News Tidbits 3/18/17: Shoveling Snow to Dig Foundations

18 03 2017

1. A lot of Lansing stuff this week. Let’s start off with a brief update. It’s been about a year since the Thaler family received approvals for their 60-unit mixed-use Cayuga View Senior Living project on Cinema Drive in the village of Lansing. Well, it looks like they are finally ready to get under construction. The County Office of Aging included the project in their list of projects underway, and a check of the project’s Facebook page says they are starting construction this spring for a Spring 2018 opening. The upmarket project will contain 48 1-bedroom units and 12 2-bedrooms units, on a vacant parcel that is one of the last undeveloped high-density properties left in the village. Taylor the Builders will be the general contractor.

2. For a while now, the town of Lansing has been touting a figure of about 900 housing units being held up by the gas moratorium. Here are the statistics to back that up.

Now, the document from town planner Mike Long suggests that for multi-phase projects with some units already complete, the balance has been applied to the summation. If that’s the case, than Village Solars is shooting for a much larger buildout than originally anticipated. The doucment says that still plan on building 423 units. That’s a lot more than the ~310 currently on file. The first stage was increased from 174 to 206 as the result of unit-splitting, so the second set of phases may now have 217? That seems to be what’s implied here.

Note that the gas moratorium is a complication for the Village Solars, but not a project stopper. The newer buildings use electric heat pumps, which are a little more expensive than conventional gas, but they were able to pass the costs on within the rents (+$50/month) without much issue.

3. On another note with that town study, most of the projects noted have already been aired – Cayuga Farms on North Triphammer Road, the Pinney duplexes off of Scofield Road, Schickel’s Farm Pond Circle, and so on. However, a couple are new.

One appears to be a project called “English Village”. It consists of 59 townhomes and 58 single-family home lots. The other is “Cayuga Farms with Lake View”, which lists 30 units. The next has been cast for information, so watch this space.

4. Eric Goetzmann’s senior housing is finally ready to move forward, according to Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star. Lansing Meadows looks to be aiming for about 20 units of senior housing on Oakcrest Road, and a small commercial retail component that complements the housing – an idea being tossed around in the Star article is a coffee shop.

Technically, a coffee shop isn’t allowed in the 2011 PDA that approved BJ’s and the units, but it’s a minor change from the neighboring zoning, and likely to pass without issue. The senior units have been delayed for several years because Goetzmann bit the bullet and built wetlands to replace those that would be disrupted by construction, as required by state law; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to review and sign off on the newly-created salt marsh as satisfactory. That only happened last October.

5. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission is looking at options for a Collegetown Historic District. Initially, they wanted the 400 Block of College Avenue, the 100 Block of Oak Avenue, Cascadilla Hall, the College Avenue Bridge and 116 Summit Avenue. Then after consultation, they realized that may be a little too much to try and justify to the rest of the city, so it seems they want to move ahead with two individual designations instead – the CTB Building (403 College, the Larkin Block), and 411-15 College Avenue (Stella’s, the Chacona Block). Both are older buildings in the valuable MU-2 zone. The Avramises, who own the Chacona block, did talk about wanting to redevelop it at some point, but that was almost a decade ago, and there haven’t been any formal plans. I can see some kvetching from the ownership, but it seems unlikely that the city will argue against historic designation for these two properties if it moves forward.

6. Looking at the agendas for local planning boards – the town of Ithaca will be looking at a renovation at East Hill Plaza (former Wings into Sedgwick Office Interiors), a 2-lot subdivision on Bundy Road, and a 10,100 SF warehouse/industrial operation at Greentree Nursery’s new building at 142 Ithaca Beer Drive. The Bundy Road subdivision is the big purcahse mentioned a couple of weeks ago – the buyers want to subdivide a 2.27 acre section and have no plans for other 64.7 acres.





However, No One Said Anything About October

14 10 2009

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So, yeah, it’s been cold. Unpleasantly cold. Coldest October in years cold. But what makes me really uncomfortable is the thought of snow is October. While snow in October usually has no impact on the upcoming winter, it still serves as a psychological bitchslap to most of the students, and to many of the local who are accustomed to waiting until November to see the first notable snowfalls.

Then we have this message from the Ithaca Journal:

Storm coming to Twin Tiers could bring snow

There’s a couple of very scary things associated with that message. For one, we still have leaves on the trees. Trees don’t stand up very well if they have both a fair amount of snow and foliage on them at the same time. There was a very nasty snowstorm that hit Buffalo a couple of years back that brought the city to its knees in October because it dumped  two feet of snow, and all the trees basically snapped under the weight. As I recall, some places were without power for two weeks, and the storm damages were estimated between $150 and $200 million.

Fear factor aside, the possibility of snow in Ithaca in October is a lot more uncommon than it used to be. Climatologically speaking, Ithaca averages about .4 inches of snow in October. In reality, we’ve only received measurable snow once this decade, and that was .3 inches on October 30, 2008. Prior to that, we have to go back to October 31, 1993, which received 3.7 inches, and .1 inches on October 29, 1990. That’s it for the past twenty years (to be fair, October 22-23, 1988 received 6.5 inches of snow). I took the time to check the following winter after 1993 and 1988; 1989 was about 3 degrees above normal; 1994 was one of the coldest winters reported in several decades. Yeah, I still have fingers crossed for El Niño.

Point is, we’ve rarely seen October snows. Especially before the 20th. You have to go back to 1974 to find a pre October 20th snowfall day on file.

So, Ithaca is in a valley, which makes it a kinda crappy place for snowfall because they tend to be slightly warmer, and it doesn’t experience an upslope effect like Cornell’s campus does. Unfortunately, the Ithaca weather station used by the NRCC is on Game Farm Road, which is off of Route 366 as you’re heading out towards Dryden.It’s about 1000 ft. in elevation, and the snow line so far is predicted to be about 2000 ft, and that is subject to change.

I’m really not interested in seeing snow this month. But it’s not like any of us have a say in what the weather does.

EDIT: So Ithaca recorded 1.6 inches, setting a record for the earliest snow over 1” in over 120 years of data. Other parts of the county received as much as 3”. Northern PA recorded as much as 8”, and widespread power outages and minor damages were reported.





