the Cornell house was closed. Alpha Chi Omega sorority moved in some time afterwards.Beta Theta Pi: Their house prior to “Castle on the Rock” is now Pi Kappa Alpha’s house. Granted, this was prior to 1906, and Pika moved in around 1917, so this is a very old example.Phi Kappa Sigma: “Greentrees”, their house up until 1990, became the house of Pi Kappa Phi within a year of the Skulls’ closing. Delta Phi Epsilon: This sorority founded their Cornell chapter in 1962, and closed for a few years in the early 90s before closing completely in 2003 [2]. They still own 115 the Knoll, which is Alpha Xi Delta’s current house. I’d like to point out the irony that AXiD closed in 1964, right after DPhiE arrived, and they reopened in 2004, right after DphiE closed. Rumor mill likes to circulate that DPhiE is waiting for the right moment to reactivate Cornell chapter, which is a source of angst for AXiD sisters living in the house.Alpha Epsilon Pi: Their house was occupied by Sigma Alpha Mu as a “second house” during the 70s’.Pi Beta Phi: Prior to their current houses’ construction in 1956, they lived where Alpha Chi Sigma professional chemistry fraternity resides today.Theta Chi, or Tau Delta Phi: AOPi’s closing on Ridgewood is nothing new for that house. Theta Chi lived there when they closed in 1999, after living there for around twenty years. Also, the chapter was home ot the fraternity Tau Delta Phi until that chapter closed in 1969.Chi Omega: This sorority, which reopened in 1987 and closed again in 2003, lived in Phillips House on Sisson Place. Current students will be more familiar with this place as the location of Sigma Alpha Mu’s house.Kappa Alpha Theta: Tridelt moved from the Alumni House to Theta’s original house in 1965. It wasn’t even a year after Theta disaffiliated after having issues with their national.Last but not least: this house, former home of Alpha Chi Rho (defunct), Pi Kappa Phi and Lambda Upsilon Lambda, is still up in the air for renovation:100_1370

Anyone have any news on any plans for the building and possible redevelopment?[1]http://www.edgemoor.org/heritage/history/eleusis.html[2]http://www.rso.cornell.edu/DPhiE/DRhistory.html





News Tidbits 5/6/17: Starting Small and Dreaming Big

6 05 2017

1. The Evergreen Townhouses in Varna was hotly debated at the last town board meeting, per the Times’ Cassie Negley. Linda Lavine, one of the town board members, was particularly fierce in her criticism, calling the solar panels “useless”, and others in attendance expressed concern about appropriate room for amenities.

However, it also seems one of the phrases bandied about was that it wasn’t “family-friendly”. If you’re reading this and one of those folks, do yourself a favor and stop using that term. It’s an enormously baited phrase, historically used to fight affordable housing as a racist/classist euphemism, because people of a certain class or color were apparently less appropriate for families to be around. For an unfortunate example, it was a phrase used with the INHS 210 Hancock affordable housing plan in Ithaca. Think of it as the equivalent of a religious group claiming a TV show isn’t “family-friendly” because it has a same-sex couple, or feminists.

Although this project is market-rate, deciding whether or not something is “family-friendly” is subjective and potentially baited. It gives others the wrong idea on how to discuss the pros and cons of a project, which should be about features, or lack thereof. TL;DR, find a different phrase.

Oh, and on another note – Planning Board member Don Scutt. For someone claiming Dryden is getting an anti-business reputation, your work fighting the solar panels isn’t doing the town any favors. I don’t always (often?) agree with your mirror opposite and board colleague Joe Wilson, but at least I can say he’s consistent in his views.

Anyway, off soapbox. It looks like the public hearing was left open as the project may potentially pursue a modified plan of some form, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

2. The Trebloc property, future home of City Centre, has exchanged hands. 301 East State Street sold for $6,800,000 on April 28th. The seller was “Trebloc Development Company”, the company of developer Rob Colbert. The buyer was “City Centre Associates LLC”, a limited-liability entity created Newman Development. This brings the 8-story, 218,211 SF mixed-use project one step closer to getting underway.

3. A couple of news notes from the Tompkins County PEDEEQ (planning/dev catch-all) Committee meeting:

I. OAR’s transitional housing at 626 West Buffalo Street will be called “Endeavor House”.

II. The county is set to start work on its draft housing strategy. The annual goal figures through 2025 include:

–580 “workforce units” per year, of which 280 are rentals going for 50-100% area median income, and 300 would be for-sale, with 80 of those condos.

–student beds, either dorms or student housing developers, commensurate with enrollment growth

–special needs beds to those making 50% or less of AMI. No quantitative descriptor is given.

–350 units in the urban core, 50-100 in “emerging and established nodes”, 30 in rural centers and 100-150 in “other areas”, which includes suburban Lansing.

