Amici House Construction Update, 8/2018

10 08 2018

One of the things that stands out about the new Amici House project – or rather, doesn’t – is that the five-story residential building under construction doesn’t really stand out for a structure of its size. The hillside to the east keeps it from being prominent, and the section of Spencer Road on which its sits is tucked away from most neighboring structures – the building is hardly noticeable from South Meadow Street.

The structure is fully framed, nearly fully sheathed with fire-resistant National Gypsum eXP panels, and then layers with Dow Thermax panels, which stand out somewhat because of the reflective aluminum facer. The Thermax panels are glass-fiber reinforced polyiso insulation, a lighter duty but fire-resistant material, and bonus, it’s made at facilities powered by 100% renewable energy and has “zero ozone depleting potential”. The blue material is a liquid sealant to fill the spaces between panel edges (Dow LIQUIDARMOR), and it looks like metal rails are being attached at the ground level, where the exterior finish will be attached. I’ve kinda assumed this will be fiber cement panels, but to be honest I have not seen a materials sheet in the city’s online files.

The same could be said for the new Harriet Giannelis Childcare Center, which looks nothing like the plans on file and presumably is filed somewhere, just not online. To be fair, it doesn’t look bad at all. Perhaps a bit plain, which isn’t a surprise given TCAction’s tight budget, but Schickel Architecture did attempt to dress it up by varying the colors and playing with the architectural details. Given the goals of the project, as long as its appearance doesn’t actively repel visitors and scare the kids, then it’s A-OK. Landscaping, colorful children’s projects and plantings will make it even better.

Note that one of the primary parking areas will be behind the new stone retaining wall at the rear of the property. Another will be along the section of Spencer Road across from the TCAction offices.

More info about the project can be found here.

 





Cayuga Medical Associates Construction Update, 8/2018

7 08 2018

The new Cayuga Medical Associates office building at Community Corners is topped out – I’m a little hesitant to call it fully framed since it appears some minor work remains at the southwest corner of the new 28,000 SF building. Steel stud walls are being sheathed in Saint-Gobain CertainTeed GlasRoc, one of the major suppliers of fiberglass mat gypsum board. True to name, the boards consist of a sheet of woven fiberglass sandwiched between gypsum panels; brands like GladRoc and Georgia-Pacific DensGlass are fairly common for commercial construction where fire-rated walls are a necessity, like medical spaces, offices and hotels, and it does show up in some apartment buildings. The exterior will be finished with an off-white brick veneer, a nod to neighboring structures. Interestingly, the entirety of the gable roof sections appears to be standing seam metal over some kind of base layer. More expensive, but definitely making it such that in the event of fire, there is as minimal ability to spread and put vulnerable individuals at risk. Ward Steel of Liverpool appears to be the subcontractor for the structural steelwork.

The interior work doesn’t seem to be too far along yet, with interior framing underway, and maybe fireproofing of the structural steel or sprinkler installation underway. The construction work hanging out by the rough window opening in the photos below said that they hoped to have the building finished by late fall. McPherson Builders of Ithaca is the general contractor for this project, and Chemung Canal is financing it to the tune of $7.8 million – a better use of funds than the million bucks they had to pay out to Jason Fane when they lost the Bank Tower lawsuit last year.

 





Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center Update, 8/2018

6 08 2018

I don’t typically follow renovations, but figured I’d play the role of curious alumnus and drop in to the newly renovated Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center at Noyes Lodge on the north shores of Cornell’s Beebe Lake.

The 7,646 SF Noyes Lodge originally opened in 1958 as a womens’ dining hall, and over the years was re-purposed to become the Language Resource Center, with audio carrels and other equipment for those with linguistic coursework. Cornell decided to shift facilities, moving the LRC to Stimson Hall and renovating the lodge into a campus welcome center, which opened in June. This is now where student tour guides gather their broods, vs. the old days when they would congregate at Day Hall. The lower level hosts conference space, utility rooms and offices.

The Tang family have long been trustees and major donors to the university. The $3 million gift in October 2016 was in response to a challenge grant created by mega-donor Atlantic Philanthropies (funded by Charles Feeney ’56), which offered up to $3 million in matching funds to donations towards the new welcome center – so with $6 million secured, the renovation’s financing was secured and will be able to move forward. Cornell has long considered a reception and exhibition space by the gorges, having mulled over but ultimately backing away from a plan penned by architect Richard Meier in the late 1980s. Tang, Class of 1970 and now retired, was a venture capitalist based in Hong Kong, and the regional chairman of a recruitment firm for business executives.

JMZ Architects of Glens Falls, a favorite of the SUNY System, was the design firm in charge of the renovation and re-purposing. The exhibition space is the work of Poulin and Morris Inc. of New York City.

With that all said, here’s a story.

