Harold’s Square Construction Update, 1/2020

25 01 2020

Harold’s Square on the Commons is moving right along. The Commons-facing side of the structure has been mostly finished from the outside. The brown terra cotta used on the exterior, seen in the Commons-dacing photos, is Avenere Cladding’s NeaCera Rain Screen Terra Cotta product. As you can see in the street-level photo, once the mineral wool was on, steel rails were attached to the building and the panels are clipped into place atop the rails. The westernmost face has its expansive glass installed (with metal “fins” to provide some respite from the direct sun), while the waterproofed exterior awaits its aluminum metal panel finish.

In the taller, southern side of the building, window installation has begun on the lower levels. The rough opening is coated along the edges with a blue waterproofing material. A black flashing material is attached, an exterior frame with the nailing flange is installed into the opening, leveled to make sure it fits properly, the interior frame is fitted and installed, and then the exterior is finished out along the edge with more waterproofing and metal flashing. The whole point is to make it a tight fit and prevent water infiltration. (a window installation how-to video for the curious is here). With a building of this size, the process is repeated a few hundred times.

Also included below are a couple of interior shots from a construction tour, courtesy of Councilman Ducson Nguyen (2nd Ward). The photos, about a month old, are from a one-bedroom unit the construction team was putting together. The rough-ins were complete in this unit, and they were on to the next steps. Drywall had been hung and cabinetry was just being installed. Fixtures, flooring and finishes come later. All 78 apartment units should be ready for occupancy by August.

According to the new website, monthly rents will range from $1,300 for a studio, to $3,000 for a top-of-the-line two-bedroom. The floorplans are included below. Note the studios are about just a little above the legal minimum, at 332 SF. Truly for someone who likes to live with a small footprint, I guess. Most units come with their own washer and dryer, studios will share a common room with a washer and dryer.

There are 6 studios, 42 one-bedroom units, and 29 two-bedroom units. Units come with quartz countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless steel fixtures and Energy Star appliances, vinyl plank floors, and everything is that marketing-friendly neutral color palette of subdued whites, beiges, greys and browns. Fiber optic internet is included in rent, and the units are “pet-friendly”. Higher-end units also have balconies.

Shared amenities include a dog washing station, 12th floor rooftop terrace, “Amazon Hub” apartment lockers, keyless entry, private storage and bike storage, trash and recycling chutes on every floor, a security system and access to two high-speed elevators. All units are non-smoking. 60 kW from a solar array in the Schuyler County town of Dix will be utilized to offset the building’s carbon footprint. More information can be found on the website.

The Ithacating project description can be found here.





Perdita Flats Construction Update, 1/2020

19 01 2020

Let’s start this off by taking the broader view. Climate change is real, and is increasingly harming our natural and built environments. In order to mitigate the worst of its effects and help ward off a potential global crisis, it is necessary to limit our environmental impacts. Building construction and urban planning is a major part of that, by using sustainable materials, construction practices, and following planning initiatives to limit the carbon footprint and wasted resources of older conventional approaches.

Ithaca and Tompkins County have approached this enthusiastically, though with mixed success. There is a robust environmental movement in the community, and many of them choose to practice what they preach, at least in their homes if perhaps not so much their site plans (case in point: Ecovillage, while well-designed structurally, is located so far from most goods and services and relies on vehicular travel and creates elevated infrastructure costs for installation and maintenance – in effect, “green sprawl”). Cornell Cooperative Extension maintains a database of local examples of sustainable housing.

One of the areas that has been severely lacking in truly sustainable housing, however, is the multi-family housing segment. The vast majority of eco-conscious housing built in Tompkins County is one-family or two-family. However, these are often on larger lots on the fringe of the urban boundaries of the Ithaca area. This has its limitations, not just the “green sprawl” issue, but affordability concerns related to land costs and single-family home construction costs. Given that it’s more environmentally efficient to invest in communities where infrastructure is in place and where goods and services allow for multiple transit options other than a car, it’s really crucial to demonstrate workable multi-family options, maximizing sustainability and demonstrating that it can be cost-efficient for a builder/developer to be green. But apart from a few examples like EcoVillage’s TREE apartment building, there are few local structures that really showcase what can be done these days with respect to sustainable building multi-family design and construction, especially in an urban setting.

Perdita Flats is an attempt to show that it can be done. In scale, it’s nothing particularly impressive. The site is an undeveloped lot at 402 Wood / 224 Fair Street, previously a double-lot with the neighboring house at 404 Wood (in fact, I noted its development potential when the lot was subdivided). The building itself will be 3,524 SF, three stories with a total of four market-rate units on a 36′ x 36′ footprint with a wrap-around porch. There will be one three-bedroom unit, one two-bedroom unit and two one-bedroom units – in other words, “missing middle” infill, smaller multi-family of similar unit density to many inner ring urban neighborhoods. (Apparently, the three bedroom is being reduced to a two-bedroom, but this was a very recent change.)

