902 Dryden Road Construction Update, 5/2017

27 05 2017

Visum Development/Modern Living Rentals’ project at 902 Dryden Road in Varna is coming along. Dropping by the site a few days ago, one of the things that stands out to be is that the design of the pair of townhouses closest to Forest Home Drive have been redesigned from the render that was shown when the project was approved by the Dryden town board in March 2016. Legally, this isn’t a big deal, since as long as the board stipulations have been met and it doesn’t affect the SEQR determination, then the modification is allowed. To be 100% honest, this armchair critic likes the redesign more, since it avoids the blank space near the party wall. Comparing the render to the other townhouse strings, it looks like there were some elevation adjustments and changes in fenestration, but the general appearance remains the same as approved.

However, one thing that I’m a little concerned about is the siding being all one color. It’s not a critical issue, but I think the monochrome makes the project bland and less pleasing to the eye. All the renders I’ve seen have shown a mixed palate, whether it be the grey/red/orange below, or the beige/blue/brown combination shown on MLR’s website. The mixed forms of siding – vertical, lap and shingle – but I hope that this isn’t the final exterior color.

Anyway, the buildings have all been roofed and sheathed with ZIP panels, doors and windows have been fitted, the interior stud walls are good to go and rough-ins are underway. On the older strings, some of the siding is up and trim boards have been attached. The wiring and tubes coming out of the eaves on the rear face are connections for the electric air-source heat pumps. Although not a part of the initial build-out, Visum is exploring the installation of an offsite photovoltaic grid that would make the project net-zero energy, meaning that all the energy used is generated from renewable resources.

The site will have 26 parking spaces for its 32 bedrooms (2 existing 3-bedroom units, 6 new 3-bedroom units, 2 new 4-bedroom units), well above the one parking space per unit required by zoning. The site will also be a “flag stop” for TCAT buses and have bike racks to serve 20-24 bikes. The units, which are going for about $600-$700/bedroom, will be ready for occupancy in time for the 2017-18 academic year. Bella Faccia Construction, who did 707 East Seneca, is the general contractor, and STREAM Collaborative is the architect. AJH Design and Fine Line Construction also serve on the project team.

Side note, Bella Faccia’s website claims they’re doing a Cici’s Pizza in Ithaca – that would have been news to me, and my editor at the Voice would have been over the moon, but it turns out it was a typo and they meant Horseheads.





Poet’s Landing Phase II Construction Update, 5/2017

26 05 2017

Continuing the theme of affordable housing from Conifer, here’s their other current local project, the $10.8 million second phase of the Poet’s Landing apartment complex in the village of Dryden. Six buildings, eight units per building – it looks like Conifer utilizes three unique two-story designs from NH Architecture with differing unit configurations.

Going counterclockwise, one sees the slab foundation of the latest building (which we’ll call “A”) to begin construction. The next building, “B”, is still being framed, its roof trusses nearly finished, while “C” is further along, roofed in sheets of plywood sheathing. All structures make use of a Tyvek-like housewrap for a vapor and moisture barrier. Building “D”, furthest from the road, is being papered and shingled, and windows have been installed in some of the rough openings. Building “E” and “F” are being sided (probably Saint-Gobain CertainTeed vinyl siding, if it’s like other Conifer projects). Taking a guess at what’s going on indoors, it’s bare stud walls in “B” and “C”, utility rough-ins (plumbing, electrical) in “D”, and drywall, paint priming and perhaps interior fixtures/trim in “E” and “F”.

As with most of Conifer’s affordable housing projects, LeChase Construction serves as general contractor through a joint venture partnership called Conifer-LeChase. Expect the units to come online building-by-building from September 1st through the fall. Information on income limits can be found in the summary post here, and rental inquiries can be sent through the contact page here.

Side note, it’s going to be really nice when they put the new sidewalk in – walking along Freeville Road is a bit of a harrowing experience.

 





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 5/2017

24 05 2017

Externally, not much has changed since March, although it looks like work is starting on enclosing the north loggia. The Fork and Gavel Cafe is closed for renovations through September, but a carry-out offshoot will serve in its place. Most of the work on this $10.2 million project is internal, converting former dorms into academic office and support space. With any luck, the next visit will be from the inside.





Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 5/2017

24 05 2017

So many projects in the final stretch up on East Hill. The Vet School expansion’s multipurpose atrium is in the process of being closed up with its curtain wall glazing. An interior shot from the start of May shows interior stud walls are up and utilities rough-ins taking place, but drywall, interior trim and fixtures had not been undertaken.The concrete for the “grand staircase” had just been poured.

The atrium will be called “Takoda’s Run“, in honor of a greyhound adopted by alumna Janet Swanson (for whom Cornell’s wildlife rehabilitation center is named). The Swanson family are major university benefactors – Janet, Class of 1963, has given millions of dollars to the Vet School since the mid-2000s. Husband John (BS 1961, B.M.E. 1962, M.M.E. 1963), an engineer and tech executive, has given tens of millions to the university. The atrium in Duffield Hall and a lab suite in Weill are named for him, as well as several endowed professorships, fellowships and scholarships. Not just leaving it to Cornell, the couple has buildings named after them at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, and a $41 million donation to the University of Pittsburgh led to the Swanson School of Engineering. My former editor at the Voice is definitely not a fan of this practice, but for those with a lot of money to burn, naming opportunities can be found or scoffed at here.

From the outside, the new administrative and library wing haven’t changed much since March, but at this point all Welliver has left is some window installs, exterior panels and finishes. Since I’m on a kick at the moment, the Flower-Sprecher library is named for former governor Roswell Flower (1892-94) for allocating funding, and in the early 1990s, Dr. Isidor Sprecker ’39 (Americanized from Sprecher) donated a substantial sum for renovation. It looks like some underground utilities work is going on out by the curb, possibly in preparation for the new landscaping and lighting fixtures.

The new Community Practice Service Building is underway, although I don’t have photos – the Poultry Virus Building has been demolished and the site was being cleared and readied for new construction. The timeline for the new 12,000 SF HOLT Architects-designed building is May 2017-May 2018, a couple months later than originally programmed.

The project seems to be a little bit behind schedule. The project team was initially aiming for a June completion, which was a little optimistic. The new schedule calls for an August opening.

 





Gannett Health Center Construction Update, 5/2017

23 05 2017

Another Cornell project in the final stretch is the second phase of the $44 million Gannett Health Services reconstruction, now known as “Cornell Health“. The new entrance is being fleshed out with fiberglass mat sheathing, and will be finished out with stone and brushed aluminum. The silvery material is a Carisle 705FR-A fireproof air/vapor barrier, which is made of aluminum and HDPE (plastic) sheets. The entrance canopy will be enclosed in glass, and the concrete podium will be concealed when the front entrance is backfilled to the height of Ho Plaza. The new northeast wing is being clad in limestone panels atop a continuous anchor system, because stone is dense and it needs a system able to support its weight. OCD-inducing Side note, that “Cornell Health” lettering signage is a different font than the rest of campus, Arial versus the campus’s usual Kabel font.

Like with Upson, the plan is to have the building open by August, although the landscaping could take another couple of months, wrapping up by October 2017.





Upson Hall Construction Update, 5/2017

22 05 2017

Home stretch for Upson Hall’s $74 million makeover. Nearly all of the turquoise water-resistive barrier (WRB) has been covered up with terracotta panels and aluminum inserts at this point. The utilities shaft and mechanical penthouse have been faced with a water resistant base layer and aluminum clips, and will be faced with grey metal panels. Note that those thin yellow aluminum plates on the exterior are a finished design featurethey’re intended to be a nod to the original canary yellow aluminum curtain bands that once lined Upson Hall’s facade. At this point, the upper three floors are occupied, the lower two floors and basement are being finished out, the exterior is nearly complete and interim landscaping features will be installed by The Pike Company before the building opens for full occupancy in August.

Over the next ten years, Cornell would like to utilize LTL Architects and Perkins + Will to redo the rest of the Engineering Quad with designs similar to Upson Hall. The $300 million plan also calls for the demolition of Carpenter Hall and a new multi-story building on the corner of Campus Road and College Avenue. Whether or not those things happen remains to be seen. The earliest renders of the Upson Hall plan are included at the end of this entry, and while the general design has remained the same, some of the design features, such as the shape of the bump-outs, the fenestration, and the emphasis on the south terrace were revised before the final plan was drafted.





Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 5/2017

21 05 2017

Collegetown Terrace phase 3 is actually opening this month. Speaking to John Novarr a few weeks ago, he mentioned that the first units would actually be welcoming tenants this month, to take advantage of the modest June-June 12-month market that comes before the typical August-June 10-month period that dominates the students calendar. From yesterday, it looks like the first tenants have indeed moved into the Building 7’s 247 units and 344 bedrooms. Units range from 218 SF studio suites with shared baths, kitchen and laundry (5-10 studios per suite), to 1266 3-bedroom units. For the record, the official address will be “120 Valentine Place”. The listed amenities include:

  • Heat included in rent
  • Upper floor large windows for expansive view
  • High speed data access throughout included in rent
  • Kitchen appliances: dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, stove and refrigerator
  • Custom-made cabinets
  • Granite counter surfaces in kitchen and bathroom
  • Limestone floors in kitchen, bathroom, and entries
  • Air conditioning in all apartments
  • Elevators
  • Monitored heat detectors, smoke detectors, CO detectors, and sprinklers
  • Fully furnished with blinds, leather sofa, and full/queen beds. Some with work stations and walk in closets
  • Prox/reader security system
  • Washers and dryers in all apartments.
  • Covered parking available for a fee
  • Free shuttle to Cornell. The free shuttle runs to and from campus weekdays throughout the academic year.

Rents clock in at a premium of around $1,000+/bedroom, but the studio suites will come in around $700/bedroom. It does seem like there are some mixed opinions on living there, if the Yelp reviews are any indication.

One slight modification that was sought recently was an approval considerations variance to allow tenants from other Novarr-Mackesey properties to park their cars in the Terrace’s garage. This has been something of a long-running issue with Terrace, which built more parking than it needed in the earlier phases, and as a result requested and received a variance to convert a floor intended for parking into dorm-style living quarter for students on more modest budgets. Even with the original variance, it seems that there are still an excessive number of unused parking spaces, ones that Novarr-Mackesey sees as potential rentable tenant spaces for residents in some of their nearby structures, including two housing projects due to get underway in the next year, 119-125 College Avenue (College Townhouses) and 238 Linden Avenue.

As part of the final stages of project completion (and stipulations of its original approval back in August 2011), some interpretive signage and features will be included in the landscaping, recognizing a few of the homes and the nurses’ dormitory that once stood on the site (recall that Casa Roma was once the city hospital). Thankfully the google street view archives are but a click away, so that the curious can go back and look at what was there prior. Some of the homes were architecturally interesting, if not necessarily historic.

Note the stair railing art in photo ten. It’s as if someone looked at modern buildings, said they weren’t colorful enough, and designed that art feature to have ALL THE COLORS. Holy rainbow explosion. More seriously, it’s quite unusual, and kinda neat, since it’s not often you see a visual feature of interest so tucked away from public viewsheds.

So that pretty much wraps this up. In terms of private non-institutional projects, I dunno if there’s been a project that’s had an impact like this. It’s been a long time since the first presentation back in April 2009. In terms of numbers, it’s enormous – $190 million investment, 1,250+ beds (net gain of over 600), 16 acres. Certainly the latest few hundred beds will help to make a dent in the rental market, it’s by far the biggest project opening for occupancy this year. The trade-off will be a possible softening in some rental segments (e.g. small landlords in fringe student markets), but given the city’s push towards turning rentals back into owner-occupied units, and getting rent appreciation under control, it’s not something that will elicit much concern, especially as Cornell’s student population continues to grow.

In some ways, this project is many good things; growing the tax base, and addressing the need for housing in a somewhat inconspicuous manner, the buildings stepping downward into the hillside. With 344 new residents in the core of Ithaca, it may also give a healthy boost to nearby businesses in Collegetown and Downtown. But CTT has its detractors and criticism – the size still makes unnerves some permanent residents nearby, and the architectural design is a bit polarizing. There’s a tendency to look at building projects in black and white, but it’s never a cut-and-dry process. In reality, it’s a delicate balance of costs, capabilities, the market and the community’s wants and concerns.

Novarr deserve credit in that, unlike many projects, this project has stayed largely true to approved form over the years with the exception of the parking variances. There’s an uncomfortable trend with last-second revisions in more recent plans, but Collegetown Terrace has stuck fairly closely to the original plan as explicated in its Environmental Impact Statement years ago. City staff and elected officials also deserve credit for seeing the potential here for something that could contribute to Ithaca, rather than just saying “this is too much” and turning their backs on it. Credit is also due to ikon.5 and Welliver for their work in designing this massive project, and building it out (which included many local unions and their tradespeople).