118 College Avenue Construction Update, 12/2018

14 12 2018

This is another case of where the exterior of the building isn’t finished, but the interior is complete enough such that a certificate of occupancy may be issued. Visum Development has been advertising the units online, and they’re not cheap, $1200-$1300/bedroom. 118 College has 5 units, four six-bedroom and one four-bedroom unit. For that high-end price, they come fully furnished, and with washer/dryer, stainless steel appliances, microwaves, dishwashers, quartz countertops and private balconies. Wi-fi is including in the rent, and tenants can use the fitness center and media lounge at Visum’s property at 201 College at no extra cost. The units are all smoke-free, which might seem quirky to older readers, but it was already pretty common by my Cornell stint in the late 2000s. Interior photos can be found here. This one moves into the “complete” column on the Ithaca/Tompkins County project map.

The yellow fiber cement siding really makes this building pop. The basement-level is finished with stucco mixed with Sherwin-Williams (S-W) “Sawdust” paint, the first level is a combination of Belden face brick (Belcrest) and S-W “Truepenny” fiber cement clapboards, more fiber cement clapboard on the mid-section in S-W “Overjoy“, trimboards, balcony trim and window casing colored S-W “Svelte Sage”, black window frames, stucco (in S-W “Favorite Tan”) with more fiber cement trim and frieze boards on the top level, and the pyramidal roof caps will be standing seam metal, Pac-Clad “Aged Copper”.

As a related, humble opinion, the bamboo siding on 201 College is not ageing gracefully. The rain shadows just don’t reflect well for a luxury building. Also note the Lambo Huracan. 99% of the Lamborghinis I’ve seen in my life have been in architectural renders with no hope of matching such opulence in the final product. At $200k, that car is worth as much as a well appointed, local starter home.

210 Linden Avenue is, like 118 College, still finishing up on the exterior work, but further along. The landscaping won’t go in until the spring, which given the winter weather, is probably when the building will be truly complete.

All the building designs and eventual landscaping designs are courtesy of STREAM Collaborative, and the construction itself is the work of Romig General Contractors.

 





210 Linden Avenue Construction Update, 9/2018

6 10 2018

Tying into the 107 South Albany example from earlier this week, 210 Linden is not a finished building, but still certified for occpancy. My impression is that some units are ready for occupancy, but not all. Tenants of The Lux had emailed in to say that it wouldn’t be open until the Spring, and the Craigslist ads tout Spring 2019 leasing. But there are photos advertising units in the building that show the building is occupied; the front facade’s window arrangement is unique among Visum’s buildings, and can be clearly seen in this living room photo. I’m assuming that from the FedEx delivery slip and the “TOUR GUIDE POWER HOUR” are related to the residents.

That noted, if the interior is largely complete, the exterior still needs fiber cement siding on the north and south walls, painting (the charcoal grey is going on now, with light grey presumed for the panels on the top floor), trim/finish work and seeding/landscaping. TYPAR is being used for the housewrap / weather resistant barrier to keep the sheathing from getting damaged by moisture, and wood rails atop the TYPAR are used to attach both the lap siding and the panel siding. the panels look to be another change on the fly, as the original renderings called for lap siding on the top floor as well. Interestingly, the balcony treatment is largely finished and accurate to renders – wood slats on the lower levels, and steel rails on the fourth floor. Not sure if that’s for visual interest, or to accommodate building codes.





210 Linden Avenue Construction Update 7/2018

13 07 2018

Time to take a look at Visum’s smaller Collegetown projects. 210 Linden is the largest and furthest along; the city allowed them to hook up to water and sewer service this week.

Note there are some clear differences between what was originally approved, and what’s being built. The fenestration is a different layout – the top floor windows originally did not line up with the window arrangement of the other floors. Secondly, the floor-to-ceiling multi-pane treatment on the top floor’s front (east) facade has been eliminated, given a similar if slightly glassier treatment as the other three floors, which had a balcony window reduced in size. The most likely guess is value engineering – save cost, save time, especially the latter since the building needs to be open by mid-August.

The overall shape remains the same, but with these changes it’s a bit of a question mark as to the appearance of the final materials – it’s probably the same as approved, since the vertical wood rails over the sheathing indicate the LP SmartSide fiber cement lap siding is coming at some point. The sheathing is a mix of Huber plywood zip panels with its specialized tape system, and TYPAR housewrap over plywood panels courtesy of North Main Lumber, a regional lumber sales chain. Romig General Contractor is doing the build-out, and their work with Visum is arguably the first multi-family project they’ve tackled in the Ithaca area.

