114 Catherine Street Construction Update, 8/2015

13 08 2015

One of the “secrets” of Jagat Sharma’s success in Collegetown is that he designs unobtrusive, good-looking projects on a restrained budget. Sharma can probably add 114 Catherine Street to his list of successes.

The next few entries are more or less just to clear out my portfolio and keep the blog updated with separate entries to make searches for individual projects easier. If you’ve been reading the Voice, you won’t see anything “new”, but you will get more photos and more information.

In these photos from the end of July, the work is nearly complete. A few workers were assembled around the concrete foundation, where the most visible corner will have an imprinted rectangular pattern for the sake of visual interest. The render I included this post was what I thought the version of 114 Catherine that was going to be built, but the corner windows aren’t as big, and the A/C units appear to be missing from the southward (front-facing) windows, and were moved to the side instead.

Workers are also busy with finishing out the interior, and the front door and stairs will be installed once it’s convenient. Landscaping will follow, and from there it’ll be ready for tenant occupancy later this month.

The building is being developed by Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. The building replaces a surface parking lot.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update, 6/2015

10 06 2015

Workers have been busy at the site of 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. On Friday, a flatbed truck was parked just off-site, delivering the roof gables for the 3-story, 17-bedroom apartment building. Framing for the structure is actively underway, with recently-created rough openings showing the position of the windows and doors in the new 3-unit structure.

The architect behind this project is local architectural firm Jagat Sharma, and he building is being developed by Ithacan Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for the replacement of a parking lot with a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. Building loan documents filed with the county establish the construction costs to be $1.3 million.

If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed in time for Cornell’s fall semester.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update 4/2015

8 04 2015

Work has commenced on the foundation for the new 3-unit, 17 bedroom apartment building at 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. Plans were approved by the city of Ithaca late last year, and with the worst of winter over (though snow in early April definitely makes one second guess that), construction has been able to proceed on the new building.

The parking lot that once fronted the street is gone. Wooden forms are in place for holding the concrete once it is poured, and rebar criss-crosses the space between the forms. Rebar is used to strengthen and reinforce concrete, the concrete bonds with the steel bars as it hardens. It looks like the east wall of the foundation has already been poured. A blue waterproof membrane can be seen on the concrete in the last photo.

The architect is a Collegetown favorite, local architectural firm Jagat Sharma. The building is being developed by Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed by August in time for the fall semester.

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News Tidbits 12/6/14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

6 12 2014

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1. Not exactly a development, but this will make things interesting: As reported by the Ithaca Journal, INHS and Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) are merging. Both of them have the same purpose, which is to provide low-to-middle income housing and structural rehab services, but INHS has traditionally focused in Ithaca city, and Better Housing in the rural towns. INHS also holds far greater assets, $24 million including 241 rental units , vs. BHTC’s $3 million and 121 rental units.

Over the past few years, INHS has put a lot of feathers in their cap. $2.13 million in grants has been awarded to the non-profit in just the past few months. Breckenridge Place and Holly Creek are complete and nearly complete respectively (total 74 units), while Stone Quarry and Greenways are prepping for site clearing and construction (total 81 units). Along with Cedar Creek and several single-family and duplex units, INHS has had a hand in over 120 units of housing in the past five years alone. With the Neighborhood Pride site undergoing concept design and the recently-awarded grant money, that number will almost certainly be greater in these next five years.

The story for BHTC has been quite the opposite. The 65-unit Lansing Reserve proposal failed due to neighbor opposition, and the 58-unit Cayuga Trails project for West Hill failed due to wetlands on site being greater than anticipated (and the neighborhood opposition didn’t help). BHTC has five older facilities in Trumansburg, Newfield and Slaterville Springs.  With any hope, the merged non-profit will qualify for larger grants, and BHTC can finally get some shovels in the ground in the hamlets and villages outside Ithaca.

