107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 10/2017

20 10 2017

With the twin duplexes on the corner of Aurora and Queen completed, local developer Stavros Stavropoulos and his local contractor Northeast Renovations Inc. have been able to turn their focus towards building out 107 South Albany Street. At this stage, the spread concrete footers, also called formwork or footings, have been finished.

As in this case, footers are usually of concrete with steel rebar reinforcement that has been poured into an excavated trench and confined by wood forms. The purpose of footings is to support the foundation and prevent settling. The portion of rebar sticking out of the footers will be bent and wired into the foundation’s horizontal rebar, tying the two components together. I’m not sure if they simply filled in the basement of the old house or if they tore the walls out before bringing in clean fill and digging trenches for the new footers (I’d guess the latter for simplicity’s sake).

It looks like the outer footings for the ground-level common space (entry, bike storage, meter room) are at a slightly lower grade than the rest of the structure, so there might be two separate sections that comprise foundation, with one at a slightly higher elevation than the other.

The next steps involve a rebar grid being ssembled and tied per specifications, elevated a few inches from the ground by plastic rebar chairs that allow concrete to get underneath the steel rods. The concrete will be poured over the rebar, and as long as the bars stay in place, the new pour is left to dry into a solid, reinforced slab foundation upon which the building frame can be built. The building itself will have a wood-frame, so when it starts to rise, it should move at a pretty fast pace.

A summary of the project can be found here.





News Tidbits 10/7/17: Opportunities Come and Go

7 10 2017

1. The Inn at Taughannock expansion is no longer. The project, which called for a 2-story addition containing dining facilities, five guest rooms and facilities to support a 200-person capacity event center, was opposed by neighbors in Ulysses for being too large, the potential for noise, traffic, and for being out of character with the area. The strong disapproval played a big role in the town of Ulysses Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to reject two of three building variances sought for the project, the exception being a cupola on the existing building. The board also permitted four of the six proposed signs.

With denials noted, the plan at this point is mostly landscaping – clean fill (soil) to level out the south lawn for gatherings, construction of a stone fence wall and retaining wall, re-configuring a stairway and patio area, lawn seeding and stormwater facilities.

2. One door is closed, another potentially opens. For sale, a trio of parcels – 526 West Seneca Street, 528 West Seneca Street, and 209 North Meadow Street – are up for sale on the city’s West End. The listing from Pyramid Brokerage’s August Monkemeyer is short and to the point:

“Rare opportunity on prime signalized intersection in Ithaca’s commercial corridor. Corner location with excellent exposure, road frontage and heavy traffic 32,000 plus ADDT. Redevelopment site for multiple commercial uses.”

For the record, ADDT is a typo. It’s AADT – “Average Annual Daily Traffic”. The brochure is a little more in-depth, and says 39,000 AADT. The listing price for the collection is $1.5 million.

528 West Seneca is a recently renovated early 1900s 4-unit apartment house purchased by current owner Shawn Gillespie in 2003 and it has an assessed value of $200,000. 528 West Seneca is an early 1900s house converted into an office building. It was renovated in the 2000s, purchased by Gillespie in 2012 and is assessed at $220,000. 209 North Meadow, an 1880s single-family home, has seen better days. It was co-purchased by Gillespie in 2015 and is assessed at $50,000 due to its poor condition. All of the buildings are designed in the older vernacular style common to the Ithaca area (“urban farmhouses”), so they’re old, but the designs were cookie cutter for their time, and their overall historic value is limited.

Zoning is a mixed bag. The two with frontage on Meadow are WEDZ-1b, while 526 West Seneca is R-3b. R-3b allows 4-story buildings with up to 40% lot coverage, has parking requirements that vary depending on the type of residence, and is geared towards small apartment buildings. WEDZ-1b is one of the city rarer codes, general retail and office uses that allows 100% lot coverage on parcel with less than 50 feet frontage (209 Meadow in this case), and 90% otherwise. However, the maximum floor height is only two floors, and one story buildings have to have pitched roofs. Unlike its WEDZ-1a counterpart across the street, parking is required. Looking at the code, it seems like a recipe for suburban box retail in the heart of the West End, with the R-3b a possible site for additional parking. That doesn’t seem to mesh with the urban mixed-use direction the city’s been moving towards. Should it sell, and it looks noteworthy, there will be a follow-up.

3. The construction loan for Nick Stavropoulos’ 107 South Albany Street project has been filed. Tompkins Trust will be able to watch their latest loan agreement from just a few blocks away. The total loan amount is $1,110,346.75. A small local company, Northeast Renovation Inc., will be the general contractor for the 11-unit apartment building.