Although 210 Linden is too small to host much in the way of amenities (it has a garbage collection room and bike room in the basement), its 37 residents will have full access to the amenities offered in The Lux just up the street. Connecting the dots, those were probably quartz countertops in the Lux update; seems plausible the same high-end fixtures, cabinetry and appliances would be used in both.

The background info/intro to 210 Linden can be found here.





210 Linden Avenue Construction Update 4/2018

1 05 2018

Looks like the first stud walls are going up on the third floor of the four-story 210 Linden apartment project (note the basement is partially exposed). Quite a bit of progress from the excavated hole and foundation pad back in February. This is a wood-frame structure with Huber ZIP System plywood panel sheathing and, presumably if like the other Visum projects, Amvic insulated concrete forms at the basement level. ICFs are thermally insulated plastic blocks filled with concrete – they tend to be a more expensive approach, but they also tend to have a higher grade of insulation (higher R-value), making for a more energy-efficient structure, and Visum and its project architect (STREAM Collaborative) have an eye towards net-zero energy capability, meaning all energy consumed by this building comes from renewable sources. ZIP panels are an increasingly popular to the traditional plywood and housewrap method (and since the integrated water-resistive barrier on the ZIP panels is a vivid green, they’re hard to miss). The choice of ZIP panels vs. housewrap really boils down to a matter of preference by the project team; ZIP panels tend to be easier to install (lower labor cost), but more expensive as a product.

Although my October notes show that William H. Lane Inc. was the general contractor on file, it appears that Romig General Contractor is the firm on-site. Romig of Horseheads is not known locally for involvement with multi-family projects, but as partners in Jepsen Romig Development (now Jepsen Holdings Inc.), they’ve been involved with several luxury homes built around the county (Southwoods, South Pointe, etc.) and they state on their website that they’ve provided commercial services to the ScienCenter and the Cayuga Ridge supervised care facility.

Also notable is that it appears the asking price for rent on the four-bedroom units has come down a fair amount since their first advertisements in the fall, from $1250/bedroom to $950/bedroom. This may be anecdotal evidence of some slack in the Collegetown market, as Maplewood’s 872 beds enter and steadily get absorbed into the rental market mix.

Background information on the project and more renders can be found here.





210 Linden Construction Update, 2/2018

18 02 2018

So here’s some good news – 210 Linden Avenue is moving forward once again. The city’s Board of Public Works (BPW) held a special meeting on the 30th that would create a loading zone in front of 210 Linden Avenue. This is important because the new state fire code restrictions say no construction can occur along Linden since the street is no longer considered wide enough. By eliminating the parking space in front of 210 Linden and replacing it with a loading zone, it created a “wider” street since a fire crew would no longer have to worry about parked cars along the street frontage. This made it easier for the project to obtain a fire code variance from the state.

BPW is ostensibly not a fan of the arrangement, but given that the developer (Visum) was notified by the city of the change after the existing building had been torn down, they were willing to grant the loading zone given the unique circumstances.

Well, mostly unique. One other project was subject to the the same issue under very similar circumstances – Novarr-Mackesey’s 238 Linden Avenue. That project team is also asking for a loading zone during this month’s BPW meeting, and hopes to be granted a state fire code variance as well (and 210 Linden gives them reason to be optimistic). While every future project planned for Linden is now in limbo, it appears likely these two will be able to move forward.

Also in the good news category, a state fire code variance was granted for another Visum project, 118 College Avenue, under the expectation that the city and NYSEG will follow through with their plans to bury the power lines on College Avenue in the next two years. With the lines to be buried relatively soon, the state felt comfortable granting the variance for a building taller than 30 feet (118 College is just under 45 feet).

The buildings are aiming for an August 2018 completion. They are wood-framed structures, which in comparable economic circumstances, can move along faster than a concrete or steel. Even then, it’s still going to be a tight deadline for William H. Lane Inc.

