105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 8/2019

7 08 2019

The 12-bedroom, 16-person luxury senior home under construction at 105 Dearborn Place is substantially complete. The stone veneer is being attached to the base, and Schickel Construction is building up the porte cochere, with decks and patios soon to follow. Landscaping and paving will come at the end of construction. Also, note the heat pump on the exterior in the lower right of the third photo. The exterior finishes appear to be durable, detailed and of high quality, befitting for a high-end independent living facility. According to developer, Bridges Cornell owner Elizabeth Classen Ambrose, the new building will have a “grand opening” event later this year. Some lavish renders from the project website follow at the end of the post (I have no idea what the small structure is next to the house – a playhouse for visiting children?). Quick aside, while this blog refers to the project by its street address, Bridges staff prefer it be called “The Craftsman”.

An interesting side note, Classen Ambrose picked up the relative new (2005) single-family home at 116 Dearborn Place for $900,000 on June 6th. However, no redevelopment is planned. Apparently, some fraternities had been looking at the property, and to prevent some raucous neighbors from moving next door, she bought the property and intends to rent it out as she sees fit. It’s not uncommon to hear in the Voice comments, “if you don’t want [xyz] happening next door, buy it,” and in Classen Ambrose’s case, she did. Classen Ambrose has also joined the City Harbor development team as a project investor, and by the time this piece runs, there will be a related piece of news on the Voice’s website.

More background info about the project can be found here and here.

 





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 5/2019

24 05 2019

We’ll change up the format a bit for this post. Below is a recent email from Ithaca resident Joan Jacobs Brumberg:

I had an opportunity to talk yesterday with Elizabeth Classen Ambrose who is the organizational power behind a growing Bridges community. I wanted to find out more about Library Place interiors but we ended up spending a fascinating hour talking about The Craftsman, a new kind of Ithaca residence for the elderly resembling the group homes in Holland and Denmark.

Four things about this project — to be completed in November 2019– strike me as important for the public to know:
1. This is a new form of independent living for 16 older folks who do not want home or apartment to care for. Each individual room is lovely with private bath and fireplace, small refrigerator. I believe you bring your own furnishings, ie.,  the things you care about most.
2. No upfront payment and no lease.
3. Residents have access to special Car Share vehicles and also Bridges shuttle service if they do not drive.
4. Many amenities for the elderly: warming pool, gym, a trainer, maybe podiatrist and physical therapy. And a special add on: garden space.

I told some people my age about this facility and everyone asked “How did you learn about it?” Even if they are candidates for Library Place, my friends have older parents, relatives, and friends who are burdened with private homes or apartments that are increasingly hard to care for.

***

It came as part of an article pitch for the Voice, but since I did an article about Bridges for the Voice two years ago, I declined. The website for the new house is online, with plenty of rather sumptuous interior renders (a few embeds are below many more are on the website). The twelve bedrooms (eight single-occupancy, four double-occupancy for couples) will feature heated floors, fireplaces in some units, large-screen televisions, optional dry bar with refrigerator and hot beverage maker, and private deck or patio areas. Other planned features include an on-site fitness center, storage room, car share, spa and salon services, on-site concierge, and lush landscaping befitting a high-end independent living facility. Residents are expected to be able to go about their daily activities with little to no assistance, but cooking, cleaning and laundry are taken care of by staff. Pending “interviews” by staff for compatibility, residents may even be allowed to have their pets join them.

Schickel Construction has the house largely finished from the outside. Painting of the cedar shingles continues, and architectural detailing/trim (balconies, porch columns) is ongoing. The stone veneer has yet to be attached to the built-out cinder block basement level, but all of the windows and most of the doors have been fitted. No photos of the back side, because there was a kitchen staffer on break who was clearly uncomfortable with this shutterbug.

More background info about the project can be found here.

 





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 2/2019

26 02 2019

When you’re building a $4.2 million, 12-bedroom/16-person mansion for wealthy seniors, the material choices tend to be somewhat more upscale. At 105 Dearborn Place, over the typical Tyvek are a yellow waterproof barrier and traditional cedar shingles. These will be painted at a later time. The CMU block walls of the partially-exposed basement level will be layered over with cultured stone.