When I first visited Cornell, it was for Cornell Days: cold, windy and kinda desolate. My mother and my uncle made the trip with me, since I had just been accepted to the university – my family did not have the money or time to visit schools unless I was already given an offer. Out first stop was RPCC on North Campus. On a Powerpoint on a TV screen were two sailors kissing; it was part of a promotion for a campus LGBTQ organization.

Having come from a blue-collar and fairly conservative town north of Syracuse, my mother was shocked into silence, and my uncle proceeded to have a crisis of moral conscience on whether his nephew should attend such a school. You have to keep in mind, it was still controversial for many of our town’s older generation that the high school A.P. Government teacher was openly gay. The kids didn’t care, and I couldn’t have cared less that day either.

Anyway, what warmed my mom up to Cornell were “the castles”. Sage Hall. The Arts Quad. Uris Library. But as for me, I didn’t feel like I fit in. My tour group was a bunch of wealthy kids, one of whom loudly grumbled his disappointment that he didn’t get into Yale and his mother didn’t like Dartmouth. Why would a 17 year-old want the constant reminder that he’s not cut from that cloth or a part of that world?

So I wrote out a deposit check with my money from waiting tables to SUNY Geneseo. And Geneseo was the check that had been put out in the mail. Until my mom took the envelope out of the mailbox and tore it up, putting one out to Cornell in its place. We had some fights after that. She wanted me to give “that big money Ivy League school” a chance, I was not as keen.

When I first arrived at Cornell, I was pretty sure I’d transfer to Geneseo after the first semester. I didn’t feel comfortable there. But then I started to meet other people who didn’t feel comfortable there or fit that upper-crust Cornell image, and we became friends. Suddenly, the urge to leave was much weaker. Mom had resigned herself to the idea of me transferring by Thanksgiving, but when she found out I hadn’t completed the paperwork, she was pretty happy.

As for me, well, I was required to attend a fancy dinner a few weeks earlier where an older gentleman who had funded one of my scholarships urged me to visit his old Cornell fraternity, and I went to their Thanksgiving dinner as a polite gesture. I found it to be a down-to-earth place filled with people with backgrounds like mine, that’s how I ended up coming back for rush week and in Greek life – something I managed to hide from my mom until graduation day. I steadily came to know more people, get involved in different activities on campus, and things went from there. And a growing fascination with “the castles” and their history led to Ithacating. I guess in some sense it all worked out eventually.

 





South Meadow Square Construction Update, 8/2018

6 08 2018

It looks like the new south retail endcap is using a standard EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System) for the exteriors. EIFS, also known as synthetic stucco or by the brand name Dryvit, is a pretty common choice for commercial builds. Readers might remember when it was used with the Holiday Inn Express built a couple of years ago on Elmira Road. Over the plywood there’s a dark grey moisture barrier. This is being overlaid with an adhesive and insulation board, which will then get a reinforcing mesh, base/scratch coat, and a finish coat. Drainage cavities are then built over the barrier to allow water that has penetrated the surface to exit the wall without wrecking it (a big problem with early EIFS systems).  The north endcap looks like it already has insulation boards in place, as well as a base coat for the primary moisture barrier, and a white coat that might be a primer for the finish coat. New curbing, lighting and a fire hydrant have been installed.

Although the south endcap is 14,744 SF, the listing on commercial real estate website Loopnet says there are two spaces, one about 15,000 SF, and a second 3,400 SF. The property doesn’t show a 3,500 SF space, and the north endcap is 7,315 SF, so it’s not clear what that refers to. It could be the 3,200 SF space that is planned for a the pad parcel next to Firehouse Subs, but that hasn’t started yet. If that is the case, however, that implies Benderson Development may have a tenant under contract for the north endcap that they just haven’t yet announced.

 

 





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 8/2018

6 08 2018

No one can say DGA Builders is wasting time. A visit on Friday showed three sets of CMU foundation walls have been assembled and mortared, each for a ten-unit townhouse string. A few crewmen kept an eye on a material placement truck, also known as a stone slinger, as it launched rocks into the footprint encased by the foundation walls. This may be a crushed stone base (hardfill) for a concrete slab pour, given the stacks of rebar with surface rust sitting nearby. A shallow foundation would work fine here because two-story buildings aren’t especially heavy as structures go, and it would be less expensive and time consuming than a deep foundation. Elsewhere around the site one sees PVC sanitation pipes (sea green), water pipes (blue), and pieces for utility junctions.

Meanwhile just a stone’s sling away on Nor Way, Forest City realty continues work on the six-unit string (hexplex?) of townhouses. Two are fully framed and roofed, two have had their first floor framed though not fully sheathed, and the other two are only partially framed on the first floor. As with all the townhouse strings, these will incorporated some unique design features while keeping the general unit layout the same. I know they’re not happy about the East Pointe townhomes, but it could be a good synergy – the price points ($1,400-$2,000/month fr East Pointe, $350k for the Heights of Lansing townhouses) are such that renters who may wish to stay in that neighborhood may look at the Heights townhomes as an option.