A few weather stats

29 10 2008

Courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center [1]. Because the weather on Tuesday was just THAT sh*tty.

Highest recorded wind speed in Ithaca proper today: 36.2 MPH, around 4 PM. [2]

Highest wind gust, annually: about 60 MPH.

Highest recorded in area, ever: 84 MPH, from 1972.

Last time measurable snow occured in October: October 31, 1993. 3.7 inches. Prior to that, there were measurable snows in October 1988 (which had the most October snow recorded, at 6.5 inches) and October 1982; it was more common back in the day.

Most snow ever recorded from a single storm: 21 inches, in 1961. An unofficial record of 25.5 inches is claimed for January 1925 [3]. (for the record, most snow ever recorded in my hometown: 43.1 inches, in 1966).

Average amount of snow in a year: 67 inches.

Most snow ever recorded in Ithaca in a single season: 122.2, in the winter of 1977-78.

High on this day last year (2007): 63. Low was 40. Sunny.

Tuesday’s high: 38. Low 32. Not sunny.

Warmest October on record: October 2007: 7.8 degrees above normal.

Average temperature on a given October day in Ithaca: About 48 degrees (high 59, low 37).

Warmest October day ever recorded in Ithaca: 91, in 1953.

Coldest October day ever recorded in Ithaca: 15, in 1928.

Highest high ever recorded: 103, in July 1936.

Lowest low: -35, in February 1961.

 

 

 

 

[1]http://www.nrcc.cornell.edu/

[2]http://www.nrcc.cornell.edu/climate/ithaca/gfr_logger.html

[3]http://books.google.com/books?id=jUu9pDRhWjkC&pg=PA452&lpg=PA452&dq=lowest+snowfall+ever+ithaca+winter&source=web&ots=Mp__5eVss3&sig=j8j3mD5FbCx1OR2ussPMRm_zAyY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result





News Tidbits 4/27/19

27 04 2019

1. Matt Butler at the Times is providing an in-depth check-up on the mall this week. This was a story the Voice had laid groundwork for as well, so it’s nice that one of the local news orgs was able to make hay of it. The mall, like many middle-class local malls across the country has been struggling in the age of Amazon and the retail meltdown. The overall economy might be humming along, but retail closures continue to spike nationwide, with over 6,100 closures planned this year alone, more than the 5,900 announced in all of 2018. With planned new store openings numbering 2,100, it’s practically two stores closing for every one that opens. Retail mega-landlord Cushman and Wakefield estimates 9,000 stores will close in 2019, and over 12,000 in 2020. In the Ithaca Mall, Gertrude Hawk is gone, American Eagle closed up last year, Ultimate Athletics shut its doors, the Bon-Ton closed as part of the shutdown of the whole chain, and the Sears Hometown store is kaput. The mall’s manager cited a variety of reasons, including chain downsizing, poor performance, and some just stopped paying rent.

This has major economic impacts; the mall’s property value has declined by over 60% since the start of the decade, and the village, the county and the schools have to make up those hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue somewhere (and the county and schools have). County legislator Deborah Dawson, who represents the mall’s district, suggested doing something similar to the DeWitt Mall downtown, a mix of local businesses, but the mall is a much bigger space to fill (622,500 SF vs. 117,500 SF in the DeWitt Mall), and DeWitt Mall is mixed-use (retail and 45 apartments). Local businesses and experiential outlets can be part of the solution as Running 2 Places is showing with their 18,000 SF theater this spring, but it’s one component of a solution. Residential could be a component, but some legal and logistic issues would need to be sorted out, which owner Namdar Realty has never shown much interest in; the village has also been lukewarm to the idea. About 40 apartment units were floated for a section of the parking lot (west/on the backside of the mall if I remember right), but that idea died during the Great Recession.

There is so silver bullet here. The owner needs to be more proactive then holding a proverbial gun to its’ tenants heads in order to get them to stay. Local governing bodies also have to keep an open mind for redevelopment ideas – if parts of the mall were torn down and replaced with residential, for example. As it is, the only plans on the horizon are an unnamed tenant for the former Bon-Ton space, and the extended stay hotel planned for the parking lot behind (west) of the Ramada Inn. The future of the mall is hazy; like a species faced with a steadily changing habitat, it’s either adapt and evolve, or perish.

2. Courtesy of their Facebook page, here’s a sketch render of what Salt Point Brewing Compant’s new brewery and taproom would look like. It’s a fairly unobtrusive one-story structure with a gable roof and two wings, presumably the taller one for the brewing tanks and the smaller one for service functions. On the outside are wood accents and a two-story deck for outdoor drinking and possibly dining, if the restaurant option is pursued.

The building, as well as associated landscaping and parking improvements, would be located on about three of the five acres sold as Parcel “D” in the Lansing Town Center development. The remaining two acres are wetlands and would be left undisturbed. Salt Point paid $75,000 for the land, and will bring its project forth to the town planning board in the coming months. No word on any job creation figures yet.

3. The NYS DOT county facility plans are moving forward. The state bought its 15 acres from Tompkins County for $840,000 according to a deed filed on April 24th. The building is classified as a sub-residency facility, a step below a primary regional facility (the main office for Region 3 is in Syracuse).

To review, the plans consist of the 30,000 SF sub-residency maintenance building, a 5,000 SF Cold Storage unit, an 8,200 SF salt barn, and a 2,500 square foot hopper building (covered lean-to). The proposed maintenance building will have vehicle storage for 10 trucks, a loader and tow plow, with one additional double depth mechanical bay and single depth, drive-thru truck washing bay. It also includes an office area (three rooms), lunch/break room (30 people), toilet/shower/locker rooms, storage rooms and mechanical/electrical rooms. The site will also contain stockpile areas for pipe, stone and millings, and ancillary site features include parking for 40 vehicles, and stormwater management facilities. A new access drive will be constructed from Warren Road.