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4. 607 South Aurora Street is officially underway. Modern Living Rentals posted an update to their facebook page showing site prep for their infill residential project in the city of Ithaca’s South Hill neighborhood. The four new buildings will be two-family units with three-beds each (24 total), similar to those recently completed at 125 and 139 Old Elmira Road. If the statistics are correct, the existing house will be renovated into a two family house – the banner suggests a 4-bed unit and a 2-bed unit to bring the total to 30 beds. This project will get a full write-up later this month, and its progress will be tracked as it heads for an August completion.

5. Looking at the city of Ithaca’s projects memo, it doesn’t look like anything brand new will be coming up. The formal review process is set to begin on Visum Development’s 232-236 Dryden Road project. I’m kinda confused on STREAM’s project description because it references both 191 bedrooms and 206 bedrooms, and some of the numbers don’t match the parenthetical figures -for example, thirty-seven (42) bike spaces. Going off the FEAF, it looks like the number of beds has in fact been increased to 206. The construction timeframe is August 2017 – August 2018, and it looks like both buildings will comprise one phase. Deep foundation, so apologies in advance to the neighbors who may be hearing a a pile driver this fall. The developer is exploring net-zero energy options.

Also of note, 323 Taughannock received some visual tweaks. Gone are the cute sprial staircases leading to the waterfront, and in their place are more standard treatments. The group of five will now have their balconies on the third floor instead of the second floor. The changes on the front are more subtle, with the window fenestration now centered on each unit, and the front doors rearranged (old version here). Overall, the design is still roughly the same, it’s just a revision of a lot of details. Worth noting, given the crap soils on Inlet Island these will be on a timber pile foundation designed by Taitem Engineering. 238 Linden Avenue, 118 College Avenue and Benderson’s 7,313 SF retail addition are up for final approval this month.

6. Meanwhile, from the ILPC, it looks like there are a couple of density-expanding projects planned in the city’s historic districts. The first will renovate a garage at 339 South Geneva Street in the Henry St. John Historic District (part of Southside) into a one-bedroom carriage house. It’s infill, the garage is non-contributing and the design is an improvement, and it looks like a good if small project.

The other is a renovation of a classic Cornell Heights Mansion at 111 The Knoll into group housing for “Sophia House”, a Cornell Christian organization for women. The men’s equivalent, “Chesterton House”, is next door. The plan calls for renovating the five-bedroom, legal for eight-persons house into a 15-bed home. Part of that would entail demolishing the 1950s garage, which is connected by a breezeway to the ca. 1910 house, and replacing the garage with a four-bed addition, still connected through the breezeway.

Both designs are by STREAM Collaborative, as are 232-236 Dryden and 323 Taughannock. Can’t fault STREAM for being good at what they do – if a developer wants modern like 201 College, they get modern. If one wants traditional like the above examples, Noah Demarest and his team can do that too. They know the market and what works in terms of design. Unlike many local architecture firms, STREAM’s business is almost completely in Tompkins County – they did some concept design work in Rome and Utica, and some of the Tiny Timbers kits have been sold outside the county, but otherwise everything else is in or close to Ithaca. Business is good.

harolds_square_v4_new_comparo

7. Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, but Harold’s Square will eventually get underway. It appears the problem right now is that the tax abatement approved by the county is insufficient because of the increase in project costs (up 12% to $42.9 million), so the project team is heading back to the IDA to get the abatement revised (the Hilton Canopy did the same thing a few months ago). The project was previously approved for a 7-year abatement, but this time around they are seeking the 10-year abatement. Combined property, sales and mortgage tax abatement would come out to $5.089 million. New property taxes generated over the 10-year period would be $3.4 million (note that is on top of what’s already paid; IDA abatements use the current taxes as the baseline).

The office space and retail space look higher than previously stated (33k vs 25k, and 16k vs 12k), but it looks like that’s because the Sage Building renovations are included in the IDA numbers. The apartment count remains the same (108), although it looks like one 1-bedroom unit has been replaced with a 2-bedroom unit.

Two reasons are cited for the delay- issues with getting the office and retail space occupied, and a premium price on construction workers as a result of the increased local activity. The pre-development costs are clocking in around $800,000, so if it fails to get approval from the IDA’s board, that will be a pretty big cost to swallow.

Should it be approved, the construction timeline is stated as June 2017 through Q1 2019.

8. Just throwing this in for the sake of throwing this in – mark your calendars for May 17th, when Cornell hosts a forum about the new East Hill Village neighborhood from 5:30-7:30 PM at the East Hill Office Building at 395 Pine Tree Rd. The project website notes that it will start with a 30-minute presentation, followed by breakout groups to brainstorm what people do and don’t want included in the building plans – certain retail uses, housing components, general visions for the site. There will be more meetings over the next several months – the goal is an Autumn 2017 exhibition for the preliminary plans.