A website is now up and running for East Pointe. It’s mostly stock images and bland corporate-speak, but they do have floor plans and some new renders. Here’s the advertising pitch:

“This apartment community is located on 20 acres in Lansing, NY, which is part of the Ithaca, NY, market. This is new construction of 140 state-of-the-art apartments. There will be 36 one-bedroom units, 90 two-bedroom units, and 14 three-bedroom units. The project will include fourteen apartment buildings with 10 units in each building that will be walk-up garden style with private entrances and a community building. All units will have high end finishes and amenities, including stainless finish appliances, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, ice maker, granite counter tops, wood cabinets, vinyl plank flooring and wall-to-wall carpeting, tile showers, high end plumbing fixtures and lighting fixtures. All apartments will include a patio or deck. The community building will include the leasing and maintenance office, Great Room and warming kitchen for gatherings, and a fitness center. The project also includes an outdoor pool with changing rooms and shower.”

I have no idea what a warming kitchen is, but my very Sicilian mother is pretty good at turning kitchens into warming spaces around the holidays. A photo of the community center is included below.

UPDATE: I’m just going to add this here since the timing was ever so slightly off- on Monday the 6th, the construction loan was filed with the county. M&T Bank is lending Park Grove (represented by an LLC) $22.6 million for construction of the East Pointe project.





802 Dryden Road Construction Update, 8/2018

5 08 2018

Not a high-profile project here, but sizable. 802 Dryden Road, also called “Ivy Ridge”, is the latest project to come out of Modern Living Rentals (MLR). MLR is led by local developer Charlie O’Connor, and as I noted previously, “[h]e is arguably one of the most reticent developers in Ithaca, preferring unobtrusive projects that he hopes will create as little debate as possible. It’s kinda funny in a way, because although he’s a business partner with Todd Fox (Visum’s property management is handled by MLR), the two of them are near-opposites in that regard.”

True to form, while 802 Dryden is a sizable 50,000 SF, $7.5 million project, it was the subject of relatively little public debate during its approvals process. It’s located next to arboretum, replaces four rental houses and a motorcycle repair shop, and the number of residences within 500 feet could be counted on two hands. The project consists of 42 two-story townhouse rental units on three acres, six strings of seven units in a right trapezoid layout. Each string contains four two-bedroom units, two three-bedroom units and a four-bedroom unit (108 beds total). It’s a two-minute drive from the east end of Cornell’s campus (B Lot), and an easy sell to students and staff looking to live in a quieter location near campus.

Zoning on the site is fairly dense, all things considered. Although rather far from Varna’s core, the project does fall under Varna Hamlet Mixed Use District zoning, which allows ten units per acre. A redevelopment bonus of dilapidated properties gave another two units per acre, and a green bonus of two units an acre was also permitted. The green features part required some debate and confirmation. The project seeks LEED Certification and will apply LEED standards for neighborhood design.

The project was first proposed in June 2017. At the time, its design was a virtual clone of another MLR project, 902 Dryden Road, albeit with different colors. The designs were revised at least three times. The design work was passed from STREAM Collaborative to John Snyder Architects, who did substantial alterations, and then again, and then STREAM once again did some work on it. The final set of renders are here, with the site plan docs here. Originally there were three townhouse string designs, but it looks like it was reduced to two in the final round. The six buildings are generally but not exactly the same – the gables are mirrored, some additional trim pieces are used on the gables for the Dryden Road pair, and they alternate between a dark blue vertical fiber cement panel (probably HardieBoard), and a dark green panel. Original approvals may have been issued in November 2017, but the last revisions were approved this past May.

Exterior features include 70 parking spaces, bike racks, trash/recycling enclosure, stormwater ponds, bioretention areas, signage, a childrens’ playground, pavilion and a dog park split up for large and small breeds. Planned interior features include granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, a washer and dryer in each unit, contemporary lighting, and marble tile. Expect these to be in the same price range as the other recent MLR units, which have been in the $650-$750/bedroom range. The units are expected to be ready for occupancy by June 2019.

There’s a little bit of pre-building infrastructure work that had to take place before construction, because this is a sort of no man’s land between the settled parts of the town of Ithaca and the town of Dryden where no municipal water service was available. The public water main had to be extended to service the project, and the main will be deeded over to the town. At this time, the existing buildings have been removed, but the land has yet to be cleared; we’re really just at the initial phases of the project.