Subcontractors on file include Frank Belentsof of Bestway Lumber (Excavation), Brian Kehoe of Kehoe’s Concrete Concepts for foundation work, Albanese Plumbing LLC for plumbing/HVAC/sprinklers, Weydman Electric, Goodale Sprayfoam for insulation, Joe Alpert of Drywall Interiors for sheetrock hanging. Fabbroni Engineers is doing the structural engineering in partnership with architect Daniel R. Hirtler.

4. The city of Ithaca Planning and Development Board was less than enthused about 311 College Avenue, aka Visum Development’s mixed-use Nines replacement. From the sound of it, the board’s John Schroeder was liable to go apoplectic. At the least, it seems the board wants a feasibility study for the cost of moving the firehouse-turned-restaurant to another site. From a design perspective, the board would like for either the design to pay homage to the Nines, or to reuse some of its building materials.

In contrast, it was fairly smooth sailing for the other projects under review. The duplex at 217 Columbia and Lakeview’s 60-unit supportive/affordable housing project were approved, and INHS’s 13-unit affordable housing proposal for the 200 Block of Elm Street progressed despite West Hill neighborhood opposition.

5. To touch on that topic a little more, the Times’ Nick Reynolds did an in-depth piece looking at the “crisis point” in Collegetown. It’s worth a read. I don’t agree with some of the insinuations (Student Agencies’ renovation of ca. 1985 409 College Avenue is not an aesthetic threat to the block), but it’s worth a read.

The document that Schroeder and Tomlan wrote of buildings they wanted preserved was uploaded as a PDF, but it is no longer online. The only copy of the list is from this blog, in a post eight years ago, and an article from the June 16, 2009 Ithaca Journal. The list and the response highlighted in the Journal shows there was a real disconnection, and I doubt most readers agreed completely with either Tomlan or the property owners. Since the PDF was published and reviewed by city staff and board appointees, two of 31 structures, the Snaith House (140 College) and Grandview House (209 College), were historically designated, and rightfully so, as exemplary architecture of their period. The Larkin was just designated as well, and the Chacona Block (Student Agencies) will be before the end of the year. Both of them are attractive older structures that provide a positive aesthetic complement to the neighborhood.

The Palms dive bar was not high design or even mediocre design, nor was it much of a desired neighborhood attribute, at least to permanent residents; nostalgic perhaps, but not historic. Pushing a structure on nostalgia alone will likely not clear the Planning Committee, as Steve Smith and Cynthia Brock nearly demonstrated with the Larkin Building. Mary Tomlan wanted to preserve a bar when the owner wanted to retire and sell it to whoever would give him the most. Sounds familiar.

However, the difference between the Palms and the Nines is that the Nines has a more substantial history, the structure has historic significance as the original home of Fire Station No .9. With its outdoor patio, it adds an aesthetic quality by being setback from the street yet maintaining active use frontage. That is not economically feasible in Collegetown and hasn’t been for decades, but it made sense for a fire station that served the community for generations. If there’s a balance between giving way to the new and preserving the old, the Nines and Palms fall on different sides.

The Times article references a “stopgap” measure that is basically an indefinite moratorium. That’s not the answer either. Most Collegetown structures offer little historic value. The Nines is a rare case otherwise. Without protective regulations, it was always a potential development target. Or rather, it was more like a landmine waiting to be triggered.

6. Courtesy of STREAM Collaborative’s biannual newsletter, the Varna Tiny Timbers project has a name and website. “The Cottages at Fall Creek Crossing”, as the 15-unit single-family development will be known, has website at http://www.cottagesatfallcreek.com. It’s bare bones at the moment and the lots have not yet begun marketing and sales. The pocket neighborhood of for-sale 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom homes will be built on the corner of Freese and Dryden Roads, the potential walkable, mixed-use center of the hamlet should a traditionally-designed Varna ever come to fruition. According to the newsletter, STREAM collaborated with Tiny Timber owner Buzz Dolph on the branding, logo and website, as well as on the design of the buildings and landscape.

7. It pains me a bit to admit this, but the Times is killing it in local meeting coverage. Even worse, the Voice has been short-staffed this week due to illness. At the Common Council meeting last night, members voted to give the IURA the necessary permission to handle the Green Street redevelopment project, including the RFP and submission review, sales terms and environmental review. Vicki Taylor Brous, public relations representative for developer Dave Lubin and his Harold’s Square project next door, spoke against the plans and said the project may be illegal, but until proven as such, review and discussion of the Ithaca Associates plan and any other submissions will move forward.

