Amici House Construction Update, 3/2018

24 03 2018

Ithaca’s housing woes are fairly well-documented at this point. As in any broad situation, some have fared worse than others. If you’re fairly well off, the rapidly increasing housing prices are a nuisance, a vague political “issue” or perhaps even an opportunity if one thinks they know the market. For those will meager or no means, it’s more dire than that.

Take for instance those who are housing insecure or homeless. With a scarcity of options in Ithaca, many of Ithaca’s most vulnerable are at risk of living on the streets, with many ending up in “the Jungle” encampment behind Wal-Mart. Local shelters and supportive housing facilities are at full capacity, with dozens more turned away. This can perpetuate unemployment by reducing life stability, and it contributes to substance abuse and mental health issues. The high cost of housing has contributed to a much higher homeless rate in Tompkins County – up to five times the rate of Onondaga County (Syracuse), according to a 2016 Ithaca Voice study.

Tompkins Community Action, T.C.Action/TCAction for short, is well-aware of the issues faced by the less well-off in the Ithaca community. The non-profit started as the local unit of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” programs in the 1960s. It administers early childhood education programs (Head Start), GED assistance, energy service programs (home weatherization), food pantries, family reunification services, housing vouchers, a fiscal literacy program, employment help – basically, social support services for thousands of low-income individuals in Tompkins County and adjacent communities, helping them succeed in their educational, professional and family endeavors.

In the past few years, Tompkins Community Action has made significant efforts to try and create more housing for those vulnerable, so that they’re less likely to end up in the Jungle or a back alley. In safe, secure housing, they are more likely to get clean, they are more likely to earn and keep steady employment, and they are more likely to take advantage of TCAction’s other supportive services, hopefully continuing on to better, more productive lives.

One of these efforts is a partnership with Finger Lakes ReUse – the pair, with consultation from affordable housing provider INHS, are entering the grant-writing phase for 22 studio units for those transitioning out of jail as well as the formerly homeless at FLR’s property at 214 Old Elmira Road. The other major project is Amici House.

Going through my archived notes, the first reference to what would become Amici House shows up all the way back in September 2014 as a 14 or 15-unit townhouse proposal, but it wasn’t until June 2016 that the first plans were presented, after a feasibility study was completed. Site plan review began in October 2016, and the project was approved in January 2017.

The plans, drawn up by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, call for a narrow five-story, 20,785 SF (later 20,712 SF) building for housing, and an adjacent one-story, 7,010 SF building that will host classrooms and daycare facilities. The facilities would be a part of TCAction’s campus at 661-701 Spencer Road on the south end of the city. Two small houses would be deconstructed to make room for the classroom building, while the residential building, planned to house homeless or vulnerable youth aged 18-25, would be an addition onto the non-profit group’s existing office building.

On the first floor of the new residential building would be a children’s playroom (for homeless youth with children), case conferencing rooms, training rooms and kitchen space. 23 efficiency (studio) apartments would be built on the second through fifth floors.

The childcare building, later called the Harriet Giannelis Childcare Center in honor of a late staff member of TCAction, will provide five classrooms for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, as well as support space and staff training space. The building will host a playground, which is the blue space in the site plan above. The facility would have space for 42 children, and create about 21 living-wage jobs. The numbers were more recently revised to 48 children and 24 jobs. TCAction, which employs 104 people, is a certified living-wage employer.

During the review process, not much changed. On the residential building, the planning board thought a glass-encased stairwell was thought to produce too much light, so the next iteration had it completely bricked in, which the Planning Board also disliked, as was a plan with small windows. Eventually, a “happy” medium was reached for medium-sized windows in the stairwell.

The project required a couple of zoning variances. The first one was for parking spaces (72 required, 65 planned). TCAction suggested that from a practical standpoint, they wouldn’t need a parking space for every housing unit, but the classrooms and office space will meet their parking requirements. Another variance was for operation of a child care facility is a residential zone, and there were three area variances related to building size and the driveway/drop-off area.

The initial estimated construction costs are $8.25 million. Per city building permit docs, 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. However, city IURA statements sat the HGCC will cost $1,774,470 to build, with $153,450 in soft costs, and a total of about $2,103,000. The residential portion comprises $6,115,000 in hard/soft costs and land acquisition (total for both $8,218,000). Welliver of Montour Falls is the general contractor.

