Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 5/2017

25 05 2017

For the purposes of this blog, Cayuga Meadows is essentially finished. Interior finish work, landscaping, curbing/stripping and lawn seeding have yet to be completed, but the scope of that is only a small component of the overall project. Income-qualified mature readers who are interested can send inquiries here, and the income limits can be found

As a final thought, my feelings on this project are mixed. On the one hand, affordable senior housing is a critical need in Tompkins County. 68 units for seniors on modest, often fixed incomes is a welcome addition to the local housing market. With that being said, the location leaves a lot to be desired. While it is close to Cayuga Medical Center, it is a drive to virtually everything else, and seniors will now feel compelled to incur the expense of maintaining a personal vehicle, making it less affordable than it appears on paper. Its isolated location may also leave seniors cloistered as their ability to drive degrades and they become reliant on the occasional bus service on West Hill. Conifer had their reasons to choose this site, to be sure: land costs, Cornell was accommodating, and relatively few neighbors to contend with during the review and permits process. But its remote location and conventional suburban approach is somewhat self-defeating towards its goal of affordability, and impacts the quality of life of its residents. Kinda hard to believe their ad starts with “located in the heart of Ithaca“.

Still, something is better than nothing. Kudos to Conifer for sticking with it the past few years, and to LeChase Construction for a smooth buildout.





Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 3/2017

23 03 2017

Another project is on the final stretch towards completion. Conifer LLC’s Cayuga Meadows affordable senior housing project is largely finished from the outside, with only some minor trim and landscaping left. Most of the work has transitioned to the interior, fitting out the units and finishing them out in time for their late summer occupancy. Leasing is underway. Here’s a copy of the rental ad:

Located in the heart of Ithaca, Conifer Village at Cayuga Meadows is a brand new senior apartment community offering energy efficient one and two bedroom apartments homes for individuals 55 and older. Cayuga Meadows has set aside nine units for those with disabilities and an additional three units for hearing and visually impaired. The community will offer many amenities along with breathtaking views of Cornell University and the hills of Ithaca. Occupancy by Summer 2017. 

Qualified Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee impacted residents will be given priority for the first 90 days of rent up.

That last part might seem a little odd, but it was a stipulation of their state grant funding, which was source from the Storm Recovery Act (not so much Ithaca, but the Southern Tier did receive substantial damage from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee back in 2011).

Advertised features and amenities include:

Fully equipped kitchens with Energy Star rated appliances & fixtures
Dishwasher
Elevator
Great room with kitchenette
Laundry center
Fully equipped fitness room
Computer lab
Controlled building access
Professional on-site management
24 hour emergency maintenance
GREEN building (don’t think LEED certified though)
Accessible for people with disabilities (7 for mobility impaired, 3 for visually impaired)
Ample on-site parking (72 spaces offhand)
Community vegetable garden
Easy access to public transportation

Rents will go for $779 for a 1 bedroom, 1 bath (59 units available, 654-689 SF), and $929 for a 2 bedroom, 1-2 bath unit (9 units, 905 SF). Applicants must be 55+ and be income eligible, which at 60% of area median incomes means seniors making ~$30,840/year or less for a single person, or ~$35,280/year or less for a couple. If any readers here are on the cusp and unsure, it never hurts to ask – the general inquiry email is cayugameadows@coniferllc.com.





Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 1/2017

12 01 2017

It looks like there’s been a modest deviation from the original plans for Conifer’s Cayuga Meadows project. Double-checking my notes, it looks like that instead of Certraineed Cedar “Cypress Spruce” shingle siding, they’re going with a red color – most likely “Autumn Red“. Not a big deal, and as a matter of taste, I prefer the red over the grey-green that was initially planned. It looks like some of the trim boards are going up as well. The circular vents on the gable projections are purely decorative. You can see a little bit of the Certainteed “Savannah Wicker” lap siding beginning to appear on the ground floor below the porches; that’s going to be the primary facade on the upper floors.