News Tidbits 4/9/16: A Slippery Situation

9 04 2016

maplewood_site_plan_concept

maplewood_site_plan_concept_v2

1. The town of Ithaca had their first substantive meeting about Cornell’s Maplewood Park Redevelopment, and later this month, the city of Ithaca will have their take on the 4.5% that sits within their boundaries (picture a line up Vine Street – that’s the city line). According to documents filed with the city, approvals from them will only be needed for one building. Application/SPR here, cover memo from Whitham Planning and Design here, Part I of the Full Environmental Assessment Form here, and narrative/drawings here.

From the SPR, the schedule as already been shifted slightly to an August 2018 completion rather than July – they also threw out a $3.67 million construction cost that doesn’t make much sense offhand. Edit: It looks like it’s just a basic estimate of 4.5% of the total project cost of $80 million.

The biggest change so far is a revision of the site plan. In response to community meetings, Cornell shifted smaller 2-3 story stacked flats and townhouses closer to the Belle Sherman Cottages, pulled back a couple of the larger apartment buildings, and added a new large apartment building to the southeast flank. Cornell has its goal of housing at least 850 in the redevelopment, so all design decisions revolve around accommodating those students with their families, while coming up with a design the community can live with.

The city will vote at its April meeting to defer Lead Agency to the Town of Ithaca, which will leave them with the ability to provide input, but the town board will be the ones voting on it.

2. It’s not often that a project gets undone by a single public commenter at a meeting. But the Journal’s Nick Reynolds got to experience such a momentous occasion at the town of Ithaca’s planning board meeting. He documents it on his Twitter account.

Someone that I didn’t cover because it wasn’t especially news-worthy is Cornell’s plan to replace the Peterson Parking Lot at the intersection of Tower and Judd Falls Roads with a cutting-edge 100% porous paved lot and a Cornell-created soil designed to promote rapid growth of trees in high traffic areas (a new island would be built in the middle of the lot). Basically, an eco-friendly, less-invasive parking lot, if there ever could be a thing.

Then Bruce Brittain, the Forest Home community historian, completely undid the plan with a contour map. Generations ago, the property was filled with debris and garbage, even old construction trucks. And while there may be a parking lot on it now, a porous lot, which would be heavier when watered, is liable to collapse right onto the Plantations below. Meaning, no porous lot, no green showcase. Back to the drawing board Cornell.

201_college_1

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3. Here’s a little more information on the 5-story, 44-unit/76-bedroom apartment proposal for 201 College Avenue. SPR Application here, FEAF here, project narrative here, BZA worksheet here, drawings here , letter of discontent from Neil Golder here. Looking at the drawings, there have been some slight revisions, mostly with the College Avenue entrance and the materials and fenestration at street level. The SPR gives us a $6 million construction cost, and a proposed construction time frame of July 2016 – August 2017. Units will be a mix of 1 to 4 bedrooms (24 1-BD, 12 2-BD, 4 3-BD, 4 4-BD). While the project falls into the Collegetown Form District, an area variance will be required for a front yard setback from College Avenue, which the board feels will help the street be more like a boulevard.

The city planning board is expected to Declare itself Lead Agency for environmental review at the April meeting. Developer Todd Fox hopes to have approval by the end of the June meeting. STREAM Collaborative is the project architect.

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4. This week’s eye candy comes courtesy of Noah Demarest and Todd Fox (yes, they seem to be getting a lot of mentions this week). It had occurred to me that while an image of the revised 902 Dryden townhouses had been presented at the meeting where it was approved, the town never uploaded the copy. Noah and Todd were kind enough to send me a copy of the image presented at the meeting, and gave their permission to share it here. 8 new units, 26 new bedrooms. The duplex building in the middle already exists, but two new units will be built opposite a shared wall. Two three-unit clusters will be built on the east side of the parcel.

Cayuga-Meadows-Shot

5. It’s official as of March 28th. Construction permits have been issued for Conifer LLC’s 68-unit Cayuga Meadows project on West Hill in the town of Ithaca. Expect the first construction update, and a synopsis, when the first construction update comes around, which won’t be until mid-to-late May since West Hill projects get visits during odd-numbered months.

6. Just a couple minor city subdivisions to pass along. One, an application in outer Collegetown at 513-15 Dryden Road to separate the land into two parcels (513 and 515). The lot owner will then build himself a new house on the vacant lot. CR-1 Collegetown Form District, and it looks like no variances will be needed.

The other subdivision is on the city’s portion of West Hill. The property is a vacant lot that borders Westwood Knoll, Taylor Place and Campbell Avenue. The property owners, who live next door on Westwood, want to divide the vacant lot into two vacant lots to sell for single-family home construction. Once again, it looks like no zoning variances will be needed, just regulatory PB approval.

