323 Taughannock Boulevard Construction Update, 9/2019

21 09 2019

Clearing out the photo stash from the article for the Voice earlier this week.

I didn’t press into in the article, but I don’t understand the relationship between Arnot Realty and local investors Steve Flash and Anne Chernish, who came up with the project. I was on the understanding going in that Arnot bought a 75% stake, but when I asked, the question was immediately shot down and warned that it could not be discussed – I didn’t even get that much pushback from the IDA tax abatement question.

The IDA question was actually my one stipulation when they reached out to suggest a walkthrough – I wouldn’t consider an article unless that topic was addressed. I’ve had people complain articles like this and East Pointe can come off as “fluff pieces”, but there is a real effort to ask and get answers to questions and issues related to those projects.

A close-up of one of the “lifts”. As mentioned in the article, because they aren’t commercial grade, they can’t formally be called elevators.

Note the electric heat pump.

It was clear to me when asking about occupancy that there was some shyness with the response, trying to explain away something, which generally means it’s not good. Here, they said they were happy with the studios, a wide degree of interest, but that people were hesitant to commit to the two-bedroom units without them being more substantially complete. Here’s the transcript:

Brian: [00:06:17] I know we touched on this earlier but just so I have the recorded version of it here, how has the market interest been for the units? Are the studios more popular, or the two bedrooms? [00:06:24][7.7]

Taryn: [00:06:26] Right now, like I said the studios are more popular to hold. [00:06:32][5.5]

Taryn: [00:06:33] But people are looking at the two-bedroom units, we have a lot of people waiting for pretty much this week and next week to see what they would look like with final touches. [00:06:40][6.7]

Ian: [00:06:46] I would say that from an interest perspective it’s been very balanced, right. [00:06:49][2.6]

Ian: [00:06:52] But perhaps that consumers who are interested in the townhomes are a little bit less, in perhaps less of a time crunch as they put it right? If you’re student or a young professional, you have a very definite timeline for moving and occupancy, whereas perhaps if you’re selling a home you’re in a more flexible situation. [00:07:07][15.1]

The units will be ready for occupancy by the end of the month.

The views are great.

High ceilings. They’re still debating whether the small attic spaces will be legally permitted for use as storage space.

The two-bedrooms have plank flooring, while the studios have concrete floors.

Brian: [00:10:23] What surprised you in a good way as this was all coming along, and what surprised you in a bad way? [00:10:28][5.1]

Ian: [00:10:28] This is all coming from, I mean, I was I was going to say like with any construction project there are things you find out in the process of building that that are perhaps surprises, I wouldn’t say that there have been any particularly nasty things that we’ve come across. Or course any time that you’re working on a deep pile foundation, You’re kind of trusting that you know underground is going to be smooth sailing, and for the most part it was and we were really fortunate. [00:11:06][38.1]

Brian: [00:11:07] This uses a unique timber pile deep foundation, right? Because typically a deep pile of steel. [00:11:13][5.5]

Ian: [00:11:13] Yes. [00:11:13][0.0]

Brian: [00:11:14] But this uses like a treated timber that as long as it’s not exposed to air, it could last hundreds of years. [00:11:18][4.0]

Ian: [00:11:20] Right. So yeah. So this is on over one hundred and thirty timber piles, and they’re all driven to a depth of about 30 feet. [00:11:30][9.9]

Brian: [00:11:32] And was it Benson, Bensonwood did the modular components and they got trucked in. [00:11:37][4.6]

Ian: [00:11:37] Right. So it was a panelized construction in terms of the actual structure of the building. So D squared, local contractors out of Lansing. [00:11:46][8.8]

Brian: [00:11:48] Doug Dake? [00:11:48][0.1]

Ian: [00:11:48] And Doug Boles, hence D Squared. Yeah. The did that foundation and they poured the slab and then Bensonwood brought in their panels from New Hampshire and actually raised the building. Over what was probably only about a month and a half to get the whole thing raised, and then finishing is D Squared comes back in. OK so in terms of the labor used on the project, we’re well over 80 percent of what TCAD considers local labor. That has been another focus of ours. [00:12:25][37.3]

Brian: [00:14:40] And this is going to sound terrible. Is it Ar-NOT or AR-noh or something else? [00:14:45][4.8]

