323 Taughannock Boulevard Construction Update, 9/2019

21 09 2019

Clearing out the photo stash from the article for the Voice earlier this week.

I didn’t press into in the article, but I don’t understand the relationship between Arnot Realty and local investors Steve Flash and Anne Chernish, who came up with the project. I was on the understanding going in that Arnot bought a 75% stake, but when I asked, the question was immediately shot down and warned that it could not be discussed – I didn’t even get that much pushback from the IDA tax abatement question.

The IDA question was actually my one stipulation when they reached out to suggest a walkthrough – I wouldn’t consider an article unless that topic was addressed. I’ve had people complain articles like this and East Pointe can come off as “fluff pieces”, but there is a real effort to ask and get answers to questions and issues related to those projects.

A close-up of one of the “lifts”. As mentioned in the article, because they aren’t commercial grade, they can’t formally be called elevators.

Note the electric heat pump.

It was clear to me when asking about occupancy that there was some shyness with the response, trying to explain away something, which generally means it’s not good. Here, they said they were happy with the studios, a wide degree of interest, but that people were hesitant to commit to the two-bedroom units without them being more substantially complete. Here’s the transcript:

Brian: [00:06:17] I know we touched on this earlier but just so I have the recorded version of it here, how has the market interest been for the units? Are the studios more popular, or the two bedrooms? [00:06:24][7.7]

Taryn: [00:06:26] Right now, like I said the studios are more popular to hold. [00:06:32][5.5]

Taryn: [00:06:33] But people are looking at the two-bedroom units, we have a lot of people waiting for pretty much this week and next week to see what they would look like with final touches. [00:06:40][6.7]

Ian: [00:06:46] I would say that from an interest perspective it’s been very balanced, right. [00:06:49][2.6]

Ian: [00:06:52] But perhaps that consumers who are interested in the townhomes are a little bit less, in perhaps less of a time crunch as they put it right? If you’re student or a young professional, you have a very definite timeline for moving and occupancy, whereas perhaps if you’re selling a home you’re in a more flexible situation. [00:07:07][15.1]

The units will be ready for occupancy by the end of the month.

The views are great.

High ceilings. They’re still debating whether the small attic spaces will be legally permitted for use as storage space.

The two-bedrooms have plank flooring, while the studios have concrete floors.

Brian: [00:10:23] What surprised you in a good way as this was all coming along, and what surprised you in a bad way? [00:10:28][5.1]

Ian: [00:10:28] This is all coming from, I mean, I was I was going to say like with any construction project there are things you find out in the process of building that that are perhaps surprises, I wouldn’t say that there have been any particularly nasty things that we’ve come across. Or course any time that you’re working on a deep pile foundation, You’re kind of trusting that you know underground is going to be smooth sailing, and for the most part it was and we were really fortunate. [00:11:06][38.1]

Brian: [00:11:07] This uses a unique timber pile deep foundation, right? Because typically a deep pile of steel. [00:11:13][5.5]

Ian: [00:11:13] Yes. [00:11:13][0.0]

Brian: [00:11:14] But this uses like a treated timber that as long as it’s not exposed to air, it could last hundreds of years. [00:11:18][4.0]

Ian: [00:11:20] Right. So yeah. So this is on over one hundred and thirty timber piles, and they’re all driven to a depth of about 30 feet. [00:11:30][9.9]

Brian: [00:11:32] And was it Benson, Bensonwood did the modular components and they got trucked in. [00:11:37][4.6]

Ian: [00:11:37] Right. So it was a panelized construction in terms of the actual structure of the building. So D squared, local contractors out of Lansing. [00:11:46][8.8]

Brian: [00:11:48] Doug Dake? [00:11:48][0.1]

Ian: [00:11:48] And Doug Boles, hence D Squared. Yeah. The did that foundation and they poured the slab and then Bensonwood brought in their panels from New Hampshire and actually raised the building. Over what was probably only about a month and a half to get the whole thing raised, and then finishing is D Squared comes back in. OK so in terms of the labor used on the project, we’re well over 80 percent of what TCAD considers local labor. That has been another focus of ours. [00:12:25][37.3]

Brian: [00:14:40] And this is going to sound terrible. Is it Ar-NOT or AR-noh or something else? [00:14:45][4.8]

Taryn: [00:14:45] Almost like Ar-NIT and like Garnet but yeah. Well there is a gentleman named John Arnot who was a big I think he’s a doctor correct? About a hundred years, maybe not a hundred years ago but a while ago and then so we have the hospital we have, you know, so there’s a lot of places of that (name). [00:15:10][25.1]