The town has been less than pleased with the project, which is not bound to zoning code because it’s a public resource facility owned and operated by a government entity. Rather than voice approval, the planning board voted to acknowledge that they simply had no authority to control the project. Some modifications were made to the plans at the town’s request, such as the fueling station being moved onto airport property across Warren Road, but neighbors are still unhappy that snowplows and heavy-duty maintenance vehicles are about to be their next door neighbors.

The facility is expected to be open by the end of the end of the year. Once all staff and equipment have been moved in, the county may pursue a request for proposals/request for expression of interest for the current DOT property on the shores of the inlet near the Farmer’s Market. A 2015 feasibility analysis found that the site could conceivably host a $40+ million mixed-use project, and the site has became more amenable towards redevelopment with the enhanced density and use provisions made to the city’s waterfront zoning in 2017.

4. The Ithaca city planning board granted a negative declaration of environmental review to the 124-unit Arthaus affordable housing project at 130 Cherry Street. According to my editor Kelsey O’Connor, the latest revisions propose a five-story building that would include a gallery, office and affordable rental space. It would include parking for about 36 vehicles and 7,600 square feet of potential retail or office and amenity space geared toward artists. All of the units would be restricted to renters earning 50 to 80% of the area median income, or about $30,000 to $45,000. The north end of the property will also include a publicly accessible path leading to the inlet.

Speaking in favor of the project were neighborhood business owners and non-profits, and in opposition was councilman George McGonigal, who said both in a letter and in person that it was too big for the site and threatened the industrial character of the neighborhood. They have bigger concerns than housing nearby. Cherry Street is difficult to access with large trucks and commercial vehicles, the Brindley Street and Cecil Malone Drive bridges are small and in poor shape. Secondly, Cherry Street doesn’t provide much room for operations to expand, so that hinders their long-term operational planning. It’s not just lot size, but also the soil – the Emmy’s Organics project fell through because of poor soil not amenable for warehouse and other light industrial functions that rely on a concrete slab. Thirdly, the city’s strict environmental laws, fees and higher property taxes make an urban site less appealing. They can get more land with a lighter tax burden in Lansing, Dryden, or any of the other outlying towns. With these issues in mind, many of the industrial businesses down there now aren’t looking to stick around. Several have already sold or made purchase options with developers as they seek areas with lower taxes, easier access to highways and less strict environmental ordinances.

The unanimous approval by the city planning board allows the project to move forward with consideration for preliminary approval. The goal is to gain approval at next month’s meeting, and once affordable housing funds have been secured, to start construction of the project, likely in December of this year.

5. The Chain Works District presented plans for phase one at the Planning Board meeting. There are four buildings in phase one, of which two are in the city. 43,400 SF Building 21 would be renovated into a commercial office building. The work here is limited to replacing walled-up window openings with new windows, exterior cleaning and painting, and new signage and entrance canopies. Building 24 is a combination of renovation and expansion. The partially built-out basement and first floor would be renovated for commercial office space, the second and third story would be residential, and a new fourth floor would be built for residential uses, for a total of 135,450 SF across 4.5 floors. As with Building 21, new windows would be installed, and the exterior cleaned and painted. New landscaping, sidewalk and parking areas are also planned.

At a glance, the residential in the first phase would host 60 market-rate rental units. Each floor will have one studio unit, nine one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units, and one four-bedroom unit. According to the Site Plan Review document, the project would begin renovation in October, and be open by August 2020. The other two building in phase one are renovations of industrial and manufacturing spaces in the town, Buildings 33 and 34. These will retain industrial uses.

This meeting was only for the purpose of sharing and discussing plans, with no voting at this time. According to Edwin Viera at the Times, the board was reluctant to approve any plans without more information about who will be occupying them. That seems a bit odd, because projects are analyzed for their physical impacts, not the tenants, but the Times article says parking and landscaping may change slightly depending on the tenant. According to project representative Jamie Gensel, the USDA is considering renting out some of the office space. The USDA maintains a research facility inside the Holley Center on Cornell’s campus, and there were plans in the late 2000s to build an addition, which were later shelved during the Great Recession. It’s not clear how much space they’re seeking. Not sure what to make of that writeup, honestly, or being told to move the buildings into a different phase (personally, I’d like to be renovations before any new builds happen).

6. 815 South Aurora Street, aka “Overlook”, also continued its review at the planning board meeting. There were some minor design tweaks, seen in the before image (above) and after image (below). Changes in exterior colors, panels, ground-level entrances and fenestration, particularly on the side facing South Aurora Street. The fire trucks are  to indicate that emergency vehicles will be able to safely pull in and out from the road. Overall, project size remains at 49 units and 141 bedrooms.

There’s been some pushback from neighbors regarding size and neighborhood character. There’s an argument that these are dependent on Chain Works, but that argument doesn’t pass the smell test – if Chain Works didn’t happen, fewer units on the South Hill market would make the project even more appealing to Visum Development and Modern Living Rentals. The planning department wants more geotechnical information and bedrock to be removed, details about the new planting and landscaping, and energy systems. Documents submitted indicate the all-residential development will use electric heat pumps. The board has requested a shadow study and flesh out the environmental impacts, which is a common request for larger developments.

7. At least one project is fully approved. Although it seems at least one planning board member asked for affordable housing, the four-unit market-rate Perdita Flats infill at 224 Fair Street was granted preliminary site plan approval. The project is intended to be a sustainable building showcase of eco-friendly features, a net-zero energy showcase of what can be done with environmentally sustainable multifamily housing. The owner/developers, Courtney Royal and Umit Sirt, will be applying for incentives from the NYSERDA Low-Rise Residential New Construction Program and are hoping to attain the Zero Carbon Petal of the Living Building Challenge.





Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport Construction Update, 2/2019

3 03 2019

The spark notes: A multi-component expansion and reconfiguration of a regional airport, the $24.7 million Ithaca-Tompkins Airport expansion will result in six new gates, three new boarding bridges and 15,600 SF of new space, allowing the airport to take on additional flights, larger planes and serve an international clientele. The expansion, which will create at least sixteen new jobs serving the airports growing operation, will be finished by the end of 2019.

Now for the long version. I did a long-form history of airports in Tompkins County back in 2011 here. Ithaca had an aiport down around Taber Street in the 1910s, and a few years later it relocated to where Cass Park is today. The Flood of 1935 quashed hopes for the lakeshore airport, and so Cornell took it upon itself to buy the land in 1944 for an airport from some farmers in Lansing, open said airport in 1948, and operate it as its own airport until transferring ownership to Tompkins County in 1956, finally closing the municipal airport down by the lake. It was just as important for Cornell to get out of its airport as well, as it was a financial drain and managerial headache. The old airport merged into Cass Park in the 1960s and Hangar Theatre came along in 1975. Meanwhile, the regional airport in Lansing was completely rebuilt in 1994.

Although Tompkins County isn’t especially large, it has a couple of things going for it that its regional peers in Binghamton and Elmira don’t. For one, Ithaca-Tompkins is more affluent and enjoys a growing economy. For two, Ithaca’s economy is much more cosmopolitan; Cornell and Ithaca College have students, staff and faculty flying in and out regularly, often with connections to more lucrative international flights. Ithaca’s growth in hospitality and tech have contributed to this as well, as its a comparatively popular choice for visitors from the big East Coast cities. It also helps that major highways don’t actually make it to Ithaca, making driving an even bigger pain for visitors.

In a 2011 NYS Dept. of Transportation study of state airports, it was noted that although Ithaca-Tompkins services an area half the size of Binghamton, it’s economic impact is 25% greater ($66 million vs $52 million), and the airport generates 23% greater revenue ($28.6 million vs. $23.2 million). It also supports/generates 510 jobs (ITH had 204 FTE employees in 2009), vs. 483 for BGM. The study noted that the airport hosted 110,000 passengers in 2009, and generated $5.33 million in state and local tax revenue annually. Since that time, airport teaffic has generally bounced around between 95,000 and 110,000 enplanements (passengers boarding at ITH), with 101,000 enplanements in 2018, and a 9% increase in cargo flights. With arrivals, the number of passengers served exceeds 200k.

My personal recollection of the airport announcement was that it was nearly out of the blue. The Voice, Times and other outlets were given less than a day’s notice by the state’s economic development unit, and talking through the usual back channels (Slack and Twitter), everyone quickly suspected it was airport-related because of the location of the big economic announcement. Sure enough, that’s what it was, with the governor breaking the news. Since then, the pace has been remarkably rapid. As a government-owned public resource, the airport does not have to go through the regular environmental review process, where the village of Lansing declares itself lead agency for review and takes several months or more to make decisions. Here, Tompkins County is the lead agency. Government authorities (state and county) basically tell the village what they were planning to do, and invite their comments for consideration as with any member of the public. In some cases, like with the new DOT building on Warren Road, they’ll also hold public open houses (note that will be a separate construction update series, after it gets underway). The airport project started construction in October (with another visit from the governor), and the intent is for the expanded facility to be open by the end of this year.

C&S Companies is the all-in-one engineer and architect for the project. C&S is a large, multi-disciplinary firm headquartered in Syracuse with offices in nine states and Washington D.C., and has previously provided design and engineering services for ITH. Streeter Associates of Elmira is the Phase I general contractor, having won the bidding process for Phase I ($7.638 million of work) in September. The Ithaca Tompkins airport expansion project is being financed through $14.2 million of funding by the New York State Government, as part of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition. The airport is pursuing federal grants worth $10.2 million to fund Phase II of construction later this year, and if awarded, Tompkins County is expected to provide the remaining $260,000. It looks like the county is prepared to issue municipal bonds to cover the $10 million if they have to.

The expansion comes with encouragement from the airlines; United’s Newark flights, which had struggled with on-time departure rates, were replaced with flights to Washington D.C. late last year, and American Airlines added flights to Charlotte were added late last year. Delta Airlines provides an Ithaca to Detroit route, and American also provides an Ithaca to Philadelphia routeThe airport is currently aiming to regain service to the New York City area, a possible Toronto or Montreal route via Air Canada, and obtain a flight route to Chicago. Ithaca-Tompkins will rebrand itself to “Ithaca Tompkins International Airport” with the addition of the customs facility. The airport won’t host regular international flights yet, but it will now be capable of accepting chartered flights from Canada, and increasingly, wealthy Asian visitors have been pushing for direct service.

There has been some pushback from the community, regarding carbon emissions, catering to the wealthy, and the potential presence of ICE, the acronym for the highly controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The county legislature has refuted the accusations and claims, saying they would prohibit the facility if ICE were to move in, that the carbon emissions would be even worse if flying into Philadelphia or New York and driving up, and that while they would love more federal money for buses or homeless housing, that’s not how federal earmarks work.  Offhand, the TIGER transportation grant applications for buses and better mass transit get shot down every time (they’re extremely competitive, having only a 10% acceptance rate) – there have been eight attempts by Ithaca and Tompkins County over the past decade, as well as one transit application as part of a regional economic development grant to the state, which also failed. Homeless housing grants through HUD or NYS HCR are also very competitive.

Running down the components of the expansion can be a little disorienting. The May announcement had the following details:

  • Major security enhancements, including updating TSA baggage screening to be compliant with post-9/11 security requirements and adding another line for passenger security screening to alleviate wait times.
  • Reconfiguration of the security checkpoint and relocation of TSA office space as part of a 7,500-square-foot expansion of the passenger hold room.
  • Reconfiguration of airline office space and expansion of baggage screening space as part of a 2,500-square-foot addition on the east side.
  • Baggage security and check-in improvements to streamline the process and improve efficiency.
  • Three new passenger boarding bridges to accommodate jet aircraft and additional service.
  • Six new passenger boarding and departure gates, bringing the total number of gates at the airport to twelve.
  • Addition of 1,700-square-feet of space at the main entrance and an expanded ticket counter to improve passenger circulation and provide more room for ticket lines.
  • Construction of a new 5,000-square-foot Federal Customs Facility.
  • Technology upgrades to include high-speed WiFi, Bluetooth connectivity and additional charging ports and outlets.
  • Food service enhancements, such as expanding a pre-security café and adding 4,000 square feet of space for post-security food concessions.
  • Installation of a separate bus lane and a wind-resistant waiting area for buses, taxis and hotel shuttles.
  • Installation of new plumbing, HVAC, fire protection, mechanical and electrical systems.
  • Installation of a new geothermal water-source heat pump system to reduce natural gas usage for the terminal.