On a separate note, it looks like INHS did its annual website update, formally announcing plans for a single-family home at 304 Hector Street on West Hill. The lot was purchased in late October after a plan to buy and renovate a home in Northside fell through. Stone Quarry will begin occupancy next September, and Greenways hopes to start in 2015.

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2. Here’s the site plan for 112 Blair Street. I’d include renders, if the sketch plan had any. Two buildings with two units each and three bedrooms per unit -> 2 x 2 x 3 = 12 bedrooms. Nothing large, just an infill project tucked away from the street. The design will be created by local firm Schickel Architecture, the same ones doing the Maguire project in Ithaca town. As noted by Planning Board member John Schroeder in a recent Sun article, projects like these won’t alleviate the housing crunch by themselves, but every little bit helps, and all the better if it recaptures living space from an underused parking lot.

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3. Final design for the proposed Canopy Hotel? Possibly. In comparison to the last design, this latest incarnation adds more windows to the east face. I’m not going to lie, after six or so sets of designs (include three complete re-dos), I’m starting to lose track of the changes. On the upside, the latest project plan from the city’s documents includes some neat context views, renders of what the building would look like from various vantage points in the city.

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4. 114 Catherine has been approved, its Spring construction date looks good to go. When completed in August 2015, 17 more bedrooms will enter the Collegetown market – a drop in the bucket, but a valuable drop nevertheless.

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5. Towards South Hill, review of the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) continues for the massive Chain Works District proposal at the former Emerson Power/Morse Chain site. A scoping document of that DGEIS can be found here. In a nutshell, a DGEIS is part of the State Envrionmental Quality Review (SEQR), where the leading agency looks at a project, determines if any adverse project impacts are properly mitigated, and if so, issues a statement giving a negative declaration (approval). In this case, the NYS DEC also needs to be on board, approving the contaminated site for residential use. This is a pretty complicated project. There’s 800,000 sq ft of space to be removed or re-purposed, in an environmentally compromised site split between two political entities who are conducting joint meetings with their planning boards in an effort to try and move this project forward (the town of Ithaca board deferred to the city of Ithaca for lead agency; and both have been evaluating using their respective specialized mixed-use zones).

So far, there have been no nasty surprises on the polluted site. The site is mostly clean but still needed a little more for residential use, and Emerson will be flipping the bill for that. The comment period on the draft runs through the 10th, and the DGEIS will be finalized on the 16th. According to the project website, developer Unchained Properties LLC hopes to start Phase I, the renovation of four on-site buildings (21, 24, 33 and 34) into mixed-use and manufacturing space, during summer 2015. The mixed-use was initially proposed as office space only; but the developer behind the LLC (David Lubin) has struggled to fill the proposed office space in his Harold Square project, and seems to realize that having less office space would be a better plan for Chain Works as well.

6. The Cornell Daily Sun is reporting that the owner of CTB (Collegetown Bagels) is buying the Rulloff’s property and reopening the restaurant after it abruptly closed over the Labor Day weekend. The property was on the market for $395,000, and it’s fair to say the price was probably close to that figure. The murderous Edward Rulloff lives on.





News Tidbits 11/22/14: The Quiet of An Early Winter

22 11 2014

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1. Here’s the first revision for the Maguire proposal in Ithaca town. With different building sizes and parking layouts, about the only thing that remains the same is the general site configuration. The planning committee packet has its retinue of numbers to help sell the town on the project; 50 new jobs and 100 transferred to the site (average wage $44,300), with an extra $2,000,000 in taxes for the town. The town is being cautious about the project because it relocates a proposed park (Saponi Meadows), and the project doesn’t fit with the just-completed Comprehensive Plan. Zoning would need to be amended, and the trail to Tutelo Park would hinge on a land donation to the town that also seems to involve them taking responsibility for the roads on Ithaca Beer’s property. Observant readers will recall Ithaca Beer is undergoing an expansion of its own.

