105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 5/2019

24 05 2019

We’ll change up the format a bit for this post. Below is a recent email from Ithaca resident Joan Jacobs Brumberg:

I had an opportunity to talk yesterday with Elizabeth Classen Ambrose who is the organizational power behind a growing Bridges community. I wanted to find out more about Library Place interiors but we ended up spending a fascinating hour talking about The Craftsman, a new kind of Ithaca residence for the elderly resembling the group homes in Holland and Denmark.

Four things about this project — to be completed in November 2019– strike me as important for the public to know:
1. This is a new form of independent living for 16 older folks who do not want home or apartment to care for. Each individual room is lovely with private bath and fireplace, small refrigerator. I believe you bring your own furnishings, ie.,  the things you care about most.
2. No upfront payment and no lease.
3. Residents have access to special Car Share vehicles and also Bridges shuttle service if they do not drive.
4. Many amenities for the elderly: warming pool, gym, a trainer, maybe podiatrist and physical therapy. And a special add on: garden space.

I told some people my age about this facility and everyone asked “How did you learn about it?” Even if they are candidates for Library Place, my friends have older parents, relatives, and friends who are burdened with private homes or apartments that are increasingly hard to care for.

***

It came as part of an article pitch for the Voice, but since I did an article about Bridges for the Voice two years ago, I declined. The website for the new house is online, with plenty of rather sumptuous interior renders (a few embeds are below many more are on the website). The twelve bedrooms (eight single-occupancy, four double-occupancy for couples) will feature heated floors, fireplaces in some units, large-screen televisions, optional dry bar with refrigerator and hot beverage maker, and private deck or patio areas. Other planned features include an on-site fitness center, storage room, car share, spa and salon services, on-site concierge, and lush landscaping befitting a high-end independent living facility. Residents are expected to be able to go about their daily activities with little to no assistance, but cooking, cleaning and laundry are taken care of by staff. Pending “interviews” by staff for compatibility, residents may even be allowed to have their pets join them.

Schickel Construction has the house largely finished from the outside. Painting of the cedar shingles continues, and architectural detailing/trim (balconies, porch columns) is ongoing. The stone veneer has yet to be attached to the built-out cinder block basement level, but all of the windows and most of the doors have been fitted. No photos of the back side, because there was a kitchen staffer on break who was clearly uncomfortable with this shutterbug.

More background info about the project can be found here.

 





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 2/2019

26 02 2019

When you’re building a $4.2 million, 12-bedroom/16-person mansion for wealthy seniors, the material choices tend to be somewhat more upscale. At 105 Dearborn Place, over the typical Tyvek are a yellow waterproof barrier and traditional cedar shingles. These will be painted at a later time. The CMU block walls of the partially-exposed basement level will be layered over with cultured stone.

With the house fully-framed, the structural details are starting to show; along with banks of windows and shed dormers, and there are no less than five porches on the second level, four recessed and a more traditional open porch at the rear of the 10,930 SF building. Some of the architectural details will show up later (roof brackets, railings and balconies), and the porte-cochere has yet to be assembled.

A truck on site and crew in full plastic suits suggested that spray foam insulation was underway inside, so the utilities rough-ins (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) are probably in place, but drywall, cabinetry/fixtures, and flooring are not. The insulation is being applied by Hybrid Insulation Systems of Ithaca.

There don’t appear to be any promotional advertisements for the new building yet, but keep an eye out as it moves closer to completion later this year. Owner Elizabeth Classen has been quite busy in the past year, signing on as a partner in Travis Hyde Properties’ Library Place project on the 300 Block of North Cayuga Street.

More information on 105 Dearborn Place can be found here.

 





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 11/2018

12 11 2018

Framing continues on the future 105 Dearborn Place. Being a large Craftsman-style structure, and because rough openings are sometimes covered by housewrap until it’s trimmed and stapled, it can be a bit tricky to see how the built product compares to renders – best advice is to wait until framing is complete to see if there are any design changes. Many contractors have made the switch over to ZIP Panels for sheathing, but it looks like Schickel Construction is using traditional wood sheathing with Tyvek housewrap – each has its pros and cons, so it boils down to what the builder is comfortable with given the needs and budget for a project. Housewrap would arguably offer more flexibility, but it may be a slower process overall, leaving it susceptible to wind damage if not completely fastened.

