News Tidbits 4/21/2018

21 04 2018

1. Just a few things since there isn’t much on the table at the moment…a look at next week’s planing board agenda.

I. Agenda Review 6:00

II. Privilege of the Floor 6:05

III. A. City Centre, 301 East State Street – Consideration of Project Changes and Conditions 6:20

The blog has touched on this previously, and it can also be seen by hawk-eyed passerby or webcam visitors. While the general massing and materials are staying the same, there are some pretty substantial changes to interior and exterior details, including significant revisions to site layout, landscaping and fenestration. New materials are also being deployed, though these are designed to look similar to the initially-approved materials.

B. Hilton Canopy Hotel, 115 Seneca Way – Consideration of Materials Color Change 6:40

Another project seeking revisions, though these can’t be ascribed to “value engineering”. According to project representative Scott Whitham of Whitham Planning and Design, the manufacturer of the metal panels switched from Cem5 with Swiss Pearl paints to Nichiha Panels using PPG Paints, which will create some subtle color differences.

The second change is that Hilton decided they didn’t like the yellowish fiber cement panels (“Applesauce Cake”) as an accent color, so they’ve been replaced with a dark grey-brown color, “Dark Ash”. I think it’s a little more foreboding to have a group of colors that look like the embodiment of an Ithaca winter, but hey, I’m just an armchair critic. Not mentioned, but it looks like based on the elevations that some trim pieces were deleted as well, as well as a glass entry on the north elevation.

C. Retail Expansion, 744 South Meadow Street – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing 7:00

Doubt there will be too many speakers during this public hearing. Benderson’s 3,200 SF is moving along. Corrugated aluminum and a “Brazilian rain screen” on the front, Brick pier for an accent, and the usual CMU and EIFS (aka masonry and synthetic stucco) on the back half. No named tenant. From experience, Benderson doesn’t say if they have tenants. They will not respond, period, if I ask no one is lined up, but if someone is, I usually get a call back. I prefer rival DLC Management Corporation’s method of monthly press releases, to be honest.

D. Duplex, 207-209 First Street, Declaration of Lead Agency 7:20

No modifications for this small infill project on the North Side by local businessman David Barken. Should be a fairly cut-and-dry affair. More on the project here.

E. GreenStar Co-operative Market, 750/770 Cascadilla Street, Declaration and Reviews of Parts 2 and 3 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form, 7:40

Not many changes with this plan. They’ve spoken with city engineers about their traffic study, and the city would like a few more bicycle and pedestrian features, as well as a few parking spaces designated for a car-share service like Ithaca CarShare. They also want a firm plan for traffic management while construction is underway, since it’s right next to Route 13. Other than that, looks like smooth sailing.

On an additional note, GreenStar has initiated the Tompkins County IDA tax abatement request process. This was stated in the plans early on, so it’s an expected action. The City of Ithaca announced in an email that a public information session that will be held Monday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m. However, they didn’t provide any supplemental information or links in the email, and nothing appears to be in the city’s document database. Nothing on the IDA’s website yet, either.

F. The Lux, 232-236 Dryden Road, Request to omit rooftop mechanical screen.

STREAM Collaborative, the architects of the project, are requesting on behalf of the developer, Visum Development Group, to delete sections of the fiber cement screen up top. This is often met with a stern “no”, but in this case they’re trying to show through sight-line diagrams that the effect will be minimal, though I suppose from farther vantage points that can see the roof, it would still be less attractive. The board’s objective is to figure out what suffices. Not sure whether this deletion is financially motivated, or if there safety/equipment concerns with the screen.

Not to be cynical, because it’s not my money and many people work hard to make these projects happen, but it does look like there are up to three projects previously approved that are coming back before the board this month wholly or in part for value engineering, which is not a great message to send. A member of the board isn’t likely to shoot anything down regardless of its negative aesthetic or neighborhood impacts because no one wants a half-finished building. But this may lead to much longer stipulations for approval, and a more stringent Planning Board that lengthens the initial approval process.

