GreenStar Co-Operative Market Construction Update, 9/2019

14 09 2019

Over at the new GreenStar Co-Op at 770 Cascadilla Street, framing for the structural awnings and entrance bump-out are underway, and new windows have been fitted into what had been the windowless (if colorful, thanks to street art) exterior. The Owner Investment Program, which allows Co-Op members to invest in the expansion and receive a share of profits (dividends), has raised $1,659,500 and has a fall 2019 goal of $2 million (the ultimate goal is $2.5 million).

In a blog post, the Co-Op touts the new customer shopping experience to be had starting next spring, including expanded service areas and food offerings, as well as a number of cutting edge features in the name of ecological sustainability (100% solar power, 85% waste diversion through recycling/composting/donation of food, etc.). The accompanying photos show some new interior renders, as well as interior stud wall framing, drywall hanging, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing installation.

For better or worse, GreenStar’s issues haven’t involved the new flagship under construction lately, but potential labor violations and accusations of unfair treatment of workers seeking to form a union. Beyond the purview of a construction blog post, but just pointing it out for the sake of acknowledgement.





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 9/2019

14 09 2019

We’re about halfway through now, with seven of the fourteen 10-unit townhouse strings open for occupancy, and another two strings coming on each month through the remainder of the year.

The Craigslist ads are fairly standard, though they do raise an eyebrow. Typically, if a place is offering a free month of rent (which is usually deployed in the form of a discount amounting to one month metered out over the 12-month lease rather than a literal free month), they’re not hitting their occupancy goals.

If that’s the case, it probably has less to do with the units, which are by any regard pretty nice, and more to do with the number of them coming onto the market. 140 apartments is a lot to absorb at once in a a suburban neighborhood where students aren’t a significant part of the local rental market. Larger projects in Downtown Ithaca’s can tap into graduate and professional students pretty easily (City Centre relied on students to fill out its less desirable units), and the hills draw both undergrads and graduate/professional students. Meanwhile, Lansing and Dryden have no trouble filling smaller projects, like the 42-48 units the Village Solars brings online each year. East Pointe isn’t doing badly, it just isn’t easy in a small metropolitan area like Ithaca’s to bring a large suburban rental project onto the market in one phase and have it not experience some softness as the initial units are filled.

A full description of the project and its history can be found here.

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Village Solars Construction Update 9/2019

13 09 2019

So there’s been some news regarding the Village Solars buildout. The community center is in flux. The original proposal was for a mixed-use building with ground-level commercial and community amenities, and 20 one-bedroom apartments on the upper levels. Now, it’s an unknown. Per the Lansing Star:

“(T)hey will relocate the community center site to a location more central what will become an enlarged, single development. The lower floor would have amenities like a restaurant, a work-out center, and other features, with apartments on the upper floors. If not, they would build the smaller community center as already accepted by the Town.”

That means that the community center is being moved to another location on the site, and potentially take a different physical form, though programmatically it remains the same (commercial/community use on the ground level, residential above).

When the article says a more central location, it refers to the 96.44 acres of land east of the complex. The Village Solars are owned by Steve Lucente, and the undeveloped land to the east by his father Rocco, who had purchased it in 1960 and was recently planning his own apartment complex (schematic in the early Village Solars site plan below). My understanding is that the two Lucentes didn’t get along at all – I was warned to never bring up Steve when interviewing Rocco. After Rocco passed away about 18 months ago, Steve saw an opportunity to purchase the vacant land to the east from Rocco’s estate, and build a bigger complex in future phases (as yet unapproved). The purchase offer, at least check, is still being reviewed by Rocco’s Executors.

However, this created a problem. Local Law #6 of 2017, the Planned Development Area (PDA, like Ithaca’s PUD it’s D-I-Y zoning) with the town, stipulated that the community center had to be built and open by the end of 2020, and only one more apartment building could be built before it was done. So Steve Lucente and his project team had to make the case to the town of Lansing Planning Board and Town Board give them time to purchase the land and design the new community center, and let them do three more apartment buildings in the meanwhile to keep on pace with their construction plans. If the offer feel through, he’d build the community center starting next summer and finishing in 2021, a year later than initially planned. Generally, of all the communities to have to make such a request, Lansing would be one of the most accommodating.

Officially, only the Town Board really decides PDA amendments. But here, the Town Board was uncomfortable with the request at first, referred it to the Planning Board for guidance, and then after the Planning Board weighed in, it returned to the town board with a recommendation to consider during voting.

This caused some debate, with some of the planning board feeling like their credibility was taking a hint with this latest delay (the community center was delayed at least once, hence why it was explicitly stated in the 2017 PDA revision), and at least one member of the town board feeling as if they were purposely misled since banks would have received the notice of intent to modify the plans several months ago, but Steve Lucente countered that it was not a firm plan and only became firm later in the year when the offer looked like it had a good chance of being accepted. On a 3-1 vote, the town is permitting three more apartment buildings and only two more, and expects a community center to start next year in either the old or the new location.

At this point, the last of the originally permitted buildings, 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios) has had its foundation footers poured and is awaiting the concrete slab pour. The tarp and mesh are in place for stability and added strength respectively, and you can see the below-ground utilities poking out, capped for the time being. A surveyor was on site during this visit to make sure everything was level and in good order before the wood frame starts to rise. The three newly permitted buildings are all reconstruction of existing 8-10 unit buildings, into two 18-unit buildings (2 Village Place, 22 Village Place) and one 24-unit building (117 Village Circle North).

Apparently, occupancy rates have been strong. Building “L” (113 Village Circle North) opened in June, and 22 of its 24 units were spoken for, with the other two rented shortly after.

As for the future, it’s not clear. Something will be proposed that may very well require more PDA amendments, but we’ll see. The elder Lucente’s complementary apartment complex was supposed to be around 300 units in size (built over several years), and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Village Solars plan expands by a similar amount.

 





Milton Meadows Construction Update, 9/2019

9 09 2019

The buildings are not yet complete, but Milton Meadows is accepting applications for its 71 units (the 72nd is for an on-site manager). Income qualifications are 50-80% of area median income with first preference to veteran’s; specific on the income levels, monthly rent and associated details can be found at the end of this post, and online on the NYS Homes and Community Renewal website here.

The initial application round was from June 9th to July 9th, and applications were selected by a housing lottery. What that means is that once applications are gathered, those that qualify are put in random order and given a log number. From there, the developer begins the review process starting with the lowest log number as well as any preferential applicants. The lower one’s log number is, the more likely one is to hear back from the lottery. If there are any units remaining after the lottery is complete, those will be filled with later applications. If they’re all full, then applicants will be hanging out on a waiting list. That could be a few months, or longer. INHS has been known to take a couple years to make it all the way through its backlog for its more desirable unit sizes and locations.

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

To give an idea of the visual differences between the building configurations, which come in eight one-bedroom, eight two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom flavors, the first photo shows a three-bedroom building on the left, a two-bedroom building in the middle, and a one-bedroom building on the right.

One kinda wishes they had gone with a more visually interesting color palate for the vinyl siding, which is two shades of grey and a tan, but chances are, it was whatever they could get that was durable and cheap in bulk. The early renders showed a different if still soft color palate.

Also in progress is the realignment of Woodsedge Drive with Louise Bement Lane, to make them a proper four-corner intersection. This is being paid for with a $75,000 state grant with in-kind labor from the town.

 





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 8/2019

14 08 2019

The north wing of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln dealership is about as gutted as it can get, with nothing left but the foundation footers, the concrete slab, and the structural steel.