Most of the structure is wood-framed, but the basement level uses concrete masonry walls, as does the fireproof stairwell. If this were a skilled-care facility (for example, a nursing home), state code would require the whole building would need to be built of fireproof materials like gypsum. But since this is independent living, the presumption is that residents are coherent and mobile, able to recognize danger and escape to safety in the event of a fire emergency. The masonry base will be faced with a cultured stone veneer, and the upper levels will be covered with cedar shakes after the building is fully framed and wrapped. Background info and further details on the 12-bedroom/16-bed  senior living facility can be found here.

As a bonus to this post, a few photos of 109 Dearborn are included at the end. The new dormers are in and the siding is going on – cedar shakes not unlike those to be used on 105 Dearborn. It looks like the original masonry walls are being sheathed in foam insulation board. Historical note here, 109 Dearborn was a former accessory apartment and storage space being converted into a two-family home, and only the apartment portion may have been insulated. It’s a shame the new ground-floor bump-out was dropped, the first floor seems a little drab when compared to the second floor.





105 Dearborn Place Construction Update, 8/2018

4 08 2018

It’s no secret that people are living longer. In 2014, residents of Tompkins County could expect to live to 81.21 years, an increase of about 7% from 75.92 years in 1980. It’s also no secret that the population in general is getting older – the Cornell Population and Demographics unit estimates that Tompkins County’s population over the age of 65 has gone from 9,301 in 2000, to 14,454 in 2017, an increase of 55.4%.

From a business perspective, this creates opportunities for various forms of senior housing, housing designed to allow matured individuals to age in place. However, there are cases where specialized, skilled care may become a necessity. This can include specialty facilities like Brookdale (memory care), nursing homes like Beechtree and Cayuga Ridge, and premium personalized care options like Kendal and Bridges Cornell Heights.

Founded in 2001, Bridges Cornell Heights occupies three expansive homes in the historic Cornell Heights neighborhood north of Cornell campus – one was built new in 2005, and the other two are renovations, the last being just a few years ago on Kelvin Place. Each house has sixteen residents or less, and to be frank they could be described as a luxury retirement homes – a high degree of personalized care and a commensurate price tag.

With full occupancy and a waiting list in hand, Bridges has decided to move forward with plans for a fourth house in Cornell Heights, and the second all-new home. The property will be located on the southeast corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Dearborn Place, a small vacant field recently sub-divided from the former Palentological Research Institute next door (which is separately being renovated into a two-family home by Classen Ambrose’s husband). According to the 1928 Cornell Map, the property was once home to the neighborhood school, but the school and its building ceased to be many years ago.

Given that Cornell Heights’ century-old architecture is defined by high-end, visually unique homes, the new property is seeking the same qualifications. Rochester-based Bero Architecture, which specializes in historic design, has been retained and early drawings show an imposing 10,930 SF two-story cultured stone and cedar-shingle Craftsman-style home with 12 bedrooms (four of the bedrooms will be designed for double occupancy for couples). The landscaping will be similarly fitting and designed by Cornell landscape architecture professor Paula Horrigan. Exterior features include a porte cochere, porous driveway and courtyard parking for nine vehicles (all residents, staff are given pre-paid parking off-site at a nearby fraternity and walk over), as well as three patios, walkways and lush plantings (500+ perennials, 127-140 shrubs, and 35 trees).

Since Cornell Heights is a historic district, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission was required to sign off on any new construction visible from the outside. The design of the house changed very little from start to finish in the approvals process – Bero is good at what they do, and the ILPC was amenable to the design, though some requested tweaks were made to landscaping and parking along the way. They also requested a dated plaque to ensure no one mistakes the new build for an older structure. The project was proposed in May 2017, and approved in October, generally smooth sailing. I can remember when I did the Bridges article for the Voice, Classen Ambrose was very worried about the neighbors reacting negatively. To that credit, some of the full-time neighbors opposed the project, and it’s not often one sees a “senior living operators are converting and destroying the neighborhood” argument. But overall, the opposition was minor. The house is contextual, and the environmental impacts are fairly modest once the mitigation measures (parking off-site, new trees) are considered.

Classen Ambrose has said that the house will programmatically be a little different from the existing trio of homes in that it will be independent living instead of the enhanced assisted living employed at the other homes. That means a lower level of care – residents may receive assistance in housekeeping and cooking, but they are otherwise capable of managing their day-to-day activities. The new facility will also add at least four more staff to Bridges’ payroll, which is in the low/mid 40s and has been seeking living wage certification.

Side note, although it’s been replaced with newer videos, Mack Travis, the founder of Ithaca Rentals and renovations (now Travis Hyde Properties under his son and son-in-law) once did a testimonial in a short video extolling Bridges’ service for his family members. Now years later, Bridges will be providing services to residents of THP’s DeWitt House senior living project.

