Breckinridge Place and Seneca Way Progress Photos, December 2013

4 01 2014

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Breckinridge Place and its 50 units move closer to completion. In his last update, Jason over at Ithaca Builds noted the removal of bricks for what he surmised to be the architectural shades, although in the renderings they were located only two-thirds up the windows, rather than at the top. These photos seem to support that. The building is slated to open in early 2014, and at least from the outside, it looks like only minor work remains.

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Across downtown, Seneca Way is putting the finishing touches on its eastern facade as it inches toward its opening date this month (haven’t heard specifics, so I’m assuming a soft opening). Apart from a few details like installation of garage doors on the ground level, signage and some ground work, this building is nearly complete as well. Seneca Way brings 38 apartments and 8,600 sq ft of office space to downtown Ithaca.





Seneca Way Updates, 07/2013

30 07 2013

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My compliments to the DIA for deciding to use renderings as wall posters on the construction barriers of Ithaca Commons.

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Seneca Way still has two floors to go before topping out, although the stairwells appear to be fully built out.  Wall panels are in place up to the fourth floor, and the wood reinforcements on the fifth floor suggest installation will begin shortly. Seneca Way will add 38 apartments and 8,600 sq ft of office space to downtown when it is completed in Spring 2014.  The office space will be fully occupied by Warren Real Estate and the non-profit Park Foundation, which had also been looking at space in the Cayuga Green Condos before that project went all-residential.

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I assume that the Argos Inn is open for guests at this time. The landscaping is tidy and the new 13-room boutique hotel breathes life into the ca. 1831 Cowdry House, which once served as the headquarters for Duncan Hines. The last owners, non-profit Unity House  (a treatment/rehab facility), moved up to Lansing right by the mall.





News Tidbits 1/16/2011: The Project Planned for Seneca Way

17 01 2011

(UPDATED) So, this is a project that has been under the radar but merits a closer look. The site plan review (first step in the approvals process) is due to go in front of the city of Ithaca’s planning board later this month. This project is set for initial review along with Josh Lower ’05’s controversial parking lot-lacking five six story mixed-use building planned for the current Ithaca Carshare building site in Collegetown (the former Kinney Drugs), and the continued review of Ithaca College’s new boathouse, which I don’t consider particularly newsworthy. Sorry IC.

What is interesting about this project isn’t so much who’s designing it (the popular local firm Trowbridge and Wolf, who also designed the West Campus House dorms and the Gateway Commons apartment building on East State Street), but its location. Most people haven’t heard of Seneca Way. That’s because the street barely exists. It’s a tiny stretch of road off of East State that flows into East Seneca Street (shown below). The project address is 140 Seneca Way, the north/east side of the street.

The lots facing Seneca Way are few. True Insurance, a parking lot and the former Challenge Industries Building on one side, and a parking lot on the other side. This area has been a designated target for desired future development for the past few years, so much so that several of the properties on the even-numbered side of the street were up for rezoning. That zoning was to change the site from four stories max to six stories, but was controversial because it might impact the redevelopment of the Argos Inn (right next door to the east side of Challenge Industries) and as one city councilman put it, “I’m not sure this proposal provides as graceful a transition between the core and the residential areas as one would wish”. The zoning failed to pass the Ithaca Common Council, so the maximum height allowed on the property is still 40 feet or four stories, whichever is shorter (which for residential structures, 9-10 feet is standard floor height anyway).

So, what might be there? Well, if the project wants to pass, it’ll likely have to incorporate base parking or compensate somewhere nearby (which would be expensive). There isn’t room for a larger parking lot, let alone spaces lost to new construction. Perhaps part of the project will involve demolition of the vacant Challenge Industries building. Since that’s an uncertainty, it’s difficult to speculate on the number of units (it also depends on what their intended square footage for a unit is). I would expect that being a “transitioning” set of parcels, the size would be three to four stories. Trowbridge and Wolf specialize in contemporary and rather angular designs, so if it’s anything like their previous work it’ll probably bear similarities be glassy and have a fair amount of exterior steelwork.