Most of the work has shifted inside at this point. LeChase Construction and their subcontractors probably past rough-ins, and onto things like drywall hanging and bathroom and kitchen installations. The front drive (“Aster Lane”) and curbing is in place, but the rear parking area and driveway will have to wait until the project is closer to completion. It looks like marketing for the 68 affordable senior units is going to start soon.

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Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 11/2016

30 11 2016

At the Cayuga Meadows site on West Hill, LeChase Construction has fully framed the new 68-unit apartment building. Windows and doors have been fitted into the wood stud walls. The roof looks to be pretty much complete, with the exception of trim pieces.The first floor is getting a brick veneer, and the balconies are built out but are also lacking their trim for the moment. The Tyvek waterproof housewrap will be covered over with Certainteed fiber cement “Savannah Wicker” Dutch Lap Siding and “Cypress Spruce” cedar-like shingle siding. Basically, beige and grey-green. Looks like the new access road has also been paved.

It might not be the most exciting design, but it’s one of Conifer LLC’s tried-and-proven approaches – an L-shaped structure with bumpouts, typically hosting small private balconies. One need only go a couple miles south to Conifer Village at Ithaca to see a similar example, albeit with some different material finishes. While Cayuga Meadows might not be especially unique, it does have its advantages – LeChase, who does nearly all of Conifer’s work through a partnership, has extensive experience with the design, and that familiarity should help with producing a high-quality and on-time product.

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Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 9/2016

22 09 2016

LeChase Construction is making good progress on Conifer LLC’s 68-unit Cayuga Meadows apartment project off of West Hill Drive in the town of Ithaca. The wood frame is topped out on the north side of the L-shaped building, where they’re starting to nail plywood (the decking) to the roof trusses – later they’ll be covered over with tar paper or a similar material, followed by the shingles. It also looks like they’ve started attaching a little Tyvek housewrap to the second floor of the structure. As you go southward, framing is only up to the second floor, with rough openings in the plywood for doors and windows. At the rear of the property, a trench has been dug for a new water main, which is being routed below what will be the building’s parking lot.

The apartment units, which are intended for seniors with limited incomes, are expect to be ready for occupancy next fall. More information about the project can be found here.

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Cayuga Meadows Construction Update, 7/2016

18 07 2016

Safe to say this is under construction. Work has commenced on Conifer LLC’s Cayuga Meadows affordable senior housing project on West Hill.

Cayuga Meadows is a 3-story, 58,500 SF apartment building with 68 units, 59 1-bedroom and 9 2-bedroom. The units will be available to individuals aged 55 and older, with incomes 60% or less or the Area Median Income (AMI). AMI in Tompkins County is about $53,000 per household, so a qualifying senior household would have an annual income of $31,800 or less. 7 units will be accessible to mobility-impaired individuals, and 3 units will be designed to accommodate hearing or visually-impaired occupants. Included in the plans are two covered patios, a community garden, and stormwater, lighting and landscaping improvements. 67 parking spaces will be paved behind the building.

The history of Cayuga Meadows goes back a few years, and has its share of twists. Originally, the project had been conceived as “Conifer West Hill” in 2009 as a component to a Cornell-led mixed-use development on about 36 acres of land across from Cayuga Medical Center. Rochester-based Conifer’s part in the plan has always been the same – affordable housing for seniors. But Cornell had other plans for the rest of the acreage.

In Spring 2010, there were three different site plans being floated – the consistent components were Conifer’s project, a 68-bed assisted living facility called “Terrace at Ithaca”, medical office space, small-scale retail, 106 park-and-ride spaces, and 4,000 SF for a farmer’s market. Depending on the plan, there were townhomes, a hotel school conference center, or other institutional space for Cornell. Mixed-use, definitely, but the plans weren’t that walkable, traditional neighborhood feel that the town is looking for these days – in fact, they were fairly conventional suburban sprawl. Cornell’s approach to planning was different in the late 2000s. By good fortune, Ithaca Builds locally hosted a copy of those site plans here.