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From SW to NE, you have the Subaru/Hyundai dealership, the Fiat/Alfa Romeo/Maserati dealership (those wealthier Cornellians need to get their GranTurismos and Ghiblis serviced somewhere), the corporate HQ and the Nissan dealership. The dealerships themselves will follow carmaker-approved design language, as the examples included in the packet suggest. Two lots on either side of the corporate office are tagged for future development, and an Audi/Porsche/Jaguar dealership is included in the dealership renderings, but not in the site plan. The project would be LEED certified, have electric car stations, walking trails, a loop road, and a coffee bar/cafe. Unique to the project would be apple and cherry orchards and vineyards – I suppose this is where the “artisanal” moniker comes in. We’ll see how warm the town is to the project after the presentation.

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2. In other presentations, this one for the county, the Old Library Committee is recommending that all four of the remaining Old Library proposals be asked to submit formal proposals. Last Friday, the county also opened up a 10-day comment period on the RFP draft document. Personally, I don’t see much to add to it, and most of it consists of things that would be great if one project had it all – but none will. It’s what HR recruiters call a “purple squirrel“, a perfect candidate that has a vanishingly small chance of applying. It requests green building, affordable housing, purchasable units, mixed uses, and a special meeting with the stringent ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks & Preservation Council; I recall notes from a recent meeting where they had an argument on whether solar panels were appropriate for historic buildings and districts). I don’t believe any project on that site can meet all those and still hope for a construction loan from a private entity. Condos (which is what purchasable units means in this case) are hard to get financing for, and affordable housing torpedoes the DPI and Franklin/O’Shae projects because they won’t break even at a lower price point, therefore no loan, no build.  I suspect Travis Hyde would also have the same problem, and the Cornerstone Group, while affordable, doesn’t have mixed use or green building measures. I understand it’ll be a “whatever comes closest” situation, but I feel like the county is setting itself and local residents up for a disappointment in one way or another.

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3. Looks like the Times has had a busy week writing about local projects. A piece on 114 Catherine, a piece on 323 Taughannock, an article about the Troy Road project, and a piece on the Chain Works District. Gee, I wonder where they got the idea that local developments make for interesting articles? A fifth entry notes 85 people attended the brainstorming session for the Neighborhood Pride site, which is simply fantastic.

If I’m to recommend any of the four, it would be the piece on the Chain Works/Emerson project, which is in-depth and broad in its review of the site and its environmental issues. The writeup on 323 Taughannock notes that developer Steve Flash originally wanted a taller building on site, but soil conditions combined with the costs for a more substantial foundation made it cost-prohibitive (and unlike the Purity project, this was discovered well before any plans were approved).


4. Compared to much of this year, this month’s Ithaca city planning board meeting looks to be rather quiet. Agenda with all the attachments here. INHS will be giving a description of their “visioning process” for the Neighborhood Pride site, which probably means a rundown of how they’re going to come up with the design (the goal is to present a sketch plan of the project in March or April). The 114 Catherine and 128 West Falls Street infill projects are in the last stages of review, some discussion of the environmental assessment form is scheduled for the Canopy Hotel, and Purity is still trying to amend its previously approved plan. Also in the itinerary, formal review will begin of the 3,400 sq ft DiBella’s planned for big box land. In terms of sketch plans, there’s a review for a new children’s garden at Cass Park, and a pair of duplexes (4 units total) for what is currently a parking lot at 112 Blair Street, behind the houses on the embedded map. 112 Blair is zoned CR-2, meaning parking, vegetative buffers, and hipped roofs are required. It needs to be 2-3 stories and permits a max of 35% lot coverage (it’s a 6,390 sq ft lot, so about 2235-3353 sq ft per duplex, 1117-1676 sq ft per unit). Infill is always welcome, though hopefully they aren’t as plain as their State Street neighbors built a few years ago. News next week will likely be lacking due to the holiday, so the next development roundup will probably be in December.

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On a final note, we’re averaging the third coldest year since records started in 1893. Damn it, I want my global warming.

Oh wait, here it is. Virtually everywhere else except Ithaca. Sigh.