On another note, landmarking of the Larkin Building at 403 College Avenue was approved 8-2, with Cynthia Brock (D-1st) and Steve Smith (D-4th) opposed. Also, in what can only help Lansing Republicans, the city voted to join in on the Article 78 to halt the Cargill project until an Environment Impact Statement is conducted. The DEC deemed it unncecessary, and the lawsuit argues Cargill got special treatment. The dicey part is that a long, expensive study puts 200 blue-collar jobs at risk, and the debate has become a successful rallying cry for local conservatives.

I’m not a political consultant, but I think if outspoken Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) loses next month, it’ll be because of the national environment and the ability of progressive groups to tap into that at the local level. And if he wins, it’ll be because he channeled and won over the blue-collar Cargill households and their supporters who feel overlooked or kicked around in this debate.

8. One of the the perks of development – the latest Ithaca city budget calls for no tax increase for the 95% of homeowners whose assessment did not go up this year (not because of the market, but because the assessment office cycles through different parts of the county on 2-3 year intervals). The city will bring in an extra $621,508 (2.8%) through property taxes, mostly from new development “closing” on assessments as they’re completed and occupied. From 2012 to 2016, the budget increased 5.2%, while taxes, notoriously high thanks to the large percentage of tax-exempt property, fell 1%. In his budget presentation (copy on the Times webpage here), Myrick stated that without the $131 million in development since 2011, taxes would be 6.9% higher.

One thing that is not made clear in the article is that Collegetown Terrace, one of those big contributors, doesn’t have a tax abatement or PILOT. That’s taxed at 100% value. According to assessor Jay Franklin, assessments for a given year are calculated for the state of a property on March 1st, and in Terrace’s case, Building 7 wasn’t finished. Now that it is, it can be assessed at full value for 2018, which will be an additional $20-$25 million in taxable property (using $22.5 million, it equates to $270,900 in city taxes, given $12.04 per $1,000 assessed).

That might be the biggest addition, but other recent completions are not inconsequential. Back of the envelope estimates here, but when the Breazzano Center and INHS 210 Hancock PILOTs first show up in 2018, they will generate an additional $52,000. Even with its abatement, the Hotel Ithaca will add about $21,600 in year one if its $15 million price tag is close to assessment, and that will increase to $216,000/year after seven years (the downtown Business Improvement District tax rate is $14.40/$1,000). Several other recently-completed downtown projects will also pay more as their abatements taper towards full property value. For example, just the 10% increase for the Marriott in 2018 equates to about $29,000. Smaller projects like 607 South Aurora, 1001 North Aurora, 602 West State, 215-221 West Spencer and 123-129 Elmira stand to add another $70,000 or so in tax revenue. So all these projects not only make a dent in the housing deficit or provide jobs, they also provide a buffer to challenging times with declining state assistance. While development does increase demand for services, projects that are close to municipal services and able to easily tap into existing infrastructure generally provide a net positive financial benefit to the community.

Meanwhile, the town of Ithaca is looking at a miniscule tax increase this year of 0.21 percent (1.57 cents per $1,000), and will benefit from the Maplewood project, which at $80 million and $6.66/1,000, will pay in the ballpark of $532,000 towards the town, its highway department and the inter-municipal fire department (the city also gets a small share, only 1-2%).

9. A couple of sales of note. A 28.07 parcel of land along Oakcrest Road in Lansing, which was touted for potential suburban housing development, was sold for $610,000 to a well-known Cornell professor and his wife. The price was a little over 90% of ask, not bad for land. From a close mutual friend, real estate development is not one of the buyer’s interests. So, less likely to be a development, but maybe a grand estate.

Meanwhile, south of the Shannon Park development, and on the southern edge of the image above, an LLC paid $480,000, slightly below assessment, for 731 Cayuga Heights Road, a well-maintained 1820 farmhouse on 12.55 acres. The LLC’s address is the same as the Pyramid Companies, owners (or recent sellers?) of the Shoppes at Ithaca Mall, which the land abuts to its east. Something to keep an eye on, for sure.

 

10. Looking like a slow week and month ahead. The city of Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission is reviewing a roofing project. Nothing new in the city project’s memo, though some supplemental documents were added for Bridges Cornell Heights’ 16-bedroom mansion proposed at 105 Dearborn Place. It and INHS’s 203-209 Elm Street plan are up for final approval at the end of the month, potentially leaving no projects for review before the city (311 College will be discussed, but not reviewed this month, and its future progress is uncertain). The town’s planning board meeting was cancelled.