As one might tell from above, financially it’s a bit confusing. This isn’t a traditionally-financed project with concerns about a lender’s Return On Investment. To make it become a reality, it uses a fair amount of subsidy layering – different funding grants from the city, county, NYS and the Federal HUD.

One grant, awarded in June 2016, was for $118,000 from the county that would purchase the small house next door to their headquarters – 661 Spencer, built in 1950 by the Amici family – thus allowing them to procure the land needed for developmentA later “grant” forgave the remaining $75,000 loan balance on their headquarters, and $225,000 was awarded to the project by the Tompkins-Ithaca-Cornell Community Housing Development Fund (CHDF).  TCAction first acquired their HQ with the help of the county back in 2001, and the cost of the purchase was being paid back to the county in the form of a 20-year lease. $84,200 was awarded to the Childcare Center by the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency in 2017.

New York State awarded the project $3.732 million in April 2017, and the state’s HUD equivalent, NYS HCR, supplied another $3.26 million in two other grants, the Community Investment Fund (CIF) for the childcare center, and the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for the housing. M&T Bank is providing a $501,883 construction loan, and another $300,000 came from a Federal Home Loan Bank.

More recently, the numbers were revised to $603,000 for M&T Bank and the NYS HCR CIF was reduced from $1.499 to $1.325 million – probably a case where the state decided not to award the full request, and TCAction had to make it up elsewhere. Funding for the Head Start operation comes from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, and other funding comes from state and local allocations. The facilities are tax-exempt. A look at the finances, which practically break even (slight profit actually) can be found here.

Initially, construction was supposed to be from August 2017 to October 2018, but the time frames were shifted back a few months due to financial and bureaucratic snags. TCAction also discovered they couldn’t stay in their headquarters as construction went on, so they needed an emergency $90,690 loan from the IURA to rent temporary offices at 609 West Clinton Street.

Along with Schickel Architecture and Welliver, the project team includes Taitem Engineering for structural engineering work, Foor & Associates of Elmira assisting in the design work, T. G. Miller P.C. for civil engineering and surveying, Saratoga Associates Landscape Architects, Seeler Engineering of suburban Rochester, and INHS as a consultant.

In the photos below, construction has been well underway, and has been since at least the tail end of January. The childcare center’s slab foundation and footers have been excavated, poured and insulated with rigid foam boards (the soil will be backfilled later to cover the base). The wood-frame is well underway, and it appears most if not all of the roof trusses are in place, as are many of the walls – I suppose these guys are going with housewrap instead of ZIP sheets. Although the size seems correct, the design does not look like what I have on file from , much to my chagrin. Foundation work seems to be underway for the residential portion.

 

 





Cayuga Medical Associates Construction Update, 3/2018

22 03 2018

Since January, it looks like all the foundation footers have been poured and the underground utilities connections are in place. At this point comes the foundation slab itself. with a generous helping of steel rebar grid for strength. Being medical office, this is probably a steel frame construction, so visitors to Community Corners can expect that later this spring. McPherson Builders should have the $7.8 million building ready for commercial occupancy by late summer.

In the meanwhile, visitors can also look forward to the new Gimme! Coffee that is planned for the closed Lonacakes Bakery space. That new business will bring 5-10 living-wage jobs; readers might remember that the baristas recently unionized. There is a modest little cafe and catering place nearby and the swanky Heights Restaurant, but it’s probably safe to say that the niches are different enough that Gimme! won’t poach business from the others.

I remain a bit hopeful that eventually, Cayuga Heights and relevant property owners (Tim Ciaschi, Mark Mecenas) might nudge towards the denser if still relatively modest mixed-use plan that was proposed five years ago; Mecenas said at a recent meeting he’s still interested. In other village news, staff say there have been several inquiries into the former Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity property a mile away at 306 Highland Road, but no takers as of yet.





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.”





Cayuga View Senior Living Construction Update, 3/2018

20 03 2018

It looks like Taylor the Builders has started attaching exterior finishes to the Cayuga View Senior Living apartment building. That includes decorative cornices, brick veneer, and what appears to be a few different shades of EIFS panels. EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System), sometimes called synthetic stucco or by commercial brand names such as DryVit, is a lightweight, waterproof finishing material – usually it’s two-inch thick polystyrene (rigid foam) insulating panels with an acrylic finish to mimic the appearance of stucco, along with adhesive and drainage structures. EIFS is low-maintenance; it gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, but developed an infamous reputation for water damage due to improper installation, which is why so many building codes are stringent about adequate drainage systems for new builds. The boards can also be damaged fairly easily by blunt-force impacts. It tends to be more common on commercial buildings than residential structures, but it is not an uncommon choice of finishes for wood-frame multi-family buildings. Other recent builds using EIFS include the Holiday Inn Express on Elmira Road, and the Seneca Way Apartments on the edge of Downtown Ithaca.