News Tidbits 11/8/14: Getting the Word Out

8 11 2014

1. Let me start by acting all civic-minded and promote the public meeting INHS is hosting for the Neighborhood Pride site in the Northside neighborhood of the city. November 12th, 4:30-7:30 PM, inside the former grocery at 210 Hancock Street. As Jason at Ithaca Builds noted a few months back, this will likely be the largest development on the north side since the 1950s.

Here’s why your opinion is important. The site has walking access to many local venues, affordable housing is in very high demand, and the site as it currently stands is underutilized and an easy target for vandalism. INHS is looking to avoid a repeat of the battle that happened with Stone Quarry, and is actively engaging with the community to see what will and won’t mesh with neighbors. In theory (under zoning and given some assumptions), the site could host nearly 200 units of housing.  The city has already expressed a strong preference for an owner-occupied housing component, and the city comprehensive plan supports some small-scale commercial uses at the site, with higher-density residential. There have even been reports that the Sciencenter is interested in playing a role. So that’s the sort of framework here; how much housing, what proportion of renters vs. owners, and what sort of mixed uses if any.

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2. Well, this isn’t good – according to the Ithaca Journal, recent findings by Unchained Properties, the developer for the Chain Works District (a.k.a. the Emerson redevelopment), suggest the site is even more contaminated than previously thought. While the developer has said it remains committed to the project, I dread an Ithaca Gun repeat, where continually-worse pollution causes the project to grind to a standstill. According to the purchase agreement that Unchained Properties has with Emerson (which although it closed up shop in 2010, still owns the site), Emerson pays for all the remediation, which I suppose they’re okay with if it means getting rid of the site from their asset lists. A draft environmental impact statement is due for submission sometime after Christmas, with several city/town/developer meetings and discussions in the meanwhile.

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3. Now, I know everyone’s been complaining – we need more more suburban GeneriMerican chain restaurant boxes with ample parking. Your prayers have been answered! This time, the newcomer is DiBella’s, a chain sub sandwich restaurant based out of Rochester with about 43 locations scattered throughout six states in the Northeast and Midwest. Dibella’s “theme” is a vague 1930s/1940s look; the one near my office is just really dimly lit, reminiscent of my dead grandmother’s living room. Snark aside, the chain is looking to build a 3,400 sq ft building on an outparcel pad property at 222 Elmira Road – just north of Five Guys, and behind the Ithaca Shopping Plaza. Follows the “real estate guidelines” on Dibella’s website near-perfectly. Cover letter here, site plan review application here, more drawings and renders here, full environmental assessment form here. The application states that the construction cost will be about $600,000 and the time frame is from February to August 2015. They’ll need a BZA variance for lot coverage, which I don’t foresee being an issue. The plan is by NYC-based Marx Realty. It’s tax money, it’s “5+/-” jobs. Meh.

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4. Some minor revisions to 114 Catherine, new renders here. Compared to the previous iteration, it has a little more detailing on the concrete base, and they changed up the panes in those corner windows. here’s the traffic plan, which kinda just states that students have access to buses, bike racks, delivery space and a little parking in the rear, and their own two feet. This one’s pretty much good to go for approval.

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5. Friday the 7th, the county has another meeting to discuss the Old Library site, this one to finalize and release the actual RFP. For those interested in going tomorrow, it’s at 3 PM in the Heyman conference room at 125 East Court Street. I have a major concern here – the final choice on developer was supposed to be in March 2015. Now it’s January 2016. The county is putting an additional strain on all the proposals, because labor and material costs are increasing. This has the potential to remove desirable features from projects, or cause developers to simply walk away. The county was very fortunate to have six expressions of interest for the site; two have already walked away. If the county doesn’t get its act together or is perceived to be acting in bad faith, the potential is there for very few or no proposals when the due date comes in March 2015. It will be a very uncomfortable day for the legislature if that happens.