1001 North Aurora Street Construction Update, 8/2017

20 08 2017

This small infill project in Ithaca’s Fall Creek is just about done. Tenants have already moved into the four three-bedroom units, and it looks like all that’s left on the outside is grass seeding and a coat of paint. According to the guys working on the duplexes, the mismatch in the second floor LP SmartSide wood siding was because the store they bought them (think they said Home Depot offhand) from had ran out, so they just bought what was available with the intent of painting over it when they were ready. It looks like the first floor has been painted, so that’s a good sign. It is nice to see that, although they were threatened for deletion if expenses came too high, the side windows on the inward-facing walls of the units (east side of 202, west side of 206) were retained.

This is a small, unassuming project. It replaced an older single-family home with four units that fit in with the neighborhood. It’s a bump in density without garnering too much attention. To be candid, it’s probably the only feasible way to add density to Fall Creek – scout out the few vacant lots, or buildings with less historic or aesthetic value, and try to design something that fits in (the only other one I’m aware of is the Heritage Builders infill project on West Falls Street, but at this point it would need re-approval from the planning board).

The three guys out front said that once these are complete, they expect to start work on developer Stavros (Nick) Stavropoulos’ next project at 107 South Albany Street. That site has not changed much over the summer, all that is there at the moment is the fenced-off foundation of the old building. The 11-unit apartment building slated for that site is expected to be completed by summer 2018.

 





107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 6/2017

22 06 2017

Seems fair to move this one over into the construction column. Introducing 107 South Albany Street.

The State Street Corridor represents one of Ithaca’s best possibilities for infill development. It’s a mixed-use area with a hodge-podge of buildings and styles, from ornate century-old properties to commercial utilitarian structures. It has a number of sites that have easy access to downtown and amenities, permitting a walkable lifestyle. It’s also less expensive than downtown properties. With this in mind, the city rezoned much of it in 2013 to allow for 5-story buildings, up to 60 feet tall, with no need for parking. The zoning was a simple box overlay regardless of lot lines, which resulted in some “secret” infill opportunities like 512-514 West Green Street, whose rear yard was in the rezoned area, and as a result, owner Carmen Ciaschi was able to legally slip in a two-family home without adding additional parking.

107 South Albany Street was rezoned as a result of the 2013 overlay. The existing property was a mixed-use two-story home that had an apartment on the upper floors, and converted on the first floor to commercial office functions (law office). This presented an opportunity for the enterprising developer.

Enter Stavros (Nick) Stavropoulos. The West Hill native, whose family runs the State Street Diner, runs a small rental company, Renting Ithaca. However, Stavropoulos has slowly and steadily made his way from management to real estate development – first with additions to existing buildings like 318-320 Pleasant Street, and then entirely new properties like 514 Linn Street in 2015, and a project currently at 1001 North Aurora Street. His M.O. so far has been to find middling properties in desirable locations, and add inoffensive infill rental housing – nothing that stretches code, nothing that will anger the neighbors. Earlier projects were designed by Lucente family favorite Larry Fabbroni, but more recent projects have turned to a low-profile, longtime Ithaca architect named Daniel Hirtler, who runs Flatfield Designs. Stavropoulos picked up 107 South Albany Street for $236,000 in August 2015.

Seemingly, each project he takes on is larger than the last. 1001 North Aurora is a 4-unit project, 12 bedrooms with a hard cost of about $400,000. 107 South Albany is slated to be his latest and greatest yet. The original plan, as introduced in Spring 2016, was to build a new six-unit building at the rear of the existing house, and renovate the house into three apartment units, for one studio, six one-bedroom units, and two two-bedroom units. After a few months of planning board review and critique from the design committee, the 3,954 SF, $500,000 plan was approved and slated to start in July 2016.

However, that plan never moved forward. Instead, this past winter, Stavropoulos decided to submit a new set plans. The new plan called for eleven units and eleven bedrooms, but instead of retaining the existing house, it would be deconstructed and replaced with a new three-story, 8,427 SF building. With its neighbors including a former gas station-turned medical service and older, historic structures, the building’s design is an attempt to bridge the gap. The front sports a cornice, a brick veneer on the first floor, tan fiber cement lap siding above and a traditional window arrangement. In contrast, a stucco finish fiber cement stair tower in the middle of the structure serves as a visual interest for passerby on West State Street, and gives the building a modern touch. The building’s height is capped at 40 feet 5 inches, well below the constraints set by the zoning.