The building, a work of local firm STREAM Collaborative, is designed to fit in with the older homes in the neighborhood by using visual elements like the porch and the gable roof. The exterior will be finished out in natural shiplap wood siding and black standing-seam metal siding.

Where the building really shines is with its sustainability features – this is a net-zero project, meaning that all the energy it uses is provided by renewable sources. Energy-efficient features include a rooftop solar array with on-site battery energy storage, simple square shape, super-insulated building envelope (double stud wood framing and triple-pane low-e fiberglass framed windows), maximized natural daylighting through window placement and light-reflective paint, high-efficiency appliances, plumbing and fixtures, air-source heat pumps, low-emissions and non-toxic natural materials and finishes, and rainwater harvesting. To put it in perspective, the Ithaca’s Green Building Policy in the works requires a score of six points for approval, and this project would earn 17 points. The landscaping will include a shared garden plot, new sidewalk, and native greenery.

The project is the work of Umit Sirt and Courtney Royal. The husband and wife pair are staff of Taitem Engineering, a local engineering consulting firm that specializes in energy efficiency and the use of alternative (renewable) energy sources in building projects. Putting that knowledge to use, the couple recently built a net-zero energy home for their family in Ulysses — net-zero meaning that all energy produced comes from on-site or nearby renewable resources.

To give a rough timeline, Royal and Sirt bought the land for $70,000 in June 2018. The Perdita Flats project was first proposed in February 2019 and approved in April. The project sought and received a zoning variance on parking, two spaces instead of the four required, to allow for the garden space, and a reduction in the rear year setback from 20 feet to 10 feet, to better accommodate the garden and solar panels. To those fretting about the parking deficiency, on-site bicycle storage is provided as part of the project, and the Fair Street location has easy access to both stores on Meadow Street, and to Downtown Ithaca. Apart from the occasional Carshare use, life without a car here would be plausible.

The site plan review document estimated the development costs at $520,000. NYSERDA, the state’s energy sustainability agency, awarded the project $70,560 as part of its Buildings of Excellence program. Instead of the traditional hazardous refrigerants used for the internal circulation within electric heat pumps, Perdita Flats will use a more advanced carbon dioxide-based system (yes, CO2 isn’t good in large quantities, but it’s much less harmful ounce-for-ounce than refrigerant). To quote the application, “(i)n virtually every way, this building will be an example of what is possible for new construction in terms of reduced energy use and a complete lack of reliance on fossil fuels.”

Royal and Sirt’s colleagues at Taitem Engineering helped with the mechanical and plumbing design. The construction manager will be Mike Carpenter, along with the developers themselves. In case you’re wondering, Perdita is “a mythological child who brought a love of the natural world to humans”, according to the project’s website. (At this time, the website is mostly bare except for the landing page.)

At the site, not much has happened yet, though it looks like some trees were cleared. A project of this modest scale should take a half year or less once ground is broken.

 





Heights of Lansing Construction Update, 12/2019

23 12 2019

Forest City Realty (the Bonniwell and Jonson families) is continuing work on the next six-string of for-sale townhouses as part of their Heights of Lansing development at the end of Bomax Drive in Lansing village. The units currently under construction (65, 67, 69, 71, 73 and 75 Nor Way) will be 3 bedroom/3.5 bath with 2,500 sqaure feet of living space and a price tag of $398k-$408k, the higher price tag being for the units on either end of the string (one less party well and a pair of additional small windows).

The biggest difference between this six-string (hexplex?) and the previous is that the older set across the street steps down in elevation a little bit for each pair going southward, while this newer set is all the same elevation. In terms of finishes, they should be similar, but not the same. The gables, entries and fenestration are nearly the same, but I suspect the colors of the finishes will be different than the blue shingle/beige stucco on the older string.

Per the advertisements online, this one for 65 Nor Way:

“Brand new, luxury townhouse with Italian villa vibe in the contemporary Heights of Lansing neighborhood. End units have extra windows. Marbled flooring in entrance vestibule leads to sunken Great Room with 10′ ceilings, crown molding, rounded corners, beautiful floor to ceiling windows, gas fireplace with marble and stone mantel. Open Mediterranean style gourmet kitchen shines with stainless steel appliances and ample Ubatuba granite counter space. Back patio features stamped concrete design and privacy fence. Upper level landing with built-in shelving/office area, and balcony access. All bedrooms en suite with radiant heat in baths. Upper level laundry. Energy efficient ductless heating/cooling wall units with 5 zones will save you money, improve interior air quality, and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Attached 2 car garage with its own heating/cooling unit. Low HOA $185/mo. Convenient to Cornell, Cayuga Lake, downtown, dining, and shopping. Bellissima!”