 

Those details were revised and a little more fleshed out in the SEQR forms shared with the county in July 2018:

– The Passenger Terminal Expansion will consist of three additions totaling 15,600 SF. 8.500 SF is an addition to the passenger holding area (which makes flying sound about as comfortable as it feels), 5,400 SF for additional bagging screening space and office space for the TSA and for airlines, and 1,700 SF by the main entrance for expanded passenger circulation and ticket counter space.

– Apron reconstruction, 40,000 SF. The apron is the area where planes park, refuel, and where some passenger loading/unloading takes place.

– Utilities replacement, interior “building enhancements”, one new passenger boarding bridge, and refurbishment of the existing boarding bridge.

– Installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system using 40 underground wells, 350-400 feet deep, and a closed-loop piping system. The operation is similar to a heat pump system, using the earth’s latent heat as a reservoir. The ground disturbance area to install the wells will be about 15,000 SF (~0.35 acres).

– Installation of overhead canopies with solar panels in the airport parking lot.

-Construction of a new 5,000 SF customs facility. The facility will be a one-story masonry structure with steel framing. The facility will accommodate no more than twenty passengers, and is exclusively tailored towards international business visitors – it’s been previously stated that business executives and Asian visitors, who often come in via Canada, have expressed a strong interest in private jet accommodations.

– Approximately ten new employees as a result of the terminal expansion, and six more from the construction of the new customs facility, for a total of sixteen new full-time jobs.

– Cayuga Solar (the new solar extension of the Cayuga Power Plant) will provide electricity to power ground source heat pumps, and solar panels will be erected above the parking lots which will have the secondary advantage of keeping a lot of the snow off of parked cars. It is expected that at least 80% of gas consumption will be eliminated, replaced by the solar power and electric heat pumps. That will save $50,000 annually on utility costs, even with a terminal that is 1/3 larger.

Separately, the state just announced an additional $1.5 million grant for a shared vehicle and aircraft fueling and storage facility. A vehicle fueling facility was originally planned for the NYS DOT site nearby, but had received pushback from neighbors, so the state decided to consolidate it with the aircraft fuel facility and build it on airport land across Warren Road from Borg Warner.

The photos below only show the 1,700 SF addition by the airport’s main entrance; the security situation makes taking photos more complicated than in most places (and my goal is to write news, not make it). At some point, a formal photo tour might be possible, but for now, the photo set is limited.





News Tidbits 9/2/18

2 09 2018

1. For lovers of old houses and those trying to restore them, the 1880 Queen Anne-style house at 310 West State Street, dubbed “The Tibbetts-Rumsey House”, is offering a tour of the renovations later this month. The tour, which starts at the front entrance at 11 AM on September 22nd, is free, but registration is required; if you’re so inclined, and since late September in Ithaca is generally a pretty nice time of the year for weekend outings, you can register here. The plan is to restore the house into a nine-bedroom co-op style living space, with a new six-bedroom co-op unit in the rear of the property.

The 3,800 SF residence was designed by local architect Alvah B. Wood and built by contractor John Snaith (of Snaith House) in 1880. Wood, a Cornell classmate of the more famous architect William Henry Miller, designed a number of prominent local structures, including the old Ithaca town hall at 126 East Seneca Street (built 1881, demo’d 2003, now the site of Tompkins Financial brand new HQ), the Immaculate Conception Church (1896) and the railroad/bus depot at 701 West State Street (1898). Union Army Captain J. Warren Tibbetts and his family were the first residents of the home. It was sold to the Rumsey family in 1885, and they owned it until 1966.

2. The medical office building near the intersection of Warren and Uptown Roads looks like it’s one step closer to happening. An LLC associated with Marchuska Brothers Construction, an Endicott-based firm that has been making inroads into the Ithaca market, bought the 2.71 acre lot and the plans from Arleo Real Estate LLC for $470,000 on the 27th. A sketch plan was presented to the village of Lansing in February 2017 for the one-story medical office building, but no formal review was carried out after the site and plans went up for sale for $500,000. Marchuska is free to change the design as they see fit, so don’t treat the renders as final. The firm recently completed the renovation of a former manufacturing facility on Craft Road into medical office space primarily leased by Cayuga Medical Center, and are the general contractors for the Tompkins Center for History and Culture project.

3. The tiny houses project at 16 Hillcrest Road in the town of Lansing is over for the time being. The town Zoning Board of appeals shot down the variance required for the lot, which is zoned industrial/research due to what is essentially a boundary line quirk. The reason cited isn’t that they don’t like the project, but rather that they don’t think it meets the intent of ZBA variances. The neighbors were opposed to the 421 SF homes, but were okay with a duplex, which could arguably be worse for them because one could build a pair of 2,000 SF, three-bedroom units that could generate more traffic and have a greater environmental impact. Even moreso, if one fully utilized the 1.26 acre lot for an office or industrial structure, that would have much greater environmental impact than either residential option because the lot could be fully utilized within standard setbacks, meaning a larger structure and parking lot, greater stormwater runoff, commuter/work-related traffic, industrial noise and related activities. An argument can also be made that these small homes would have been provided a new affordable option in an area plagued with affordability issues.

The Lansing Star seems cognizant of those arguments, and in the write-up sounded disapproving of the vote. “The denial of the variance does not mean the project has been killed. But in a sense the project is before it’s time, or zoning ordinances are behind the times. With small individual houses growing in popularity, building small scale neighborhoods defies zoning laws that were designed for conventionally sized homes.”

It’ll be a while before any zoning change is approved, and any challenge to the ZBA ruling is unlikely to go anywhere, so this proposal has been deleted from the Ithaca project map until a revival seems plausible.