The building isn’t designed for active street use, with a recessed entry and bike storage area for privacy, and no first-floor windows on the front facade. However, in an attempt to create an attractive streetscape, the building uses lighted wall recesses on the exterior, the brick work will have decorative patterns, and a large semi-circular iron trellis that will be adorned with native twining vines. The project cost is $946,600, according to the city’s Site Plan Review document.

As of this month, Finger Lakes ReUse has deconstructed the existing house, cleaned and processed the salvaged materials, and has them for sale at their warehouse/store on Old Elmira Road. The foundation and front staircase are all that remain. The plan is to start construction on the new building in the September/October time frame, and to have it open for occupancy by summer 2018. No contractor or construction manager has been named as of yet.

From June:

From May:

Pre-development:

Isometric Plan and interior layout:

 

 





News Tidbits 2/11/17: Cooperation Required

11 02 2017

107_s_albany_rev_1

1. It looks like the plans for 107 South Albany Street are getting a major revision. Readers might recall that previously approved plans called for a rear addition onto an existing house to create a 9-unit, 11-bedroom apartment building. The latest plans are a little more substantial.

For one thing, the existing house would be no more under the new plan. In its place looks to be a 3.5 story, 8,427 SF, 11-unit apartment building, all one-bedroom apartments. Developer Stavros Stavropoulos has once again turned to local architect Daniel Hirtler for design work; for each of them, this is the largest project they’ve worked on to date. Hirtler came up with a design that offer contextual features like a cornice and an orthodox window arrangement, but adds a modern vertical stair element in the middle of the structure to keep the design from being an imitation. Zoning is CBD-60, so no parking is required, 100% lot coverage is allowed, and the 40.5′ proposal is comfortably within the 60-foot height limit.  According to the SPR filing, the construction cost will be about $900k and the construction period will be from September 2017 to June 2018.

As much as I dislike seeing attractive old houses come down, the new design fits well into an older urban context. Plus, if the medical practice on State ever gets redeveloped, 3.5 floors offers a nice transition to the lower-density structures further south. I’m not a super big fan of the blank wall next to the recessed entry, although the intent is to make it interesting with light fixtures, a brick pattern and an iron trellis that will be grown over with vines. Fiber cement will be used on the upper floors, with brick veneer and granite accents at street level.

On another note, it looks like the city will be looking at a one-lot subdivision next month at 109 Dearborn Place in the Cornell Heights Historic District – the owners, a married couple who are renovating the old PRI into a historically appropriate two-family residence, are looking to sell some of the land as part of the “partnership dissolution”. The PRI renovation is expected to continue. The application says a house was previously located on the undeveloped portion of the property (a glance at old maps indicate a schoolhouse was located on-site in the 1920s). It’s worth noting that the wife is also the owner of Bridges Cornell Heights, a high-end senior living facility on the next block. Bridges previously subdivided a Cornell Heights lot in 2005 to build a second residence to serve its deep-pocketed clients. Any new house would need to go through ILPC review.

323_taughannock_townhouses_2

2. Meanwhile, the Ithaca Common Council had their monthly Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting. It looks like the revised 323 Taughannock project has been caught up in the TM-PUD, so it will have to get Common Council approval. Apart from a certain councilor’s general objections to housing near or on the waterfront, this one isn’t likely to stir up much controversy. The construction timeline for Steve Flash’s 8-unit , 16,959 SF owner-occupied townhouse project is June 2017 – January 2018, with an estimated value of $2-$3 million. Potentially, there could be 16 units, since each townhouse comes with a live/work space that could be converted to a separate studio apartment unit.

Also included at the meeting was a session on electric car infrastructure, votes to send laws allowing dogs in Stewart Park and a temporary altar to the Common Council, votes to circulate a zoning amendment to allow brewpubs in business zones, and a discussion of tree plantings. The Maguires also discussed possibly shifting their project to Southwest Park behind Wal-Mart, which is covered on the Voice here.