Ian: [00:15:12] I guess to clarify by we, the Arnot name, as far as we the Arnot Realty company, we’re not involved with the hospital. [00:15:22][9.4]

Taryn: [00:15:22] Oh sorry. Yes. No we are not at all. [00:15:24][1.8]

Taryn: [00:15:25] There is just um there’s just a lot of aspects of the area that use that name but it’s not. It would have that name but it’s not, they’re not associated. [00:15:32][7.8]

Taryn: [00:15:33] Okay I should. Sorry. That’s sounded. [00:15:35][2.0]

Ian: [00:15:36] That’s fine. We just don’t want to see a video statement from the hospital. [00:15:39][2.6]

Taryn: [00:15:39] Yeah we do not. [00:15:43][4.2]

I have nothing but kind things to say about D Squared Inc. They were courteous and professional the entire time I was on site.

In case anyone still intends to use a studio as a workspace, these are intended to be filled in with business placards, and will be finished out with a decorative veneer when not in use.





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.

 





815-17 North Aurora Street Construction Update, 7/2019

18 07 2019

This project rose quietly and quickly. 815-17 North Aurora is a small infill project in Fall Creek, replacing what was previously a significantly deteriorated two-family house. It was one of the typical “urban farmhouses” popular in Ithaca in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with major, unsympathetic additions tacked on at a later date. Under its previous owner, who purchased the property in 1999, the house started a gut rehab, but only got through through the “gut” part and never got to the “rehab”.

In June of 2018, the property was placed on the market for $269,000, and the listing noted small-scale redevelopment potential, that the city could conceivably allow the dilapidated house currently on the lot to be taken down and redeveloped into two two-family homes per zoning. For smaller developers, this was an opportunity. Fall Creek has become Ithaca’s walkable, urban darling in recent years so the market would support a plan, provided that the neighborhood or city didn’t object. The site could never host some grand multi-million dollar project, but it was a chance to build something complementary to the neighborhood, and add density through modest urban infill (Historic Ithaca objects to anything involving a teardown being called infill, but the textbook definition is more accommodating).

The opportunity the site held was right up the alley of a family of local owner/developers, the Stavropoulos family of West Hill, who own the State Street Diner and a growing portfolio of rental units under the name “Renting Ithaca”. The Stavropoli have redeveloped several properties in the past few years, including 1001 North Aurora Street (4 units), 107 South Albany Street (11 units), a two-family home at 514 Linn Street, and a two-family unit planned for 209 Hudson Street (they originally applied to build two two-family buildings, but reduced it to one after neighborhood pushback). Their M.O. is basically small-scale rental infill, nothing especially large or ostentatious, and with that they go under the radar for the most part. In short, this R2b-zoned site is a perfect fit for them. They purchased it for $235,000 on March 7th.

The project involves teardown of the original structure, and replacing it with two two-family structures, four units total. Each will be three bedrooms and 1,290 SF. Their usual architect of choice, Daniel Hirtler, has designed the structures to fit in with the Fall Creek vernacular, with recessed entries and aesthetic details (such as a transition between fiber cement shakes and clapboard siding) for visual interest. The buildings are positioned so that one is in the front of the lot, one at the rear, and only the front structure is visible from most public viewsheds. The site includes two parking spaces and a two-car wood-frame garage with new landscaping and utilities. Heating will come from electric heat pumps, and while the roofs will be capable of hosting solar panels, those aren’t expected to be included as part of the initial build. LED lighting, energy efficient appliances and water heaters, and high-efficiency spray foam insulation are included. This project would very likely meet the new Green Building Policy Requirements if in place.

The $627,000 development should be complete by August per Site Plan Review documents, a clear nod to having the units ready in time for the next academic year. Fall Creek tends to be less desirable to undergrads at Cornell because of the distance (<1% of total population), but graduate and professional students often rent in the neighborhood (~9% of graduate/professional students at Cornell live in Fall Creek).

Rather unusually, this project actually got some significant pushback from the Planning Board, which tends to be more acquiescent towards smaller projects; some of it had to do with the project itself, but it was also proposed while the city was hotly debating the merits of infill, a discussion that still continues. The argument was that the project will be rentals, would probably never be owner-occupied, and the board was questioning the merits of approving a project that would likely bring in students to the neighborhood and detract from Fall Creek’s “character”. In response, the initial plan for four parking spaces was replaced with two spaces and a two-car garage, with the newly freed space turned into an outdoor common area. A porch was added to the street-facing duplex, and a den in each unit to make them more family-friendly. All in all, there were four revisions from the first submission in October 2018, to final approval in February.