4. Exxon Mobil is set to auction off a trio of parcels in the hamlet of Jacksonville. Tying into the story of the old Methodist church I wrote for the Voice last March, a major gas spill fifty years ago contaminated the groundwater and made the properties practically unlivable; after years of attempting to bring Exxon Mobil to task, the multinational energy firm purchased the properties, tore down most of the buildings except the church (after the town’s pleading), and basically sat on the lots with minimal upkeep. A municipal water line was later laid through the hamlet to provide clean water, and the gas has disintegrated and diffused with decades of time to safe levels, per the state DEC’s analysis. The town of Ulysses picked up three of the six lots, selling two to architect Cameron Neuhoff to restore the church into a residence and community space, and holding onto the third for the time being as it figures out what to do with it. The other three still owned by Exxon Mobil are the ones going up for auction. There is no reserve and the auction is set for 5 PM on October 17th. More information is available from Philip Heiliger of Williams & Williams Real Estate Auctions here.

5. Cayuga Heights is continuing with its review of the renovation and conversion of 306 Highland Road from a fraternity into a 15-unit apartment building. The plans have been slightly modified so that with the addition, the building grows from 3,400 SF to 4,542 SF (previously it was 4,584 SF).  GA Architects PLLC of Dryden is the architect of record; their online presence appears to be bare bones, and may have previously gone by the name Guisado Architects – it looks like principal Jose Gusiado has done a few homes in the Dryden and Lansing areas. Former Cornell professor and startup CEO John Guo is the developer.

6. Here’s a rough timeline for the Green Street Garage preferred developer decision – the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Economic Development Committee is expected to rank the projects in order of preference by September 14th, discuss it at the September public hearing, hold an Executive Session with Common Council in October, and formally designate a preferred developer by October 25th. From 11/1/2018 to 2/1/2019 there will be an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) between the preferred developer and the city, which is a designated time to negotiate details regarding sales and development of the site. This serves as the basis for a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA), which would be reviewed and approved by the IURA EDC by the end of February. From there, the Planning and Economic Development Committee of the Common Council will hold their public hearing and vote in March, and the full Common Council at their April 3, 2019 meeting.

It’s a long and complex process, but the goal is to have the major details sorted out by that preferred developer designation on October 25th – given the garage’s degraded state and limited life span remaining (two, three years at most) and the time needed to stabilize the structure and determine continent measures for any rebuild, having either side pull at late in the negotiation would be very problematic (suing the city during any stage in this process is never a good idea). Hopefully everything works out between the city and its choice of developer.

6. Not a whole lot of new and interesting coming public at the moment. A new “Dutch Harvest Farms” wedding barn at 1487 Ridge Road in the town of Lansing looks interesting. Tapping into the trend of using barns for wedding receptions, the 50.44 acre property would host a 7,304 SF pole barn, pond and associated parking and landscaping improvements. The facility would be capable of hosting up to 160 people on-site. The plans are being drawn up by local architecture firm SPEC Consulting, and the intent would be to build out the $750,000 project in the spring and summer of 2019.

7. Bad news for the Ithaca Gun site; a remedial investigation by the state DEC indicated that there is still enough lead present on the property that it poses a significant threat to public health. This doesn’t necessarily derail plans for the redevelopment by Travis Hyde Properties, but the DEC will need to conduct a review, make recommendations for cleaning, and sign off on any cleanup effort THP proposes.

8. A follow-up on the Ongweoweh Corporation news note from a couple weeks back – although they didn’t respond to my inquiry, they did respond to the Journal. And the move to the larger digs in Dryden comes with 25 to 50 new jobs in Dryden over the next few years, so while it may not have been my article, I’ll gladly share positive news.





Gannett Health Center Construction Update, 3/2017

27 03 2017

The new northeast wing of the Gannett Health Center has been framed, sheathed, and windows have been fitted. From the outside, work is also complete on the new concrete skin for the late 1970s northwest wing, which unlike the original building, it was finished out with concrete instead of stone. Meanwhile, the remaining portion of the original 1950s structure is still undergoing interior work and the new canopy has yet to be erected, so it’ll be a couple of months before the new curtain walls are fully installed. A new roof membrane is also on the to-do list.

Looking closely at the sheathing on the new building, you can see the clips that will be used to attach the new limestone veneer (Cornell has the time and the money for the real deal; most developers opt for less expensive but similar-looking precast concrete). Based off the roofline, it looks like fireproof fiberglass mat gypsum sheathing (in this case, GP DensGlass), followed by a silver moisture protection barrier, and then metal panels or limestone depending on the location.

October 2017 is the given completion date on the Cornell Facilities webpage, but the new building should be open by August; the new landscaping is what will extend into the fall. The Pike Company of Syracuse is the general contractor (they’re also doing Upson Hall nearby), and Downtown Ithaca’s Chiang O’Brien are the designers-of-record.

I did not get as close to the site as I would have liked, because the snow was still quite deep in some spots, and some of my usual vantage points were blocked off.





News Tidbits 2/27/16: A Leap Year, But Not A Leap Forward

27 02 2016

1. Let’s start this week off with some maps. The two below come courtesy of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) agenda, submitted by INHS Director of Real Estate Development Scott Reynolds.

iura_inhs_map_1

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Each marker is the approximate location of current of an individual on Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services’ (INHS’s) apartment wait-list. Dozens and dozens. As breakdowns go, 48% of waitlisted applicants live in the city of Ithaca, 38% outside of Ithaca but somewhere within Tompkins County, 8% live in other counties of New York State, and 6% come from outside the state. Counting the markers, my back-of-the-envelope calculation comes out to about 160 households.

The map implicitly describes the wealth of Ithaca’s neighborhoods – an increased number of applicants for affordable apartments come from South Side, the West Village area, and Northside, and further out, Dryden village and the apartment complexes in Lansing village. Wealthier areas like Fall Creek, East Hill, South Hill and Belle Sherman have very few or no individuals on the wait list.

The next time someone says affordability isn’t an issue, think of each dot on this map, and remember that’s someone, maybe even a while family, struggling but hoping to find decent, affordable housing.