3. The city of Ithaca has been awarded funding to build a replacement bridge for North Aurora Street over Cascadilla Creek. Continuing the city’s heavy infrastructure investments of the past few years (for instance, the bridges as Lake Street, East Clinton Street, and the work planned for Brindley Street/Taughannock Boulevard), the state is giving $1.178 million towards the replacement span. Engineering work and public meetings will take place in 2017 and early 2018, with construction and completion by 2019.

maplewood_v7_3

4. Over in the town of Ithaca, final approval has been granted to Cornell and EdR’s Maplewood project, meaning that everything is good to go and barring any unforseen circumstances, the 441-unit, 872-bed complex should be open for graduate and professional students by the end of July 2018. The difference between preliminary and final approval is that in preliminary, the concept is greenlighted but there needs to be additional filings completed – tree planting schedules, revised labels on diagrams, construction staging plans, and proof of final approval from the city for their portion. For those who are wondering, the 150-200 workers on-site will be parking at a temporary lot behind the Kinney Drugs at East Hill Plaza, and will be walking the five minutes down Mitchell Street to get to the job site. The first building should start to rise in late Spring of this year, with new structures rising in stages as we go through the rest of 2017.

rodeway_revision_1

The town planning board also reviewed revised plans for the Rodeway Inn at 654 Elmira Road, where the old wings will now be torn down and rebuilt on the same footprint and an enclosed corridor will be built into the new wings. The final result will have a net increase of four motel rooms, to 44 (the previous plan added only two motel rooms). The plan for renovating the single-family home on the property into a community center is unaffected by these changes and moving forward as originally planned.

20160918_151026
5. It’s been behind schedule a few months, but DiBella’s Subs is expected to open at 222 Elmira Road on February 16th.

thecomputingctr_2

thecomputingctr_3

6. It seemed a little odd when The Computing Center stated in their IDA application that their plans had already been approved, and there was nothing on file. Turns out they’re hoping to get approval for their 4,600 SF HQ from the town of Lansing next week.

The full suite of documents can be found on the town of Lansing’s website here. It looks like the farmhouse next door to 987 Warren Drive will be spared from the wrecking ball; although The Computing Center bought the property, it’s being subdivided and the barn-turned-garage is the only building that will be torn down. Lansing has one of the more lenient planning boards, so although this probably won’t be fully approved next week, there’s a good chance this project will receive final approval by the end of March.

204260_56b8b8a8c98ee1-47810900_full

7. Over on West Hill, a large vacant parcel on Bundy Road just exchanged hands. The 66.98 acre parcel has been marketed for the past few years as a development opportunity – it has municipal water and sewer, and it’s a stone’s throw from Cayuga Medical Center, Overlook and the Conifer/Cornell developments off of Route 96/Trumansburg Road. Its previous ownership, a family that has owned it in some form since 1964 (moving between members in 1984 and 1991), had it on the market for $359,900.

The buyers, a husband-and-wife pair of medical doctors who live nearby, paid $305,000 for the deed, according to a filing on the 9th. An online search for future hints doesn’t really give much guidance – the doctors have donated modest amounts to Finger Lakes Land Trust and have signed some anti-fracking petitions, and while they own undeveloped properties around them, this parcel isn’t adjacent to their house. It doesn’t really fit the Land Trust’s ideal land donations either, since it’s been substantially subdivided with medium-density residential, and borders a growing corridor. So, it’s hard to gauge just what exactly is planned here. For the record, the land is currently zoned medium density residential (max 3 floors, up to 2.9 lots/acre), but the town’s new comprehensive plan sees the property as new urbanist medium density (5-8 units/acre small-scale mixed-use), with undeveloped open space towards the southwest corner of the parcel.

cornell-project-dsun

8. Let’s finish this week off with a talk about energy. Good news first – there might be a solution to the West Dryden pipeline issue. Background here, but the nutshell is, Lansing has tapped out their natural gas capacity, and in order to accommodate new development that would need natural gas, NYSEG needs to build a higher capacity pipeline from their current facilities in the town of Dryden. This new pipeline would go along West Dryden Road, but has run into fierce opposition, mostly because Dryden residents are famous for being anti-natural gas – this was the town that took on the fracking companies and won. Keep in mind, these folks aren’t just disdainful of natural gas, they are adamantly opposed. So using their property to accommodate something they don’t like is a bit like asking to build an abortion clinic next to an evangelical church because that just happens to be where the land is cheapest, but they would have to share a driveway.

Unsurprisingly, the town of Dryden enacted a moratorium on large-scale pipeline installation. The town of Lansing is not happy because it stymies their development, and they’re extra-concerned that their biggest property taxpayer, the Cayuga Power Plant, is about to go belly up and leave the town with $100 million less on its tax rolls. The county wants to move away from fossil fuels, but it also wants to encourage development and not leave Lansing in the lurch.