If you’re wondering about the color swatches – the lower level fiber-cement lap siding will be Sherwin-Williams “Knitting Needles” (light grey), and the front door and shake siding on the upper levels will be S-W “Westchester Grey”. Personal opinion, Ithaca is naturally grey enough as it is, but that’s just one guy’s take. Trim boards will be gloss white and the roof shingles will be Owens-Corning TruDefinition Duration Estate Grey. The concrete base, naturally grey, will remain exposed or potentially get a parge coat, the design plans left either option on the table.

The slab foundation is in, and the buildings are framed, sheathed in plywood ZIP Panels, roofed, shingled, some roof trim boards have been attached, fiberglass windows have been fitted, and the PVC sewer line is clearly visible in its trench. The inside of the wood-frame structure is framed out, and utilities roughs-in (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) are underway. Sorry folks, this one sneaked up on me – demo permits were filed in March, building permits May 20th. Hopgart Construction of Horseheads is the construction manager.

Early drawing.

Final design.





News Tidbits 7/4/19

4 07 2019

1. According to the village of Lansing Code Enforcement office, IJ Construction (the Jonson family) will be starting construction on another “6-plex”, or another six-unit string of for-sale townhomes on the southwest corner of the intersection of Bomax Drive and Nor Way. The units being completed now have sold at a decent clip, with two units sold and a third pending. I believe offhand they have to do streetscape / street lighting improvements before the other three can be sold.

In all probability, while the finishes and details will likely differ as they have in all of the townhome strings at the Heights of Lansing development, these will likely be 3-bedroom, 3.5 bath 2200-2400 SF units intended for sale in the upper 300k – lower 400k range. Previous units have included granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, electric heat pumps and other premium and/or eco-friendly features. Expect these stick-built units to be ready for occupancy sometime next spring.

Meanwhile, the Pizza Hut at 2301 North Triphammer Road is for sale, and the code enforcement officer had heard a rumor a hotelier was looking at it. However, at present, the 3,003 SF 1990s building is still for sale, with a listing price of $995,000. At 1.29 acres, the property could comfortably accommodate a 60-80 room hotel provided it was 3 floors, which is what the village allows. The more recent minutes suggest that the owners are looking for ideas, and that Pizza Hut will be calling it quits regardless.

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2. The proposed downzoning for the 300-500 Blocks of West State Street is being sent back to the Planning and Economic Committee for further revisions. The Common Council voted 8-2 (1st Ward councilors Cynthia Brock and George McGonigal opposed) to explore proposed amendments by councilor and 2nd Ward/State Street Corridor rep Ducson Nguyen. The amendments include maximum facade length, a hard limit on maximum footprint, and a 4 floor setback / 6 floor max vs. the 3 floor setback / 5 floor allowed.

3. Common Council also voted unanimously to support the INHS PUD for the Immaculate Conception Site. While some quibbles were had for more for-sale units and for larger apartment units for families (3 bedroom+ units are historically the hardest units to fill because of the limited number of applicants), the board expressed appreciation for the project on its merits and gave them the green light to go ahead with review by the Planning Board. The $17 million mixed-use project, which will include several thousand square feet of non-profit office space (the exact amount is in flux) and 78 housing units, is aiming for a Q4 2019 – Q1 2022 buildout, pending grant funding.

4. Also unanimous votes – a vote to support City Harbor’s funding application to the state for grants to fund the public proemande to be built at the development; the award of $70,000 in CHDF affordable housing grant funds to the 4-unit 402 South Cayuga Street for-sale townhome project by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS); cleanup of accessory dwelling code language and some law tweaks (not the same as infill), and a resolution to continue looking at a joint city-county police facility.

5. In potentially big news, thanks to a bipartisan effort of Democratic Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Republican State Senator Tom O’Mara, Tompkins County (and only Tompkins County) is now legally permitted to use county funds to support affordable housing development and preservation.

Here’s why that matters. Some of you might be familiar with the joint city-county-Cornell Community Housing Development Fund, which disburses a few hundred thousand dollars each year towards affordable housing projects, up to $400k for an owner-occupied project, and $300k for a rental, supporting the renovation or construction of 556 units since the program launched in 2009. A year might see $600-800k in grants disbursed.