Taryn: [00:14:45] Almost like Ar-NIT and like Garnet but yeah. Well there is a gentleman named John Arnot who was a big I think he’s a doctor correct? About a hundred years, maybe not a hundred years ago but a while ago and then so we have the hospital we have, you know, so there’s a lot of places of that (name). [00:15:10][25.1]

Ian: [00:15:12] I guess to clarify by we, the Arnot name, as far as we the Arnot Realty company, we’re not involved with the hospital. [00:15:22][9.4]

Taryn: [00:15:22] Oh sorry. Yes. No we are not at all. [00:15:24][1.8]

Taryn: [00:15:25] There is just um there’s just a lot of aspects of the area that use that name but it’s not. It would have that name but it’s not, they’re not associated. [00:15:32][7.8]

Taryn: [00:15:33] Okay I should. Sorry. That’s sounded. [00:15:35][2.0]

Ian: [00:15:36] That’s fine. We just don’t want to see a video statement from the hospital. [00:15:39][2.6]

Taryn: [00:15:39] Yeah we do not. [00:15:43][4.2]

I have nothing but kind things to say about D Squared Inc. They were courteous and professional the entire time I was on site.

In case anyone still intends to use a studio as a workspace, these are intended to be filled in with business placards, and will be finished out with a decorative veneer when not in use.





GreenStar Co-Operative Market Construction Update, 9/2019

14 09 2019

Over at the new GreenStar Co-Op at 770 Cascadilla Street, framing for the structural awnings and entrance bump-out are underway, and new windows have been fitted into what had been the windowless (if colorful, thanks to street art) exterior. The Owner Investment Program, which allows Co-Op members to invest in the expansion and receive a share of profits (dividends), has raised $1,659,500 and has a fall 2019 goal of $2 million (the ultimate goal is $2.5 million).

In a blog post, the Co-Op touts the new customer shopping experience to be had starting next spring, including expanded service areas and food offerings, as well as a number of cutting edge features in the name of ecological sustainability (100% solar power, 85% waste diversion through recycling/composting/donation of food, etc.). The accompanying photos show some new interior renders, as well as interior stud wall framing, drywall hanging, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing installation.

For better or worse, GreenStar’s issues haven’t involved the new flagship under construction lately, but potential labor violations and accusations of unfair treatment of workers seeking to form a union. Beyond the purview of a construction blog post, but just pointing it out for the sake of acknowledgement.





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 9/2019

14 09 2019

We’re about halfway through now, with seven of the fourteen 10-unit townhouse strings open for occupancy, and another two strings coming on each month through the remainder of the year.

The Craigslist ads are fairly standard, though they do raise an eyebrow. Typically, if a place is offering a free month of rent (which is usually deployed in the form of a discount amounting to one month metered out over the 12-month lease rather than a literal free month), they’re not hitting their occupancy goals.

If that’s the case, it probably has less to do with the units, which are by any regard pretty nice, and more to do with the number of them coming onto the market. 140 apartments is a lot to absorb at once in a a suburban neighborhood where students aren’t a significant part of the local rental market. Larger projects in Downtown Ithaca’s can tap into graduate and professional students pretty easily (City Centre relied on students to fill out its less desirable units), and the hills draw both undergrads and graduate/professional students. Meanwhile, Lansing and Dryden have no trouble filling smaller projects, like the 42-48 units the Village Solars brings online each year. East Pointe isn’t doing badly, it just isn’t easy in a small metropolitan area like Ithaca’s to bring a large suburban rental project onto the market in one phase and have it not experience some softness as the initial units are filled.

A full description of the project and its history can be found here.

***

ONE MONTH FREE!!!!

ONE, TWO AND THREE BEDROOM LUXURY APARTMENTS
FEATURING A WALK-UP GARDEN STYLE WITH PRIVATE ENTRANCES AND ATTACHED GARAGE WITH REMOTE OPENERS FOR EVERY APARTMENT. STARTING AT $1,695.00!!

CALL US TODAY TO SCHEDULE YOUR TOUR
NOW OPEN SATURDAYS AND SUNDAYS 10:00 A.M. TO 3:00 P.M.

