The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 7/2018

12 07 2018

This one is in its home stretch. It’s rather striking how much the front balconies stand out, probably the result of the contrast in materials. The upper levels will use LP SmartSide white and marigold yellow fiber cement lap siding, and the lower levels are a black brick veneer (Endicott Thin Brick colored “Maganese Ironspot” with charcoal-colored mortar). The balconies use white Smart Trim and “Redwood” Allura fiber cement straight edge shingles. The architect, STREAM Collaborative’s Noah Demarest, designed the balconies to be a nod to the original appearance of the previous building on the site, the private Cascadilla School dormitory.

The second and third photos are practically a progression pic, showing that the balconies are framed in wood, walled with sheets of ZIP plywood sheathing, and then faced with the exterior materials. Some exterior finished still need to be attached, the concrete pours are ongoing for the Dryden Road entrance, and it appears the roof membrane has yet to be laid.

As far as the interior goes, the construction crews were using a front loader to lift countertops to units, so it seems likely drywall hanging and painting have been finished, and the floors may be installed but not yet finished out. Fixtures, appliances, doors and trim pieces probably have not been installed yet, though perhaps the lower-level units are further along. It’s a pretty tight deadline to get the buildings complete, with move-in day expected to be August 17th.

Outside of Maplewood, at 207 beds (I’ve presumed net gain at 140-150) this will be the largest non-Cornell project coming onto the Collegetown market this year. Given market concerns about the absorption of Maplewood units as well as the size and the timeline of Cornell’s future North Campus dorms (2000 beds, with two phases opening in 2020 and 2021) it might be the last large Collegetown project for a while. A few midsize 50-100 bed projects will likely come along in the interim, perhaps the Nines replacement, and the rumored replacement for the Chacona Block (411 College Avenue, home of Student Agencies), which is expected to head before the planning some time within the next twelve months. Novarr’s faculty/staff focused apartment buildings at 119-125 College Avenue have yet to begin construction and seem to be a big question mark. It’d be a shame if it still failed to move forward even after the resdesign to accommodate fire code changes.

According to the FAQ on The Lux’s website, units will be furnished and pets are allowed for a $150 fee. The eight parking spaces are available for rent to tenants on a first-come, first-serve basis at $200/month.  Units are $1,200-$1,300/month per bedroom, and includes access to an on-site fitness facility, rooftop terrace and hot tub, security system, sauna, game room and study room (most of those in 232 Dryden, “Lux South”). There’s no beating around the bush, this is high-end student housing, “creme of the creme” as one of my grad school professors would say.

On a final note, quick shoutout and well wishes to Visum Development VP Patrick Braga, who will be leaving his position to do a Master’s in Urban Planning at Harvard. In a world where developers and city planners often run in their own circles, it’ll be good to have someone with strong experience in both.





The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 4/2018

3 05 2018

At the site of The Lux at 232-236 Dryden Road, framing continues on the new apartment buildings. I’m under the impression that, like the Ithaka Terraces project also designed by STREAM, these are thick double-stud exterior walls. Double-stud walls are built using two sets of wood stud walls used in the exterior frame, parallel to each other but spaced apart by about 5 inches. That space is then filled (if like STREAM’s other projects) with R39 densely-packed cellulose insulation. The result has its pros and cons. The cons are that it’s more expensive to build, and it reduces the interior space a little bit. The pro is that it’s very energy efficient, which comes in handy for a project trying to achieve net-zero energy use.

On top of that appears to be wood furring strips for the cladding. I think the white panels on the north side might be boards with some kind of waterproofing? The roof on 232 Dryden appears to have had underlayment applied, but no EPDM (synthetic rubber) or similar finish yet.

The Amvic ICF will be faced with grey stucco and a black brick veneer, while the upper levels will use LP SmartSide white and marigold yellow fiber cement lap siding. The reflective material is likely insulation that’s also intended to keep out the moisture from the exterior brick.

The top floor will be finished with fiber cement panels with LP SmartTrim laid out patterned to give some visual interest to the top of the structures. The windows are Anderson 100 series units with black frames, and what will be white casings. Still rough openings in some of the walls, and the balconies are just starting to get built on the west face. 236 Dryden has yet to be fully framed, but the roof trusses are underway.

In its March email blast, the developer, local firm Visum Development group, announced that the contest to design lounge, gym and study rooms was won by two graduate architecture students from Cornell – for that, they win $2500 and will have a lounge named after them. The winning designs are here. As of February, about half of the 207 bedrooms were leased.

The project did pay a quick visit to the planning board recently to ask if they would could have permission to not screen some of the rooftop utilities – though less attractive and meant as a cost efficiency, these are less visible parts of the roof per the diagrams provided to the city. I didn’t hear any issues with it, so I assume it was deemed acceptable by the board.





The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 2/2018

19 02 2018

Things continue to move at a good clip over at “The Lux” at 232-236 Dryden Road. It looks like the insulated concrete forms (ICFs) have acquiesced to standard wood framing and ZIP panels on the upper floors. The building facing Dryden Road, 232/The Lux South, has commenced with framing of four of its five floors, and the elevator core/stairwell stands at full height (zoning only allows four floors/45 feet, but its a sloped site, so technically that bottom floor is a partially exposed basement level). 236/The Lux North has begun work on its basement level with the construction of ICFs covered with a vapor and water-resistant barrier (Resisto), and it appears that the first blocks for an elevator core/stair column are being assembled.

There might have been some internal reconfiguration. Site plan review documents noted that 232 Dryden will have 20 units and 53 bedrooms, and 236 Dryden will host 40 units and 138 bedrooms. But, a recent post on Visum’s facebook page suggests the project will have 207 bedrooms, not 191 as originally conceived. Everything appears to be on track for an August 2018 occupancy.

Even with the expected Cornell dorm additions in the next three years, the Lux’s location in inner Collegetown gives it an advantage over more remote housing options – students/parents with deep pockets will often pay more to be next to campus, while the amenities and worry-free living help seal the deal (worry-free in the sense that there’s no “deferred maintenance” to be concerned with when the units are brand new). Rents here are going for $1,200-$1,300 per bedroom, though they have a promotional running right now for 10% off rent for the first month.

It appears there was an unusual but interesting contest held by Visum that invited students to compose interior designs for the three common rooms in the complex. Registered applicants (individual or group) received floor plans and interior documents to aid in their designs, and had about eight weeks to submit their final plans (December 2nd – January 21st). The winning team gets $2,500 and a building lounge will be named in their honor. Snagged from the website and included below are some mockups of the gym, a study room and a commons space.





The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 12/2017

18 12 2017

Some progress on Visum’s latest project, “The Lux” at 232-236 Dryden Road in Collegetown. 232 Dryden, the building closer to Dryden Road, has started work on exterior framing – the partially-above grade basement level, built into the slope of the site, appears to have been framed with Amvic insulated concrete forms (ICFs), similar to those seen at the Ithaka Terraces and the Fox Blocks at the Thurston Avenue Apartments. These 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. There has been talking of making the complex net-zero energy capable, provided that the energy of an off-site solar array can be procured. STREAM, the architect of The Lux, also did the Ithaka Terraces. The exterior walls will be assembled block by block, with new pours as rows of blocks are set in place. The rebar provides additional stability. It appears the cinder block elevator core/stairwell has been assembled as well.

232 Dryden might be the more visually prominent of the two building, but it is also the smaller one – it will have 20 units and 53 bedrooms. 236 Dryden will host 40 units and 138 bedrooms.

Speaking of 236 Dryden,  Welliver has the foundation excavated, and the steel piles are in. However, judging from the steel rebar sitting on the edge of the site, the concrete pours have yet to take place, and it looks like the wooden forms are just now being built on the far side of the footprint.

Pessimistically, I could note that this is one of the few Collegetown projects that was able to move forward after the building code change that brought multiple other projects to a halt – the power lines on Dryden Road aren’t close enough for the project to infringe on the new regulations. I had heard Visum might actually pay for the burial of power lines on the 200 Block of Linden Avenue, but even if they did, they would still have to deal with NYSEG’s slow schedule.

 





The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 10/2017

23 10 2017

Continuing yesterday’s theme, here’s another one of Collegetown’s development opportunities playing out, though perhaps it was less obvious as the Linden Avenue properties – coming soon to Ithaca, 60 units with 191 beds of student housing at 232-236 Dryden Road, just east of Collegetown’s core and part of the eastern transition to the Belle Sherman neighborhood.

Once again, this is a case of Visum Development Group scouting potential opportunities at the right time and place to make something happen. Along with a large surface parking lot, the previous building on this site was a 30-unit apartment building and the former dormitory for the historic Cascadilla School, a private school with a 140-year history on the corner of Oak and Summit Avenues in Collegetown. The 4-story building once housed dorms, a dining hall and a gymnasium, but after its sale to private ownership after World War I, it was remodeled again and again, each seemingly more unsympathetic than the last. By the late 20th century, it was a grim, awkward-looking box, stripped of ornamentation and of its historic value. The previous owner, the proprietor of the Hillside Inn, had owned the property for several decades; Visum paid about triple the tax assessment ($7.65 million vs. $2.55 million) to buy the property in September.