With the house fully-framed, the structural details are starting to show; along with banks of windows and shed dormers, and there are no less than five porches on the second level, four recessed and a more traditional open porch at the rear of the 10,930 SF building. Some of the architectural details will show up later (roof brackets, railings and balconies), and the porte-cochere has yet to be assembled.

A truck on site and crew in full plastic suits suggested that spray foam insulation was underway inside, so the utilities rough-ins (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) are probably in place, but drywall, cabinetry/fixtures, and flooring are not. The insulation is being applied by Hybrid Insulation Systems of Ithaca.

There don’t appear to be any promotional advertisements for the new building yet, but keep an eye out as it moves closer to completion later this year. Owner Elizabeth Classen has been quite busy in the past year, signing on as a partner in Travis Hyde Properties’ Library Place project on the 300 Block of North Cayuga Street.

More information on 105 Dearborn Place can be found here.

 





Library Place (Old Library Redevelopment) Construction Update, 2/2019

17 02 2019

I’ll admit I’ve actively avoided writing this one up because it has more twists and turns than a soap opera, and it ends up being extremely hard to follow as a result. There are over forty articles from local outlets regarding the site, and Travis Hyde Properties compiled about two dozen of the pieces it liked onto their website. The Voice has eighteen Old Library articles on file, but because of a tag mix-ups, it’s more like thirty. Here’s an attempt to distill everything into one post.

The Old Library site refers to the former Tompkins County Library, located at 310-14 North Cayuga Street. From 1967 to 2000, the library was housed there. However, once the library moved downtown in 2000, the building was used for day reporting for low-level criminal offenders, and for records storage. These were eventually relocated to other properties, and the 38,630 SF would be vacant by early 2015. However, the county didn’t like the idea of hanging onto it. Its unusual interior design (a large atrium) was difficult to adapt to other uses, inefficient from an energy standpoint, and the building’s utilities systems were running short on useful life, and would be expensive to replace. As a result, the building was declared surplus.

The idea of a Request for Expressions for Interest (RFEI), was hatched in late 2013. An RFEI is basically a prerequisite to a Request for Proposals (RFP), feeling out interest by asking for less paperwork – an RFP to RFPs in a sense. While the building was no longer useful for the county’s needs, it sits on a site close to downtown Ithaca, next to historic DeWitt Park (and in the DeWitt Park Historic District). It’s walkable, and the city’s 2013 rezoning allows up to four floors and 50 feet. The RFEI stressed mixed uses with an emphasis on senior housing, and compatibility, energy efficiency, and growth of the tax base. The hope was that someone would use the site to help the county meet its goals, though the county was unsure how it would go – an earlier RFP in 2000 garnered no interest in the property.

As luck would have it, there were six responses to the RFEI, which can be found here. Two, INHS and IAD, dropped out before an RFP went out – INHS had acquired the 210 Hancock site and decided to focus on that. The DPI condo proposal declined to respond to the county’s RFP, citing frustrations with the county’s frequent delays, and that had one of the favored proposals in the feedback I received. The other two “reader’s choices” were Cornerstone’s affordable housing plan, and Franklin Properties collaboration with STREAM Collaborative, which called for reusing the structure of the building.

By the time the RFP has been issued and responded to in April 2015, three projects were up for review – Cornerstone’s 73,600 SF 54-unit affordable housing plan (<80% AMI), Travis Hyde’s 72,500 SF, 60-unit market-rate senior apartments plan, and Franklin/STREAM’s 58,000 SF building, with 22 higher-end condominiums and medical office space. All would pay the county $925,000 for the site.

The next few months were not enjoyable. The Cornerstone project asked for a PILOT tax agreement and lost county support. That left Franklin and Travis Hyde and Franklin Properties. The Franklin project had strong public support. But in June 2015, the county Old Library Committee of legislators recommended the Travis Hyde project 3-2. Two legislators genuinely favored Travis Hyde, one voted in favor just to move it out of committee, one liked the Franklin proposal though expressed some unhappiness with all of them, and one thought all three proposals were outright terrible.

A week later came the full county legislature’s vote – 6-6, a hung vote with two absent. Neither proposal had the eight votes of support needed to move forward. That’s when things started to get ugly. The city’s Common Council and Planning Board submitted letters recommending the Franklin proposal, which ruffled some feathers in the legislature. One legislator was accused of an ethics violation because the Travis family donated to her congressional campaign two years earlier, and recused herself from future votes. The Old Library plan was sent back to committee, where the committee was unable to come up with an endorsement. There was a very good chance neither plan would get the required eight votes, and the county would be unable to make a decision on how to sell off a property they didn’t want. More failed votes ensued.

Finally, in early August, the Travis Hyde proposal got the nod in an 8-5 vote. There was definitely some bitterness afterwards, and an air of unscrupulous behavior. A legislator who switched his support to Travis Hyde would lose re-election to a strong advocate for the Franklin project later that year. He moved districts and into Fall Creek just as the other deciding vote retired from the Fall Creek district; there have been accusations it was orchestrated, but nothing was ever proven, and believe me, my then-editor, Jeff Stein who’s now at the Washington Post, had worked hard to find something.

For the record, this is why I have a strong aversion to RFPs. It works well when there’s one clear choice. But here, the disconnect between suburban and rural legislators, and passionate city residents, as well as all of the fighting and accusations that went with it, really created an unpleasant and rancorous experience. I dread the RFP for the NYS DOT site, which will come up in a year or two.

The project wouldn’t begin to move through municipal review until early 2016. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC), who had stated a strong preference for the Franklin proposal, was first up – there was no point in going to the planning board if the ILPC isn’t on board (and the Planning Board is generally the more accommodating of the two). The project they were first presented had 51 units, 6,500 SF of space for senior services Lifelong, community space (2,000 SF), and a modest amount of street-level commercial space (4,000 SF).

There were eight different designs that the development team submitted in an effort to satisfy the ILPC. Here’s the major ones – One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight, the final design. If you want to be picky, there are some minor revisions too, for things like facade materials tweaks. As review continued, it was decided that it would be more efficient to hold the ILPC and Planning Board meetings on the project at the same time in one group, so that one panel wouldn’t contradict the other.

After several months and several major redesigns, it wasn’t looking good. The ILPC felt that every design was simply too big and one called it “an impossible building”. County staff and officials were getting angry because they felt that the city was trying to spite them, and one planning board member’s comment was effectively “you should do what we tell you to do,” so once again, the project site was in an uncertain and acrimonious situation.

By October 2016, the plans had been modified to be 17 percent smaller, 73,400 SF with 57 units. This included a 950 SF ground-floor commercial space and a 1,900 SF community room to be administered by Lifelong, which had made the decision to stay in its building next door and not move into the new building. Some of the indoor parking was moved to an outdoor rear lot to shrink the structure further, and the fourth floor was set back from the rest of the building. This too was turned down, but there was just enough of a window for possible approval that Travis Hyde decided to give it one more shot.

Frankly, this project was hanging by a thread. Travis had informed the county that he was “bruised and battered”, but would make one last attempt. The last shot was February 2017’s meeting. The foundation of the old library would be reused in the latest design, and the third floor was pulled back from the street. It passed, 4-3. One vote essentially made all the difference. That allowed the project to move forward with environmental review SEQR) from the planning board.

This reviewed version called for 54 senior apartment units, 32 parking spaces, a 2,000 SF community room, 1,160 SF of retail, and 86,700 SF of total space, as the interior parking was now underground as part of the reused old foundation. The sale of the site was approved by the county after the project was greenlighted, in September 2017. The 3 no’s in the 11-3 vote were two Franklin proposal advocates and the legislator who said all the projects were terrible two years earlier, so points for consistency.