Now here’s the caveat to the city and county contribution; it’s limited because those are federal and state grant funds. They were never allowed to fund a project directly, another government body was the middleman, and it takes time and effort to get those grant dollars back down the line. That slows down the development of affordable housing, and if the grants aren’t awarded for whatever reason, it could greatly curtail the CHDF, which creates the kind of uncertainty that developers seek to avoid, and less likelt to hash out a plan if they think the fund is ever at risk.

CHDF funds are often seed money; they’re hardly ever large enough to fund the development of an affordable housing project on their own. But the awarding of funds shows the community is interested in a certain project, and that development team can then pursue complementary (and usually much bigger) funding sources with a greater chance of being awarded grants. Typically, the funds aren’t disbursed until the project has all of its funding assured and is ready to go – for example, the county’s $100k portion of the $250k awarded to Lakeview Health Services for their 60-unit West End Heights projects in Round 16, is only being voted on to be disbursed now since the project has finally obtained all the funding it needs.

So what does this change mean? The county is expecting to have several applicants with affordable housing plans over the next few years, seeking up to $2.5 million in CHDF funds. Tompkins County is looking to put together a $3 million Housing Capital Reserve Fund with dollars from the county’s general fund, which could then be used as grant money to support infrastructure, development of affordable housing, studies to examine where it would best be built and make the greatest contribution (i.e. bang for the buck) and so forth. Potentially, this new fund that they are now to legally allowed to set up could assist in the development and preservation of another 400 units of affordable housing across the county.

6. On that note, the latest CHDF funding round appears to be a modest one; $80,000 to Habitat for Humanity for the construction of two new homes (30-60% area median income, or AMI) alongside the property under renovation at 1932 Slaterville Road in Dryden, $38,940 to INHS for the renovation of an existing house at 28 Crystal Drive in Dryden, which will sell to a family making 80% AMI and incorporated into the Community Housing Trust to keep it affordable, and $27,800 for an 80% AMI rental unit to be built in the back yard of 622 West Clinton Street in the city of Ithaca.

Quick update on the soon-to-be-built INHS apartment development at 203-209 Elm Street. They’re calling it “Cayuga Flats”. Sure, British English is hip/cosmopolitan, but there’s a bit of well-deserved eye roll. Also, play on words here, that site is by no means flat. The building two stories in the front, three in the back.

The project replaces 14 housing units of varying age and ownership, four of which were condemned because the foundation was crumbling, with a 12,585 SF, 13-unit apartment building containing ten one-bedroom and three two-bedroom units, in the 30-60% AMI range. The project cost for this development comes in at around $2.76 million and the design is by SWBR Architects of Rochester. Build out will take about 12 months.

On a related note, as INHS grows into a regional affordable housing developer, it will be tackling its second project outside of Tompkins County, a mixed-use project on a large vacant lot in the village of Watkins Glen. The project on Second Street will include 34 apartments for those making 47-80% county AMI, and a 7,341 early childhood education center on the ground level.





News Tidbits 6/23/19

23 06 2019

1. The good news in Lansing is that there’s a future for the power plant, though not as a power plant. The former coal plant would be reconfigured into a data center powered by renewable energy. Data centers use a lot of energy and have heavy energy loads, so old power plants are surprisingly suitable choices. The center’s computing power would demand about 100 megawatts at full capacity, according to reports, roughly equivalent to the power demand of 75,000 homes. They also produce large amounts of heat, so having a cold water intake from the lake comes in handy for supplying cooling systems. 15 megawatts would be produced on site, and the rest from off-site solar arrays. According to the Cayuga Operating Company’s memo, the conversion would provide $100 million in capital investments, 30 to 40 full-time jobs in the $40-60,000 range, as well as about 100 construction jobs.

In an interesting twist, the other plant slated to become a data center, in the town of Somerset in Niagara County, was the “Plan B” plant built after years or local protests and stonewalling shelved plans for a nuclear power plant in the town of Lansing near the Cayuga plant. The discovery of an ancient fault line near the Somerset site led to the operating company switching out its nuclear plans for coal. Suffice it to say, this data center plans also nullifies the plan to convert the power plant to a natural gas-fired facility.

While it’s a lower number of permanent jobs than the power plant (which was around 70 staff in 2016), it does provide a viable future for the town of Lansing’s biggest taxpayer, and comes as something of a relief in that regard. The county supports the proposal but the town is tabling support at the moment at the insistence of its Democratic bloc, which wants to ask questions at an informational meeting Wednesday before offering a voice of support. The state is not likely to support the plan unless the town has voiced support, so the vote is a rather urgent matter. It’s a bit tricky due to public notice guidelines, but the town board will hold a special meeting right after the presentation to vote on whether or not to support the plan.