A glance at Zillow shows that the basement 1-bedroom unit appears to be spoken for (the basement unit was a modification to the original plan, perhaps because many amenities will be shared with its siblings 201 College and “The Lux” at 232-236 Dryden Road), but the nine 4-bedrooms/2-bath units (1,365-1,440 SF) have not. Zillow says there are ten 4-bedroom units – that doesn’t seem correct. They are going for $4,400 apiece, or $1,100 a bedroom. That’s actually a sizable price drop from the $5,000/month they were being offered for before the fire code debacle.

 





News Tidbits 1/21/18: Twice in One Weekend

21 01 2018

1. It appears that 107 South Albany Street has had its exterior design heavily altered, even as the building is just starting framing. The old design’s flat roof and unusual stair column feature have been toned down to a pitched (gable) roof of about the same height and dimensions. According to ads on Zillow, the 1-bedroom units, which will be ready for occupancy by August 1st, will go for about $1,395/month. For the price comes a fully furnished unit with indoor bike storage, high-end appliances, tiled bath, custom cabinets and high-speed internet. Water and snow removal are included in rent, electric is not. Fairly certain Daniel Hirtler is still the architect for Stavros Stavropoulo’s latest residential project.

To be frank, I don’t know how much an exterior design can change without having to go back to the planning board – offhand, I think they can do pretty much whatever changes they like, so long as they don’t violate zoning laws or change the habitable square footage.

2. Ithaca architecture firm HOLT Architects totally revamped their website. Among the snazzy new updates was a video.

Now, there are an embarrassing number of HOLT projects I can think off the top of my head, but while watching the 1’22” film, there was one project I did not recognize at all. Above, we see two 4 or 5 story residential buildings along a waterfront – the perspective renders behind the gentlemen’s shoulder are likely all part of the same design set, and the white vehicles in the concept site plan are parked boats. It also appears TWMLA is involved as the landscape architect.

Blowing up the image gives the name “Lembeck Landing”. At first, I thought it said Lambrou Landing, and had reached out to see if it was part of City Harbor; the response was that this appears to be another project. I tried to analyze the streets, it doesn’t look like an Ithaca map, and one street may be named “Porter”. Probably not Ithaca, but someone’s getting some nice waterfront housing. Watch the video for brief shots showing the inside of CFCU’s new HQ and some selected material finishes.

Update: It’s Watkins Glen. An undeveloped parcel near its Porter Street. Thanks to Keith Eisenman for solving the mystery.

3. Let’s just touch on the waterfront real quick. City Harbor is going to be a very substantial project. The first sketch plan involved two large apartment buildings and medical space for Guthrie Clinic; Guthrie would lease its recently purchased warehouse at 770 Cascadilla Street to Greenstar for a bigger, grander co-op; and a third location that will be presented at this month’s planning board meeting. The apartment buildings will be 4 or 5 floors and had ground-level parking with large amounts of surface parking for Guthrie, something that planning board was not a fan of. The other Cascadilla industrial building, 750 Cascadilla, may come down for more parking.

On the one hand, underground parking is out of the question due to the high water table, and above ground parking structures have to contend with soil issues as well, likely leading to deep foundations and increased costs. But an asphalt sea on the city’s shores is not something that will get the board’s approval.

Still, we are potentially talking hundreds of units, as well as a substantial amount of commercial space (and perhaps jobs) with the Guthrie component and the Greenstar expansion. It may very well be that this and the Green Street Garage plan will be the big development stories for the year.

4. Cornell will not the idea of that glass “hat” die; they’re calling it a “suggestion of a future roof pavilion”. The city’s ILPC probably isn’t comfortable with that suggestion being so close to the historically-designated Arts Quad. Anyway, renovations are underway on Rand Hall into the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library. The $21.6 million project, about half of which is funded by donations, will be ready for students and staff in August 2019.

5. It sounds like the city has had just about enough with the state’s aerial apparatus fire code changes that halted much of Collegetown’s approved development projects. They’re prepared to take steps to eliminate parking on Linden because the new state law says Linden is too narrow as-is to have construction taller than 30 feet. This seems to be in addition to the power line issue. For 210 Linden, whose developer (Visum Dev. Group) specifically applied for some kind of relief, it would just be in front of the building; Todd Fox had already started work when the building codes department were notified and started enforcing the new code, which is not a good scenario.

