Site clearing and grading is underway for the second phase of the Poet’s Landing affordable housing in Dryden village. Developed by Rochester-based Conifer LLC (the same company developing Cayuga Meadows on West Hill), the plan is to build an additional 48 units of housing to complement the existing 72 units of housing built in the first phase. As with many of Conifer’s affordable housing projects, Rochester-based LeChase Construction serves as general contractor through a joint venture partnership, called Conifer-LeChase.
Plans for Poet’s Landing date back to at least 2010. The original plan called for a 72-unit first phase that was built out, but the second phase was initially planned as a 72-unit apartment building for those 55 and older, not unlike the Cayuga Meadows and Conifer at Ithaca projects. Conifer hasn’t publicly stated why the plan changed, but given that the company had major difficulties getting financing for Cayuga Meadows, they may have decided to go a different approach in Dryden and revised their plans to address general population affordable housing. Previous to Conifer’s proposal, there had been earlier talks for housing at the Freeville Road site, but plans did not move forward in part because during the 2000s, there was a moratorium on new water connections in Dryden village, which severely limited multi-family building development. Development potential is also limited by extensive wetlands towards the rear of the property – by state law, any wetlands removed would have to replaced, which is an expensive process. As a result, only 14 of the 46 acres are being developed. Although facing some opposition due to traffic, flooding and that it’s affordable housing, the plans were approved in January 2011 and the first phase opened in early 2013.
Poet’s Landing does suffer somewhat from a classic affordable housing conundrum – location. Generally, affordable housing is most effective when placed in locations with easy access to goods, services and community resources. But, because of land costs, stricter approvals processes and more intense neighbor opposition, affordable housing developers often procure rural properties, since they’re less expensive and easier to develop. However, that may force residents to maintain cars, which can be a burden on tight incomes. In extreme cases, it can also leave residents isolated and frustrated, leading to health and safety concerns. In the case of Poet’s Landing, it’s walkable to the village and its shops and services, but it’s not really integrated into the fabric of the village and its location isn’t all that pedestrian friendly. The affordable housing is certainly welcome, but this isn’t an ideal solution.
The project will consist of six 2-story, 8-unit buildings in two design layouts by NH Architecture. These are a standard pair of designs that Conifer uses with many of their new multifamily builds – these units will look just like Poet’s Landing Phase I, just like Linderman Creek, and just like the dozen or so other examples Conifer has built around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. As a result, proxy floorplans and interior shots can be found on apartments.com here. Although not as architecturally interesting, this helps them save on material costs and can help the contractor maintain high quality control because they have a strong familiarity with the design. Each unit will have its own exterior entrance, fully equipped kitchens, central air, closet-size storage unit, sliding glass doors and a small private balcony or patio. The residents will share the community center (exercise rooms, meeting rooms, laundry facilities and a computer lab) with the first phase residents.
Of the 48 units, 24 will be 1-bedroom, 16 2-bedroom, and 8 will be 3-bedroom units. Three units will be adapted for mobility-impaired residents, and a fourth unit will be adapted to individuals who are hearing or vision-impaired. According to a filing with the state as part of the grant application, the gross rents (rent plus utilities) will range from $724 to $1,070 a month, to be occupied by households with incomes 50% to 60% of area median income.
2015 AMI in Tompkins County is $54,100 for a single person, and $61,800 for a two-person household, and $69,500 for a three-person household. Therefore, the income limits are $27,050-$32,460 for a single person, $30,900-$37,080 for a two-person household, and $34,750-$41,700 for a three-person household. Assuming the project is completed on-time on or close to September 1, 2017, Conifer will likely start accepting applications and scheduling tenant interviews for the units sometime in the late spring or early summer.
The overall project cost is about $10.8 million. Financing for phase II comes from a variety of public and private sources – the ever-complicated jigsaw puzzle of affordable housing financing. $7,702,326 comes from Citibank. On the public end, Conifer was awarded $1.6 million in a Housing Trust Fund grant from the State of New York’s Homes and Community Renewal division, and $734,956 in low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to help finance construction of the new apartments.