For the record, the informational meeting is open to the general public – Lansing Town Hall at 29 Auburn Road, 6 PM Wednesday 6/26.

2. The bad news in Lansing is that the Lansing Meadows senior housing is in limbo. Unsurprisingly, the requested change from 20 to 30 units was considered a major change to the Planned Development Area. Developer Eric Goetzmann’s argument is that the 20-unit proposal proved too costly to build, and is seeking 30 units on roughly similar footprints. No dice, the IDA and village planning board would have to reopen their process to approve the changes, and the project is legally bound to be completed by the end of next July; another few months of review would cause it to miss that deadline.

Then came the latest proposal. Twelve units (four triplexes), just as originally intended when first proposed nine years ago. But the plan is clearly designed to be filled out with more units, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits that required years to obtain have been left to expire. This too, would be a major change to the PDA, which is 20 units in 10 duplexes. A minor change would be shifting garages or marginal adjustments to building footprints. This is not minor.

This project has been before the planning board 57 times over the years and nine iterations. The village and the IDA have been very accommodating, from the unusual retail-building abatement for BJ’s, to the commercial space on the eastern end of the parcel, and all the residential changes over the years. I will be the first to acknowledge that some of the communities, Lansing village included, can be bureaucratically burdensome. But it’s time to point out that this developer is acting in bad faith. The village and the IDA have tried to make this work, bending over backwards to accommodate Goetzmann. He did not hesitate to get BJ’s built, which he sold in 2015 for a healthy $16.8 million. But the housing and the wetlands protection have always been afterthoughts, boxes checked in an effort to get that BJ’s abatement. It’s time that the village and IDA put their feet down and demand he either start building, or start making plans to pay back his tax abatement. The years of dickering have gone on long enough.

The concern is that by pursuing a clawback, the housing may never happen. But honestly, nine years on, is there an expectation that it will ever get done?

 

3. Sticking with bad faith for the moment – the IAWWTF proposal creates some uncomfortable questions. The first proposal was everything within a 1200 foot radius of the plant. The new one is everything west of Route 13 within that 1200 foot radius.

That doesn’t logically make sense. the prevailing wind direction for the offensive odors that the disclosure ordinance seeks to inform buyers and renters about? It’s NW-SE, due to a combination of storm tracks and the local topography, the hills create a channeling effect. Most of the areas covered under the new bounds aren’t in the downstream path of the winds, and odors carried by those winds.

Why were the established neighborhoods to the southeast of the plant left out, even if they are in one of the more prone locations? Officially, “because they’re already aware of the risks”, according to the explanation provided by the councilor spearheading the ordinance proposal, West Hill’s Cynthia Brock. That explanation neglects the fact that over time, tenants move and homeowners sell. As proposed, the cutoff is an excuse because existing homeowners in Fall Creek and Northside would have likely seen their home values and rental prices take a hit from her mandatory disclosure document, which another councilor described as “terrifying”. It would quickly lead to a lawsuit and the perception that Common Council is actively undermining the home equity and financial well-being of working class Northsiders and politically active Creekers. No other councilor on the committee would likely support the proposal in those circumstances.

So what does the IAWWTF disclosure ordinance impact as currently proposed? The revised version targets the Carpenter Park property, City Harbor, the NYS DOT site the county wants to have developed, the Farmer’s Market and a few other waterfront and near-waterfront properties. In general, mixed-use developments or potential developments that councilor Brock has regularly spoken out against.

This is being carried out on the auspices of health and welfare concerns, but as designed, the IAWWTF disclosure ordinance doesn’t adequately protect health and welfare, and appears to explicitly target waterfront projects councilor Brock dislikes. How would this withstand  the inevitable lawsuit filed by either the City Harbor developers, the Carpenter Park development group, or the county?

Literally and figuratively, this doesn’t pass the smell test.

