St. Catherine of Siena Parish Center Construction Update, 10/2016

19 10 2016

Work continues on the new Parish Center for St. Catherine of Siena in Northeast Ithaca. Edger Enterprises of Elmira has framed the structure, and a water-resistant spray barrier has been applied. Windows still have yet to be fitted. It looks like sheathing is going on over the water barrier, and then the stone veneer is attached. The white boards are GlasRoc fiberglass mats layered with gypsum, over metal stud walls with cavities filled by spray insulation. The exposed plywood section will eventually be replaced with a floor-to-ceiling glass entryway.

Although the diocese doesn’t allow the parish to carry long-term debt, Tompkins Trust lent the church $3 million earlier this month.

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Villages Solars Construction Update, 10/2016

18 10 2016

Due to picture constraints with non-gallery Voice articles, the blog ends up being the photo repository for all the photos that don’t make the article [here]. There’s not too much more to add beyond the voice write-up. The project is in the midst of phase III, 18-unit Building “I” and 18-unit Building “J”. Those numbers are estimates and subject to change – Lifestyle Properties converted a couple of larger units into smaller units (hopping on the micro-apartment trend), so the final total for phase II ended up being 43 instead of 41.

Phase I had 36 units, and phase IV will be the largest single phase, 51 units in three 17-unit apartment buildings – they’re likely to start after these two wrap up next year. Around 2017, we may also see plans come forward for the second neighborhood, which would add another 130+ units to the complex.

In the meanwhile, Building “I” is framed and sheathed in housewrap, but the building has yet to be closed up. Building “J” is just starting framing of the first floor, although rather curiously there appears to be an elevated concrete wall on the south end, separate from the foundation. It doesn’t appear that slope is a factor, so what’s actually going on there is anyone’s guess. Ballparking it here, but since the 12-unit buildings cost about $2 million each, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to guess these 18-unit structures cost about $3 million each. The buildings are 15,000-20,000 SF.

Rather unusually, local architect Larry Fabbroni partnered with a Salt Lake City, Utah firm to help design the buildings. That firm, Process Studio PLLC, notes that the community center and retail stores (Phase 2A, mixed-use building “F”) will follow in later phases, and that the Lucentes are looking to extend bus routes to a new transit stop to be located within the apartment complex. Here’s a description of the design overview from Process Studio’s website:

“Each building is designed as a series of standard modules containing two units per floor on three floors.  The modules are then shifted off of one another and manipulated to create interest and variation.  Stair towers become the feature elements for each module, connecting the floors both physically and visually.”

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News Tidbits 10/15/16: Stoops and Stumbles, Growth and Gables

15 10 2016


1. The Maguire proposal for Carpenter Business Park will be heading to the Common Council next month, but the prognosis isn’t good. The city council’s Planning Committee voted 4-0 to say that the proposal didn’t fit with the city’s Comprehensive Plan for the near-Waterfront property – the plan calls for walkable, urban mixed-uses, preferably with residential components. The discussion wasn’t unanimous in its logic – 2nd Ward Councilmen Nguyen and Murtagh were stronger adherents to the plan, while the 1st Ward’s Cynthia Brock doesn’t think housing is appropriate – but they all disagreed with the multi-brand car dealership plan as-is. Maguire has asked for a delay in vote so that the plan could be tweaked, but the Committee voted to move forward.

Because of the 18-month TMPUD in place, the Common Council has to vote to approve all projects in the waterfront area, so the resolution to decline further review of the project will be voted on at the next non-budget Council meeting. It will not be unanimous – the 3rd Ward’s Donna Fleming wrote a letter of support for the project, and the 1st Ward’s George McGonigal voiced support for the concept though not this particular plan. But the chances of approval are pretty slim at this point.


2. Judging from the site photos John Novarr’s project team sent along, it looks like environmental remediation has already commenced at the site of his faculty townhouse project at 119-125 College Avenue in Collegetown. 121 College, in particular, is already in the early stages of remediation. It’s a pretty extensive photo documentation, one that might have to do with historic preservation aspects, like determining what can be salvaged and reused. It’s pretty clear that the properties, which were recently acquired from an Endicott-based landlord who held the properties for decades, are in rough shape. Novarr seems to have a preference for prepping sites before plans are approved (ex. 209-215 Dryden), so it’s uncertain how much time these three boarding houses have left.


3. Courtesy of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Neighborhood Investment Committee, we get to see a pretty thorough breakdown of the expenses and revenues of an owner-occupied affordable housing project.

The details come as part of INHS’s application for $314,125 in Federal HUD HOME funds, to be used for the 7 for-sale townhouse units included with the 210 Hancock project, collectively called 202 Hancock. The funds would be used to cover soft costs, like project management, engineering and architecture fees, legal fees, and site inspections.