The actual interior layout at this point, is something of a question mark. In May 2018, it was announced that the project would be partnering with luxury senior services provider Bridges Cornell Heights on the project. As part of that, the design was updated to 67 units, though there was no change in total square footage. According to the press release, “(o)n site, there will be a restaurant, a la carte home health services from an on-site agency, a community room, courtyard gardens, workout facilities, pool and parking. The partners will also work with Lifelong to provide on-site activities and programs.” Units will be a mix of 1-3 bedrooms, market rate and available to renters 55 and older. The name of the project also changed, from “DeWitt House” to “Library Place”.

Continuing the theme of controversy with the project, by the time financing was secured for the now $17 million plan (up from $14 million in 2014), the building’s roof had become structurally unstable. The fear was that construction workers could be inside if it suddenly collapsed. An engineering report filed by Ryan Biggs/Clark Davis Engineering and Surveying in August led the city’s director of code enforcement to condemn the building. The initial demolition plan was to seal the building up and cart out the asbestos in sealed containers, a “contained” demolition. The new plan was to demolish on site with spraying to prevent airborne contaminants, a “controlled” demolition. This led to community protests, and the mayor threatened to torpedo the project unless a second engineering report was carried out by a third party engineer of the city’s choosing, with no affiliation to Travis Hyde. The second report, from Dende Engineering, confirmed the first report’s findings, so the city okayed, if somewhat begrudgingly, the new demolition plan. In response to the demolition, a neighboring couple wrapped their nearby home and rental buildings in plastic as a dramatic show of concern, which caught the attention of broadcast media.

The project is seeking a tax abatement, but the Tompkins County Industrial Development Authority (TCIDA) has yet to schedule a meeting to review the application and take a vote.

Demolition and site prep is expected to last through the winter, and construction will begin during the spring. A fall 2020 opening is anticipated. Alongside Travis Hyde Properties and Bridges Cornell Heights, the project team includes HOLT Architects for the building design (all eight of them), TWMLA for the landscape architecture, LeChase Construction as general contractor, and Hayes Strategy for marketing. Gorick Construction of Binghamton is handling the demolition, with Delta Engineers, Architects and Surveyors doing the air quality monitoring. The project website is here, as are the air quality reports.

December 9th:

January 19th:





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 11/2018

12 11 2018

Framing continues on the future 105 Dearborn Place. Being a large Craftsman-style structure, and because rough openings are sometimes covered by housewrap until it’s trimmed and stapled, it can be a bit tricky to see how the built product compares to renders – best advice is to wait until framing is complete to see if there are any design changes. Many contractors have made the switch over to ZIP Panels for sheathing, but it looks like Schickel Construction is using traditional wood sheathing with Tyvek housewrap – each has its pros and cons, so it boils down to what the builder is comfortable with given the needs and budget for a project. Housewrap would arguably offer more flexibility, but it may be a slower process overall, leaving it susceptible to wind damage if not completely fastened.

Most of the structure is wood-framed, but the basement level uses concrete masonry walls, as does the fireproof stairwell. If this were a skilled-care facility (for example, a nursing home), state code would require the whole building would need to be built of fireproof materials like gypsum. But since this is independent living, the presumption is that residents are coherent and mobile, able to recognize danger and escape to safety in the event of a fire emergency. The masonry base will be faced with a cultured stone veneer, and the upper levels will be covered with cedar shakes after the building is fully framed and wrapped. Background info and further details on the 12-bedroom/16-bed  senior living facility can be found here.

As a bonus to this post, a few photos of 109 Dearborn are included at the end. The new dormers are in and the siding is going on – cedar shakes not unlike those to be used on 105 Dearborn. It looks like the original masonry walls are being sheathed in foam insulation board. Historical note here, 109 Dearborn was a former accessory apartment and storage space being converted into a two-family home, and only the apartment portion may have been insulated. It’s a shame the new ground-floor bump-out was dropped, the first floor seems a little drab when compared to the second floor.





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 8/2018

4 08 2018

It’s no secret that people are living longer. In 2014, residents of Tompkins County could expect to live to 81.21 years, an increase of about 7% from 75.92 years in 1980. It’s also no secret that the population in general is getting older – the Cornell Population and Demographics unit estimates that Tompkins County’s population over the age of 65 has gone from 9,301 in 2000, to 14,454 in 2017, an increase of 55.4%.