4. Here’s a look at the Planning and Development Board agenda for next Tuesday. Apart from a one-lot subdivision for a new home at 243 Cliff Street, everything else is a familiar item:

AGENDA ITEM
1. Agenda Review 6:00
2. Privilege of the Floor 6:05
3. Approval of Minutes: May 28, 2019 6:20
4. Subdivision Review


Project: Minor Subdivision and Construction of a Single Family Home 6:25

Location: 243 Cliff Street
Applicant: Laurel Hart & Dave Nutter
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Determination of Environmental Significance

Project Description: The applicant proposes to subdivide the .36 acre site into two parcels and build one single family home. The subdivision will result in Parcel A measuring .152 acres (6,638 SF) with 66 feet of frontage on Cliff Street and containing an existing single family home and garage, and Parcel B measuring .218 acres (9,484 SF) with 97 feet of frontage on Park Road. The property is in the R-3a Zoning District, which has the following minimum requirements: 5,000 SF lot size and 40 feet of street frontage for single-family homes, 10-foot front yard, and 10- and five foot side yards and a rear yard of 20% or 50 feet, but not less than 20 feet. Access to the proposed home on Parcel B will be via a new access drive connecting to Park Road. This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance §176-4(B)(2), and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) §617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website:
https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/1028 (Site Plan Review)
https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/1030 (Subdivision)

The property owners want to build a new home that will allow them to age in place; their current century-old home isn’t adaptable for the wheelchair accessibility they seek, but they want to stay in their neighborhood, so the plan is to work with local homebuilder Carina Construction to build a new modular unit (2 floors + partially built-out basement, 26’x28′ footprint) on a subdivided piece of their land. It’s a multistory home, but the upstairs can be converted into a unit for a live-in caretaker, and all their living needs can be handled on one floor. The home will be solar-powered. The new home, downslope from the existing house, will be accessed from Park Road.

5. Site Plan Review

A. Project: North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE) 6:45
Location: Cornell University Campus
Applicant: Trowbridge Wolf Michaels for Cornell University
Actions: Consideration of Final Site Plan Approval

Project Description: The applicant proposes to construct two residential complexes (one for sophomores and the other for freshmen) on two sites on North Campus. The sophomore site will have four residential buildings with 800 new beds and associated program space totaling 299,900 SF and a 1,200-seat, 66,300 SF dining facility. The sophomore site is mainly in the City of Ithaca with a small portion in the Village of Cayuga Heights; however, all buildings are in the City. The freshman site will have three new residential buildings (each spanning the City and Town line) with a total of 401,200 SF and 1,200 new beds and associated program space – 223,400 of which is in the City, and 177,800 of which is in the Town. The buildings will be between two and six stories using a modern aesthetic. The project is in three zoning districts: the U-I zoning district in the City in which the proposed five stories and 55 feet are allowed; the Low Density Residential District (LDR) in the Town which allows for the proposed two-story residence halls (with a special permit); and the Multiple Housing District within Cayuga Heights in which no buildings are proposed. This has been determined to be a Type I Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance (“CEQRO”) §176-4 B.(1)(b), (h) 4, (i) and (n) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) § 617.4 (b)(5)(iii) for which the Lead Agency issued a Negative Declaration on December 18, 2018 and granted Preliminary Site Plan Approval to the project on March 26, 2019.

Project materials are available for download from the City website: http://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/811

Cornell’s 2,079-bed North Campus Residential Expansion looks ready for final approval. Apart from some details regarding the planting plan and rooftop fans, there are no changes to report. Cornell would start construction shortly after approval is granted, with the first phase (sophomore housing, west/left) ready by August 2020, and the second phase (freshman housing, east/right) complete by August 2021.

B. Project: Arthaus on Cherry Street 7:05
Location: 130 Cherry Street
Applicant: Whitham Planning & Design

Actions: Consideration of Amended Negative Declaration of Environmental Significance, Potential Consideration of Preliminary & Final Site Plan Approval

Project Description: The applicant proposes an as-of-right five-story building approximately 63 feet of height with gallery, office and affordable residential space at 130 Cherry Street, on the east side of the Cayuga Inlet. The site is currently the location of AJ Foreign Auto. The program includes ground floor covered parking for approximately 52 vehicles, plus 7,000 SF of potential retail/office and amenity space geared towards artists’ needs. Building levels two through five will house approximately 120 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom residential units. The total building square footage is 97,500 SF. All residential rental units will be restricted to renters earning 50 to 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The north edge of the property will include a publicly-accessible path leading to an inlet overlook. This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance § 176-4B(1)(k), (h)[2], (n), and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) § 617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website: https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/946

Project approval was delayed by a month because the city wanted to make sure that the Weitsman scrap metal facility wouldn’t pose any air quality risks. In a letter to the city, the firm doing the environmental work says the did some outreach to Ben Weitsman, and the Ithaca facility doesn’t do many of the processing, it just collects, sorts and transports the scrap metal out to other sites. Also, Weitsman states the facility will be be closing soon – it’s been rumored for a while that another mixed-use project in the works for the Weitsman site.