There are two buildings to be built, totaling 84,700 SF – 232 Dryden (The Lux South) and 236 Dryden (The Lux North). This allows for different plane grades, meaning they’re different elevations. That makes it easier to blend in with the neighbors, and creates less ambiguity with height limits, something that bedeviled Visum with its 201 College Avenue project. As with 210 Linden, zoning is CR-4 – four floors, 45 feet from average grade, no parking required with a city-approved transportation demand management plan (TDMP). Usually, that means free bus passes or Carshare registrations, ample bike storage, and explaining how students can easily commute to campus by walking.

The project was proposed in March 2017 and approved by August. Overall, the changes were fairly modest. No zoning variances and little public opposition helped to create a smooth review process. The biggest change came during the design review process, and affected the Dryden Road facade – revised fenestration and the addition of shingle-style balconies. STREAM Collaborative’s intent is to give the south building a little more historical sensitivity, and the balconies are throwbacks to the Cascadilla dormitory’s long-gone shingle-style balconies.

However, given that this building will date open in 2018 and not 1898, instead of wood shingle, the balconies will use Allura “Redwood” fiber cement shinglewood pulp mixed with sand and cement, shaped for a wood-like appearance, but with the durability of concrete. Fiber cement is also more expensive to buy and install vs. materials like vinyl, which is why only more expensive or visible structures tend to use it. Other planned materials include Endicott manganese ironspot velour brick veneer, fiber cement panels with LP smart trim painted in Sherwin-Williams Pure White and Anonymous (that is the actual name), lap siding in SW Pure White and Marigold, granite grey stucco (real stucco, not DryVit), a metal canopy and Andersen windows.

The loan, for $16,354,628, was granted by S&T Bank, a regional bank based in Pennsylvania that has no retail banking presence in Ithaca, but has served as the financier for several projects, including the Holiday Inn Express that recently opened on Elmira Road, and Visum’s just-opened 201 College Avenue project. A breakdown of the costs shows the total project cost is $22,780,334. There’s $13,020,010 in hard costs (materials/labor), $7.65 million for property acquisition, $475,000 in soft costs (architect/engineering/legal), $250,000 for the demolition, and the rest is for taxes during construction and interest reserve (interest on the construction loan during construction). $650,000 (5% of the hard cost) is set aside as contingency funds just in case the expenses clock in higher than expected.

Despite the rather pretentious name and logo, it’s hard to argue the amenities don’t live up to the premise – according to the marketing website, tenants of The Lux and other Visum properties have access to a media lounge, study room, hot tub, sauna, full-service gym, game room and outdoor terrace. Tenants will have trash removal, stainless steel appliances, in-unit washer and dryer, and bike storage. I feel poor just typing this stuff out. Units are 1-5 bedrooms, with the smallest being 1 bed, 1 bath and 435 SF, and the largest being a 1693 SF, five-bedroom, five-bath. Rents will be $1200-$1300/month. Visum is running an offer that if all tenants on a lease (presumably a larger unit) can show they’re members of a registered student org, they get 10% off the first month and a $150 check will be given to their organization. Many larger Collegetown units are legacy properties among student groups (fraternity annexes, bandies, club and NCAA sports), passed down from year to year by members of the org. This may be a clever move to make next years’ renting a bit easier on Visum, whose CEO noted softening in the market this year.

A trip to the site shows caisson (steel pipe) piles have already been laid for The Lux South, and demolition is ongoing of the old apartment building on the site of The Lux North. The pipes extend down to the solid shale bedrock 46 feet below grade, according to local engineering firm Elwyn & Palmer. A deep foundation by any measure. A benefit to building in Collegetown is that the ground is much more amenable to deep foundations than the weak, water-logged soils of the West End.

 





News Tidbits 9/9/17: Shopping for Sales

9 09 2017

1. As Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star reports, the new owners of the Shoppes at Ithaca Mall (aka Pyramid Mall) are planning to roll out new tactics to counter the ongoing, nationwide retail apocalypse currently underway. Instead of leasing locations, the mall owner would like to subdivide retail spaces within the mall under a Planned Development Area (DIY zoning, in essence) so that tenants could potentially own their spaces instead of renting them, under the hope that when they own a store location, they are less likely to close it and will opt for closing rented spaces elsewhere. Because customary use-based (Euclidean) zoning is not suited for this unusual arrangement, a PDA has been suggested, and the village of Lansing seems amenable to the idea.