In case you’re wondering, Ubatuba is a very dark-colored and trendy Brazilian granite. These are fully framed, roofed and are being sheathed and housewrapped now, but it doesn’t look like much more than interior framing has taken place within the townhouses, with perhaps some utilities roughs-ins just getting underway. These are likely heading for a late spring (Q2 2020) finish. For those interested but looking for something move-in ready, two of the six townhouses in the last string (64 Nor Way and 68 Nor Way) are still on the market.





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Going to go ahead and say these are substantially complete. All 14 townhouse strings appear to be occupied or at least ready for occupancy. According to the rental advertisements, the prices will be in the upper/premium side of the market, though not as high as some of the luxury units in Ithaca: one-bedrooms are $1,695-$1,795/month, two-bedrooms $1,895-$1,995/month, and three-bedrooms $2,445/month. Units come with fiber optic internet connections, cable TV, USB ports in outlets, vinyl plank flooring, 42 inch cabinets, fitness room and lounge access, pool/clubhouse, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, washer/dryer, ample parking and smaller dogs and cats (for a $299 initial fee plus another $35/month).

DGA Builders made quick work of what is a relatively large project by Tompkins County standards. It’s not clear if they’ll be a part of Park Grove Realty next local project, the multi-family and mixed-use buildings at the Carpenter Business Park / Cayuga Gardens site. Park Grove’s 51-unit Downtown Elmira building just opened and a Buffalo project is expected to launch in the next couple months.





Village Solars Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Over at the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 SF 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards is just getting underway. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out).

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It is undergoing framing now and has yet to top out with roof trusses. If I had to take a guess, I’d say 36 Village Circle North will be ready by the end of April, and Building M will be ready by the end of July.

So, avoiding the political question of whether the town supervisor should have voted on approving the PDA amendment on the community center because that’s not this blog’s wheelhouse, it was granted, but the outcome for the community center is still murky. As previously discussed back in September, it could either be built at its original location in its original ground-floor community/commercial with 20 one-bedrooms above, or with a different design in a location further east, more central to the property next door for sale by Rocco Lucente Sr.’s estate.

A few weeks ago, an ad showed up on commercial real estate website Loopnet advertising Lucente Sr.’s holdings, listing the property for $10 million. For that price one gets 96.44 acres and 42 existing units in four buildings, as well as plenty of development potential. Now, my gut is that the negotiations between Steve Lucente and his father’s estate were either not going well or had fallen through completely, but no one in the family is talking, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that big merger of the two sites will happen. If it doesn’t, Steve Lucente will start work on the originally-planned community center building next year, as the modified Planned Development Area states.

I did not realize TCAT Bus Route 37 now passes through here (it appears to have started to make stops here earlier this year) but it makes sense given the population growth. At the start of the decade there were about 56 bedrooms here and about 30 on the elder Lucente’s property next door. When the latest building open next year, it will be 420 or so bedrooms on this site and 54 next door (the elder Lucente built a final 12-unit building with two-bedroom units in 2011-12). When all approved construction is complete in about 2022 (the three remaining rebuilds and the community center mixed-use), that will be up to 507 bedrooms in 333 units, not considering future growth on the property next door. It’s not quite the scale of Cornell’s dorm projects or Collegetown Terrace, but it’s probably the next largest single development site after those, it’s just no one notices because it’s rather out of the way and the build-out has been modest but steady.

According to a county deed filing just after this post went up, Northwest Bank, a regional bank mainly operating in Western Pennsylvania, is lending $4,935,000 for the construction of the two buildings.





119-125 College Avenue (College Townhouses) Construction Update, 10/2019

10 11 2019

Probably the last update for this one. All that’s left is some landscaping, at least until the power lines are buried. Definitely one of the stranger projects I’ve covered. Practically no online presence apart from city documents and what I’ve written for the Voice and here. As far as I’m aware, these are just privately-owned Cornell faculty apartments.

“John Novarr and Phil Proujansky’s latest Collegetown development appears to be in the home stretch. The glass and steel facade is basically complete, the concrete entry stairs have been poured and cured, and railings, trim and other exterior finish work is ongoing. Interestingly, these appear to come pre-furnished. Peering inside the windows, unopened mattresses were laid out on new frames and tables and chairs had been stocked in the apartment units.

Part of the reason for that might be the intended market – during the approvals process, the project team stated that the 67 units of rental housing geared towards Cornell visiting faculty and researchers. Reasonably, many of those folks would arrive in Ithaca with little in the way of furniture, and given the relatively short appointments for visiting faculty and staff (a year typically, maybe two), it would make sense to offer units pre-furnished. It would also probably explain why these units aren’t advertised online. Welliver and their partners should have the apartments ready for their first tenants by the end of this year.”

A history of the project can be found here.





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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