At this time, it’s just about waiting to see what they come up with for that area.

UPDATE 1/25/11: Okay, so here is the proposal: 63,400 sq ft mixed use building with 14 below-ground parking spaces, as well as 41 surface spaces. First floor commercial (one-third of which will be occupied by a branch of Warren Real Estate), 32 apartments, a fitness center and enclosed roof terrace. Will require demolition of former Challenge Industries building. At five stories, this project will require a zoning variance, as well as variances for setbacks and parking. So, excluding the height variance, my guess wasn’t too far off.

Also, 307 College Avenue will be six stories, not five. My mistake.





Rodeway Inn Construction Update, 5/2017

30 05 2017

So this is one of those small projects that would probably be missed unless someone were explicitly looking for it. At 654 Elmira Road south of the city-town line, hotelier Pratik Ahir has commenced with reconstruction and expansion of the Rodeway Inn motel.

The Rodeway Inn is one of Ithaca’s less-expensive, quirkier lodging options. A collection of four buildings dating from 1950s-1980 with later renovations, three buildings hosted 40 motel-style rooms with a dining/lobby space, and a detached house was home for a live-in manager.  With it came outdoor gazebos, a playground, and well-appointed if careworn rooms – an unusual blend of budget appearances and mid-tier amenities. Motels have been on the property since the Wonderland Motel was built in the 1950s, and the buildings have been owned by JAMNA Hospitality since 2005.

Reviews of the Rodeway generally note welcoming staff and clean units, but dated layouts and buildings in need of a serious upgrade. That is what JAMNA’s Pratik Ahir has set out to do here. The initial plan was to enlarge the rooms with a rear addition for more spacious bathrooms, and add new corner units to former mechanical closets on either end of the U-shaped “Building 1”. These plans were approved in December 2013.

After the approval, however, the plans were shelved. In 2014, the Maguires were seeking to do their “artisanal” dealerships and HQ down there, and that plan would have involved buying out and demolishing the Rodeway Inn. JAMNA was prepared to sell the property to the Maguires, but after the Maguire plan was cancelled following disagreements with the town over zoning, the motel owners were once again given a chance to re-evaluate their plans.

Revision number two to come before the town asked for the renovations as before, but added internal and external modifications, parking lot adjustments, and called for an additional 1,146 SF to the single-family home (“Building 2”) to turn it into a community center for guest recreation and dining. This was also approved.

Then we get to the final version, number three. This plan asked for the 1,146 SF addition as in Plan 2, but instead of Plan 1’s addition, JAMNA requested approval to tear down both arms of Building 1 and replace them with larger arms on the same footprint that would host an internal hallway – so less motel and more hotel. The work would also add four rooms, bringing the total to 44. Perhaps related to this confusion, JAMNA had already started demolition when the town issued a stop-work notice in January, requiring the new plans to be approved before work could continue.

Joe Turnowchyk of Pennsylvania-based Hex 9 Architects is the architect for the project; he’s also the guy behind JAMNA’s future plans for a 37,000 SF, 70-room Sleep Inn up the road. Anatoliy Bezpalko of “Time 4 Improvement LLC” is the general contractor. It’s a little odd that the architect’s from Southeast PA, and the contractor from Stroudsburg in the northeast near the Delaware Water Gap, as they are neither close to each other or to Ithaca. According to county records, the Rodeway Inn has a hard cost of $926,000. The lender is Generations Bank, a small bank based out of the Seneca Falls.

Looking at the site below, a fair amount of progress has already been made – stone veneer and some exterior finishes are up on the new community center, and wood framing is ongoing for the new motel wings. The large blank wall on the “tower” will be occupied by metal awnings, matching the metal roof. Some housewrap has already been adhered to the plywood sheathing. The roof has been sheathed and the underlayment is being attached. Buildings 3 and 4 will be renovated, but their square footage and layout should stay the same.