Interestingly, the top floor’s panel boards are a lighter color than the third floor – renderings have them both being the same color.

Also, note the poles and flags on the roof – that’s a good indicator that some material is being applied, probably EPDM, which is a synthetic rubber. The project team recently announced that the 87,500 SF building will not only host a rooftop garden, but a 46kW, 151-panel solar array courtesy of installer SunCommon NY of Rochester.

Current plans call for the first occupants to begin moving into its 60 apartments by the end of May (the website advertises a summer occupancy, and a leasing office is present on-site). Cornerstone Group, also of Rochester, has been selected to manage the building, whose units are reserved for those aged 55+. I’ve been in touch with the project team, and there might be a sneak preview article in the Voice a few weeks before opening.





City Centre Construction Update, 2/2018

27 02 2018

Looks like the real fun is just starting over at the City Centre construction site on the 300 Block of East State Street. With the piles in and foundation slab poured, work is starting to head skyward. The structural steel frame is being assembled, generally from east to west, beam by beam, and bolted into the concrete-encased structural support columns that will transfer the weight of the upper floors into the foundation and bedrock. Some of the exterior foundation walls are still being formed, but where it’s more further along, the steelwork has progressed far enough with its columns and cross beams that corrugated steel decking has been laid. Meanwhile, work continues on forming and pouring the concrete for the stairwell and elevator columns.

The entrance to the underground parking garage is pretty close to where the Green Street construction entrance is. The ground level will have a courtyard driveway accessed from South Aurora Street, but will not have a direct connection to the garage below (the armchair cynic suspects that will mess around with people for years to come).

 

Purcell Construction has a webcam set up, which shows the construction progress to date. Steel is rising rapidly on the curved northwest corner. It’s pretty fascinating to watch months of construction in 51 seconds.

 

One week later (2/18):

city_ctr_final_site_plan





Hilton Canopy Hotel Construction Update, 2/2018

24 02 2018

The concrete elevator core and stairwells are on the rise at the Hilton Canopy site on Seneca Way. The center one is the elevator core, the two adjacent to the foundation walls are stair columns. The foundation walls aren’t fully complete yet, forms are in place for future pours towards the southwest corner of the building’s footprint. But all in all, moving along fairly well, and the start of steel structural framing is probably not too far off.

Fun side note, it appears the Canopy brand has a dog-friendly policy. Convenient for the visitor with a four-legged fur child. Canopy, as a “neighborhood-focused lifestyle brand”, is designed to appeal to upscale travelers. It’s described as having a more contemporary focus, with an emphasis on tech-friendliness and local services beyond the hotels themselves. You probably won’t see a Canopy at a suburban highway exit. Urban spaces with a lot of street life are their key geographic segment.





Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 2/2018

23 02 2018

About the only major exterior facade work left on Tompkins Financial’s new headquarters is the stone veneer on the front face. I don’t have information on file on what kind of stone it is apart from a generic “stone veneer” description. It may be cast stone, a concrete masonry product mixed and molded to resemble natural-cut stone.

Over the blue and black air/vapor barriers, Dow TUFF-R polyiso rigid foam insulating boards are being laid between rails. Atop those, a second set of steel rails, called continuous anchors, are attached to the building. When the polyiso is attached and the rails are screwed on, the stone panels are slid into place, and then they’re mortared or caulked with silicone. There will be a gap between the polyiso and the stone that serves as a drainage cavity for water that gets absorbed and needs to be eliminated. The whole process is about keeping moisture from seeping inward and damaging the more sensitive building materials like the gypsum boards, while allowing any latent moisture in the materials (having been exposed to the elements during construction) to escape outward.

The entrance canopy is up, and steel clasps for the sunshade installs on the front are ready for when the facade is nearing completion. The lights are on, and one can presume that with three months left in the schedule, most of the big interior tasks (utilities, drywall, fixtures) have been completed. Parts of the granite base appear to be in place, but most of the ground floor and its parking area remain a work in progress.