Ithaca would prefer the state grant a broad variance (the new code has apparently been an issue across the state), and normally removing parking wouldn’t “fix” the underlying problem, but since New York State did not notify municipalities they were changing the law, they’re attempting to compromise on something that they normally would not. It might also explain why activity in Collegetown has been quiet these past few months outside of the inner core, where the streets are wider and the power lines are underground. The city is looking into how to make development work with the fire code if the state refuses to budge on code modifications. To be fair, there is tens of millions in development and its associated tax revenue that the city was expecting and that the state, in the midst of a budget crisis, is (literally?) hosing them on.

Whatever the city decided at its BPW meeting last week, it seems to have made Visum happy. They’ve started marketing 210 Linden’s units again. It’s saying there are 10 4-bedroom units, and 1 1-bedroom unit, while my notes say 9 4-bedroom units. Maybe the basement was reconfigured? Not sure.

Update: According to a Visum Rep, 210 Linden is 9 4-bedroom units and has added a basement 1-bedroom unit. So now it’s 10 units, 37 bedrooms.

 

6. Around the county, not a whole lot else on municipal agendas at the moment; one of the reasons for no update last week. Dryden town’s planning board will be looking at plans for a new warehouse next to 51 Hall Road, as well as a 5-lot subdivision at 1540 Ellis Hollow Road for Tiny Timbers, the Dryden-based modular home builder. Tiny Timbers uses the warehouse at 51 Hall Road, so it wouldn’t be a shock if the new one is purpose-built for Tiny Timber’s growing business. The town of Ithaca planning board cancelled their last meeting.

The city is fairly quiet. The planning board agenda for next week is short and mostly contains smaller submissions – the pair of infill duplexes proposed at 209 Hudson are on the agenda, with some slight design tweaks (the eyebrow windows are an interesting touch on the rear building). To the developer’s (Stavros Stavropoulo’s) credit, the units are design to accommodate families rather than students – the giveaway are the separate dining room areas, vs the eat-in kitchens one typically sees with student rentals. Senior planner Lisa Nicholas also gave written kudos for the quality exterior material choices (Hardie Board fiber cement panels, aesthetic wood timbering, stone retaining walls).

A fly in the ointment, per reader email: none of the bedrooms are legal for 2-person occupancy. They are 115 SF each; the state fire code says double occupancy must be at least 120 SF. So that would be an issue if one considers couples’ bedrooms.

The board is expected to declare itself lead agency, host a public hearing, and begin review of the SEQR forms needed before a negative declaration for adverse impacts can be declared. The 4-bedroom addition for Sophia House (111 the Knoll, Cornell Heights) is up for final approval. The proposed playground at Stewart Park is also up for discussion, with the board once again expected to declare itself lead agency, host a public hearing, and begin review of the SEQR forms.BPW is not comfortable accepted the $1.7 million playgrounds, gardens and splash pad unless Friends of Stewart Park creates a $75,000 annual maintenance fund. Lastly, City Harbor will be up for a second round sketch plan, informal discussion to obtain feedback for any future formal submission to consider.

The Nines project (311 College Avenue) is not on the board’s agenda this month. Things are up in the air, as the ILPC has chosen to pursue historic designation, even as there is an active project submission. A little awkward, certainly.

On the 30th, the Planning Board will convene for a special meeting to finalize the form-based code for the Planned Unit Development to be deployed for the Chain Works District.

According to notes from the city Planning Dept, the city approved $130 million in development in 2017. There were 29 projects with 568 housing units, 107 of which are designated affordable for lower & middle income (LMI) households. Also approved was 28,600 SF of new retail & office space. These were from a summary sheet from the planning department, and the detailed write-up will come next month.

7. On a closing note, preliminary estimates suggests that Tompkins County added an average of 1300 jobs over the 2017 calendar year, bringing the average annual job count to 65,300. The gain is just over 2.0%, comfortably above the national average of about 1.5%, but nothing that screams ‘boomtown’. Since 2007, the annual average has increased by 7,700 jobs, +13.8%. The numbers suggest that the gains are slightly better in the fall and spring (7500 – 7700 jobs) than for the summer and winter (7000 jobs), indicating that academic year seasonal jobs are growing slightly faster than the overall market.





210 Linden Construction Update, 10/2017

21 10 2017

Technically, 210 Linden Avenue has been stopped for the time being, but just for the sake of having it, here’s the project description post for future reference.