707 East Seneca Street Construction Update, 8/2015

14 08 2015

By the time I had taken updated photos of the apartment building under construction at 707 East Seneca Street, most of the exterior work had been completed (looking at the photos closely, those might be some trim boards leaning next to the first-floor doorway). The work has shifted mostly to finishing out the interior, and then when the vast majority of work on the building is completed, landscaping and paving will follow. Everything looks to be on schedule for tenant move-in later this month.

For a look at interior progress photos, Modern Living Rentals has been posting occasional updates on their facebook page.

The building will have 6 3-bedroom units, 18 beds total. Todd Fox and Charlie O’Connor of Ithaca’s Modern Living Rentals are the developers, and the design of the building, heavily influenced by its location in the East Hill Historic District, is the work of local firms Schickel Architecture and STREAM Collaborative.

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707 East Seneca Street Construction Update, 6/2015

8 06 2015

In and near the Collegetown neighborhood, several smaller construction projects are currently underway. One of those is 707 East Seneca, an urban infill project in the East Hill Historic District. Since the project was located in a historic district, the design had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board, and the zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals were granted.

The design of the 3-story building is intended to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the site. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) in summer 2014, and the vacant lot was sold for $130,000 last December. A building loan agreement filed with the county last Friday estimates the total “hard” construction cost for the building at $752,350. Hard construction costs leave out legal fees, permit fees, and other costs not directly related to construction.

When completed, the apartment building will have 6 units and 18 bedrooms. Four garage parking units will be located under the building and tucked into the hillside, in addition to five surface parking spaces. The building is expected to be completed before students return this August.

Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

In these photos taken last Friday, it appears that the building has been faced with plywood, topped out to its final storey and roofed. The exterior walls have been almost fully wrapped with Tyvek water barrier wrap. Some interior framing can be seen from the outside.

The design of the building is by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, and the developer is Ithacan Todd Fox.

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707 East Seneca Street Construction Update 4/2015

10 04 2015

Another infill project is underway in the East Hill Historic District between Downtown and Collegetown. 707 East Seneca, like 202 Eddy Street and 140 College Avenue, had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board and zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals have been granted.

The ILPC-approved design is made to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the building. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) last summer, and the lot was sold for $130,000 on December 22nd (the market asking price was $175,000, and the assessed value of the land is $100,000, so the final price looks pretty reasonable).

The apartment building planned is a 3-story, 6-unit, 18-bedroom structure with 4 garage parking units in a basement built into the hillside, and five surface parking spaces. According to documents filed with the city, target completion is July of 2015. Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

Without getting a good look at the back of the now fenced-off property, it looks like the site has been cleared and excavation is underway for the retaining walls and foundation. Being a sloped site, retaining walls will be built on the west edge of the property (right side of the photos) and for tree wells, and the east portion will use a sloped bank built using fill material. Offhand, I think I remember seeing that the building itself will be assembled from modular pieces, craned into place on the foundation over a day or two, not unlike the method used at the Belle Sherman Cottages.

The design of the building is by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, and the developer is Ithacan Todd Fox.

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News Tidbits 5/11/19

12 05 2019

1. The proposed revision (downzoning) along West State / MLK Jr. Street is moving forward with circulation (review by city departments and associated stakeholders), with a couple of major revisions. The zoning would not be CBD-60. It would be CBD-52 for structures with less than 20% affordable housing, and CBD-62 for structures with 20% or more affordable housing. The quirk in the height is due to mandatory floor heights, which will be 12 feet for the first floor, and 10 feet for each floor above – in other words, five floors for projects with a lack of affordable units (=< 80% area median income), six otherwise.

For 510 West State Street, in which all 76 or 77 units are affordable (my unit count is 76, but they typed 77 in a couple sport of the Site Plan Review), the project would remain largely intact. The new setback requirement would push the fifth and maybe a very small portion of the sixth floor back from West State/MLK Jr. Street for the mandatory fifteen feet, so a little square footage would be lost there. The city had initially sought thirty foot setbacks, but the Ithaca Fire Department said that it would not be reachable by their trucks if the fifth floor was that far away from the street face.

