Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 7/2016

18 07 2016

Just putting up a few photos of the finished product.

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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 5/2016

24 05 2016

The Boiceville Cottages are nearly complete. All of the cottages have been framed and sheathed. A set of teal-trimmed cottages are being stucco’d and are having their roofs shingled, but most of the other cottages, including a set of canary yellow-trimmed homes that had only just been sheathed in March, are nearly done (with interior finishing being the only major work left) or are already occupied.

Check out the “easter eggs” – drawings in between some of the decorative half-timbers, and builder Bruno Schickel’s personalized sidewalk slab.

The 140-unit project will finish up this summer, and after that Schickel will be turning his attentions to building out the late Jack Jensen’s Farm Pond Circle project in Lansing. For those who want to visit, the cottages are on Boiceville Road just west of Slaterville Springs.

Searching “Boiceville” in the search box on the right will give you about three years of construction updates (April 2013 looks like the first). It has been a long build-out, but there’s no other project quite like it.

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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 3/2016

21 03 2016

Some good progress has been made with the new cottages over at the Boiceville Cottages site. the cottages with the red-orange trim appear to be fully finished and occupied, while those with the blue trim have some interior finish work left before they can be rented out to tenants.

Newly risen since the last visit in January are a set of fuchsia-trimmed cottages that have been framed, sheathed, and partially stucco’d, and a fourth set of cottages that are still at the sheathing stage. Peering inside, you can see the interior stud walls and windows yet to be fitted into their openings.

That leaves a fifth and final batch of cottages that remain foundation slabs for the time being, but will likely start construction as we head through spring. Rents for the houses range from $1,095-$1,725/month, depending on the unit.

Bruno Schickel hosted congressman Tom Reed on a visit to the construction site a couple of weeks ago (more about that here and here). The $2.2 million last phase, which consists of 17 cottages, is expected to be completed this summer, bringing the total number of units on the site to 140. The cottages have been built in phases – 36 in 1996/97, 24 in 2006/07, and about 80 in multiple sub-phases since 2012.

Once the project wraps up, Schickel Construction plans to turn their attention to finishing their newly-acquired Farm Pond Circle project in Lansing.

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News Tidbits 3/19/16: A Taxing Problem

19 03 2016

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1. Apart from controversial presidential endorsement, Congressman Tom Reed paid a visit to the development community last week at the Boiceville Cottages project out in Caroline. According to Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star, the meeting was touted as an opportunity for developers, builders and contractors to express their concerns with onerous government procedures, specifically the local level.

Bruno Schickel, speaking at the event, noted that Boiceville could only have been done in Caroline because the 3,000 person town has no zoning (but they do have some type of commission that acts as a planning board). The lack of layers and conflicting comments from different interests allowed Schickel to get the latest 75-unit expansion approved in just two meetings back in 2012, something that he notes would have likely taken two years in other municipalities.

Then there’s this quote from another developer.

“After the site tour Reed spent time chatting with builders about regulations, mandates and costs that prevent some projects from ever being built.  One developer told Reed about an incident that killed a project before it even got started.

‘I tried to build a mixed use residential retail commercial building and I needed more residential units to make the economics work for lending,’ he said.  ‘I wanted six more apartments and the Town of Ithaca wanted an environmental impact statement.  the deal with these impact statements is that you pay an expert $20,000 so he can produce a 50 page report.  They look at it and read it and if they don’t like it they want to hire their own expert and they make the developer pay for it.  I backed out right away.  I pulled the plug and walked out of the meeting.'”

In case anyone was wondering, that was Evan Monkemeyer and his never built College Crossings project on the corner of 96 and East King Road. Which, to be honest, didn’t get re-approved because the window of opportunity closed as soon as the town updated its Comprehensive Plan and decided it wanted dense mixed-use. It’s an uncomfortable situation for all parties.

Obviously, there are two sides. Schickel is a very thoughtful and responsible builder/developer, but others may not be, which is why guidelines need to be in place. But, having watched the battles over affordable housing, and seeing the battles over wind and solar power now erupting in the western half of the county, it does give pause. I never thought I’d hear Black Oak investors such as County Legislator Dooley Kiefer and Caroline town board member Irene Weiser described like greedy Wall Street corporate villains, but that’s the current state of affairs. Using the same point from last week, the county can’t afford to be self-defeating, and having too many rules and regulations can keep a lot of good things, like green energy and affordable housing, from happening. The big, hotly-debated question is, where is the balance?

On a final note, the Star confirms that Schickel will finish build-out of the late Jack Jensen’s Farm Pond Circle project in Lansing, as soon as the Boiceville Cottages are finished later this year.

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2. It’s that time of the year for property re-assessment. The county gives a rundown of their process and goals for this year here. Most places handle assessment on the city/town/village level, so being that Tompkins County is solely responsible here makes it unique in the state.