For a combination of reasons (financial feasibility, changing priorities), Cornell ended up shelving its plans. However, it would be incorrect to say the university isn’t still interested in the site – they recently bought the house at 1250 Trumansburg Road, whose property had been awkwardly carved out of the rest of the site in a subdivision long ago. In the 2010 plans, Cornell had to plan around the house, not to mention worry about the occupants complaining about Cornell’s plans. So when it came on the market and sat for a couple months, the Big Red decided to pick it up in June for $157,000, probably on the belief that it could pay off through easier site planning and development down the line.

While Cornell filed away their plans, Conifer continued with theirs since the university was still willing to give them land as long as they built affordable housing. Originally, it was conceived as 72 units when it first received preliminary approval in April 2012, but was trimmed to 68 when final approval was granted in November 2013, in order to make the project a little less expensive, and provide a little more space to the community garden. Between preliminary and final approval, Conifer also had to apply for rezoning (Medium-Density Residential to Multiple Residence in May 2012), zoning variances (June 2012, for height and building setbacks), and public works approval for utilities services to be installed.

Then came another few years’ wait while financing was being secured. As covered on the Voice, affordable housing grants are very competitive, so it often takes multiple rounds of applications before a project is finally given grant money. In Conifer’s case, the last piece of the puzzle, tax-exempt bonds, didn’t come through until late January 2016. Cayuga Meadows is a $14.9 million project – about $8.3 million comes from NYS Housing Finance Agency bonds, and another $6.3 million from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. First Niagara Bank provided the Letter of Credit for the bonds. The project will pay taxes.

With the funding in hand, Cornell and Conifer formally agreed to a subdivision of Cornell’s land – 4.9 acres for the senior housing, and another acre for the Right-Of-Way for the new road. Cornell and Conifer had to agree on a few choices for new road names, which they submitted to Ithaca’s Codes Enforcement Director (Bruce Bates), who checks with the county to make sure there are no issues with the choices, and then the three parties agree on a final selection. Cayuga Meadows’ address will be “108 Aster Lane”.

There’s yet to be a color render hosted online, but the exterior will use fiber cement siding – Certainteed “Savannah Wicker” Dutch Lap Siding and “Cypress Spruce” cedar-like shingle siding. For the sake of examples, the Belle Sherman Cottages and Stone Quarry Apartments have also used Savannah Wicker fiber cement. The roof will be Timberline “Weathered Wood” shingles.

At the project site right now, work is underway on the foundation. The building’s footprint has been cleared, the foundation is excavated, and footers are poured for where the concrete will transfer the weight into the ground. Wooden forms are built along the perimeter for the stem walls, rebar is laid for reinforcement of the concrete, and the concrete is poured and left to harden (cured). Once the concrete has had a chance to harden, the forms are lifted off and work moves onto the next section. The building will be a slab-on-grade foundation, so no worries about excavating a basement here.

As a side note, it seems fitting that the residents with east-facing windows will have some pretty fantastic views of Cornell.

Through a joint venture with Conifer, LeChase Construction of Rochester will be serving as general contractor. The excavating has been subcontracted out to Neally-DeJong Excavating of Corning, and concrete work to Architectural Concrete Plus of Dundee (Yates County, northwest of Watkins Glen). Thanks to “Drill Deep” for the clarification.

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News Tidbits 6/6/15: I Give This Week A Frowny Face

6 06 2015

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1. I’m thinking there is a genuine lull in the pipeline at the moment. The city’s projects memo, which is the document that city departments receive and comment on before the actual Planning Board meeting, doesn’t have much for consideration for this upcoming month. The one projects that is being “newly” considered is the 12-unit, 26-bedroom PPM Homes proposal at 215-221 W. Spencer Street. That project is expected to receive declaration of lead agency (in other words, the planning board formally agrees to review it) at the June meeting. Being carried over from the previous months are the two duplexes for 804 E. State Street, the Tompkins Financial HQ, INHS’s 210 Hancock project and the Maguire Fiat/Chrysler expansion. None of those are up for final approval.