On a related note, another subdivision of the mall properties would open up a portion of the parking lot behind the Ramada Inn for the development of an extended-stay hotel. This would probably play out over a few years, given the time to design a project, secure a brand and ask for village review/approvals. Market-wise, it’s not implausible, since the other hotels planned, like the Canopy downtown or the Sleep Inn at 635 Elmira Road in Ithaca town, are geared towards the overnight crowd, and the overall market is growing at a sustainable pace. As long as the local economy continues its modest but steady growth, a medium-sized specialty property that opens in two or three years would probably be absorbed by the local hospitality market without too much fuss.

2. Meanwhile, over in the the town of Lansing, a couple of minor notes and some name changes. From the town of Lansing Planning Board agenda, it appears the 102-unit Cayuga Farms development is now going by the name “Cayuga Orchard”. The project, which has been stuck in red tape due to the stringent review of modular sewage treatment systems, is seeking modifications to their plans, which was summarized in the Voice here. The short story is that the project has the same number of units, but the impermeable area has been decreased and the number of bedrooms is down from about 220 to 178. That should help reduce stormwater runoff, and if the town sewer isn’t through yet, it could make the modular system more feasible.

Secondly, Cornerstone’s Lansing Commons Apartments are being rebranded as the “Lansing Trails Apartments”, which makes sense since there aren’t any “Commons” in the town, but the town center property is traversed by numerous recreational foot trails. The town has endorsed Cornerstone’s two-phase, 128-unit development plan for affordable rental housing, though the planning board did express concerns with the impact of dozens of additional school children on a property with 581a property tax breaks, which may result in a 4% increase in school taxes in the default scenario. The number could vary given the number of kids that actually live there – the board ballparked 80 for their back-of-the-envelope analysis, which given 128 units and roughly 208 bedrooms in the project, isn’t unreasonable.

3. On that note, it appears Cornerstone and NRP have applied to the county’s affordable housing funding grant for a bit of financial assistance towards their respective projects. Cornerstone is seeking funds for qualified units within the 72-unit first phase of its Lansing Trails project, and NRP is seeking funding for qualifying units within the 66-unit first phase of its Ithaca Townhomes project on West Hill. Each organization would receive $256,975, mostly in Cornell-donated funds, if approved by the county legislature. The money may be leveraged and with less needed from traditional affordable housing funds, it may make each project more appealing from a federal or state grant perspective, with demonstrated municipal interest and more “bang for the buck” on the grantor’s end.

4. The two-building apartment complex planned at 232-236 Dryden Road is one step closer to construction. According to Tompkins County records, Visum Development bought the two properties on which the project was proposed (114 Summit Avenue and 232-238 Dryden Road) for $7.65 million on Monday the 5th. The properties are only assessed at $2.55 million, but sellers tend to enjoy a hefty premium when developers have intent for their parcels.

The following day, the building loan agreement was filed. The loan, for $16,354,628, was granted by S&T Bank, a regional bank based in Pennsylvania that has no retail banking presence in Ithaca, but has served as the financier for several projects, including the Holiday Inn Express that recently opened on Elmira Road, and Visum’s just-opened 201 College Avenue project.

A breakdown of the costs shows the total project cost is $22,780,334. There’s $13,020,010 in hard costs (materials/labor), $7.65 million for the purchase, $475,000 in soft costs (architect/engineering/legal), $250,000 for the demolition, and the rest is for taxes during construction, interest reserve (interest on the construction loan during construction). $650,000 (5% of the hard cost) is set aside as contingency funds just in case the expenses clock in higher than expected.

Along with the loan, Visum and its investor appear to be putting up $6.325 million in equity. With these hefty sums, one has to be pretty certain of their investment. In Collegetown, they often are.

Visum CEO Todd Fox has previously stated construction is expected to start this month on the 191-bed apartment property, with an eye towards an August 2018 completion.

5. The Old Library property sale is official, on an 11-3 vote. Legislators Kiefer, Chock and McBean-Claiborne voted no, none of which are an big surprise since, as members of the Old Library Committee, they found something to dislike with every proposal back in 2014. If anything, the surprise might have been legislator Kelles, who while not a fan, supported the mixed-use project. Travis Hyde Properties will bring 58 senior apartments, community space administered by Lifelong senior services, and a small amount of commercial space when the building opens in 2019.