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The report notes that high demand and low supply has kept sales prices on an uptick, and as those get factored into assessments, the values of property are due to go up as well. There aren’t as many sales as in the mid 2000s, but county home values are appreciating at an uncomfortably fast clip – median price went up 4.2% in just the past year, much greater than wage growth. The Voice has gotten some emails from people extremely upset that the county is doubling their land value, and there have been similar emails getting shared on neighborhood e-mail listserves, so there will probably be a story coming out on that soon.

Certain areas are facing certain challenges. For example, Collegetown’s land value is so high that it’s often worth more than the building that sits upon it, making much of the neighborhood a redevelopment target. Fall Creek is seeing home value appreciation much faster than the rest of the county, making it ground-zero for rapid gentrification. The county’s not pulling these values out of the ether; assessments are based in part on what people will pay for similar neighborhood properties. Fall Creek is walkable, centralized and a strong fit to the rustic, crunchy vibe buyers are often looking for in Ithaca. There are signs that the North Side and South Side neighborhoods are seeing similar impacts, but they’re not as noticeable because those neighborhoods were traditionally less well-off, so the gross home values aren’t as high, even if they’re appreciating at similar rates.

Out in the towns, the county feels Caroline is being under-assessed, which they hope to change in 2017, and there have been wildly high-priced sales in Ulysses that the county attributes to “excited” lakefront buyers. About the only area where the county is concerned about falling land values is Groton, where poorly-maintained properties are taking their toll on the tax base.

On the commercial end, Commons businesses and county hotels can expect a 5% assessment increase.

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3. Looks like the town of Ithaca released their annual planning board summary. Only 15 new of modified proposals were reviewed in 2015, down from 27 in 2014, and 32 and 41 in 2012 and 2011 (2013 is excluded for some reason). Nevertheless, the town’s planning department has been busy trying to translate the 2014 Comprehensive Plan into form-based zoning code, at least some of which they hope to roll out this year. A couple sources seem to have taken to referring to it as the “Ithacode”.

Also in the pipeline – reviewing Maplewood (with the city as secondary), reviewing Chain Works (with the city as primary), and possibly, Cornell rolling out plans for East Hill Village (early design concept shown above), the first phases of which are expected to be unveiled within the next year.

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4. The townhouses at 902 Dryden Road in Varna have been approved. The Dryden town board voted 4-0 to approve the project at their meeting on the 17th. The 8 new units and 26 new bedrooms should begin construction this July and be completed by June 2017. Local company Modern Living Rentals will be developing the site, and the townhouses (no updated render, sorry) are being designed by STREAM Collaborative.

Also relevant to the Varna discussion, the planning department memo notes a pre-application meeting was held for a proposal to subdivide and build 16 “small homes” at the corner of Freese Road and Dryden Road currently owned by Dryden businessman Nick Bellisario. No other information is currently available about the project.

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5. Let’s wrap this up with a look at the city of Ithaca Planning Board agenda next week. Quick reminder, the general order is: sketch plan, Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Declaration of Environmental Significance, BZA if necessary, prelim approval, final approval. Here’s the formal rundown:

Site Plan Review
A. 210 Hancock – project update, no decisions
B. 424 Dryden, rear parking lot for 5 cars – prelim and final approval
C. Hughes Hall Renovations, Cornell University – Determination of Environmental Significance, prelim and final approval
D. Ag Quad Renovations, Cornell University – Determination of Environmental Significance, prelim and final approval
E. The Cherry Artspace, 102 Cherry St. – Declaration of Lead Agency and Public Hearing

F. Sketch Plan – 301 E. State Street, the Trebloc Building.

Don’t know if this is a continuation of State Street Triangle or something else (it would be a surprise if someone could create a new plan in such a short time), but we’ll find out on Tuesday. Zoning is CBD-120, meaning commercial or mixed-use, no parking required, up to 120 feet in height.

G. Sketch Plan – 201 College Avenue

201 College Avenue sits on the corner of College Avenue and Bool Street in inner Collegetown, and is presently occupied by a well-maintained though unremarkable 12-bedroom student apartment house owned by an LLC associated with the director of a local non-profit recreational center. The property is currently assessed at $545k. Zoning for the property is Collegetown MU-1, allowing for a 5-story, 70′ tall building with no on-site parking required. A quick check of neighboring properties indicates that the owner only owns this property, so whatever is planned will likely be limited to just this house.





Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 1/2016

15 01 2016

Just a pass through Caroline to check on the latest progress at the Boiceville Cottages. At present, it looks like about six new houses have been framed out – the three furthest along (red-orange trim) are receiving their exterior stucco coats, while the three less further along (cobalt blue trim) look rather like shiny ornaments thanks to the aluminum facer on the Rmax Thermasheath polyiso insulation (previously some red-faced Atlas polyiso was used). Rigid thermal foam plastic insulation board is lightweight, easy to cut, provides decent fire and moisture protection and provides a very high degree of insulation from the elements, greatly limiting the transfer of heat outward. As compared to traditional plywood sheathing however, it’s not as strong, and because the water control is on the outside with the foam sheathing, there are limitations or extra steps that need to be taken before applying many exterior facade materials like wood or fiber cement.