Smaller projects and subdivisions will often first show up in the memo ahead of the meeting, but not this month. What will be, will be.

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2. On the other end of the scale, this looks to be a busy month for the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council. Most of their agenda focuses on window repairs and other minor details, but they will be reviewing the Tompkins Financial HQ and the new drive-thru across the street. Although neither is within a historic district, I suppose it’s being reviewed for the sake of feedback and the possibility of a visual impact on the skyline as seen from historic districts.

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3. In Old Library news, a decision was expected last Tuesday…but, the decision was postponed. After committee members started sharing their differences in opinion. Pardon my cynicism, but that’s a perfect microcosm of those whole process. Frequently delayed and bound to infuriate someone come decision time.

In a perfect world, all three of those would be built in the city, because they all address different housing needs in Ithaca, and they would all likely be successful. But of course, there can only be one. We’ll find out next Tuesday morning.

4. The Ithaca town Planning Committee is verifying two things already noted in previous news round-ups. One, the 68-unit Cayuga Meadows project hopes to begin construction in the very near future, and two, the Troy Road housing project is dead.

The committee also brought up the possibility of a moratorium for certain parts of town – two areas described as having significant student populations. One is almost certainly the area of South Hill next to IC, the other is not stated (but likely has to do with Cornell). This is part of a larger conversation to keep IC students from living off-campus in student rentals. Students aren’t a protected class, so whatever extra bureaucracy or laws the town wants to adopt are technically fair game. I would imagine, however, it would much easier to do that to IC’s undergrads than the professional and doctoral students attending Cornell. Looking at the numbers, one has been increasing much more than the other, and it’s not the undergrads. This, I suspect, is where potential laws become problematic.

Anyway, the moratorium is seen as a last-ditch effort. But the possibility of it should be enough to raise eyebrows.

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5. Time for some more unhappy – the city Board of Zoning Appeals isn’t touching the 815 South Aurora Street application.  To recapitulate the salient details, local developer Todd Fox would like to build apartments on the land but can’t because the vast majority of the property is within the “fall zone” of a cell tower, which the city defines as twice the height of the tower. At 815 South Aurora, a 170′ tower creates a 340′ radius of no-man’s land (outer circle above), making the parcel virtually undevelopable. Fox had two private engineering companies (TAITEM Engineering and Spec Consulting) analysis the case and they determined that an appropriate fall zone is the height of the tower plus 10 feet for a little wind/bounce – so 180′ total. With this info in hand, Fox is trying to get the city to refine the zoning to allow the decrease in fall zone and therefore permit the land to be open for development.

The BZA said it was acting on the city attorney’s advice that the committee can’t override a council-approved law. Which means that Noah Demarest, the architect appearing on behalf of Todd Fox, will either have to go to the Council to have the law amended, or he and Fox will have to go through a full sketch plan and review process, and apply for an area variance for whatever firm plans they have proposed. Meeting with the BZA was seen as way to avoid having to shell out all that time and money and risk still being rejected because of the cell tower issue. There’s a risk with moving forward at this point, and it’ll depend on just how much risk the developer is willing to take on this potential project.

6. We’ll wrap up with something positive – FormIthaca, the citizen group advocating for form-based zoning, is doing their design charettes this week. I’m writing this on Thursday night since I will be doing 5-year Cornell reunion stuff on Friday, but I do plan on being in attendance Friday afternoon meeting and am looking forward to seeing/hearing what ideas the presenters have to share.

I can assure a certain town of Ithaca board member that I have a personal preference to small street setbacks, and it sure as hell isn’t because they’re “hipper”.