High End Finishes

• High speed fiber internet-included
• Stainless finish appliances
• Washer & Dryer in every apartment
• Granite countertops
• Premium cabinets
• Vinyl plank flooring and wall-to-wall carpeting
• Tile showers
• Premium plumbing and lighting fixtures
• Oversized patio or deck
• Premium window coverings
• Community building with fitness center and gathering great room
• Sparkling swimming pool
• Private Dog Park and Walking Trail

  





Village Solars Construction Update 9/2019

13 09 2019

So there’s been some news regarding the Village Solars buildout. The community center is in flux. The original proposal was for a mixed-use building with ground-level commercial and community amenities, and 20 one-bedroom apartments on the upper levels. Now, it’s an unknown. Per the Lansing Star:

“(T)hey will relocate the community center site to a location more central what will become an enlarged, single development. The lower floor would have amenities like a restaurant, a work-out center, and other features, with apartments on the upper floors. If not, they would build the smaller community center as already accepted by the Town.”

That means that the community center is being moved to another location on the site, and potentially take a different physical form, though programmatically it remains the same (commercial/community use on the ground level, residential above).

When the article says a more central location, it refers to the 96.44 acres of land east of the complex. The Village Solars are owned by Steve Lucente, and the undeveloped land to the east by his father Rocco, who had purchased it in 1960 and was recently planning his own apartment complex (schematic in the early Village Solars site plan below). My understanding is that the two Lucentes didn’t get along at all – I was warned to never bring up Steve when interviewing Rocco. After Rocco passed away about 18 months ago, Steve saw an opportunity to purchase the vacant land to the east from Rocco’s estate, and build a bigger complex in future phases (as yet unapproved). The purchase offer, at least check, is still being reviewed by Rocco’s Executors.

However, this created a problem. Local Law #6 of 2017, the Planned Development Area (PDA, like Ithaca’s PUD it’s D-I-Y zoning) with the town, stipulated that the community center had to be built and open by the end of 2020, and only one more apartment building could be built before it was done. So Steve Lucente and his project team had to make the case to the town of Lansing Planning Board and Town Board give them time to purchase the land and design the new community center, and let them do three more apartment buildings in the meanwhile to keep on pace with their construction plans. If the offer feel through, he’d build the community center starting next summer and finishing in 2021, a year later than initially planned. Generally, of all the communities to have to make such a request, Lansing would be one of the most accommodating.

Officially, only the Town Board really decides PDA amendments. But here, the Town Board was uncomfortable with the request at first, referred it to the Planning Board for guidance, and then after the Planning Board weighed in, it returned to the town board with a recommendation to consider during voting.

This caused some debate, with some of the planning board feeling like their credibility was taking a hint with this latest delay (the community center was delayed at least once, hence why it was explicitly stated in the 2017 PDA revision), and at least one member of the town board feeling as if they were purposely misled since banks would have received the notice of intent to modify the plans several months ago, but Steve Lucente countered that it was not a firm plan and only became firm later in the year when the offer looked like it had a good chance of being accepted. On a 3-1 vote, the town is permitting three more apartment buildings and only two more, and expects a community center to start next year in either the old or the new location.

At this point, the last of the originally permitted buildings, 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios) has had its foundation footers poured and is awaiting the concrete slab pour. The tarp and mesh are in place for stability and added strength respectively, and you can see the below-ground utilities poking out, capped for the time being. A surveyor was on site during this visit to make sure everything was level and in good order before the wood frame starts to rise. The three newly permitted buildings are all reconstruction of existing 8-10 unit buildings, into two 18-unit buildings (2 Village Place, 22 Village Place) and one 24-unit building (117 Village Circle North).

Apparently, occupancy rates have been strong. Building “L” (113 Village Circle North) opened in June, and 22 of its 24 units were spoken for, with the other two rented shortly after.

As for the future, it’s not clear. Something will be proposed that may very well require more PDA amendments, but we’ll see. The elder Lucente’s complementary apartment complex was supposed to be around 300 units in size (built over several years), and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Village Solars plan expands by a similar amount.

 





Milton Meadows Construction Update, 9/2019

9 09 2019

The buildings are not yet complete, but Milton Meadows is accepting applications for its 71 units (the 72nd is for an on-site manager). Income qualifications are 50-80% of area median income with first preference to veteran’s; specific on the income levels, monthly rent and associated details can be found at the end of this post, and online on the NYS Homes and Community Renewal website here.

The initial application round was from June 9th to July 9th, and applications were selected by a housing lottery. What that means is that once applications are gathered, those that qualify are put in random order and given a log number. From there, the developer begins the review process starting with the lowest log number as well as any preferential applicants. The lower one’s log number is, the more likely one is to hear back from the lottery. If there are any units remaining after the lottery is complete, those will be filled with later applications. If they’re all full, then applicants will be hanging out on a waiting list. That could be a few months, or longer. INHS has been known to take a couple years to make it all the way through its backlog for its more desirable unit sizes and locations.