This week, a plan was put forth that might accommodate both needs. A small compressor station would be built to keep pipe pressure from falling too low during times of peak demand, so that guarantees service for existing customers. The second prong is to wean existing development off natural gas and encourage new development to use other means – electric heat pumps, like those to be used in Maplewood and City Centre. This encouragement would be given through subsidies or tax breaks. The compressor station and the incentives would be in effect by late 2018.

It looks promising, but the feasibility studies are still ongoing, and Lansing is not totally on board. Both Lansing Village and Lansing Town feel they were not represented during these discussions with NYSEG, and that heat pumps are a major financial burden to saddle homebuilders with. They also wonder if the electrical grid would be capable of supporting so many heat pumps.

Speaking strictly from my experience, I’ve visited construction projects with heat pumps, and while they are a cost increase, it’s a couple percent more than the same structure with conventional heating – there’s a recently-built single-family house I can think of offhand where the cost of heat pumps was about $5,000 more on the $200,000 construction cost. If it’s incentivized, one could make it financially sensible, at least for residential options if not all. Also, I’m wary of Lansing’s reasoning because they piddled away the three town center projects five years ago – if they had stayed on top of it, they’d have $50 million more in property value and this wouldn’t be such a pressing issue now.

That being said, there are problems with this area’s approach to alternative energy. Newfield is the big culprit here – they’re about to put in a moratorium on commercial solar panel installations, which is worrying since this is the same town that redesigned their wind turbine law to ban them in essence. If municipalities are limiting residents’ abilities to turn to alternative energy sources (many urban areas have to turn to commercial arrays or turbines because there’s not enough room/too much demand on-site), then the community will be unsuccessful in weaning the population off of fossil fuels. But Dryden, which is in the process of changing their laws to accommodate large-scale solar arrays, is at the forefront of this issue – those panels could provide the electricity for the heat pumps and help turn the tide on energy sources. It only works if everyone cooperates.

 

 





News tidbits 12/24/16: Looking to the Future

24 12 2016

20161211_132440

20161211_132501

20161211_132542

1. Going to take advantage of this light week to go through some of the photo stash. I thought of doing a Poet’s Landing update, but because LeChase is mostly working on site clearing/prep and excavation at this point, and given the snow on the ground, it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot to be gained from making a unique update. But, rest assured, it’s still underway, there’s just not a whole lot to see at the moment. Once the snow melts off, the slab foundations work should be visible, and there might even be some framing going up by mid-winter. The six new apartment buildings and their 48 units should be ready by the fall of 2017.

20161209_121337

2. 107 South Albany in the city is another one that doesn’t merit its own post just yet, but work should be taking place at some point soon. The building permits have been filed with the city for the 6-unit, 9-bedroom renovation and addition to the rear of the existing building, and from peering inside the existing windows, there’s the impression that interior demolition work could be underway – could explain the broken window on the second floor at least. There was no excavation work yet in the backyard, where the new wing will go. The Site Plan Review document says July 2016 to August 2017. Maybe there will be something to talk about by the next round of downtown updates.

3. Some folks might remember Phoenix Books, the hard-to-miss barn bookstore off of 366 as one approached Ithaca from Dryden. The store closed last year after 30 years of business, and the barn itself is about a century old. Now the property at 1608 Dryden Road is for sale. The barn, a small outbuilding, and 29.3 acres for $229,900. According to the Zillow posting, a sale is already pending.

4. From sales to sold. An industrial property in the Inlet Corridor of Ithaca town has exchanged hands. The property is at 142 Ithaca Beer Drive, next door to the growing brewery and restaurant. According to the listing with Pyramid Brokerage, the property consists of “Two commercial buildings totaling 6,812SF on 2.79 acres at south end and just off of Ithaca’s Elmira Road (NYS Route 13) commercial corridor. Ideal for combo of office (812SF) and industrial/warehouse (6,000SF) with lots of room to expand. All municipal services. Warehouse building has high ceilings, concrete floors, 2 overhead doors and more. Great opportunity for light industrial/manufacturing with array of flex space.”

The Iacovellis used it to house their construction equipment, and had it on the market for $409,000. It sold for just under that, a reasonable $400,000, to Greentree Garden Supply, which has operations a stone’s throw away from the property. Greentree makes their own soil products (potting soils, soil formula), so that may be a potential future use of the warehouse they just picked up. Good for them; they seem to be thriving as well as their garden plants.