Now, some more astute readers might be wondering is this affects Visum’s other West End project at 109 North Corn Street. The answer is no. The setback rule only affects buildings fronting West State / MLK Jr. Street. The downzoning is intended to protect an aesthetically pleasing segment of West State more than anything else. The setback does technically apply to West Seneca Street, but the building height there is 40 feet anyway, which is the same as the setback.

The affected blocks now also include the 300 and 400 Blocks of West State Street. The only publicly known project that would be impacted is INHS’s Salvation Army redevelopment, which was only aiming for five floors on the West State Street side anyway, but could potentially be impacted by the setback rule – the project design is still in the concept stages with no public images.

A speaker during public comment asked to extend the zoning further to Downtown, and some councilors have discussed further downzoning because “the developers can just pursue a PUD”. That thought process ignores the drawbacks. The more areas impacted and the more stringent zoning becomes, the more labor and time intensive it becomes for city staff because it would likely trigger more PUDs, even while resulting in less development in general because a PUD adds months to a project timeline, uncertainty that lenders don’t like, and forces the Common Council to take on the role of a second Planning Board (which some councilors might be fine with, but some definitely would not and raised this as a complaint during the vote on whether to create the PUD overlay to begin with). Also, if the downzoning were to be applied to a property against the owner’s wishes, say the County Annex property for example, it would likely trigger a costly lawsuit. TL;DR, it looks tempting for additional “community benefits”, but could have significant negative impacts and should be used sparingly.

2. Staying in the realm of laws for a moment, there’s an ordinance that should be made aware to residents of Northside and Fall Creek. A proposal from 1st Ward councilor Cynthia Brock would require every rental agreement and every home sales transaction within 1200 feet of the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility’s boundaries to provide documentation of the potential issues and hazards of living near the plant – “you should be prepared to accept such inconveniences and discomfort as a normal and necessary aspect of living and operating in proximity to a waste water treatment facility,” as the document states.

The document isn’t ill-intentioned, but this does impact over a hundred existing Northside and Fall Creek homes and apartments, and quite reasonably would have a negative financial impact on them, whether they plan to sell or if they rent out space. There is nothing on record that these residents have been notified of this proposal. City staff don’t even seem comfortable with the proposal as-is, they don’t think Fall Creek residents are substantially impacted and suggested a cutoff at Route 13, but the 1200 square foot radius seems to be the version being considered right now, paying a trip to city attorneys to see if it’s legal to apply it to all rentals, a detail added at the meeting. Honestly, this doesn’t seem well thought out at this time, and poses a burden to existing homeowners who have not been made aware because of the lack of sufficient outreach.

3. Arthaus and Library Place have had their tax abatement requests approved, on 7-0 and 6-1 votes. The former will bring 124 affordable housing units including special needs housing and artist-centric amenities to the city of Ithaca at 130 Cherry Street. The latter will provide 66 senior housing units on the former Library property on the 300 Block of North Cayuga Street. Arthaus is expected to start construction at the end of the year, while Library Place will resume this month, with completions in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

County legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne voted against the Library Place proposal, citing some of the concerns raise over the lack of affordable housing (three units will now be 80% area median income) and general discontent with the site. In my intro post to the project, I mentioned if vaguely that there was a legislator who thought the affordable housing, condominiums, and Travis Hyde projects were all terrible – that was McBean-Clairborne, who has generally favored county offices on the site instead of housing. The county did a study to consider renovating the old library for offices back in 2011, a couple years before the RFP, but the study found it was financially prohibitive because of the building’s unusual interior layout (that soaring 1960s atrium wasn’t a good use of space, and wouldn’t have been cheap to replace).

4. Carpenter Park is also moving forward, in this case with the pursuit of its special PUD zoning. The project is seeking the PUD because of some quirks in yard setbacks, and soil tests showing that they couldn’t place some of the parking underground as initially planned (so now it’s in an above ground garage between the ground-floor retail and the apartments in Buildings B and C). The project would bring about 411,600 SF of new space, including 208 apartments (42 affordable) and an expansion of Cayuga Medical Center’s medical offices, resulting in the creation of 150 jobs. The vote was 4-1, with councilor Brock opposed. The full council will vote on the PUD next month, and then the project can go to the planning board for design review. Keep in mind that the above designs might change somewhat, though the general scale and program mix should stay the same.