The nine apartment buildings generally progressed in the same order as their addresses. 1 Robin’s Way (42 Auburn Road), the community center, is essentially done. 2 Robin’s Way, the southeast corner building with eight 1-bedroom units, will be ready for occupancy by the end of the month. In this southern portion, the lighting and sidewalks have been installed/poured and even the grass seed has been laid. From there, buildings go backwards in the construction timeline – vinyl siding (probably Certainteed), a couple varieties of housewrap (Tyvek and a second blue-faced material), window and door fitting, and framing. 10 Robin’s Way, another building with eight 1-bedroom units, is just getting its shingles attached to the roof, and is otherwise fully framed but not much further along than that. 10 Robin’s Way will be ready for occupancy in the December time-frame, about three months later than first anticipated.

To give an idea of the visual differences between the building configurations, which come in eight one-bedroom, eight two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom flavors, the first photo shows a three-bedroom building on the left, a two-bedroom building in the middle, and a one-bedroom building on the right.

One kinda wishes they had gone with a more visually interesting color palate for the vinyl siding, which is two shades of grey and a tan, but chances are, it was whatever they could get that was durable and cheap in bulk. The early renders showed a different if still soft color palate.

Also in progress is the realignment of Woodsedge Drive with Louise Bement Lane, to make them a proper four-corner intersection. This is being paid for with a $75,000 state grant with in-kind labor from the town.

 





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 8/2019

14 08 2019

The north wing of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln dealership is about as gutted as it can get, with nothing left but the foundation footers, the concrete slab, and the structural steel.

New rebar is being kept on site for the foundation slab of the new additions, with a steel mesh likely intended for the concrete pour. The mesh will be laid into the excavated footprint and used to strengthen the concrete as the slab hardens. It’s a little hard to tell from a distance (the fencing perimeter is quite large, given that some of the site is still actively in use for car sales), but it looks like wood forms have been assembled for pouring and curing of the foundation walls and footers for the northwest addition – the northeast addition is not so clear, because the large soil mound blocks it from view. The trailer on site belongs to Breton Construction of Attica, perhaps for subcontracted excavation or foundation work. G. M. Crisalli & Associates is the general contractor.

The last I checked (drive-by a few weeks ago), work had yet to start on the new Maguire Nissan in the village of Lansing. Nissan will relocate from this site to their new showroom across town when it is ready in about a year. (It’s a strange combination of automakers. Ford and Nissan shared design and mechanical work on the Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager minivan back in the ’90s, but I can’t think of any other overlap between the brands.)

Project information and a detailed history and description of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln reconstruction can be found here.

Final site plan.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 8/2019

10 08 2019

As noted by a few different news outlets including the Voice, the tower crane for the structural steel assembly has been taken apart and removed from the site. This work required about five days, the temporary clearing of some street level fixtures, and a deconstructing crane. 14850.com’s Rachel Cera won the blue ribbon for best title: “Crane-deconstructing crane coming to deconstruct construction crane on the Commons”. The formal topping off ceremony was June 27th.

We’re pretty much looking at the full scale of the building now, except from the mechanical penthouse on the roof (mechanical penthouses are generally not considered to be a part of building height because they’re not habitable space). Concrete pours have been completed on all 12 floors, and fireproofing is up to the 11th floor, with interior stud walls and initial utilities rough-ins underway on the lower levels. The fireproofing is being done by J&A Plastering and Stucco of Syracuse – click the link to see some of their on-site crew in action.

On the Commons-facing side, some Georgia-Pacific DensGlass fiberglass mat sheathing has been attached to the exterior stud walls – it may look rather ungainly now with the monolithic street face, but the variations in the facade will help, as they change up materials and patterning to create the impression of individual buildings with a less imposing scale.

It looks like Northern Mast Climbers of Skaneateles has the subcontract for the exterior facade work, and interior furnishings (flooring, cabinetry, countertops, furniture, and appliances) will be supplied by Metzger Inc. of suburban Buffalo. Harold’s Square’s apartments are listed for rent online, but you can’t actually apply, and the data’s outdated anyway – it still says 108 units, but 30 microunits were eliminated for more office space.

Look for a spring 2020 opening, a little sooner on the office and retail space, a little later for the apartments. The WordPress for the project can be found here, and the Ithacating project description here.