6. So this is interesting. Josh Brokaw is reporting over at Truthsayers that Cayuga Medical Center wants to move the Community Gardens off the land. That is a story being covered further by my colleagues at the Voice, but notable to this blog’s purview are two nuggets of information.

One, Guthrie and CMC had *a bidding war* for the property, which explains a couple of things. It explains why CMC paid $10 million for a property the Maguires only paid $2.75 million for, and it offers a clue as to why Guthrie purchased the neighboring Cornell warehouses. They both have had plans for that area, and working together isn’t a part of them.

Two, Park Grove Realty is involved with CMC. They’re a young Rochester-based company generating lots of news in Lansing with a lawsuit-laden 140-unit townhouse project, and they purchased the Chateau Claire apartments and renovated them into the upmarket Triphammer Apartments, which generated its own share of controversy.

Anyway, it makes the commotion down by Carpenter Business Park that much more interesting. Nothing has come public yet, but keep an eye on it.

7. On a related note, it’s not much of a physical change, but Maguire is using some of that cash windfall to officially acquire the former Bill Cooke Chevy-Olds-Caddy dealership on Lansing’s Cinema Drive. The franchise rights were transferred over ten years ago, but the property itself was still under the ownership of the Cooke family. Thursday’s sale was for $2,015,000. The 4 acres and 19,857 SF building was assesses at $1.8 million, so it appears the sale price was a fair deal for both sides.

I would be remiss not to point out that the buyer was “Maguire Family Limited Partnsership”. No LLCs cloaking this purchase like with Carpenter Business Park.

7. Now that the state has okayed the Cargill expansion, the above-ground portion of the project has to go before the Lansing planning board. The surface facilities, expected to cost $6.8 million, consist of a 10,000 SF administration building, a 2,100 SF maintenance building, a 2,600 SF hoist house, parking, landscaping and signage. A hoist house is essentially an industrial-strength engine room for operating the lift that brings people and equipment up and down from the shaft. It’s likely the primary cost contributor in the surface portion of the project.

As seen in the renders above, it’s designed for functionality rather than aesthetics, though Cargill did attempt to make the shaft building barn-like to blend in better with the farms. Construction on the above-ground structures is expected to start next year and run for about 18 months (the mine is being built from the bottom up). Although not shown in the renders, trees will be planted around the developed area to provide a green screen and help dampen noise.





201 College Avenue Construction Update, 8/2017

16 08 2017

201 College is a work in progress on the outside, but the inside is nearly complete. According to Visum Development’s Todd Fox, who happened to be at the site when the photos were taken yesterday, there are cleaning crews inside, and a certificate of occupancy is being obtained. Renters will be able to move in on Friday.

On the outside however, work is still coming along. From the looks of it, it appears all the woven bamboo siding has been attached. However, the overhead canopy has yet to be installed over the front entrance, and some of the decorative “iron ore” black metal rails and fiber cement panels (“Allura Snow White” and “Gauntlet Gray“) have yet to be clipped on over the structural metal rails. So while tenants will be able to move in for the fall semester later this week, construction on the exterior and landscaping finishes will extend into September. Similarly, the basement area, which will host the fitness room and bike storage, will need a few more weeks before it’s ready for use.

For what it’s worth, 201 College looks just like the renderings provided by its architect STREAM Collaborative, which one would think isn’t a big deal, but it is – there have been cases of developers building something that lacked details of features shown but not explicitly required in approval, which had led to consternation among the planning board and staff.

On another good note, I asked Fox how things were with neighbor Neil Golder, who led efforts to halt the project last year. Since the lawsuit failed, the two sides have been fairly amenable to each other – Fox still offered Golder solar panels on 201 to compensate for shadows, and Golder has let construction workers access his property when trying to maneuver equipment on and off site. Fox said that, in exchange for paying Golder’s water bill, he let construction crews hook up hoses from his spigots to spray down the dust and add water to the concrete.

As 201 wraps up, Fox has his eye on his other approved projects – 210 Linden Avenue, a 4-story, 36-bedroom building, has been excavated and padded (last two photos here), and is waiting on municipal permits to begin construction of the foundation. As with 201 College, William H. Lane Inc. of Binghamton will be the general contractor, and STREAM is the architect. 232-236 Dryden Road, a pair of 4-story buildings with 191 bedrooms, is due to start site prep in September. Two smaller Visum projects, for 118 College Avenue and 126 College Avenue, have no firm construction dates at this time.