6. This could be interesting – according to the Times, the Maguire family (the ones with all the car dealerships) are proposing a new set of dealerships on the site of the current Rodeway Inn, south of the city on Rte. 13. The inn is looking to move to California (claiming the hotel boom is hurting his business) and the Maguires are proposing the following moves:

>Move sales of their Subaru-Hyundai, Fiat-Alfa Romeo, and Nissan dealerships — from Elmira Road out to the new site in the town. The site is currently vacant land, and the Economy and Rodeway Inns would be removed.

>relocate its Chevrolet Cadillac dealership from Lansing to southwest Ithaca city, where a new building would be built

>renovate its Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership in front of Wegmans.

It sounds like the only place losing business is Lansing. In a blend in all that is obnoxious and trendy in today’s planning, they’re calling it an “artisanal car dealership”. You sir, get a facepalm. Apparently, artisanal here means “modern architecture and a naturesque, university-style campus”. “Naturesque”. Another facepalm. Regardless of artisanal features, the project requires relocating the town’s proposed Saponi Meadows Park, and doesn’t fit with their comprehensive plan. Any movement on this will be slow (they tell the town they’re shooting for late 2015-2016 for a start date); but when those fancy artisanal renders come up, you’ll see copies of them here.





News Tidbits 10/10/14: Waiting For That Fall Slowdown

10 10 2014

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1. Well, this should be fun and exciting. 707 East Seneca, a vacated parcel that was put up for sale by the city, already has a potential development proposed. A sketch plan is due to head to the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council this month. It’s a small piece of real estate in a historic district, neither of those details beckons development opportunities. The property was offered for sale at $175k, which is $75k above assessed value, and is zoned to allow up to 4 housing units.

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2. Some additional documentation about 114 Catherine. Cover letter here, Site plan Review drawings here, and Site Plan Review forms and documentation here. Apparently they were reusing the Dryden South SPR and forgot to update the numbers; Sharma has so many projects going they can’t keep in track. About the only difference from the old renders to these new ones is the addition of narrow windows into the brick face of the front facade, and some cute cut-and-paste vegetation. According to the docs, the new 3-unit, 17-bedroom building will cost about $500,000 to build, and has a timeline of January 2015 to July 2015 (for August move-in, presumably). This is a key detail – developer Nick Lambrou wants his project done before projects like Collegetown Crossing, 327 Eddy and others start major work; bigger demand for construction workers will drive the labor costs up, so he’s trying to get his project completed before that happens. Look at it as an appetizer before the main course arrives.

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3. Next up, a few more details on Ithaca Beer Company, courtesy of its TCIDA application. Apparently, the construction on this project is supposed to start very soon – mid-November, for a May 2015 completion. A PDZ is very encompassing, and as close to carte blanche as town zoning gets. There’s not much the town needs to sign off on. And although winter construction is difficult, the foundation can be poured during the winter, given proper precautions. The cost of construction and new equipment will be approximately $7.2 million. The total cost of tax abatement requests (property, sales and mortgage) is about $350,000, most of that being in property tax. The addition is expected to create 22 new jobs (IBC currently employs 42), of which 18 look to be living wage. IBC has received tax incentives in the past and met or exceeded its obligations; I don’t see this application causing much fuss.

4. Normally, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to Board of Public Works minutes; while important, public works aren’t exactly glamorous. But one thing caught my eye in the 9/22 minutes. It’s related to the Brindley Street bridge replacement, a one-lane bridge on a street you’d forget about if you weren’t explicitly looking for it. This line was included in the discussion of bridge options:

“Ben Weitzman has some very large plans for his parcel which is a very under
developed piece of property”

I think this is the Ben Weitsman of 132 Cherry Street? A branch of the Upstate Shredding metal scrapping company? I’m not sure if the plans are industrial or something else, there have been rumors of residential projects being considered in this area. It’s something to keep an eye on in the coming months.

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5. From the Cornell Daily Sun, looks like Cornell “Sesquicentennial Commemorative Grove” is complete. That was surprisingly quick. The formal dedication will be the Friday before Cornell’s Homecoming.