5. The Tompkins County Airport has received a $9,999,990 grant, as announced by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer at a press conference earlier this week. The county was strongly hoping these funds would come through. With the state grant, it means the county is only paying about $260,000 of the $24.5 million bill. Click the link here to learn more about the airport expansion project.

6. The Gun Hill Residences appear to be in the process of selling. A real estate trade magazine notes Southeastern U.S. regional bank SunTrust is giving the buyer a $13.3 million acquisition loan for DMG Investments LLC. DMG Investments is an American subsidiary of a Chinese development firm, DoThink Group of Hangzhou. The company has been active in upstate recently. DMG co-owns a new 322-bed student housing apartment in Albany and has projects scattered across the country. The full sales price has not been discolosed, as the deed has yet to be filed. It was noted that the ca. 1989, 94-unit, 273-bed Gun Hill Residences on Lake Street was nearly completely full at the time of closing (late spring, which is reasonable given a couple of kids might have washed out of Cornell or otherwise moved out). The property was previously owned by Rochester’s Morgan Communities, which was raided by the FBI last year. Morgan purchased the property in February 2011 for $6.15 million, and the current county assessment for Gun Hill is $12.65 million.

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7. Some modest revisions to the Immaculate Conception School plans. Old render first, new render second. The design of the renovated school building has changed substantially, though the overall size has remained consistent. The changes could be due to any number of reasons, from cost concerns to utilities placements necessitating design changes. The single-family homes have been replaced with a four-string of townhomes, and the yellow string has been earmarked for for-sale units.

If I may – make one of the olive green townhome strings red or orange like the houses that have been removed. Keeps it from being so “matchy-matchy”, to borrow a JoAnn Cornish term. More renders can be found on INHS’s sparkling new website here.

On that note, on Monday May 13th the City of Ithaca will hold a Public Information Session for the proposed PUD (Planned Unit Development) for the Immaculate Conception School redevelopment. The Public Information Session will begin at 4:00 PM, in the Common Council Chambers in City Hall. In accordance with the requirements of the PUD, the developer and project team will present information about the project and answer questions from the public.

8. Looking at agendas:

The city Project Review Meeting (the run up to Planning Board meetings) will look at signage changes for the new Hilton Canopy on Seneca Way, a Presentation and potential Declaration of Lead Agency for 510 West State Street (now 50-70% area median income, initially it was 80-90% AMI), The 141-bed, 49 unit Overlook student housing at 815 South Aurora (updated, and review of Full Environmental Assessment Forms Part 2 and 3), final site plan approval for Arthaus and consideration of preliminary site plan approval for the Chain Works District (the focus right now is the renovations for phase one, office space, industrial space and 60 apartments). Apparently, the “Ezra” restaurant at the Hilton is now being called “The Strand Cafe”, after the theater that once stood on the site. More information can be found in the May project memo here.

The town of Ithaca will continue its review of Chain Works as well. Their portion of phase one involves the renovation of two manufacturing spaces into industrial and warehouse space (i.e. minimal work, just a sprucing up of the digs). Also your casual reminder that, unlike Dryden, Lansing or really any other sizable community in Tompkins County, the town permitted the construction of not a single new housing unit – again – last month. It looks the next stage of Artist Alley ($150,000 buildout) and Cayuga Med’s radiation vault ($2 million cost) were permitted.

It appears that the Beer family is heading back for another visit to the village of Lansing Planning Board regarding their until-now cancelled senior cottages project. The only thing known at the moment about this latest iteration is that it would fit the village’s cluster zoning, which means 97 units or less, but not in the same configuration as before (the pocket neighborhood-style homes were too close for code). We’ll see what happens.

Nothing much to note in Lansing town. Review of the Osmica event venue and B&B will continue, as will consideration of the Lake Forest Circle subdivision renewal and the 12,000 SF commercial building proposed for North Triphammer Road just north of Franklyn Drive.