C. Project: Student Housing 7:25
Location: 815 S. Aurora Street
Applicant: Stream Collaborative, Noah Demarest for Project Sponsors Todd Fox & Charlie O’Connor
Actions: Project Updates, Review of FEAF Part 3

Project Description: The project applicant proposes a new 49-unit student housing complex (16,700 SF footprint) comprised of three buildings constructed on a hillside on the east side of Route 96B, overlooking the proposed Chain Works District. The proposed buildings will contain (2) efficiency units, (3) one-bedroom units, (10) two-bedroom units, (20) three-bedroom units and (14) four-bedroom units. Amenities will include a gym and media room, with access to an outdoor amenity space on the first floor of Building B, and a roof terrace and lounge on the fourth floor of Building B. The project site shares the 2.85 acre site with an existing cell tower facility, garages, an office and a one-bedroom apartment. Site improvements will include walkways and curb cuts to be tied into a public sidewalk proposed by the Town of Ithaca. Fire truck access is proposed at the existing site entry at the south end of the property, with a new fire lane to be constructed in front of the ends of buildings A & B at the northern end of the site. The project will include 68 parking spaces, as required by zoning. The property located in the R-3b zoning district. A variance will likely be required for a rear yard setback deficiency. This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance §176-4(B)(1)(k), (n), (B)(2), and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) §617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website: https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/982

At the last meeting, the board and the city planning director had issues with the facade materials and that given the small size of the units, the project was “too focused on profit” (generally it’s not a good idea to make these comments because of their subjective nature, but here they were qualified with the concerns over facade material and unit size). In the updated submission document, the design stays the same, and it’s not clear if the materials were updated. It does not appear the unit sizes were changed.

D. Project: Commercial Building – 3,450 SF 7:45
Location: 410 Elmira Road
Applicant: PW Campbell for Visions Credit Union
Actions: Project Presentation, Declaration of Lead Agency

Project Description: The applicant proposes to construct a 3,450 SF commercial building with a drive-through, parking area for 20 cars, a 940 SF amphitheater, and associated site improvements on the 1.56 acre project site. The site is currently vacant. The project site is in the SW-3 Zoning district and will likely require an area variance. The project is subject to the Southwest Area Design Guidelines. This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance §176-4(B)(2), and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) §617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website: https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/1019

This is the Visions Federal Credit Union branch proposal. Generally, the public reaction has been favorable to the plan, which includes an amphitheater for outdoor shows and events. The Voice article about the project is here.

E. Project: Immaculate Conception Redevelopment Project (Mixed Use Housing) 8:00
Location: 320 W Buffalo Street
Applicant: Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Actions: Project Presentation, Declaration of Lead Agency

Project Description: The project involves the renovation/conversion of the existing two-story former school building into a mixed-use building with a two-story addition along North Plain Street, a new four-story apartment building, (2) three-unit townhome buildings, (1) four-unit townhome building, the renovation/conversion of a single family home into a two-family home, and the renovation of the “Catholic Charities” Building. The overall project will contain 78 dwelling units with 127 bedrooms. Total increase in square footage on the site will be 49,389 SF, from 62,358 to 111,747 SF. 9,274 SF of new and existing space in the former school will be commercial use. Site development will require demolition of one wing of the existing school building and one single-family home. The project also includes greenspace areas, 45 surface parking spaces, and other site amenities. The property is located in the R-2b zoning district; however the applicant has applied to Common Council for a Planned Unit Development (PUD). This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance §176-4(B)(1)(k), (n), (B)(6), and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) §617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website: https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/1016

INHS’s $25.3 million redevelopment of the Immaculate Conception School has had some design tweaks, but the general site program remains the same. The Planning Board will be seeking answers regarding energy use/sources, pile driving, and aesthetic impacts on the neighborhood/consistency with neighborhood architectural character.