With the consolidation and realignment of 312-314 Spencer Road mentioned last week, this makes three subdivisions scheduled this month. That’s pretty unusual, as the city typically sees only one every 2 or 3 months on average.

7. Looks like someone made a tidy profit. Local landlord Ed Cope picked up 310 and 312 E. Buffalo Street for $885,000 on the 6th. 310 E. Buffalo is a 6-unit apartment building, 312 is a parking lot. The previous owner, a Philadelphia-based company, picked up the properties for $800,000 back in October 2014. So, $85,000 (+10.6%) for 18 months of ownership. The properties are part of the East Hill Historic District, where the Philly-based firm recently had a hell of an experience because the owners before them replaced the windows without notifying the city, and that was a big no-no as far as historic districts and the ILPC are concerned. They mandated the windows all be replaced with more historically-appropriate fittings. Hopefully that came up during the sales negotiations.

For what it’s worth, the parking lot is zoned R-3a – a 4 story building with 35% lot coverage. Since it’s in a historic district, a hypothetical proposal would likely look a lot like its neighbors.

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8. And another big sale this week, on Friday – the house at 210 Thurston sold for $2.5 million to the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. The house had been on the market since last November for $2.75 million. This actually sold relatively quick, given its large size and fairly unique nature. The seller purchased the property for $677,500 in December 2011, and renovated the property for use by the Cornell wrestling team.

Alpha Chi Omega has occupied the house at 509 Wyckoff Road for a number of years, but did not own the property – the owner, who picked up the property in 1971, is a business partner of Kimball Real Estate.

 





Random Photo Tours, 7/6 Edition

6 07 2008

So, I decided to do a little photo tour in my spare time.  Just imagine it to be like a bus tour, without the bus and the annoying woman in front of you with the oversized sun glasses.

This house, 210 Thurston Avenue, served as Sigma Alpha Mu’s house from 1947-2004.  Today, the house serves as Phi Delta Theta’s annex. Phi Delta Theta, nationally known as a dry social fraternity, operates their chapter house as a dry house, and the annex as….well, not a dry house.

The house of Kappa Sigma fraternity [1]. The house was built by a German nationalist who fled at the onset of WWI. The house was then bought by Claude Smith, the president of the Ithaca Gun Company, and remained his residence until 1937. Sigma Alpha Mu occupied this house in the 1940s, and by 1952, the house has been sold to Kappa Sigma.

The house of Alpha Epsilon Pi. this house was built in 1957 [2]. With the except of reorganization periods, such as 2004, the house has been continuously occupied by AEPi.

The Delta Chi Fraternity house on The Knoll. Originally founded as a law fraternity at Cornell in 1890, Delta Chi’s house was built in 1914 [3], and extensively renovated in the past two years. the fraternity did not become open for all men to pursue membership until 1922. The Cornell chapter was reactivated in 2004, and lived in Sigma Phi Epsilon’s house and AOPi’s old house for the interim of renovation. Sig Ep reorgainzed around the same time, so the logistics of two fraternities in one house undoubtedly led to a couple of issues.

Tha Alpha Zeta Fraternity House [4]. Alpha Zeta is one of the two ag-based fraternities (membership is virtually all from CALS), the other being Alpha Gamma Rho. Alpha Zeta is nearly unique in that it is co-ed. The originally house was built in the 1880s, but torn down in 1991. The portion on the right was built in the 1950s as an addition to the old house; the portion on the left, built in 1992-93, is on the old house’s footprint.

Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity house, also on The Knoll. The house was originally built in 1901 for John Tanner, a Cornell mathematics professor. The house was sold to Phi Kappa Tau in 1910, when it was still a local fraternity, named Bhandu [5]. The local fraternity marged with another to form Phi Delta Sigma during WWI, and became a chapter of PKT in 1930. The fraternity closed for several years in the 1990s, during which it was rented to the Big Red Band. It was recolonized in 2000.

Alpha Xi Delta sorority house. AZD Cornell was rechartered in 2004 after a forty-year hiatus. It was selected from several bidding national sororities to replace the spot vacated bt the closure of two sororities in the early 2000s- Delta Phi Epsilon and Chi Omega. As a matter of fact, this used to be Delta Phi Epsilon’s house. (Chi Omega’s is now Sigma alpha Mu’s current house).

 

[1]http://www.dos.cornell.edu/dos/greek/chapter_details.cfm?id=3252

[2] http://www.aepibeta.org/FoundingTo1983.html

[3]http://www.cudx.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=28

[4]http://www.alphazeta-cornell.org/public2.asp

[5]http://www.cornellpkt.com/spage.php?id=1163279207&mainID=1159743751