IV. Old/New Business 8:00

A. Chainworks District FGEIS – Special Meeting in May
B. Planning Board comments on the proposal to allow the Planning Board to grant Special Permits

2. For all the Varna/Dryden readers – a developer is proposing a multi-family project in Varna, and would like to host an open house and community meeting at the Varna Community Association building Monday May 14th. Chances are, it they’re going to this much effort, it’s a sizable project. Give them (whoever it is) some benefit of the doubt. They’re not surprising people with a planning board submission, they want input first.





News Tidbits 3/31/18: A Bit of a Lull

31 03 2018

1. In Lansing, a local developer seems to have gotten the message when it comes to a small senior housing project. As reported by Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star, the latest version of Eric Goetzmann’s Lansing Meadows calls for 20 2-bedroom units ~1500 SF (square feet) each in ten buildings along a loop road, “Lansing Meadows Drive”. The project uses the entire parcel, with the eastern end set aside for a small (less than 2500 SF) neighborhood retail component.

Goetzmann is less than happy with the latest version, saying that financially it doesn’t work, but he needs to get something built to fulfill the requirements of the BJ’s tax abatement in 2011 – the senior housing component of the project has been delayed so long, the county has prepared legal action to recuperate abated taxes if Goetzmann doesn’t get the senior housing started ASAP. The answer at the last pair of meetings went from “I just want to get this done” to “We’re looking to build 12 units and if we’re successful we’re looking to build some more, which really didn’t bode well for negotiation – at this point, a low or breakeven ROI is a price Goetzmann is willing to pay over paying the county and village millions. The Planning Board is satisfied with the newest design, and a vote to approve a special permit to start construction could be as soon as April 9th. The actual construction docs would take ten weeks and the project has to go out to bid contractors, but Goetzmann is optimistic the units will be built this year.

It’s a quiet month otherwise for the village, with a cell tower and a parking lot expansion the only other things on the latest agenda.

2. Let’s take a quick look at some noteworthy sales from the past month:

The Belleayre Apartments at 702 Stewart Avenue sold for $5,434,500 on the 22nd. The seller was Sebastian Mascaro, who some readers might remember because he previously owned the Chapter House before it burnt down. The buyer was Kimball Real Estate. The 44-unit building, which retains classic Collegiate Gothic details popular when it opened in 1933, is assessed at $3.85 million. Mascaro had paid $4.25 million for the building in November 2011. Don’t expect any big changes here, but it’s evidence of the strength of the local multi-family market.

9 Dart Drive, a 4.56-acre vacant parcel in the village of Lansing, sold for $52,500 to VPA Development on March 22nd. Yes, there is something planned here – the village Board of Trustees is aware. VPA Development’s mailing address is the same as local businessman Nick Bellisario, who is building warehouses on Hall Road in Dryden, and is a partner in the Varna Tiny Timbers (The Cottages at Fall Creek) project. Zoning here is the village’s Medium Density Residentialsingle-family and two-family homes, schools and religious facilities. Zoning is one unit per 20,000 SF for a single-family home, 25,000 SF for a duplex. So in theory, perhaps 8 or 9 home lots if single-family.

3. One of the questions that makes a fairly regular appearance in the inbox – will Maplewood finish on time in July 2018? It’s a good question, one that Cornell and EdR are damn determined to give a yes answer for. To make up for weather delays and other issues, the Maplewood construction team is requesting to do interior work to as late as 10:30 PM Monday-Friday. Keep in mind, this is on top of the Saturday hours and previous workday extension (four hours, two on both sides, to 7 AM – 7 PM). The town of Ithaca, which has to approve these changes, seems amenable to it so long as no generators are operating, doors and windows are closed, and supervisory staff is present – basically, don’t disturb the neighbors.

At last check, unseasonably cold and wet weather over the past several months had led the project to fall behind, and subcontractors to move to steadier jobs elsewhere. The project has fallen as much as 25 days behind schedule. The extensions, if approved, would create an 85.5 hour construction week, manned by different crews.

Side note, the town of Ithaca hasn’t had much else to review lately – the planning board has only had two meetings out of the scheduled six so far this year. The other projects were a single-family home lot subdivision on Trumansburg Road, and renewing the approvals for New Earth Living’s 31-unit Amabel single-family ecohousing development on Five Mile Drive. I have not seen anything underway when I’ve driven by, and the website has not been updated in a while, so it’s nice to know that something is still in the works.

4. For good housekeeping – things are slow in Dryden, so slow they cancelled their monthly planning board meeting. Things are also fairly slow in the town of Lansing, where the big controversy is a plan to relocate the shooting range for Lansing Rod & Gun. The issue is that environmentalists have criticized the gun shot’s proposal for lead shot remediation, as well as saying the range is too close to Salmon Creek. The town is still reviewing documents and has yet to make a decision.

5. Recently, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council floated a Business Improvement District (BID) similar to the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. The reception was lukewarm, according to the Times’ Matt Butler. It’s not that the concept is disliked, although some smaller property owners are a bit nervous about being outvoiced by bigger players. It’s more a concern that a BID would likely be financed by a property tax surcharge, something that the county’s (and arguably, one of upstate’s) most expensive neighborhoods would rather not have to deal with. A DIA-type group may engage in security, local beautification, event planning, or other needs as the business owners as we see fit; as of now, it’s still just a hazy idea, but we’ll see what happens with it.

6. The relative quiet in the project pipeline extends to Ithaca City. At the February planning board meeting, U-Haul corporate had submitted plans for a 5-story building that, in the words of Matt Butler, “they kicked that idea to the curb….just bludgeoned the dude.” Apparently it was too much – too big, too tall, no attractive. Also, the project for 207-209 First Street is not as bad as initially feared. Both existing two-families will be renovated, but not torn down, and a new duplex would be built at the rear of the property lots. The board says it could be similar to the Aurora Street Pocket Neighborhood, and was supportive of the plan overall.

This month was one of the quietest meeting agendas I’ve seen in years – the only project up for formal review and approval was the Stewart Park Inclusive Playground, as well as updates on the Chain Works District zoning, and the City Harbor plans. City Harbor was a late addition. There is plenty in the pipeline, some of which will come forward in the next few months; just seems there’s a bit of a lull at the moment.

7. Just a reminder – meetings for the East Hill Village neighborhood-scale proposal will be held at the The Space @ Greenstar on Monday 4/9 (an update of the past several months, 4/11 (workshops for concept designs), and 4/12 (presentation of preferred concept designs and alternatives). All meetings will be 6-8 PM, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Here’s a copy of the presentation from last May’s meeting – not anything groundbreaking, but it makes it clear that Cornell’s land holding are much more patchwork than folks might realize. I suppose the owner of the East Hill Car Wash stands to make a pretty penny at some point.





Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 3/2018

21 03 2018

The Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine’s new Community Practice Service is set to open in May, and it certainly appears to be in the home stretch. Exterior finishes are underway. Atop the dark blue water-resistive barrier are rigid foam insulating panels, and what appears to be a combination of corrugated steel panels (probably Morin or a similar brand), Alucobond aluminum composite trim panels and simulated wood fiber cement boards. These materials have made or are making appearances on other recent builds as well – HOLT Architects, the designers of the new CPS Building, also incorporated corrugated metal and flat aluminum panels into 210 Hancock’s multi-story apartment block. Meanwhile, wood-like fiber cement shingles will be used as one of the finishes on The Lux apartments at 232-236 Dryden Road.

It seems a little strange that the “clips” on which the wall panels will be fastened are wood instead of steel. Perhaps since the exterior finishes are light, waterproof and will be sealed tight, it’s an acceptable choice. The frame for the rooftop mechanical screen is in place, and the flag strings suggest that the roof membrane is being laid. If you look closely enough through the windows, you can see steel interior stud walls and HVAC ducts. Compared to the renders, there only seem to be a few minor differences in materials and appearance (the corrugated metal panels, and maybe the fenestration over by the entrance).

According to HOLT’s project webpage, the $7 million project is aiming for LEED Silver Certification. Here’s the building description from their webpage (which, kudos to the HOLT website manager, because not many architects include their buildings currently underway):

“The new 11,000sf Community Practice Service Building, is a stand-alone veterinary clinic and teaching facility that will provide a real-world veterinary practice to the surrounding community.

The new building design includes a welcoming waiting area, as well as veterinary surgery, imaging, and exam rooms; procedure induction/recovery, and animal holding areas; lab and pharmacy spaces; staff and faculty offices, conference rooms, lockers, restrooms, and other support spaces.

Once complete, this building will be a beacon for pet health and wellness in the community and on campus – with the architecture exemplifying the quality of learning and client service that will happen within its walls.”





News Tidbits 3/10/18: Affordable Housing Week 2018

11 03 2018

For today, let’s take a look at the entrants competing for the city’s affordable housing funds.

The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency will be holding public hearings on Thursday 3/22 and Thursday 3/29 s part of the process to determine who will receive money from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants awarded to the city. The 28 applications, three more than last year, range from jobs training to community services to the development of affordable housing.

In aggregate, there is $2,042 million requested, and about $1.239 million available. For the sake of comparison, that’s a 60.6% funding vs. request ratio, slightly more than last year’s 58%, but less than the 83.2% ratio of 2016, and the 67% ratio in 2015. 2016’s ratio was high because of $273k in unspent money originally earmarked for the earlier INHS plan for 402 South Cayuga Street.

Roughly speaking:

Year    Request    Amount Available

2015 / $1.78m / $1.215m

2016 / $1.85m / $1.54m

2017 / $1.982m / $1.149m

2018 / $2.042m / $1.239m

Unfortunately, HUD funding is not going up – of that $1.239m, about $184k is carried over from 2017 – Finger Lakes ReUse decided to decline last year’s $50k award, as did 402 South Cayuga Street ($80k, Habitat for Humanity’s cancelled project) and Housing for School Success (~$34k). The other roughly $20k was unallocated funds. In truth, the award for 2018 is $1.055 million, while requested amounts continue to rise, and the head of HUD gets embroiled in scandal for, among several reasons, ethics issues involving HUD business dealings with his family, and trying to spend $31k on a dining set for his office.

Without discounting the value of the other applications, the focus here will be on the real estate development projects. A full rundown is provided by my Voice colleague Kelsey O’Connor here. For the record, writing about a project is neither an endorsement or opposition from this blog.

1. First, 402 South Cayuga Street. This site has had a rough history, unfortunately. It’s a small vacant lot just south of Downtown Ithaca that has had little good luck in the past several years. Five years ago, INHS originally attempted to build four units of for-sale housing on the property, but could not make it financially viable, as construction costs rose beyond what they could do within budget. Another developer proposed a market-rate plan, but the city, which owns the lot, has a strong preference for affordable for-sale housing. Habitat for Humanity also made an effort to build for-sale housing on the site, but it too saw construction costs rise beyond their capacity.

The grant application, $150,000 towards that $1.057 million project, would revive the INHS plan the planning board approved a few years ago. Two of the townhomes would sell to households making at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI, at or below $42,400/year for a single person), while the other two would sell to those making at or below 100% AMI (at or below $53,000/year), sometimes called “missing middle” housing. The funds would be used for construction and soft costs (legal paperwork, permit fees) on the two lower-priced units.

The reason why this is feasible now is that for one, the planning and design costs from 2013 have been paid off and the design is nearly the same, and two, the project will be modular instead of stick-built. INHS would partner with Cayuga Country Homes to build the four units. The units would be locked into the Community Housing Trust, and include features not in the previous plans, such as air-source heat pumps. However, the bay windows on the north and south walls have been removed from the new plans.

Breaking it down a little more, the construction cost would ring in at around $177/SF, about 10-15% less than stick-built. The three 2-bedroom units are 1190 SF and will cost about $210k to build, while the three-bedroom will be 1352 SF and cost about $239k to build (total about $870k, of which $830k is consumed by hard costs, materials and labor).

INHS will sell the 80% AMI two-bedroom at $121k, and the 80% AMI three-bedroom at $139k. The two 100% AMI units will sell at $159k. INHS will need to cover the remaining $291,000 with grants and subsidies just to break even. It is possible to build marginally cheaper, but insurers require INHS has to use contractors with at least $1 million in workplace liability coverage.

If funding were awarded later this spring, the units could be ready by April 2019. Although the construction method is different, the exterior changes are generally cosmetic – slightly different window arrangements, deleted bay windows, and porch details. It’s still at its essence four 2.5 story townhomes with ground-level rear garages and cantilevered rear decks. It is possible they could be signed off on at the staff level, but it’s more likely they would need to pay a quick visit to the planning board. The exterior changes could be reviewed and approved in one meeting.

2. The other INHS submission is titled “Scattered Site Phase 2: New Construction”. The request is for $100,000 to help cover soft costs (architectural and engineering fees) associated with the projects in the application. Calling them “scattered” is a little bit of a stretch – it’s two sites. One is 203-209 Elm Street on West Hill. That will have thirteen units, replacing twelve existing units, a count that includes 4-unit 203 Elm Street, currently vacant due to structural concerns. Six of the thirteen will be targeted to households at 50% AMI ($26,500/year for a single person), and the other seven at 60% AMI ($31,800/year). Ten of the units are one-bedrooms, and the remaining three are two-bedrooms.

The big question is the $16 million project planned for Downtown Ithaca. Although INHS cannot name the applicant, there were enough hints to figure it out with a fairly high degree of certainty. I can’t run conjecture on the Voice, but here, well, take the disclaimer that I could always be wrong. But consider the following:

From the notes in the application, we know it is:

  • In census tract one – mostly Downtown and the State Street Corridor.
  • The current site is a small commercial building.
  • It is in the CBD – Central Business District.
  • The site would host 20,000 square-feet of commercial space, and 40 housing units. The 30 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units would be set aside for those making 30-60% AMI ($15,900-$31,800/year).
  • An unknown number of units would be set aside for formerly homeless individuals or those in need of supportive housing. The current owner would provide supportive services in the first-floor of the commercial space.
  • The partner in the project has provided services for over 150 years.
  • INHS would buy the land for $750,000.

The only site that checks off all the boxes is the Salvation Army property at 150 North Albany Street. It is currently valued at $800,000, following a $100,000 bump upward last year. A back of the envelope suggests a gross square footage of 55,000 SF, plus or minus a few percent. That would put the new build at roughly the same size as Breckenridge Place (55,300 SF).

Zoning at the site is a little odd – it’s a split, CBD-60 on the southern two-thirds, and more restrictive B-2d on the northern third. CBD allows up to 60 feet in height, 100% lot coverage no parking requirement. B-2d allows four floors, 40 feet in height, and has no parking requirement if a building is more than 60% residential use – which there’s a fairly high chance this project would exceed. I’m picturing something five or more likely six stories on State, and stepping down to four on West Seneca Street. But, there’s still a chance I could be wrong, and this may isn’t the right site.

An approximate construction time frame for the mystery project appears to be October 2019 through January 2021. A sketch plan revealing the mystery partner and site is expected to be shown to the city planning board in June. SWBR Architects of Rochester is in charge of design.

3. The last one I’ll cover is the Finger Lakes ReUse expansion. Let’s preface this by saying they don’t own the site – the former grocery store turned BOCES turned eco-services non-profit entered into a purchase agreement with John Novarr in February 2014 to purchase the building for $1.25 million (below the assessment of $1.35 million), which they will do exactly five years after the agreement was signed, in February 2019. The $100,000 requested would be assistance towards the purchase of the property, freeing up their money to work on their upcoming construction projects.

As is, the site is a 17,000 SF retail building, and a 1,330 SF former garage/repair shop. Plans have been proposed for major additions – 6,500 SF of retail, 65,000 SF of office space, and 12,000 SF of supportive housing, which consists of 22 studios for low-income individuals, with emphasis on formerly homeless and/or incarcerated individuals. Welliver, INHS and TCAction have provided guidance and assistance; Welliver may be the general contractor as construction proceeds, and TCAction may manage the housing units. STREAM Collaborative is the architect.

Point of confusion – the approved plans call for a 26,100 SF, 4-story building with mixed-use retail, office and living space components, and an 8,100 SF open-air metal warehouse for reclaimed wood processing and storage. That all totals 34,200 SF, not 83,500 SF. There’s 49,300 SF that is not clearly spoken for.

The warehouse is phase one, will cost about $500,000, and be ready by Q3 2018. It will generate at least three living-wage jobs (an estimate Finger Lakes ReUse says is conservative). Phase two is funding dependent on the affordable housing component, and will provide at least six new living-wage jobs. Although NYS HCR affordable housing grants don’t typically cover commercial space, they can be applied to mixed-use structures.

The total project cost is $10.521 million. $1.89 million of the costs are covered with a NYSERDA grants, and Empire State Development has also offered a $500,000 economic development grant. Add in other grants and awards received or being pursued, and it appears that only about $3 million will be covered through loans. IURA funding an extra $100k makes the project more competitive for other grants, since FLR will have demonstrated they have more secured funds, and a higher chance of moving forward. The idealized time frame calls for a late summer 2019 construction on Phase II with completion a year later, but sit back and see what happens with applications and awards first.

 





News Tidbits 2/26/2018: One, Two, Many Tweaks

26 02 2018

1. Let’s start off with some bad news. Than Lansing Star is reporting that developer Eric Goetzmann is in serious trouble. The village of Lansing Planning Board rejected his latest request for the Lansing Meadows senior housing component, which was to build twelve units on a fraction of the lot, and leave the rest vacant. Frankly, they liked the units, but the vacant and potentially saleable lot was too much for them to overlook. To be honest, they and the village Board of Trustees have been fairly accommodating to his other requests, but this seems to be the last straw, and they let him know it.

They will consider the latest revision, but only as a major revision, not as the minor change Goetzmann had hoped for. That means it will take months to go through the procedural review and vote. Meanwhile, the IDA has initiated legal action because Goetzmann failed to hold up his end of the deal they agreed to when he received his abatement back in 2011.

Some projects are successes. Some break even, some don’t turn out as well as hoped. But as Lansing Meadows goes, this is neigh close to a disaster.

2. On a more positive note, Lansing will be considering, coincidentally, another 12-unit townhouse project. Called “Triphammer Row”, the market-rate units are planned for the vacant rear portion of a Cornell-owned parcel at 2248 North Triphammer. This blog reported on the parcel in a news roundup back in July 2016, when it went up for sale:

“Hitting the market this week is a potential opportunity for the deep-pocketed investor/developer. The property is 2248 North Triphammer Road in the village of Lansing. The sale consists of two parcels totaling 3.42 acres – a 1.53 acre parcel with a 2,728 SF M&T Bank branch built in 1992 and holding a long-term triple-net (NNN) lease; the other, an undeveloped 1.89 acre parcel to the rear that the listing notes could be developed out into 13 housing units. The price for the pair is $2,125,000.”

The plan calls for roughly 1,350 SF units with ground-floor garages. They’re intended to be marketed towards seniors looking to downsize, and young families. The developer is Robert Poprawski, who runs a small hotel group (Snooze Hotels) in metro Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Poprawski is a 2005 Cornell graduate, so there’s the likely local connection.

The planning board is supportive, but the big issue will be the driveway – they would prefer the townhomes share Sevanna Park’s driveway. That’s tricky because Sevanna Park’s road is privately owned. Not impossible to make a deal, and it would likely have the village’s benediction, but it’ll take a little while to see if a deal can be made between Sevanna Park’s HOA and Poprawski (all things considered, given that a much larger retail/office building and parking lot could be built on the combined lots, 12 more homeowners doesn’t sound like a bad option).

The village is also reporting there are development plans for the balance of the Millcroft property (the 32-acre remainder of the parcel, once intended for luxury single-family homes, has been for sale for a while), and vacant 4.56-acre 9 Dart Drive. The Ramada Inn (correction: the new extended-stay hotel proposed behind the Ramada) and Target are the only businesses interested in buying their properties from the mall’s owner, and Bon-Ton’s on deathwatch. The town’s code and planning officer notes that if it weren’t for Namdar Realty buying the mall, it would have failed, which would have forced the remaining tenants out and turned the mall into a vacant husk, to say nothing of the property tax implications.

3. Let’s shift over to Dryden. It’s been rumored for a little while that 1061 Dryden, aka the “Evergreen Townhouses”, would be trying to shift towards a smaller footprint – here’s the plan. The approved proposal calls for 36 3-bedroom units, six strings of six units. The reduced size plan still has six strings of six units, but the middle four have been reduced to two-bedroom units. The total occupancy goes from 108 to 84, and the footprints have shrunk as bit. Old render at top, new renders at middle, new site plan at bottom with new footprints in red. HOLT Architects’ design is generally the same, though I have an armchair critique with the rear flanks of the strings – a window opening would do a lot for aesthetics, if the floor plans permit.

(You can check the town’s website for docs, but some webpages have been hacked and replaced with a phishing scam, so use caution).

According to Dryden town planner Ray Burger, the developer, Lansing businessman Gary Sloan, would like to start construction this summer. That would put these units on track for an opening in time for the 2019-2020 academic year (in other words, about 12-14 month constriction timeline).

4. Another project moving forward – 118 College Avenue in Collegetown. This is a Visum proposal to replace a five-bedroom house with a 5-unit, 28-bedroom apartment building. The project was approved by the city early last year. According to the advertisements on Zillow, rents are expected to be $1,200/person, plus utilities.

I asked Visum’s Patrick Braga to confirm, and he replied that building permits would be approved “any day now”, so they’re probably looking at an August 2018 opening. With regards to a follow-up inquiry about its near-identical twin planned for 126 College Avenue, Braga replied they he does not “have any information on the status” for that project.

5. The new Greenstar West End store. Maybe coming soon. According to the news release, if the membership approves the move, the new store would be open at 750 Cascadilla Street by November 2019. The expansion would more than double their floor space, and add sixty living-wage jobs. Membership will vote on the plan next month.

The above render is courtesy of STREAM Collaborative – even without their logo, their software relies on the same pack of white Priuses, Volvos, and Touraegs to fill parking spaces (my family of mechanics would be proud I use vehicle models as a telltale attribute). The design is attractive for a big box – it has shed roofs and exposed wood trusses that give it a warmer, less industrial appearance. For the record, STREAM also did 118 College Avenue in the previous tidbit.

6. Honda of Ithaca has been sold to the Maguires for $3.5 million. The sale was recorded with the county clerk on the 20th. The acquisition means that Maguire represents just about every major vehicle make in the Ithaca area. It also drew some impassioned responses regarding customer service experiences, which given Maguire’s very visible presence, is not to be unexpected.

According to county records, the 27,558 SF dealership was built in 1985 as Cutting Motors Buick-Pontiac-GMC, and sold for $1.8 million in 2009. It was renovated and expanded in 2012; the portion closest to Elmira Road is the expansion space.

7. The Lambrou family’s latest project is coming along. Being built at 123 Eddy is a contextually-sensitive two-family home at 123 Eddy Street. While modular, the home was designed to have features respectful to its location in the East Hill Historic District – this includes a double-decker porch, roof brackets, shake siding and decorative columns and railings. The new three-bedroom units should be ready in time for the 2018-19 academic year.

8. Quick note – building permits for both the Amici House residential and head start/daycare buildings have been filed and granted by the city. The Harriet Giannellis Childcare Center’s hard costs are estimated at $1,267,479, while the 23-unit residential portion’s hard costs are estimated at $3,627,333. Welliver will be the general contractor.

9. Looks like a pretty quite planning board agenda for this month. A pair of new projects, but they’re small ones. Let’s have a look:

I. Agenda Review 6:00

II. Privilege of the Floor 6:05

III.A. Stewart Park Inclusive Playground 6:15

B. College Townhouses – Modified Site Plan approval 6:35

C. Proposed U-Haul Self-Storage Project – Sketch Plan 7:10

Although vague, this is like for the former Salvation Army property at 339 Elmira Road. U-Haul purchased the lot in January 2016 from the development group that planned and cancelled a hotel for the property. As noted on the Voice recently, there’s been a building boom in self-storage facilities lately.

The most plausible guess for this corporate-owned property is that this will likely take after the chain’s default design for self-storage facilities, with maybe some modest aesthetic differences. Not especially pretty, but the city would probably prefer that over a parking lot for U-Haul trucks.

D. Proposed duplex and parking – 207 and 209 First Street 7:30

207 and 209 are a pair of run-down rental two-family homes in Ithaca’s Northside. After the previous owner passed away, they were sold to local businessman David Barken in June 2017. Barken previously caused a stir in Fall Creek when he bought, renovated and sold a Utica Street home for a much higher price (he said on the list-serve it wasn’t intended to be a flip, it was intended for a family member who decided to live elsewhere). Barken purchased the home for $160,000 in September 2016, and it sold for $399,500 in June 2017. He also rents out a couple other units in Fall Creek.

EDIT 3/8: Rather than a tear-down and replacement, the scope of the project appears to be that the homes would be renovated, and a new duplex would be built towards the rear of the lots. Per email after the meeting from David Barken:

“While in its beginning phases and still taking shape, I have no intention to tear down the existing homes. Instead, I plan to steadily improve these properties, working on both the exteriors and interiors as the planning phases for any future project moves forward.

Rather than de-densification, my aim is to add more fair market rate, non-student housing to the downtown market and add to urban density in our city’s core. I am designing the site for a total of 6 apartments, with an emphasis toward communal interaction, landscaping, and urban gardening. I envision a pocket community for renters, complete with the 4 renovated units in the front of the lot and an additional duplex placed in the rear of the parcel.”

IV. Old/New Business 8:00

A. Chainworks FGEIS

B. Planning Board Report Regarding the Proposed Local Historic Landmark Designation of 311 College Avenue – The Number Nine Fire Station

6. Reports 8:20

7. Approval of Minutes (1/23 and 1/30) 8:40

8. Adjournment





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.





400-404 & 406 Stewart Avenue Construction Update, 2/2018

18 02 2018

This pair appears to be coming along quite nicely. 400-404 Stewart Avenue is looking good. GAF asphalt roof shingles are being laid over the Raptor brand underlayment. The trim has been attached, with some of the ornamental board starting to go up aside the brackets. The cornice and bracket trim is to be painted grey and black, as are the gables on the dormers (I guess they do technically count as gable dormers on a mansard roof, even with the pitch as steep as it is). It has a vaguely Georgian colonial feel to it; the design is a heavy nod to the original building design from a century ago.

Most if not all of the Redland Heritage SWB brick is attached, and the overhangs have been framed and sheathed, with some underlayment applied – these will actually be finished with more expensive but historically appropriate (simulated) slate shingles. The transom windows and picture windows of the first floor retail/bar/restaurant space have been fitted, but the trim has yet to be attached. The bluestone veneer at the base is largely complete. The doors have yet to be fitted, as do the heavy brackets and ornate detailing of the first floor exterior.

Advertisements for the upstairs apartments has yet to make an appearance, but there are ads going around for the retail space (3,000 SF, $35/SF).

As for the new 406 Stewart Avenue, the mismatched rough window openings on the front facade appears to have been fixed. The recessed front porch is framed, and if I’m seeing it right, the stonework is already in place at the base. The construction crew is starting to cut out the openings from the Huber ZIP panels on the third floor. It is definitely a different interior layout than they had in mind when the renderings were presenting – there are substantial differences in the fenestration of the building’s north face.  The gable roof and dormer has yet to be framed, but if they’re aiming for a Q2 and Q3 opening, they look to be on track from a glance.