Farm Pond Site RES'D & LOT s 010414

2. The Farm Pond Circle development in Lansing has finally sold on the 23rd for $164,840, well above both asking prices from last year. The purchaser was Dryden-based Schickel Construction, the same company responsible for the Boiceville Cottages. The restrictions on the ten for-sale lots carry over with the deeds. All things considered, Bruno Schickel knows this area well and his company could be one of the very few in the region interested but also capable in fulfilling Jack Jensen’s vision.

The development first went up for sale for $155,000 last March after the owner/developer, Jack Jensen, passed away suddenly in October 2014. In October, the price was knocked down to $125,000. Along with the lots Schickel picked up in the primary sale, a second purchase of $39,160 gave him three more undeveloped lots owned by other members of the Jensen family.

1015_dryden_1

3. On the other end of the sale scale, Ithaca real estate developer Modern Living Rentals has put their multi-family property at 1015 Dryden Road up for sale.  The asking price for the 5-unit property is $650,000. 1015 Dryden is home to a single-family home built in 1938, and a 4-unit apartment building from about 1980. The apartment building was badly damaged in a fire in 2011, renovated, and the site was sold to MLR for $425,000 in March 2014. The tax assessment is also $425,000.

Plans on MLR’s website shared a to-be-built 2,790 SF triplex designed by STREAM Collaborative, but the real estate listing notes plans filed for two side-by-side duplexes (4 units). All units when built would equal 24 bedrooms, but the bungalow house is just one bedroom, and although I can’t find total number of beds for the 4-unit, at 4,032 SF it’s probably 2 beds per unit, so…that’s 9 exisiting, plus six from the triplex, plus 9 bedrooms from the two side-by-sides? Not 100% sure. Potential landlords can contact the listing agent here.

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4. As noted by the Ithaca Journal this week, Elmira Savings Bank now has regulatory approval to move its bank branch from 301 East State Street to the old Pancho Villa Building at 602 West State Street. The project would still need site plan review for the renovation of 602 alone, even if the rest of the site isn’t altered. However, if less than 10,000 SF, a non-residential structure may only need limited SPR, staff-level like a single-family house (I was a bit uncertain, but I have confirmed with a member of the planning board). So although the move is okayed, the bank may still have to go through the board before renovations can begin. In theory, they could move into the un-renovated building without board approval, since it would only be when substantial exterior alterations are planned that it would then fall under the board’s purview.

The bank still has no plans for the other properties acquired in their December purchase.

chain_works_rev3_3 chain_works_rev3_4

5. Now for some weekly eye candy. Additional images from Monday’s Ithaca Voice on the Chain Works District redevelopment, PDF here. These were left out because although these images are strictly conceptual and years away from reality, they show many new buildings, up to 5 floors in places, which could have had people freaking out that Chain Works was a Manhattan-izing of Ithaca and that a derelict brownfield was a suitable alternative. What gets written is tailored for its audience, and I didn’t think the Voice’s more general and broader reader base would handle these images well. Case in point, the ICSD shutting off drinking water in all of the schools as a precaution sent people into the Voice’s comment section panicking that every household on the municipal water system was contaminated with toxic levels of lead a la Flint. So, here are some visual extras to the much more rational readers of this blog.

The conceptual renderings are by Rochester-based Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects, the same group behind the design of Harold’s Square.

20160220_111241 20160220_111313 20160220_111336

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6. House of the week. Or rather, duplex of the week. From the outside, William and Angie Chen’s 2-unit, 6-bedroom duplex at 424 Dryden Road is nearly complete. Trim details like the porches have yet to be attached, and the foundation still needs to be backfilled, but most of the exterior looks good to go.

However, the parking lot has been a source of some BZA debate. The lot would require five off-street parking spaces, which the Chens can do with the construction of a three-car garage that tears down mature trees, but they would prefer to create uncovered five spaces that include two in the rear yard. CR-2 Zoning doesn’t allow for rear yard parking, so an area variance is required. The application also comes with a letter of opposition from a neighbor who seems to have mixed up the choices, asking for the variance to be denied for tearing down trees, when it’s the non-variance option that tears down trees.

Local architect Daniel Hirtler of Flatfield Designs is handling the duplex and the zoning variance.

341_coddington_1

341_coddington_2

7. Status: It’s complicated. In Ithaca town, the Iacovelli family, longtime local landlords/builders, want to tear down a ca. 1845 house at 341 Coddington Road to put up two duplexes, which from the schematic appear to be the Iacovelli student special. To do so, they need to subdivide the property, one for each duplex.

On the one hand, the Iacovellis, who have been on South Hill since the 1920s (they’re the namesakes of Iacovelli Park at the end of Juniper Drive) and bought the property last year, have a right within existing law to do what they want with the property, which is next door to Orlando Iacovelli’s house. They want to subdivide the land into two parcels, and the only way to create two legal lots is to go right through the existing house.

On the other hand, it would be a shame to lose a 170-year house that’s in fair shape and has many of its original features intact, just so two fairly spartan duplexes can be built.

The town’s planning board seems to be cognizant of both sides in this dilemma. They asked at the last meeting to examine an alternative to allow subdivision and keep the 1845 house intact. The engineer for the project, Larry Fabbroni, did so, but the applicant is uncomfortable with trying to get zoning variances for the non-conforming setup, area, setback and a third claim about use for unrelated occupants (which the town planning department disputes).

This all comes at a time where the town is weighing a moratorium on 2-unit properties, and if this house comes down, there’s a good chance the town will vote the moratorium. Then Iacovelli won’t be able to build any duplexes, and no one else in the town of Ithaca would be able to either. But even if Mr. Iacovelli couldn’t build, he could still demolish the house and wait, should disagreements came to a boil.

Ideally, there would be a compromise where the 1845 house is preserved (by planning board/BZA stipulation or otherwise), and Iacovelli gets to subdivide so he can build a duplex on the other parcel. That way, he gets some economic return, and the town gets to keep an undesignated but arguably historic house. Few town board members want to come off as being anti-business to local families, and few developers want to come off as greedy or exploitative. A concession on both sides and some good will could go a long way in a time where tensions about student-focused housing are rising.