Along with MLR, STREAM and John Snyder Architects, GMB Consulting Services did the LEED score analysis, T.G. Miller P.C. handled land surveying and Marathon Engineering tackled the civil engineering work – Marathon’s Adam Fishel shepherded the project through the town boards. I don’t have a contractor listed, but will share it when I do.

Pre-construction (Google Maps, Nov. 2015)

Renders:

August 3rd:





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 8/2018

4 08 2018

It’s no secret that people are living longer. In 2014, residents of Tompkins County could expect to live to 81.21 years, an increase of about 7% from 75.92 years in 1980. It’s also no secret that the population in general is getting older – the Cornell Population and Demographics unit estimates that Tompkins County’s population over the age of 65 has gone from 9,301 in 2000, to 14,454 in 2017, an increase of 55.4%.

From a business perspective, this creates opportunities for various forms of senior housing, housing designed to allow matured individuals to age in place. However, there are cases where specialized, skilled care may become a necessity. This can include specialty facilities like Brookdale (memory care), nursing homes like Beechtree and Cayuga Ridge, and premium personalized care options like Kendal and Bridges Cornell Heights.

Founded in 2001, Bridges Cornell Heights occupies three expansive homes in the historic Cornell Heights neighborhood north of Cornell campus – one was built new in 2005, and the other two are renovations, the last being just a few years ago on Kelvin Place. Each house has sixteen residents or less, and to be frank they could be described as a luxury retirement homes – a high degree of personalized care and a commensurate price tag.

With full occupancy and a waiting list in hand, Bridges has decided to move forward with plans for a fourth house in Cornell Heights, and the second all-new home. The property will be located on the southeast corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Dearborn Place, a small vacant field recently sub-divided from the former Palentological Research Institute next door (which is separately being renovated into a two-family home by Classen Ambrose’s husband). According to the 1928 Cornell Map, the property was once home to the neighborhood school, but the school and its building ceased to be many years ago.

Given that Cornell Heights’ century-old architecture is defined by high-end, visually unique homes, the new property is seeking the same qualifications. Rochester-based Bero Architecture, which specializes in historic design, has been retained and early drawings show an imposing 10,930 SF two-story cultured stone and cedar-shingle Craftsman-style home with 12 bedrooms (four of the bedrooms will be designed for double occupancy for couples). The landscaping will be similarly fitting and designed by Cornell landscape architecture professor Paula Horrigan. Exterior features include a porte cochere, porous driveway and courtyard parking for nine vehicles (all residents, staff are given pre-paid parking off-site at a nearby fraternity and walk over), as well as three patios, walkways and lush plantings (500+ perennials, 127-140 shrubs, and 35 trees).

Since Cornell Heights is a historic district, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission was required to sign off on any new construction visible from the outside. The design of the house changed very little from start to finish in the approvals process – Bero is good at what they do, and the ILPC was amenable to the design, though some requested tweaks were made to landscaping and parking along the way. They also requested a dated plaque to ensure no one mistakes the new build for an older structure. The project was proposed in May 2017, and approved in October, generally smooth sailing. I can remember when I did the Bridges article for the Voice, Classen Ambrose was very worried about the neighbors reacting negatively. To that credit, some of the full-time neighbors opposed the project, and it’s not often one sees a “senior living operators are converting and destroying the neighborhood” argument. But overall, the opposition was minor. The house is contextual, and the environmental impacts are fairly modest once the mitigation measures (parking off-site, new trees) are considered.

Classen Ambrose has said that the house will programmatically be a little different from the existing trio of homes in that it will be independent living instead of the enhanced assisted living employed at the other homes. That means a lower level of care – residents may receive assistance in housekeeping and cooking, but they are otherwise capable of managing their day-to-day activities. The new facility will also add at least four more staff to Bridges’ payroll, which is in the low/mid 40s and has been seeking living wage certification.

Side note, although it’s been replaced with newer videos, Mack Travis, the founder of Ithaca Rentals and renovations (now Travis Hyde Properties under his son and son-in-law) once did a testimonial in a short video extolling Bridges’ service for his family members. Now years later, Bridges will be providing services to residents of THP’s DeWitt House senior living project.

This is a high-end development where no expense is being spared. Tompkins Trust Company extended a $4.2 million loan, filed with the county on July 20th. Construction is expected to take about a year, with local firm Schickel Construction in charge of the buildout. Alongside with Bero and Horrigan, T. G. Miller P.C. did the civil engineering work for the project.

The project does include a finished basement, and it appears the site has been cleared, excavated, and concrete masonry (cinder block) walls are being assembled at present. Construction will be a traditional wood-frame approach. Note the ZIP panels on the neighbor at 109 Dearborn, as it goes from a dull 1930s office/storage space and becomes a two-family home, also designed by Bero Architects.

Pre-construction (Sep 2017 Google Street View)

August 2018

   

Drawings: