Ithaka Terraces Construction Update, 7/2017

21 07 2017

Some more progress on the Ithaka Terraces condo project at 215-221 West Spencer Street. Buildings “A” and “B” have had their porches built out and sheathed, with some of the decorative columns are in place (the architecture, penned by STREAM Collaborative, is supposed to take design curs from traditional Greek/Mediterranean hillside structures). The white coating visible from the uphill photos is the water-resistive barrier over which the stucco will be laid. Building “C” is framed and sheathed, but the roof isn’t fully shingled and many of the windows and doors have yet to be fitted. Long-awaited Building “D” has finally started construction, with excavation underway and some foundation forms in place. The grand central stairway is beginning to take shape. From what I was told by developer Ed Cope (PPM Homes), the model unit should be unveiled in the next few weeks.

The website has been updated to take inquiries, with unit sizes ranging from a 1,005 SF 2-bed, 2-bath, unit, to a 3-bedroom, 3-bath 1520 SF unit (3 bathrooms? For the family that hates sharing sinks and showers?). Nothing on the website states pricing, which was previously estimated in the $265k-$390k range.

Side note, I dropped by 413 West Seneca Street and 109 North Corn Street, a pair of projects Ed Cope is doing in Ithaca’s State Street corridor. Nothing to report yet.





Poet’s Landing Phase II Construction Update, 7/2017

16 07 2017

Over at the Poet’s Landing construction site, it looks like two of the buildings, previous dubbed “E” and “F” since I have no actual documentation of individual address, are pretty close to completion. “F’s” exterior work is almost complete, waiting for a few more trim pieces such as balcony and porch railings. It’s difficult to tell how far along the interior is; what looks like a gaping hole in the front at first glance, is actually a covered vestibule that leads to front doors, some of which appear to have been left open in photos seven and eight below. A typical build-out usually involves the interior being fairly far along by the time exterior trim is being attached – rough-ins complete, drywall hung, and probably the painting, utilities finish work and counters/cabinetry are underway. Building “E”, which is a little further behind on the trimwork, appeared to have some unpainted drywall visible just beyond the open front doors.

Stepping further back in the construction process, building “D” is in the midst of Certainteed vinyl siding attachment, and Building “C” has been shingled and fully wrapped in DuPont Tyvek, its balcony frames and porch columns just naked beams for now. Building “B” has yet to be fully wrapped, and “A” isn’t even fully framed yet. It looks like some of “A’s” roof trusses are sitting near Building “F”.

Although unsure offhand, if Conifer is planning to do a phased move-in, they could have Buildings “F” and “E” occupied by Labor Day, “D” and “C” before Halloween, and “B” and “A” before the end of the year. Building “F” was just getting its second story framed back in February, so another six months for “A” doesn’t seem unreasonable.

When finished, there will be 16 1-bedroom units, 24 2-bedroom units, and eight 3-bedroom units. Units will be rented to households making 60% of area median income or less, so less than $32k/year. Tenants will have an interview with management, and have to pass a background check. Given the dearth of affordable housing, not everyone interviewed and qualified will be offered a unit, but in that case, they will be offered a spot on a waiting list if desired. Those interested in units in the $10.8 million project can sign up for an “interest list” here, which will notify them as management interviews commence, giving them the chance to sign up and start the process.

So, this is something I’d like to expand on a bit, given some of the recent talk about Hamilton Square in Trumansburg. Some folks have cited Overlook at West Hill as an example of the crime and degeneracy that “these people” will bring to the village. This reminded me of the West Village piece I did for the Voice last year, where I argued successful affordable housing involves community engagement and respect, access to services, and proactive tenant management.

With any group of landlords, you have good ones, mediocre ones and bad ones. Overlook’s management leaves something to be desired, as has West Village’s. Omni Development, which manages West Village, seems to be taking a greater, more proactive role, although its history of hands-off behavior leaves many wary. Overlook is managed by Domain Companies, which is based out of New York City and New Orleans, and was developed in partnership with the Arker Companies. Back when it was proposed in 2003-04, INHS did advocate for the project during the town’s review process and obtain affordable housing loans. However, they are not and have never been Overlook’s property managers.

I can honestly say I have never heard of systemic issues with anything INHS or Conifer manages in Tompkins County. Rarely if ever is there a criminal complaint about the people who occupy Conifer’s Linderman Creek, Poet’s Landing I, The Meadows, or any of their other Tompkins County properties. That goes for the general affordable housing as well as the senior housing. I can say the same thing about INHS – through the Voice, which wouldn’t hesitate to cover crime since it drives clicks so well, there’s nothing I’ve seen about Stone Quarry’s residents being an issue, or the Henry St. John Apartments, Breckenridge Place or TowerView. I can come up with complaints for both (Conifer’s unfortunate choice of auto-centric sites with cookie-cutter units, INHS’s care-worn older stock), but neither of those has to do with tenant management.

If it were Domain/Arker or Omni pushing Hamilton Square, There would be reason for concern. But given that’s it’s INHS, mixed-market with owner occupied units, moderately sized and has convenient access to Trumansburg village, I strongly doubt management of the rentals is going to be a problem.





107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 6/2017

22 06 2017

Seems fair to move this one over into the construction column. Introducing 107 South Albany Street.

The State Street Corridor represents one of Ithaca’s best possibilities for infill development. It’s a mixed-use area with a hodge-podge of buildings and styles, from ornate century-old properties to commercial utilitarian structures. It has a number of sites that have easy access to downtown and amenities, permitting a walkable lifestyle. It’s also less expensive than downtown properties. With this in mind, the city rezoned much of it in 2013 to allow for 5-story buildings, up to 60 feet tall, with no need for parking. The zoning was a simple box overlay regardless of lot lines, which resulted in some “secret” infill opportunities like 512-514 West Green Street, whose rear yard was in the rezoned area, and as a result, owner Carmen Ciaschi was able to legally slip in a two-family home without adding additional parking.

107 South Albany Street was rezoned as a result of the 2013 overlay. The existing property was a mixed-use two-story home that had an apartment on the upper floors, and converted on the first floor to commercial office functions (law office). This presented an opportunity for the enterprising developer.

Enter Stavros (Nick) Stavropoulos. The West Hill native, whose family runs the State Street Diner, runs a small rental company, Renting Ithaca. However, Stavropoulos has slowly and steadily made his way from management to real estate development – first with additions to existing buildings like 318-320 Pleasant Street, and then entirely new properties like 514 Linn Street in 2015, and a project currently at 1001 North Aurora Street. His M.O. so far has been to find middling properties in desirable locations, and add inoffensive infill rental housing – nothing that stretches code, nothing that will anger the neighbors. Earlier projects were designed by Lucente family favorite Larry Fabbroni, but more recent projects have turned to a low-profile, longtime Ithaca architect named Daniel Hirtler, who runs Flatfield Designs. Stavropoulos picked up 107 South Albany Street for $236,000 in August 2015.

Seemingly, each project he takes on is larger than the last. 1001 North Aurora is a 4-unit project, 12 bedrooms with a hard cost of about $400,000. 107 South Albany is slated to be his latest and greatest yet. The original plan, as introduced in Spring 2016, was to build a new six-unit building at the rear of the existing house, and renovate the house into three apartment units, for one studio, six one-bedroom units, and two two-bedroom units. After a few months of planning board review and critique from the design committee, the 3,954 SF, $500,000 plan was approved and slated to start in July 2016.

However, that plan never moved forward. Instead, this past winter, Stavropoulos decided to submit a new set plans. The new plan called for eleven units and eleven bedrooms, but instead of retaining the existing house, it would be deconstructed and replaced with a new three-story, 8,427 SF building. With its neighbors including a former gas station-turned medical service and older, historic structures, the building’s design is an attempt to bridge the gap. The front sports a cornice, a brick veneer on the first floor, tan fiber cement lap siding above and a traditional window arrangement. In contrast, a stucco finish fiber cement stair tower in the middle of the structure serves as a visual interest for passerby on West State Street, and gives the building a modern touch. The building’s height is capped at 40 feet 5 inches, well below the constraints set by the zoning.

The building isn’t designed for active street use, with a recessed entry and bike storage area for privacy, and no first-floor windows on the front facade. However, in an attempt to create an attractive streetscape, the building uses lighted wall recesses on the exterior, the brick work will have decorative patterns, and a large semi-circular iron trellis that will be adorned with native twining vines. The project cost is $946,600, according to the city’s Site Plan Review document.

As of this month, Finger Lakes ReUse has deconstructed the existing house, cleaned and processed the salvaged materials, and has them for sale at their warehouse/store on Old Elmira Road. The foundation and front staircase are all that remain. The plan is to start construction on the new building in the September/October time frame, and to have it open for occupancy by summer 2018. No contractor or construction manager has been named as of yet.

From June:

From May:

Pre-development:

Isometric Plan and interior layout:

 

 





Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 6/2017

20 06 2017

Over to the Tompkins Financial HQ. The rear face is a bit strange-looking at first glance because there’s a set of steel beams projecting right next to the first layers of gypsum sheathing, so it’s not clear where the back of the building is. A look at the plans indicates that the rear steel extension outlines a future stairwell, which projects a little further back from the main body of the building. The eastern segment of the skeleton has yet to be built past the elevator core, and consequently the rest of the rear/north wall projection has yet to be erected. As the rest of the structural steel is bolted into place, that will be boxed up, decked and sheathed.

The lower floors have been sprayed with an undercoat of fireproofing, and are starting interior build-out with steel stud walls and concrete masonry units (cinder blocks). Under the safety cover, the fire-proof gypsum panels extend the full height of the building, with rough openings for future windows. Note that the top floor is set back a little bit from the lower floors, which can seen a little better in April’s update; this will be faced with a black brick veneer, while the projecting wall of the lower floors will be faced with a lighter stone. This feature was designed to make the building’s bulk a bit more subtle, and to respect the size and fenestration (window arrangement) of the DeWitt Mall next door.

Still a ways out from its March 2018 delivery date, but it looks like LeChase has things on track.





Cayuga View Senior Living Construction Update, 6/2017

17 06 2017

Figure Cayuga View can probably go under the “under/construction” column. Finally.

Cayuga View Senior Living, street address 16 Cinema Drive, is one of several Ithaca-area projects attempting to make a dent in the county’s lack of senior housing. Along with affordable housing and special needs housing, senior housing is often cited as something that the county needs a lot of more of, and soon. The county’s just-released housing strategy cites the need for 100-200 subsidized units by 2025, as well as a new skilled care facility. Various forms of senior care are expected to drive demand for an additional 750 units. A fully independent market-rate senior project like this isn’t explicitly categorized, but would potentially address some of the demand for senior housing in Tompkins County.

Cayuga View is a mixed-use 60-unit project on the last vacant high density-zoned parcel in the village of Lansing. Like many projects, the Thaler Family and their business partners have taken years to get to this point. The Thalers have owned the land since 1971, and have divided it up over the years, for example subdividing the property in 2000 to accommodate the construction of the CFCU branch next door. The first record of Cayuga View is really for an entirely different plan by the Thalers – in fall 2012, they proposed “C.U. Suites”, a 3-story, 43,000 SF building with 39 apartments geared towards Cornell graduate students. Along with those units were 26 covered parking spaces and two commercial spaces.

However, after getting approval for C.U. Suites, they decided to re-tool the project. At about this time, Taylor The Builders, a construction firm based out of Rochester, came on board as the general contractor, and it was determined that the student market angle “didn’t work very well”. In 2014, the revised plan, for “Cayuga View Senior Living” was rolled out. This was larger, 4 stories and 87,515 SF, with 59-62 apartment units depending on the iteration – Manley Thaler stated it wouldn’t be affordable or take federal funds, but he hoped to fill a niche below Kendal in the senior market.

It took some time to go through Lansing village boards, planning and zoning. Cayuga View required a number of zoning variances and reviews of its legalese to clarify the rules for a 55+ community in Lansing – namely, the boards didn’t want the project to revert to general housing, and there was debate over a 10 year stipulation vs. a 20 year or 30 year stipulation (I’ve honestly never heard of senior housing switching to general housing). One BZA person was upset by the height of the building and wanted it to be one floor less, and a planning board member was upset by the lack of parking, about 100 spaces.

After approvals for a tweaked 87,359 SF building were granted in Spring 2016, the project entered a sort of stall mode while it tried to obtain financing. Cayuga View Senior Living managed to land a construction loan earlier this year. According to a construction loan filed on May 25th, Five Star Bank of Warsaw (Wyoming County) is loaning the Thaler family and their associates $10.88 million to make their project become reality. Along with the loan, the Thalers and their business partners will be putting up $1,796,450 in equity to move the project forward, bring total costs to $12,676,450. It comes out to about $145/SF, a little less (~10%) than a comparable project in Ithaca city.

Included with the project are 12 1-bedroom, 1-bath units (725 SF), 48 2-bedroom, 2-bath units (three floor plans, 900-1,110 SF), and 2,680 SF of retail space, with preference towards coffee shops, small eateries or services like a salon or barber shop. The webpage comes with rendered 3-D tours; I dunno about you folks, but if there are two glasses of wine sitting on the kitchen counter at 10 AM, my concerns aren’t going to be about unit availability. 5% of the units will be built handicap-accessbile, but all will be handicap-adaptable.

The units will be priced upmarket, $1,550/month for a 1-bedroom, $2,250-$2,775/month for a two-bedroom, plus $200/month for top floor lake view units. With that comes a community center, in-unit washer/dryer, trash removal, fitness room, wi-fi, library/computer room, intercoms, rooftop garden, basic cable TV and pets under 30 lbs. for an additional monthly fee. Hot water shouldn’t be listed as a feature, but what do I know.

According to their Facebook page, Cayuga View S.L. will be ready for occupancy by Spring 2018. NH Architecture‘s Roger Langer is the project architect. Note in the foundation excavation photos that the building will be built into the slope of the hill – four floors in the front (east), five in the back (west). There has yet to be an updated site plan posted, but parking will mostly be on the side facing the bank.

At the end here is a shot of the Triphammer Apartments/former Chateau Claire renovation across the street. That is a separate $1.14 million project by Park Grove Realty to renovate 64 ca. 1960 apartment units (kitchen and bathroom remodeling, washer-and-dryer installations, roof repair, new balconies, gutters, landscaping and lighting), add parking stalls and a 425 SF rental office.

 





Village Solars Construction Update, 6/2017

17 06 2017

It’s not often that I run into someone who’s aware of this blog, let alone while taking site photos. When I arrived at the Village Solars property off of Warren Road in Lansing, I was immediately surprised to see they were taking down one of the older 1970s 10-unit properties, 102 Village Place. A salvage job this is not; the excavator was actively tearing through the brick veneer and wood window frames, leaving them in a pile as it slowly worked its way through the building. A gentlemen with a hose was spraying the fresh debris down to keep airborne dust to a minimum. To be honest, even if the building has little historic value, there’s always a bit of a bittersweet feeling to see a place that hundreds called home fall to the march of progress.

And the march of progress it is. As readers of the Voice may be aware, the plan for the Village Solars has been changed up. The next few phases will remove the 1960s-1970s 8-unit and 10-unit (all 1-bedroom) buildings and build new Village Solars buildings on their foundations. The net gain in units will be 70, bringing the number built and to be built from 502 to 572, and a gain in bedrooms of about 124.

It’s a bit complicated of a breakdown – four of the new building planned – 24-unit “K”, 24-unit “L”, and 18-unit “M” – were originally to be the next phase. When all that was said and done, Building “F”, which will host retail components, a community center and 20 studio units, was to be built. Those are being pushed off in favor of the replacement units. For example, 102 Village Place, coming down in the photos below, will be replaced with a 24-unit building that will also be called 102 Village Place. It’s five peers closest to the Village Solars will also be coming down for the construction of 18 or 24 unit apartment buildings on their footprints. There will be five phases, and it looks like two older buildings will come down and have replacements built each year for the next three years, with the last two being the all-new K/L/M and F. The designs for the six new buildings will be similar to the existing Village Solars.

So while taking photos, I happened to see a gentleman in a wide-brimmed hat and loafers, drinking a couple beers. I intended to not make waves and to just walk past when he broke the ice by saying “I’m surprised there aren’t more neighbors out watching. You don’t see something like this everyday.” I ended up making my acquaintance with Jon Lucente, the son of Rocco Sr., brother of Steve and uncle to Rocco Jr. – so, not as directly involved as the others, but still aware and knowledgeable. Turns out he lives in the Village Solars.

One of our conversation topics swirled around the hassles of regulation – a little talk on the Briarwood mess ten years ago, a little bit about Varna, and a lot about the Village Solars. To be frank, he had nothing but great things to say about Lansing town government. But he complained some of the building code regulations created headaches for his family and their in-house contracting team. For example, the buildings had be earthquake-proof, and the expensive sprinkler systems over the balconies are only legal until 2022 but they were the only type approved for use. Interestingly, they originally wanted to do four floors but building codes say an elevator is required for 4 or more floors (this tripped up Ecovillage as well as few years back). Jon brought this all back to the cost being passed on to tenants.

On my end, it was mostly just polite acknowledgement. I understand his point, but details like the elevator rule are in the building code for safety reasons. The thing is, building codes are an imprecise science – they may be too stringent in some circumstances, but lacking in others, so as a result they’re constantly re-evaluated. Given an event like the London Grenfell Tower fire disaster, where the Reynobond aluminum panels were stuffed with polyiso insulation, which is a risk because it can produce toxic fumes if it burns, there’s always good reason to take a hard look at the codes and reassess. For the record, polyiso is a common insulation material, although in the local cases I’m aware of, it goes on over the fireproofing and under the cladding, meaning it would be very difficult to set it on fire, and the Grenfell case implies the panels may have created a tunnel effect for heat and flame. The specific cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower is banned for use on buildings taller than 40 feet in the U.S.  

Anyway, I still enjoyed an opportunity to chat with one of the Lucentes. Building “I” is occupied and Building “J” will be open for occupancy at the start of July – just a little exterior trim left to do on the outside. The photos below have a close-up of the fiber cement board used on the Village Solars, which apropos to this post, doesn’t burn because it’s basically sand and concrete mixed with wood pulp. Won’t make the same claim about those wood-grain trim boards though.





Chapter House / 406 Stewart Avenue Construction Update, 6/2017

16 06 2017

The funny thing about this project is, I already did the synopsis back in February 2016, the first time that it seemed to be under construction.

At the time, the construction seemed ready to move forward, but then, well…it didn’t. Former 400-404 Stewart Avenue owner Sebastian Mascaro sold the property and plans over to neighbor Jim Goldman, who intended to carry them forward. However, citing unfavorable cost estimates, Goldman decided to wait, and only recently has the project obtained favorable terms that would allow it to proceed.

The plans are still the same, although the project manager has changed. CSP Management (Jerry Dietz) will still manage the apartment rentals, but the commercial component is under the control of Pyramid Brokerage, Syracuse-based Hayner Hoyt will be the general contractor, and the construction manager representing Goldman is not with Hayner Hoyt and does not appear to be from the Ithaca area.

As a frank aside, it has been a rare degree of frustration to dig up information about this project. Goldman, for whatever reason, is incredibly publicity-averse, and everyone involved with the Chapter House has been asked or told to not talk about it. The little bit of information the Voice and 14850 have been able to get has come from CSP Management, which in itself comes with lots of cautions and uncertain language. The one occasion I spoke with Goldman, he told me he knew nothing and no longer owned the site, which if true, isn’t in the county’s records.

Here’s what is known. 406 Stewart Avenue will be 4 units, 7 bedrooms, replacing a similar-looking 1898 structure destroyed by fire in April 2015. 400-404 Stewart Avenue is about 9,000 SF with first floor retail with two floors of apartments – the number of bedrooms and units is not clear, as the number has been in flux. Note that calling it “the Chapter House project” is inaccurate – John Hoey, who owns the right to the Chapter House name, has not committed to reopening on the site, and the first-floor is being offered at a rather hefty $35/SF. For comparison’s sake, most downtown rates I’ve seen come in at about half that, although Pyramid is playing up its proximity to Cornell and the inner Collegetown market. A potential interior layout for a bar is included in the marketing material.

The current plan is to have 400-404 Stewart open by the end of the year, and 406 Stewart by Summer 2018. Jason K. Demarest is the architect for both buildings.

The first photo below is from my colleague Mike Blaney on May 23rd, as environmental remediation company ERSI was finishing clean-up of the fire-damaged site. In the following photos from this past weekend, the property has been leveled and graded, and a foundation is being excavated. The steel H-beams will be used as support for a retaining wall to shore up the soil, protecting the foundation and providing stability as the concrete is poured and cured.