58505e689f6ef-image

5. Here’s a cool idea – the Lansing School District is planning to build an outdoor classroom as part of $4.95 million in renovations. Cassandra Negley has the full story at the Times. The renovations were approved by a landslide 240-32 vote, which was helped by the fact that the project will be funded with grants and money from the school district’s reserve (rainy day) fund – no additional cost will be assumed by the taxpayers. In advocating for the project, school district staff noted that it would provide for “multi-sensory experiences”, a useful asset during the instruction of natural and environmental science topics, and cited studies that showed students performed better academically when given the opportunity to have classes in outdoor spaces. The space would be used as covered play space during recesses.

maplewood_v7_5

6. Going off into hand-waving territory here. Enter at your own risk.

You might have heard in the news this week that New York State, even though it added 104,500 jobs over the past year, is estimated to have recorded a population loss of about 1,800 people. That’s not a good thing for a number of reasons, but it’s a more acute issue upstate. New York City issued building permits for 101,705 residential units from 2013-2015, with another 13,000-14,000 estimated this year, and the city, just the boroughs and not even counting the suburbs, makes up nearly all the population growth (375,272 through July 2015, vs. 367,179 as the total gain for the state from 2010- July 2016). Upstate continues to hemorrhage people to other states. Not a surprise to anyone who’s travelled outside of Ithaca, Saratoga or the few other bright spots. What can we expect for Ithaca in a bad piece of news for Upstate?

Here are some off-the-cuff tallies for population growth. Ithaca’s estimated to be 30,788 as of July 2015, up 774 since 2010. The estimates due out early next year cover July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016.  What opened in that time frame?

By my count, Stone Quarry (82 beds), the Lofts at Six Mile Creek (66 beds), 804 East State (18 beds), 707 East Seneca (18 beds), 206 Taughannock (10 beds), the Lehigh Valley House condos (6 units, will assume county average 1.7 occupants per unit, for 10 residents), 116 Catherine Street (17 beds), and the 140 College Avenue (12 bed addition). Allow another half dozen or so units with a dozen beds total, for accessory apartments or new single-family homes. Only one of these projects replaced existing housing units – a one-bedroom bungalow came down for 804 East State. The gross gain is about 244 people, if we assume the standard of one person per bedroom or studio unit.

Now let’s do some subtractions. Hughes Hall closed on Cornell’s campus. -47 off the bat, for 197. Now, the math can’t easily accommodate those who had a household member move in/be born, or move out/pass on. But trends suggest a 2% decrease per decade, so we’ll treat it as negligible. So, my baseline prediction for the 2016 estimate is 30,981.

Just thinking offhand of the projects that have opened since July 1, 2016, expect at least 210 more for the July 1, 2017 estimate, and 670 in 2018, because that’s when Collegetown Terrace phase III (344 bedrooms), Novarr’s townhouses (net gain ~60 bedrooms), 210 Hancock (90 bedrooms) and Todd Fox’s latest trio (net gain ~110 bedrooms) are included in the figures. These drive-by numbers are based just on what’s underway, or approved and financed. The 2017, or more particularly the 2018 numbers could go up. So roughly, 30,981 in 2016, 31,191 in 2017, and 31,861 by July 1, 2018, assuming no major catastrophes and that the local economy’s growth and residential vacancy rate is consistent.

For the record, the purely mental figure I use for a 2020 census is 32,500. That would consider Harold’s Square (146 bedrooms), City Centre (250 bedrooms), the first phase of Chain Works (80+ bedrooms), as well as other proposals that may arise in the next year or two and open before April 1, 2020, the official census date. I do not factor in any new Cornell North Campus dorms in the estimate, since the new dorms will initially function as temporary replacements for existing space that will be concurrently closed and renovated.

Now, when thinking about the town of Ithaca, things get really weird because of Maplewood – a loss of 370-380 beds. The town doesn’t have any large multifamily underway – my partially-imputed count from permit reports gives about five newly-occupied duplex units and 20 or so homes for the July 2015 – June 2016 period, and the 10 Belle Sherman townhouses. That’s probably 100-120 beds total. The town of Ithaca will likely show a decrease in population in the 2016 census estimate because of the Maplewood closure, and it will be bad optics because there’s all this talk of affordable housing issues, and seeing a decline in population in the news will inspire a negative kneejerk reaction – either “if it’s going down do we really need housing”, or “hey, it’s going down, then why are the rents so damned high”. Have that talking point ready, Ithaca town board.

For the 2017 count/2018 release, the partially-educated guess is an increase of 150 given Brookdale, but the 872 new Maplewood residents won’t come into count until the 2018-19 estimation period, at which point we’re pretty much at the next census. I’m thinking around 21,500 for 2020 (from 19,930 in 2010), if the current trends continue and major housing projects are completed.