From a business perspective, this creates opportunities for various forms of senior housing, housing designed to allow matured individuals to age in place. However, there are cases where specialized, skilled care may become a necessity. This can include specialty facilities like Brookdale (memory care), nursing homes like Beechtree and Cayuga Ridge, and premium personalized care options like Kendal and Bridges Cornell Heights.

Founded in 2001, Bridges Cornell Heights occupies three expansive homes in the historic Cornell Heights neighborhood north of Cornell campus – one was built new in 2005, and the other two are renovations, the last being just a few years ago on Kelvin Place. Each house has sixteen residents or less, and to be frank they could be described as a luxury retirement homes – a high degree of personalized care and a commensurate price tag.

With full occupancy and a waiting list in hand, Bridges has decided to move forward with plans for a fourth house in Cornell Heights, and the second all-new home. The property will be located on the southeast corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Dearborn Place, a small vacant field recently sub-divided from the former Palentological Research Institute next door (which is separately being renovated into a two-family home by Classen Ambrose’s husband). According to the 1928 Cornell Map, the property was once home to the neighborhood school, but the school and its building ceased to be many years ago.

Given that Cornell Heights’ century-old architecture is defined by high-end, visually unique homes, the new property is seeking the same qualifications. Rochester-based Bero Architecture, which specializes in historic design, has been retained and early drawings show an imposing 10,930 SF two-story cultured stone and cedar-shingle Craftsman-style home with 12 bedrooms (four of the bedrooms will be designed for double occupancy for couples). The landscaping will be similarly fitting and designed by Cornell landscape architecture professor Paula Horrigan. Exterior features include a porte cochere, porous driveway and courtyard parking for nine vehicles (all residents, staff are given pre-paid parking off-site at a nearby fraternity and walk over), as well as three patios, walkways and lush plantings (500+ perennials, 127-140 shrubs, and 35 trees).

Since Cornell Heights is a historic district, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission was required to sign off on any new construction visible from the outside. The design of the house changed very little from start to finish in the approvals process – Bero is good at what they do, and the ILPC was amenable to the design, though some requested tweaks were made to landscaping and parking along the way. They also requested a dated plaque to ensure no one mistakes the new build for an older structure. The project was proposed in May 2017, and approved in October, generally smooth sailing. I can remember when I did the Bridges article for the Voice, Classen Ambrose was very worried about the neighbors reacting negatively. To that credit, some of the full-time neighbors opposed the project, and it’s not often one sees a “senior living operators are converting and destroying the neighborhood” argument. But overall, the opposition was minor. The house is contextual, and the environmental impacts are fairly modest once the mitigation measures (parking off-site, new trees) are considered.

Classen Ambrose has said that the house will programmatically be a little different from the existing trio of homes in that it will be independent living instead of the enhanced assisted living employed at the other homes. That means a lower level of care – residents may receive assistance in housekeeping and cooking, but they are otherwise capable of managing their day-to-day activities. The new facility will also add at least four more staff to Bridges’ payroll, which is in the low/mid 40s and has been seeking living wage certification.

Side note, although it’s been replaced with newer videos, Mack Travis, the founder of Ithaca Rentals and renovations (now Travis Hyde Properties under his son and son-in-law) once did a testimonial in a short video extolling Bridges’ service for his family members. Now years later, Bridges will be providing services to residents of THP’s DeWitt House senior living project.

This is a high-end development where no expense is being spared. Tompkins Trust Company extended a $4.2 million loan, filed with the county on July 20th. Construction is expected to take about a year, with local firm Schickel Construction in charge of the buildout. Alongside with Bero and Horrigan, T. G. Miller P.C. did the civil engineering work for the project.

The project does include a finished basement, and it appears the site has been cleared, excavated, and concrete masonry (cinder block) walls are being assembled at present. Construction will be a traditional wood-frame approach. Note the ZIP panels on the neighbor at 109 Dearborn, as it goes from a dull 1930s office/storage space and becomes a two-family home, also designed by Bero Architects.

Pre-construction (Sep 2017 Google Street View)

August 2018

   

Drawings: