News Tidbits 3/31/19

31 03 2019

1. A couple items of note from the latest Dryden Planning Board agenda – one is a new housing subdivision called Mill Creek, but the number of lots and location is not disclosed. The other appears to be plans for a new medical office building at 2141 Dryden Road, which is currently a vacant lot near near Willow Glen Cemetery. Google Maps seems to struggle with locating the 3.3 acre lot, so the screenshot is from the county’s map. The parcel is zoned “Mixed Use Commercial” and appears to be outside the sewer service areas. This still allows for a pretty substantial building – 40 foot setback from the front, 25 feet from the rear, 7.5 feet on either side, maximum 60% lot coverage and up to 35 feet in height, which for a medical office is typically two floors (13-14′ feet per floor). Put it this way, a building built to maximum dimensions would have a gross square footage of about 86,000 SF per floor, though whatever is planned here is likely to be much less than that. Anyway, it’s something to keep an eye on as plans develop.

2. A sign of the times. The property value of the Shoppes at Ithaca Mall plunged this year, from $31 million to $19.35 million, a 38% drop. This is the result of high vacancy rates and a deteriorating long-term outlook. Downtown boosters will note with some schadenfreude that’s quite a different picture than the state of business affairs a generation ago, when downtown was in the doldrums and the mall (always in my mind the Pyramid Mall) was the center of activity.

This poses a substantial problem for the village of Lansing, but luckily, other development around the village was more than enough to offset the loss of valuation in the mall. Overall property value in the village inched up from $476.3 million to $479.5 million. Borg-Warner’s property value jumped a million dollars, and projects such as the East Pointe Apartments and Cayuga View Senior Living have also contributed to the growing property tax base.

There’s been a persistent rumor that Maguire or Guthrie are buying the mall. The short answer is some outreach was done, and no, they’re not. It’s not even possible for them to do that because Namdar’s mode of operation is to sell off the mall in sections. The long answer, with quotes, will be an article in the Voice next week.

3. When the state wants something, it can move very fast – the request for contractor bids is already out for the new proposed NYS DOT facility off of Warren Road in the town of Lansing. The bids on the $13.8 million project close April 24th. Here are the specs in brief:

“This project includes new building construction of the NYSDOT Tompkins County Sub‐Residency Building as well as site development and construction that includes asphalt concrete pavement, drainage, water & sanitary sewer work. The new NYSDOT facility will consist of office space, workshop space, truck parking and salt storage. The approximate square footage of the various structures are as follows: subresidency
maintenance building (30,000 SF), cold storage (5,000 SF), salt barn (8,200 SF), hopper building/covered lean-to (2,500 SF).

The proposed maintenance building will have vehicle storage for 10 trucks, a loader and tow plow, with one additional double depth mechanical bay and single depth, drive-thru truck washing bay. It also includes an office area (three rooms), lunch/break room (30 people), toilet/shower/locker rooms, storage rooms and mechanical/electrical rooms.

The site will also contain stockpile areas for pipe, stone and millings, and ancillary site features including a fueling station, parking for 40 vehicles, and storm water management facilities. The project will require construction of an access drive from Warren Road and the extension of utilities.”

I have not seen an updated site plan for the project. The image in last week’s Tompkins Weekly is from the SEQR Review, which is outdated. In February, a $1.5 million grant was awarded to build a refueling station closer to the airport, which has resulted in significant site plan changes to the DOT site (I’m not able to find the document offhand, but the written description stated a rotation of the main building and movement of other structures away from the residential properties to the north).

4. Word, or rather warning, to the wise. Local businessman Andrew LaVigne defrauded investors in his “Cascadilla Landing” project, to the tune of $4.6 million. Now he’ll be going to jail for 20 years, which at 66 years old, is most likely the rest of his life. So comes to an ingnomoius end to one of Ithaca’s first major projects of the decade. The 183-unit mixed-use project was proposed in the summer of 2012,  received preliminary approval that September, and did not move any further than that. Plans by local architect John Snyder included a small amount of neighborhood retail space, and covered ground-floor and outdoor surface parking. The land, owned by the Cleveland family, was sold in November 2017 and is now the site of the City Harbor development. There hasn’t been much news about City Harbor recently, but the rumor mill says that a new architect is revising the project design and site plan.

5. I accidentally dropped the ball on the Fall Creek County Office Building study. During the March PEDC meeting in which the concept was being presented, I tuned in online and had taken screenshots for my own reference, and my Voice colleague Devon Magliozzi wasin the meeting doing the official writeup. However, I never checked to see what she was covering and had assumed a big roundup. Her focus, though, was on the Lime Scooters, and it was an excellent piece, but the county office building didn’t make the news.

Anyway, the county presented about eight separate plans, seven of which had the same interpretation for the office building – a 10,500 SF that would be built to include the historic structure at 408 North Tioga in its footprint. Most of the plans differed in the amount of housing and parking, from one single family homes to three single family homes to two duplexes (two two-family units, total of four) to five townhouses. This also impacts the total amount of parking ,which ranged from 27 to 48 spaces depending on the housing footprint and whether tandem parking was used. The last plan was a proposal with no housing on-site, and selling off 408 North Tioga for an office building with an 8,400 SF footprint. All plans assumed a three-story office building plus basement, and housing designs compatible with Sears Street (1.5-2.5 floors). The mix of county occupants is still being determined, and any housing plan would likely involve an affordable housing developer like Conifer or INHS.

The county legislature is expected to get an update on the plans at their meeting on the 2nd, and make a decision on whether or not to buy the Fall Creek property at their April 16th meeting.

News Tidbits 9/26/15: Trying to Keep Tabs

26 09 2015

1. It’s rare for a substantial project to go completely under the radar from start to finish. Except that’s pretty much what happened with the following building.

Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) recently finished renovations to two of their dorms on their Dryden campus. Along with the renovation of about 41,000 SF of existing space, the two dorms were connected by a new 3-story, 10,000 SF addition designed by Ithaca’s HOLT Architects. The existing dorms sat at a 90° angle to each other, so the addition by HOLT creates a single, L-shaped structure, with the expansion holding common space and amenities. Binghamton construction firm William H. Lane Inc. handled the build-out. The image above comes courtesy of HOLT’s website.

Technically, it did come up once on the blog, but it was misinterpreted. When William H. Lane announced it was opening an Ithaca office to handle the growth in their Ithaca/Tompkins work, one of the examples given in the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin was a dormitory expansion at TC3. At the time, I had done a search for the project and filed an inquiry with TC3, but there was no response, and my search only turned up renovations underway for the main classroom building. I assumed there was a miscommunication, so…oops.

2. In real estate sales, it looks like a couple of the smaller developers were in buying mode this week. Lansing’s SDM Rentals (Scott Morgan, owner of SDM Landscaping) bought a vacant 2.93 acre parcel at approximately 455 West Dryden Road in the town of Dryden for $21,000 on the 23rd. If past behavior is any indication, Morgan will probably be looking to do rentals, likely a few townhouses on the property. Currently, Morgan is planning 8 duplexes (16 units) at 543 Asbury Road in Dryden, which may or may not have a zoning issue. Morgan is also building out on Bone Plain Road in Dryden, and owns the recently-built Meadowbrook Apartments (14 units in the form of duplex townhouses) at 393 Peruville Road in Lansing.

Meanwhile over in Danby, Chris Petrillose of Petrillose Properties picked up a 2.11 acre parcel along the 400 block of Troy Road for $34,000. Given that that area has seen a lot of scattered small-scale development (1 & 2-family homes) in the past few years, and that Petrillose finished work on duplexes in Ithaca town, a couple rental units seems likely.


3. How well was the Hotel Ithaca received? Let’s quote IJ Reporter Nick Reynolds’ Twitter:

Many sweet, way-over-my-head architecture burns thrown tonight. Let’s just say you guys aren’t getting a Hotel Ithaca update anytime soon.”

The primary complaint focus not on function but on form – according to the IJ follow-up article, materials and a dated design were dinged by board members (and comments about “LEED-certified stucco” and comparisons to the Bellagio didn’t help). NH Architecture’s portfolio tends to be the same general design, which means they’re going to have to go the extra mile on this one, or developer Hart Hotels might need to switch up their approach. Their Belhurst Castle Hotel design isn’t bad, so maybe they can channel some of that creativity into the downtown Ithaca site.

So rest assured, “Cornell PhD”, those cross-hatches aren’t making it off the drawing board anytime soon.



4. A few years ago (spring-summer 2012), the city planning board reviewed and approved a large project for the Ithaca waterfront called “Cascadilla Landing“. The three-phase, 183 unit project called for 6 units in duplexes, 11 townhouses, and the remainder to be built in 5-story apartment buildings designed by Ithaca architect John Snyder (the same gentleman behind the Carey Building addition). The first phase called for two buildings and 92 units, Buildings “C” and “D” (“C” shown above). So the project was approved and then…nothing. Never got off the ground.

However, the impending closure of Johnson’s Boatyard on Pier Road is piquing my curiosity. Now, initially it seemed highly unlikely because I thought Cascadilla Landing had never been fully approved (in fact, it received preliminary approval in September 2012 – thanks Noah). But since it was approved, all an ambitious individual would have to do is simply re-apply for approval if there are no changes to the plan (PB approval is only good for 2 years – part of the reason why Harold’s Square was back before the board last month). It’s still unlikely that the project is moving forward soon, but not impossible. A phone call to Snyder’s office and a call to Pier Road Properties (the developer as represented by accountant Andy LaVigne on the application materials) have so far not been returned.


5. Preliminary, but it’s nice to see work progressing on the Chapter house redevelopment. Voice article here. The key thing to stress here is that there are design studies, and they’ll be subject to the ILPC’s whims. It looks like making the fourth floor of the Chapter House habitable or not is something that’s still being debated, along with the plans for the still-standing 408 Stewart. It’s hard to believe that things will be ready in August 2016, given that there’s no formal application yet, and the languid pace projects like this go through the commission.

Also, it was extraordinarily difficult to get a hold of most of the relevant parties for the article. Neither architect responded, I couldn’t get a hold of city Historic Preservation Planner Bryan McCracken…thankfully, Jerry Dietz was happy to assist, and although I felt a little bad calling ILPC Chair Ed Finegan since he has no formal part in the project itself, he was a big help. Both were keen to stress the preliminary aspect of this project, which hopefully came through in the article.

But I’ve just about had it with responding back to commenters on the Facebook article.