The 202 Hancock project construction cost is estimated at $1,754,860, about $344,000 per unit, or about $198/SF. That’s expensive, but not unusual – 203 Third Street was about $190/SF. The cost is high due to rapidly rising construction costs, and due to federal guidelines and lender specifications, INHS is required to hire contractors with extensive insurance. Add in soft costs and it jumps to $2,408.371.

Now let’s consider the sales. The five two-bedroom units are expected to sell for $130,052 to a household making no more than $38,046. The two three-bedrooms will sell for $164,979, to households making $42,428/year or less. Those incomes don’t meet the rule-of-thumb of 3.4x annual income, but HOME funds cover part of the cost ($24,000 for the 2-bedrooms, $36,000 for the three-bedrooms). INHS gets $960,218 in the project sales – and that’s the same amount Tompkins Trust Company is willing to cover with a construction loan. So the initial gap is $1,448,155. Now we’re starting to see why new housing can be so expensive.

INHS gets $7,000 in revenue from Energy Star rebates on appliances, and has up to $351,153 equity they can put towards the project, most of that being the value the of 202 Hancock’s land. The IURA would issue a low-interest bond for $215,875 to be paid back by INHS, and the non-profit has secured $280,000 in grants directly from the state (NYS AHC), and $280,000 in NYS CDBG funds awarded by local governments (this tactic is known as “subsidy layering“). This complicated puzzle of funding sources is why so many developers are not interested in doing affordable housing.

Side note, one of the pre-development costs is market analysis. Might seem silly, but grant reviewers want proof the housing crisis isn’t just bluster, and that these units won’t sit empty. An analysis by Randall/West determined that at a sale price of $136,000 for a 2-bedroom, and $162,000 for a 3-bedroom, qualified buyers would be found and under contract within 4.6 months. The units should be available for occupancy by June 2017.


Secondly, thanks to a legal settlement between the state and Morgan Stanley, a $4 million affordable housing grant is available for renovations of existing INHS scattered site rentals (98 units in 44 buildings across the city). Most of these units are rented to individuals making 60% or less of the area’s median income (about or less than $32k/yr). The funds would go towards major, long-term renovations, such as new roofs, windows, siding, and energy efficiency improvements. INHS could also use the funds, disbursed via the city, to refinance its portfolio, acquiring some of the properties and paying off $1.8 million in loans on already-purchased properties.

Here’s the short of it – the goal is to buy/pay off the scattered rental sites they manage, renovate and make them energy efficient and comfortable, lock them into the Community Housing Trust so that they become permanently affordable, transfer the land to a wholly-owned Housing Development Fund Corporation, and then sell some of the buildings to an LLC while INHS continues as property manager. The funds from sales would finance new affordable housing. This is all set up as it is to take advantage of legal and tax benefits of different corporate tax structures, while minimizing the drawbacks. Potentially, the Morgan Stanley settlement money could be used to leverage an additional $15 million in tax credits and affordable housing grants from the state.

Correction, per INHS’s Scott Reynolds in the comments section: rentals aren’t in the Community Housing Trust, but affordability would be required for 50 years.

Rochester-based SWBR would be in charge of renovation design plans, and 2+4 Construction will be general contractor. Tenants may need to be relocated as renovations occur, which will be coordinated by INHS staff. The goal is to have the settlement money accepted by the city by the end of the year, financing by April 2017, and renovations completed by the end of 2018.


4. It’s another one of those special meetings – the city Planning Board will be sitting down next Tuesday to go over comments and sort another batch of public comments regarding the Chain Works DEIS, this time on public health. Once you get past the few pages of “this will never work and don’t bother trying”, there’s actually some interesting back and forth about remediation and what that entails. Also on the agenda are revisions to the Holiday Inn Express down in Southwest Ithaca – namely, they’re trying to avoid building the stairs to Spencer Road, as well as some other landscaping issues. At the second meeting later this month, the board is expected to Declare Lead Agency, open public hearings and review parts of the FEAF for TCAction’s Amici House, 8-unit 607 South Aurora, and the 8-story City Centre project on the Trebloc site downtown.


5. The plans for Maplewood have been modified yet again, in a change that the project team hopes will please neighbors and the town of Ithaca planning board. In revised plans submitted this past Wednesday, the 4-story apartment building planned for Mitchell Road has been replaced with a few sets of 2.5 and 3.5-story townhouses and stacked flats, and Building B to its north was extended slightly to compensate for the loss of bedrooms. Even so, the accompanying letter from Scott Whitham states that the unit and bed count have decreased slightly, from 473 units and 887 beds, to 442 units and 872 beds.

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Also modified was their appearance – stoops, porches, dormers and gable roofs were added to give them a more harmonious appearance with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s not clear if the rest of the units were aesthetically modified as well.

209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 10/2016

14 10 2016

With the rise of the structural steel, 209-215 Dryden Road (aka the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education) is starting to make a significant dent in the Collegetown skyline.

The floorplates are up to the fourth level, and the vertical steel columns indicate just how tall the building will be when the steel skeleton is built out. The concrete floor has been poured on the ground level, and corrugated steel decking has been laid on the upper floors – note that only the first and second floors have reached their full dimensions, the upper floors are waiting for the delivery of additional steel columns and cross beams for the crane to hoist into place. The sheets of wire grid seen outside the fence are for future concrete floor pours, providing strength and rigidity for the concrete, just as rebar does for foundations.

The large gap in the front of the building is the multi-story atrium space – the lower three floors are academic class space, while the upper three floors are academic office functions for the Cornell Executive MBA program. The smaller gap towards the north (right) side is for a stairwell.

Nice touch with the subtle commemoration of 9-11 emergency responders. It’s not uncommon to see these tributes when steel work is underway during the fall.

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Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 10/2016

13 10 2016

Normally, the phrase “wow, what a hole” isn’t a good thing. Here, it’s fine. Since this is a large, heavy building, and the soil near the surface is liable to settle and risk upsetting the building foundation, a deep foundation is required. According to the geotechnical report by Elwyn & Palmer, the end bearing piles will penetrate 65-70 feet into the ground. At this depth, the material is stable enough to allow each pile to handle the required heavy weight. The basement floor slab will be about 12 or 13 feet below street-level.

Across the street, the new 965 SF drive-thru building is moving right along. The much smaller building sits on a much easier, quicker and cheaper concrete slab-on-grade foundation. The metal clips on the west wall are for the limestone veneer, just like the panels on the corners. The wall will have metal screens with which vine-spreading plants will grow up and through, creating a green screen intended to make the otherwise blank wall more attractive to neighbors and passerby. The area by the front will have a glass-encased entryway and dark metal panels overhead.

More information about the project can be found here.

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Hotel Ithaca Construction Update, 10/2016

12 10 2016

The Hotel Ithaca is moving at a pretty good clip. The stud walls are up to the third floor. If my notes from the August interview are right, the walls are assembled in sections off-site and trucked in for installation.

Most of the building uses R-Max polyiso insulation covered with Georgia-Pacific DensElement sheathing. The polyisocyanurate, a thermal plastic foam board, helps limit heat loss, and the DensGlass is gypsum panel coated with fiberglass mat, eliminating the need for spray-on waterproofing and fire-rated for the safety of guests (polyiso is a fire risk). The first floor by the elevator and mechanical spaces, and the areas under renovation by the lobby use US Gypsum Securock, and do not appear to have the polyiso layer. The change in sheathing, and use of R-Max might have to do with the expected heat loss from certain parts of the hotel, perhaps greater energy loss is expected from the hotel rooms than from the mechanical spaces. A peek inside shows exposed interior stud walls. The large space in the in the ninth photo will be a new entry area, coatroom and prefunction space.

A filing with Tompkins County indicates that M&T Bank is providing a $13,765,000 construction loan to finance construction, of which $1.6 million is going towards soft costs like legal fees and pre-opening administrative costs. The cost to furnish and equip the 90 new rooms and function/conference space is about $1,393,400.

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 10/2016

11 10 2016

Home stretch for the Marriott. Official opening is November 15th. Although that means they’ll be opening towards the start of the slow season for the local hospitality industry, the general manager says they hope that it’ll give them a chance to work out any wrinkles in service before the lodging season perks up again in March. Hiring has been underway for service staff, with full employment expected to be somewhere between 50 and 60, 75% full time, with wages starting at $10 plus tips for restaurant wait staff, up to $18-$19/hour for other service positions.

From what can be found by playing on the Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons webpage, a mid-week one-night stay in a king or double queen will set you back $195 at a minimum, while the weekends start around $269/night. A run-down of some of the amenities can be found on the website, or in the August construction update. The hotel will have 151 regular guest rooms and 8 suites, which are the rooms with the floor-to-ceiling glass at the corner of State and Aurora.

The Nichiha metal panels are almost complete, with just the west face exposed at this point. I did not expect them to be so bright, beyond the unintended gleam-o-vision of my camera. The rooftop mechanical penthouse has been framed but has yet to have its exterior panels attached. Some of the Marriott signage has been attached already. Most of the stone veneer has been attached, although the finishes for the Commons entrance are still a work in progress. Judging from the plastic sheets on the roof, the synthetic rubber membrane still has yet to be applied. Photos on the hotel’s facebook page show that the front desk is in and sheetrock has been hung and mudded in some places (the “mud” is a premixed joint compound used to cover joints and seams and to allow for a smooth finish for painting). The banner at the top of the penthouse says “The Place To Be”, with the Marriott logo at top.

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