Comments can be sent to the board via the town clerk (Paulette Terwilliger) at townclerk@town.ithaca.ny.us . The board is expected to take a vote on the subdivision on Tuesday the 1st at 7 PM in the town hall.





Ithaca is Cold

3 04 2014

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It probably doesn’t take a meteorologist to realize that this year was a long, cold and harsh winter. But let’s give it some perspective. All data comes courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC).

Records go back to 1893 for the Ithaca area. If we look at just snowfall, this was a fairly average year. The typical Ithaca winter averaged 64 to 67 inches, depending on your source, with accumulations on 19 days. Barring any freak spring snowstorms (God forbid), this year will finish up at 63.3 inches tallied from 20 days of accumulating snow, virtually par for the course.

Then we take a look at the cold. That was the news maker this year – the cold, not the snow. Let’s put this into perspective and look at the period from November 1 to March 31st – what most folks would describe as the cold season, rather than just calendar or meteorological winter (we’ll hit met winter in a minute).

This was tied for the second coldest cold season since 1893. The average temperature was 24.8 F. Tied with the winter of 1969/1970, and 0.3 F short of the record holder, 24.5 F set in the winter of 1903/04. Even the detestable cold of the winter of 1993/1994 wasn’t as bad as this year (though it holds fourth at 25.0 F). The average coldest temperature in a year is about January 18th, with a high of 30 F and a low of 17 F.  23.5 F. In other words, the temperatures seen on what is usually the coldest day in a year could very nearly be applied to a five month period. It was that bad.

Now let’s look at meteorological winter, December 1 – February 28th/29th. 21.4 F. This is, surprisingly, not awful. It’s the 15th coldest meteorological winter on record. Below average, but not awful. 2002-2003 was worse (21.2 F). The winter of 1917-18 is worst, with an average of 19.0 F. So winter was cold, and seems to be shifting the blame to November and March.

In that respect, we have to hand it to March for being an epic piece of frigid dung. Fourth coldest March on record, at 24.5 F. Only March 1900 (24.4 F), 1984 (23.8 F) and 1960 (21.5 F) were worse. November 2013 averaged 35.7 F, which is once again below average, as the 16th coldest November on record. To sum up this season, it wasn’t just the cold, it was duration that truly made it a memorable year.

To touch upon the cold a little more thoroughly, the number of subzero temperatures in the cold season was 23. 23 subzero days ties second place for the most subzero days in a cool season. Tied with 1947/48, and one short of the record holder, 1960/61 (change it to met winter and it moves to third, behind 1960/61 and 1962/63). In terms of maxima, it still has yet to hit 60 this year, the last time Ithaca was above the “jacket line” was December 23rd. You know, because everyone wants a green Christmas, followed by three months of polar conditions.

So there you have it. Persistent troughing in the east gave us one of the coldest cool seasons in decades. If you want to blame someone, look at California and their persistent ridge out west, giving them their warmest winter ever recorded. But then, given the drought, and given that the fringe suburbs of SoCal may go through this again in six months, maybe blame’s not the right word.





The Keyword Bar XIII

13 09 2011

I feel a little guilty when I write “Keyword Bar” entries. I feel like they’re a melange of two separate thoughts – “Cornell and Ithaca aren’t doing anything I’m interested enough in to write about” and “I’m too lazy/busy with other things to research Cornell-related topics today”. So I depend on people prowling the internet and coming across the page in order to find topics worthy of writing brief snippets.

Regarding the opening photo; that photo comes from this past graduation weekend. I’m not sure if it’s the same person who put up the angry sign a couple years ago about how someone stole the peaches off their tree and as a result she couldn’t make peach pies to give to her sad elderly friends, but there’s a good chance it’s the same person (the sign did a good job of making me feel like a d—–bag and I didn’t even know there was a peach tree on the property). Anyway…

1. “new apartment building 309 eddy street ithaca cornell” 9-13-2011

I’m going to assume this is under construction? I’m going to go down there and take photos, come hell or high water.

2. “rothschilds building ithaca history” 9-12-2011

So, the Rothschild Building is also recognizable as the old Tetra Tech building on the east end of Ithaca Commons. Surprisingly, I have virtually no photos of it except for this one, where I’ve circled it in red:

The building was finished in 1975 (i.e. finished right after the Commons opened) and underwent a renovation in 1993, when Tetra Tech bought the previous occupant out (The Thomas Group) in a corporate takeover. It was built on the site of the old Hotel Ithaca, which had been torn down nine years earlier in the name of urban renewal.  The main occupant (Tetra Tech) moved out to the tech park last year because according to them, the space was too old and inefficient. The 76,000 sq ft. is slated for conversion into residential units.

3. “first snowfall in ithaca usually” 9-8-2011

Depends on your definition of “first snowfall”. Only twice in the past 20 years has there been an inch of snow before November 1st in Ithaca – 1993 and 2009 (October 31st and October 16th respectively). The 2009 snow is the earliest 1″ snowfall on the 120-year  record (however, November 2009 was 3 degrees above average and failed to record even a trace of snow). November usually averages 5.9″ of snow, but in the past decade there have only been four years with 1″ snows (November 18 & 21, 2008, November 9 2004, November 16, 27, 28 2002, November 23 and 30 2000)., and only 2 (2008 and 2002) that received above-average November snowfalls. But, in all except two years, there was at least a trace of snow in November. A quick anecdote, I think in the meteorology major, we said that the first 1″ day on average was November 18th, but if this blurb proves anything, it’s that it varies widely from year to year.

4. “edgemoor lane murder ithaca” 9-6-2011

None that I’ve ever heard of. Edgemoor Lane has almost exclusively been the home of professors, then fraternities and small dorms, since it was built in the 19th century, so a murder likely would’ve attracted Cornell’s attention, but nothing turns up online.

5. “why is cornell considered the heathens on the hill” 9-9-2011

Cornell was founded as a non-sectarian school, a radical departure from the norm in the mid 1800s. Many preachers and men of the cloth attacked the schools for its seemingly amoral standards, for instance not mandating church attendance. Heathens on the hill arose as a pejorative term that took on a more endearing, self-deprecating tone as non-sectarian schools became more common in the following decades.