New rebar is being kept on site for the foundation slab of the new additions, with a steel mesh likely intended for the concrete pour. The mesh will be laid into the excavated footprint and used to strengthen the concrete as the slab hardens. It’s a little hard to tell from a distance (the fencing perimeter is quite large, given that some of the site is still actively in use for car sales), but it looks like wood forms have been assembled for pouring and curing of the foundation walls and footers for the northwest addition – the northeast addition is not so clear, because the large soil mound blocks it from view. The trailer on site belongs to Breton Construction of Attica, perhaps for subcontracted excavation or foundation work. G. M. Crisalli & Associates is the general contractor.

The last I checked (drive-by a few weeks ago), work had yet to start on the new Maguire Nissan in the village of Lansing. Nissan will relocate from this site to their new showroom across town when it is ready in about a year. (It’s a strange combination of automakers. Ford and Nissan shared design and mechanical work on the Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager minivan back in the ’90s, but I can’t think of any other overlap between the brands.)

Project information and a detailed history and description of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln reconstruction can be found here.

Final site plan.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 8/2019

10 08 2019

As noted by a few different news outlets including the Voice, the tower crane for the structural steel assembly has been taken apart and removed from the site. This work required about five days, the temporary clearing of some street level fixtures, and a deconstructing crane. 14850.com’s Rachel Cera won the blue ribbon for best title: “Crane-deconstructing crane coming to deconstruct construction crane on the Commons”. The formal topping off ceremony was June 27th.

We’re pretty much looking at the full scale of the building now, except from the mechanical penthouse on the roof (mechanical penthouses are generally not considered to be a part of building height because they’re not habitable space). Concrete pours have been completed on all 12 floors, and fireproofing is up to the 11th floor, with interior stud walls and initial utilities rough-ins underway on the lower levels. The fireproofing is being done by J&A Plastering and Stucco of Syracuse – click the link to see some of their on-site crew in action.

On the Commons-facing side, some Georgia-Pacific DensGlass fiberglass mat sheathing has been attached to the exterior stud walls – it may look rather ungainly now with the monolithic street face, but the variations in the facade will help, as they change up materials and patterning to create the impression of individual buildings with a less imposing scale.

It looks like Northern Mast Climbers of Skaneateles has the subcontract for the exterior facade work, and interior furnishings (flooring, cabinetry, countertops, furniture, and appliances) will be supplied by Metzger Inc. of suburban Buffalo. Harold’s Square’s apartments are listed for rent online, but you can’t actually apply, and the data’s outdated anyway – it still says 108 units, but 30 microunits were eliminated for more office space.

Look for a spring 2020 opening, a little sooner on the office and retail space, a little later for the apartments. The WordPress for the project can be found here, and the Ithacating project description here.





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 8/2019

7 08 2019

The 12-bedroom, 16-person luxury senior home under construction at 105 Dearborn Place is substantially complete. The stone veneer is being attached to the base, and Schickel Construction is building up the porte cochere, with decks and patios soon to follow. Landscaping and paving will come at the end of construction. Also, note the heat pump on the exterior in the lower right of the third photo. The exterior finishes appear to be durable, detailed and of high quality, befitting for a high-end independent living facility. According to developer, Bridges Cornell owner Elizabeth Classen Ambrose, the new building will have a “grand opening” event later this year. Some lavish renders from the project website follow at the end of the post (I have no idea what the small structure is next to the house – a playhouse for visiting children?). Quick aside, while this blog refers to the project by its street address, Bridges staff prefer it be called “The Craftsman”.

An interesting side note, Classen Ambrose picked up the relative new (2005) single-family home at 116 Dearborn Place for $900,000 on June 6th. However, no redevelopment is planned. Apparently, some fraternities had been looking at the property, and to prevent some raucous neighbors from moving next door, she bought the property and intends to rent it out as she sees fit. It’s not uncommon to hear in the Voice comments, “if you don’t want [xyz] happening next door, buy it,” and in Classen Ambrose’s case, she did. Classen Ambrose has also joined the City Harbor development team as a project investor, and by the time this piece runs, there will be a related piece of news on the Voice’s website.

More background info about the project can be found here and here.