The roof foam boards are covered in Feltex synthetic roof underlayment before the shingles are attached. Compared to traditional asphalt-saturated felt, the synthetic material offers greater moisture resistance, and they’re light-weight and high-strength. However, wicking, where water can be drawn up the roof and promote leaks, can be a big issue with synthetic roof underlayment, so it has to be installed correctly and carefully.

Another set of homes is still at the concrete slab and sill plate stage, but it looks like some wood stud walls will be going up shortly. Schickel Construction is aiming to have all 17 of the new units complete by the end of the summer.
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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 11/2015

9 11 2015

It looks like construction has started in earnest on the last phase of the Boiceville Cottages. All the concrete slab-on-grade foundations have been poured, with the blue exterior insulation to be covered later by a little backfill. Atop the foundations are utility connections and wood sill plates, which is where the wood stud walls will go. From a quick walk-through, it looks like rough framing and sheathing has begun on at least three of the cottages, and that all the units to be built in this final phse will be stand-along cottages. According to the Boiceville Cottages facebook page, the last septic tank was installed last week.

Without knowing too much about Caroline’s tax base, this is arguably the largest residential tax-contributor to the town, if not the largest tax-contributor to Caroline period. The current phase calls for 17 units at a cost of $2.2 million, $2,098,479 of which goes towards hard construction costs (materials/labor). The cottages are part of the 75 unit addition approved by the town of Caroline back in 2012. Altogether, those 75 units have hard construction costs of $7,477,671, according to construction loan documents filed with the county. The 2015 assessed value for the property was $10.3 million for 122 units in 2015, and that number is likely to climb a couple million higher in the next year or so.

The Boiceville Cottages began with a first phase of 24 units in 1996/1997, with a second phase of 36 units ten years later. Now, a few things have been tweaked along the way, because the build-out no longer matches the 2012 construction documents – some triplet cottage clusters on the engineer’s map have been replaced with “gatehouses” and quadruplet cottage clusters during build-out. For the longest time, I’ve been using 135 units as the total (24+36+75), but given this statement from their facebook page, it looks like the final count will actually be 140 units. The Boiceville Cottages expansion will finally wrap up its years of construction next summer.

Apart from some early concerns about site drainage, there haven’t been too many objective issues with the project. Subjectively, some love the bright colors, others can’t stand them. Heck, even Simon St. Laurent gives them a little appreciation on the “Living in Dryden” blog.

For those interested in visiting the cottages, they sit on 37.7 acres on either side of 300-334 Boiceville Road, just west of the hamlet of Slaterville Springs. Rents range from $1,050 for a studio to $1,750 for a three-bedroom gatehouse unit. Most of the units are 1 and 2-bedroom cottages, built in clusters of three, with a few “gatehouse” rowhouses that offer studios and 3-bedroom units. The cottages fall in the 850-1050 SF range.

Schickel Construction is headed by Bruno Schickel of Dryden, following in the footsteps of generations of Schickels living and building in Ithaca. In some circles, Bruno Schickel is better known as the husband of the famous columnist Amy Dickinson.

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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 9/2015

8 09 2015

Out in Caroline, work at the Boiceville Cottages siteseems to have switched gears. Since the last update in May, the blue stucco houses with teal trim have been faced with stucco and had interior and exterior finishing completed (and occupied, judging from the 20-something I saw carrying boxes into one of the houses). Work at the site is less concentrated on cottage construction at the moment, and more focused on laying out where the rest of the homes will go as the loop road circles back around to Boiceville Road/ County Rte. 114.

Three concrete slabs indicate where new cottages are likely to be built in the next few months (I feel like the blog or the Voice should do a reader poll on what colors to use next). Scattered along the rest of the undeveloped area are cleared sites with layers of dirt and gravel. These are the sub-slab bases on which future concrete slabs will be poured. Survey work was enlisted to stake out the corners of the future cottages, with poles inserted into the  to indicate the corners of the planned units. In total, there were at least a dozen bases, and over the following months they will become the next dozen or so cottages.

Schickel Construction / Schickel Rentals of Dryden is developing and building out the project. Developer Bruno Schickel’s unusual design was inspired by cottages in a storybook he read to his daughter. The construction cost of the 75-unit addition (total 135 units) is at least $7.654 million – a loan for $5.454 million was given by Tompkins Trust in April 2013, and an additional loan for $2.2 million ($2,098,479 of which goes towards hard construction costs) was granted by Tompkins Trust in April of this year. The loan granted in April funds up to 15 2-bedroom and 16 1-bedroom units, and the legal date on file for completion is May 1, 2017.

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