 

F. Project: Carpenter Circle Project 8:20
Location: Carpenter Park Road
Applicant: Andrew Bodewes for Park Grove Realty LLC
Actions: Project Presentation, Declaration of Lead Agency

Project Description: The project seeks to develop the existing 8.7-acre vacant parcel located adjacent to Route 13 and off of Third Street. The proposal includes a 64,000 SF medical office; two mixed-use buildings, which will include ground-level retail/restaurant/commercial uses of 23,810 SF, interior parking, 166 market-rate apartment units, and 4,652 SF of amenity space; and a residential building offering +/-42 residential units for residents earning 50-60% AMI. Site amenities will include public spaces for residents and visitors, bike parking, transit access for TCAT, open green space, a playground, and access to the Ithaca Community Gardens. The project includes 400 surface parking spaces and an internal road network with sidewalks and street trees. The project sponsor is seeking a Break in Access from NYS DOT to install an access road off of Rte 13. The property is located in the Market District; however, the applicant has applied to Common Council for a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The project will require subdivision to separate each program element. This has been determined to be a Type 1 Action under the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance §1764(B)(1)(d), (i), (k), and (B)(6) and (8)(a) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) §617.4(b)(11).

Project materials are available for download from the City website: https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/Index/1014

Interesting note from Part 1 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) – the phased buildout. Phase one is Cayuga Medical Center’s new office building. It would start construction in the fall and be completed in Spring 2021. The mixed-use building would begin construction the winter of 2019-20 and take about 20 months complete (so, a summer/fall 2021 timeframe). The affordable housing is phase three, and contigent on an affordable housing grant from the state. Once awarded, it would take about a year to build out.

The updated site plan indicates more tree plantings throughout the site, and the addition of a playground and plaza next to the affordable housing structure on the northern end of the site.

5. Old/New Business: July PRC, PRC Meeting start time 9:00
6. Reports 9:10
A. Planning Board Chair
B. BPW Liaison
C. Director of Planning & Development

7 Adjournment 9:30





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 6/2019

20 06 2019

It’s not quite topped out, but it looks like all the floors have been framed for the Harold’s Square project. The steel skeleton makes quite the presence on the Ithaca skyline, and when the edge of the roof is framed and cladded, height should come in at just under 140 feet. The building may for aesthetic purposes appear a few feet higher because rooftop mechanical equipment isn’t included in height measurements, as it’s not considered part of the habitable space of the building. A formal “topping off” ceremony is planned for tomorrow next Thursday the 27th. (Sorry, wrong Thursday in the notes).

Most but not all of the corrugated steel decking is in place and concrete pours have been ongoing for the future floors. The black tarp hanging from the fifth floor is probably a barrier to keep the flame retardant from accidentally blowing out while it’s being sprayed onto the skeleton. On the lower levels, some interior steel stud walls can be seen, indicating that sprinkler systems are in and interior framing is underway. From the front, exterior steel stud walls are being bolted to the skeleton, establishing the rough openings for the windows, and Georgia-Pacific DensGlass fiberglass mat-faced gypsum sheathing is being attached – fire-proof and mold-proof, DensGlass sheathing is common for commercial and mixed-use structures.

Unfortunately, until that front face is substantially complete, it’s unlikely the Commons playground will be made available, due to the safety hazards – a piece of building material or a tool falling just the wrong way is the risk that neither the developer nor city codes is willing to take. The risk of small debris, like metal shavings or nails, also means that the playground will need to be thoroughly inspected before any reopening can take place. The hope was that it would be reopen for this summer, but the switch of contractors delayed that.

I’ll be frank. This project has an image problem, and not just because of the grumblings of its retail neighbors. I don’t have a single conversation that doesn’t have the other person trying to turn this project into a running joke that it will never be done. There is a lack of faith in L Enterprises. It may be that the only way to rectify that image issue is to keep the project moving forward as quickly and smoothly as possible and assuage people’s concerns as they see the building take shape with their own eyes. Occasional public engagement helps, like the “Wear a Word Day” banner, project updates to the city planning committee, and keeping the project blog updated)

Quick reminder, the program mix has changed to accommodate the needs of a  major tech firm office tenant. The 12-story, roughly 180k SF structure brings 12,000 SF retail on the Commons level, 41,000 SF of office space, and 12 floors with 78 dwelling units (down from 108; 30 micro-units were deleted for more office space). At a recent PEDC meeting ,the project team stated a spring 2020 occupancy for the apartments, and summer 2020 for the retail and office portions.

The WordPress for the project can be found here, and the Ithacating project description here.





Eleven Years Later

19 06 2019

Just a quick note here to say thanks for reading the blog. 845,446 views and counting, with 112,347 in the past 12 months, for an average of about 308/day in the past year and 210/day over the life of the blog.

Thank you for all your thoughtful questions and the time you take to read the posts here. I hope they have been a great resource and will continue to be in times ahead.