One of the intents of the Collegetown Form Districts was to encourage redevelopment in portions of Collegetown that the city saw as less desirable – the really stereotypically poor-quality housing that Cornell just called out in its state of the university address. These properties are generally unsuitable for families since most of them were purpose-built boarding houses, often with haphazard additions and renovations over the years to make the bare minimum of city building and fire code. With a captive market in Cornell students, many landlords didn’t see the need for quality because the prevailing logic was that it decreased profitability. Only during the first luxury developments of the 1980s (Fane’s Collegetown Court in 1985, Mack Travis’s Eddygate in 1986) did that really start to change, and even then, many older landlords clung to the old ideas, hesitant to change from a time-tested if ethically questionable formula.

Since then, it’s been something of a development see-saw; developers see greater profit potential, but typically they need to build big to ensure a good return on investment (balancing soft construction costs, hard construction costs, interest on construction loans and current/future taxes against the revenue from renters). A large project comes along and drives discontent from East Hill and Belle Sherman, who have long clashed with the different lifestyles of students, as well as a longstanding sense of wariness from the old-style landlords who would try to buy homes and turn them into student slums. The city places a moratorium, tweaks the zoning, process starts anew. From a municipal perspective, it’s always been a delicate balance between the substantial taxes generated from Collegetown, and quality of life issues (traffic, rowdiness).

In general, the 2014 form-hybrid zoning, which removed some parking regulations and put the focus on Collegetown’s core, has had favorable outcomes; the only real debate has been 201 College Avenue, which was a rather unique situation. 210 Linden Avenue is a textbook example of a shared goal between city and developer – the 200 block of Linden has many properties in poor condition, and the city would like redevelopment mixed among the better-maintained older houses. With that in mind, zoning is generally CR-4 – 4 floors, and no parking required as long as a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan is received and approved by city staff. New buildings wouldn’t be large or oppressive since most buildings are 2.5-4 floors on this block, and with planning board input, high quality designs would enhance the walkable environment, build the tax base, and add some housing to reduce pressure on adjacent streets. Developers in turn would have more flexibility, and removing the parking rules really opens up the possibility for new builds on Linden’s small lots.

Previously, 210 Linden was a rather ramshackle 12-bedroom apartment house. Visum Development Group (VDG), led by local businessman Todd Fox, saw a potential opportunity for a new build and established a purchase option with the then-owners, a pair of small local landlords. The redevelopment is not an especially large project, medium-sized by Collegetown standards. It is 14,400 SF with 9 units, all of which are 4-bedroom, 2-bath, for a total of 36 bedrooms. Each floor has two units, except for the partially-above grade basement, which has one unit and space for the bike room, trash room and mechanicals. The project will use electric air-source heat pumps, and be net-zero energy capable with the use of an off-site renewable energy source.

210 Linden was first proposed in November 2016. With basically no opposition, and a design that the planning board found perfectly appropriate, it sailed through the review process, and approval was granted in January 2017. In something of a rarity for city projects, no zoning variance was required. 210 Linden fits the maximum length, width and building lot coverage allowed under the Collegetown Area Form District’s CR-4 zoning, and comes in at or just under the 45-foot height maximum – the sites are sloped, and the 45′ height is defined as the average above grade plane. Exterior finishes includes stucco at basement level, a couple shades of grey fiber cement lap siding above, red doors, metal balconies and natural wood trim.

There were virtually no design changes from beginning to end – the only noticeable change was that the doors were moved from the left side of the balcony/terrace to the right. The project was a fraternal twin to another infill development Visum has planned, 126 College Avenue. One has to give credit to the architect, Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative, for being able to provide cost-efficient and well-received designs.

A frequent partner of VDG, William H. Lane Inc. of Binghamton, is the general contractor. Right now, only the demolition and foundation excavation have been completed. Once the power lines have been buried out front by NYSEG, construction of the building can begin. The intent is to have the building completed in time for Cornell’s 2018-19 academic year, which starts in late August. Elmira Savings Bank gave VDG a $3.15 million construction loan in July to complete the project.

As one might expect with new units less than two blocks from Collegetown’s core, the cost per room is not cheap. Advertisements online say $5,000/month, or $1,250 per month per bedroom. Units come with 9′ ceilings, air conditioning, internet/cable, stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, washer/dryer in-unit, balconies, and a security system, among other bullet points and exclamation points. A fitness room and other luxury amenities will be accessible to tenants at another Visum project, 232-236 Dryden Road.