– Courtesy of the village of Trumansburg, we have a new working title for 46 South Street, formerly Hamilton Square – now it’s “Crescent Way”. PApar krief, including revised EAFs, supplements and BZA findings here. The final version has some site plan changes on the location of some townhouse string types, but the overall unit count remains the same at 73 units (17 market rate for-sale, 10 affordable for-sale, 46 affordable rentals). Approval is on the horizon, a little more than two years to the date of when the project was first introduced. The project will be built in phases, with completion not expected until 2023.

 





City Centre Construction Update, 7/2018

16 07 2018

Not too much to add here regarding City Centre. The modular exterior panel system continues to rise. These photos were taken last weekend when the building was up to its sixth floor, and it’s not up to the seventh of its eight floors. For those needing a more regular fix, the webcam on the top of Seneca Way updates every fifteen minutes or so, and can be seen here. Looks like it missed me by three minutes.

Here’s an interesting little aside. A few folks have complained, in the way that many of us like to do, that the name “City Centre” is rather pretentious, particularly the faux-British English ‘Centre’. Newman Development Group has actually reused the name on another project they’re doing, in Lincoln Nebraska. That project is significantly larger than Ithaca’s, an $85 million downtown redevelopment of the former Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper office and printing press into a ten-story mixed-use with first-floor retail, two floors of offices, and 239 apartments on the upper floors. Like Ithaca’s project, it’s one of the largest urban projects in the city (rather impressive given Lincoln is ten times Ithaca’s size), and received a local tax abatement on the order of $15 million. Lincoln was selected by Newman specifically because its downtown area is close to a major university, in this case the University of Nebraska. Perhaps their Ithaca project is a new market pioneer for them – they see potential success in a mix of urban professionals and college students, and are looking for other opportunities in similar communities.

Looking at the apartment rental prices is enough to give most folks pause. Studios, which make up 33 of the 193 units, range from $1,795-$1,875/month. the 120 1-bedroom units go from $1,995-$3,015/month, and the 39 two-bedrooms range from $2,560-$3,415/month. With those prices, a prospective tenant could rent an entire house for themselves in Fall Creek or Northside; maybe it’s for the best that their attentions are drawn here instead. For the sake of comparison, City Centre Lincoln is $900-$1,200/month.

More information about Ithaca’s City Centre can be found here.





Hilton Canopy Hotel Construction Update, 4/2018

5 05 2018

Construction continues on the Canopy, but the plans are in a state of modest flux. The fiber cement panels were changed to a different manufacturer, which uses a different paint supplier. The original Cem5 fiber cement panels use Swiss Pearl paints, while the revision proposes Nichiha panels using PPG paints. The replacement colors are very similar.

However, the dull yellow “Applesauce Cake” accent panels (itself a replacement for Cem5 “Carat Topaz”), was rejected by Canopy. The replacement color, a charcoal grey “Dark Ash”, was disliked by the board, so the project team is still trying to determine a suitable color replacement with enough to get the order filed with the manufacturer without delaying the construction timeline. I wonder if, given the orange Canopy logo and branding, if a soft “rustic” orange shade might be available? The thought being that it would tell visitors quickly that this building is a Hilton Canopy, and a warm, subtle shade would brighten the facade without being obnoxious. From what I see, one can custom order panels, which is no doubt more expensive, but I’m not seeing a list of standard colors anywhere.

While excavating, the project team did find some small fragments of the Strand Theater, which stood on the site until its demolition in 1993. The “most decorative” pieces are going to be used in a display inside the hotel lobby, and further consideration is being made for an exterior mural.

The landscaping is being tweaked to extend a sidewalk through the property to Seneca Way, as well as a curb-cut and smaller planters to fit within the property line. A pair of ginkgo trees planned for the property are being replaced with some dense shrubs and perennial instead. This is the eleventh version of the project I now have on file. Background info and specifications can be found here.

The hotel has completed foundation work and is up to the second floor. The steel skeleton and elevator cores/stairwells continue to rise, with thinner exterior steel stud walls on the ground floor and fireproof gypsum panels on the second floor. The finished product should be coming onto the market in about a year.