This is a high-end development where no expense is being spared. Tompkins Trust Company extended a $4.2 million loan, filed with the county on July 20th. Construction is expected to take about a year, with local firm Schickel Construction in charge of the buildout. Alongside with Bero and Horrigan, T. G. Miller P.C. did the civil engineering work for the project.

The project does include a finished basement, and it appears the site has been cleared, excavated, and concrete masonry (cinder block) walls are being assembled at present. Construction will be a traditional wood-frame approach. Note the ZIP panels on the neighbor at 109 Dearborn, as it goes from a dull 1930s office/storage space and becomes a two-family home, also designed by Bero Architects.

Pre-construction (Sep 2017 Google Street View)

August 2018

   

Drawings:

 





News Tidbits 7/21/18

21 07 2018

1.. I rarely check in on Groton, but here’s an interesting little rehabilitation. Back in August 2017, I noted that a historic village church at 113 Church Street was for sale. The buyers last February were David and Delsy DeMatteo, who own and rent out a number of Groton-area properties. The DeMatteos appear to have submitted and received approval for a plan to renovate the structure into a 12-unit apartment building, replacing the religious-turned-commercial space with ten apartment units (two units already exist). From the look of it, the ten new units would consist of eight one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. The plan was approved in late fall when the DeMatteo likely had a purchase option on the property, and the sale closed on February 8th. Always nice to see new life breathed into a place that played a role in the lives of many.

2. Over in Dryden village, the second phase of the new Rite Aid-turned-Walgreens development site is being marketed. Great Dane Properties is touting 5,700 SF of space for lease, with a drive-thru option should one desire it. The spec site plan can be seen here – the render above is likely the north elevation. Early conversations stated a 3,800 SF restaurant space (typical for a fast food /chain coffee shop), 1,900 SF of other retail space, and 33 parking spaces, but the plan is vanilla box, meaning minimally finished interior – it’s a shell with the exterior complete and all the utilities are good to go, but the build-out of fixtures, finishes and partitions is up to the tenant. A second commercial real estate posting suggests a 2019 build-out, though it’s more likely based on the ability to secure a primary tenant.  That listing also floats a hotel as another possible use of the location.

The first post came from Craigslist, which as a matter of personal opinion, that seems a bit unbecoming for high-value commercial listings, and may not effectively reach the target market of business owners and RE corporate development teams. You’re trying to fill 5,700 SF of new retail space, not sell Grandma’s old couch.

3. Also in Dryden, plans for a new veterinary office building at 1650 Hanshaw Road. Existing site plan here, proposed site plan here, elevations here. It’s not a particularly large project – a one-story metal building 4,800 SF in size, with revised landscaping 14 new parking spaces. The new building would go in front of the existing building on the property, so not much in the way of site prep required. The plans are being drawn up and led through review by local architect George Breuhaus.

4. It looks like the gut renovation and expansion of 1020 Craft Road is complete. The $1.88 million project involved taking the existing 10,500 SF car dealership-turned-industrial building, tearing out everything except the support beams, and fully rebuilding the interior along with constructing an additional 4,400 SF of space. Three commercial office spaces were completed, and it appears Cayuga Medical has leased two of the spaces for medical offices. The project was developed and built by Marchuska Brothers Construction of Binghamton.

 

5. Speaking of renovations, it looks like someone is interested in the former Tau Epsilon Phi house at 306 Highland Road in Cayuga Heights. The plans show 15 “units” and potentially up to 48 beds, which sounds like a group living situation, but the plans do not identify the developer. The first phase would involve exterior and interior renovations for 36 beds in the 3,400 SF building, enclosing the side porch and constructing a small addition on the southeast face to create a new entrance. A second phase is shown in the documents that would seek a 1134 SF, 12-bed addition at what is currently the front entrance of the early 1960s building, the east facade. It was previously noted that 306 Highland was for sale for $1.385 million, which was steadily reduced to $1.025 million before being taken off the market at the start of June. The village will begin site plan review of the project at its Planning Board meeting on July 23rd.

6. On to Lansing. Here’s a little more about the Hillcrest Tiny House project -memo here, application here, drawings by architectural firm SPEC Consulting here,  . The five homes would be built on 16 Hillcrest Road, a parcel split by Hillcrest Road where it intersects with Warren Drive – the developer is the home owner who lives on the other half of the parcel, south of the intersection. The triangular northern piece would host the rather traditional-looking cottages, which would be one-bedroom units, about 450 SF each, and have two parking spaces apiece. The land is zoned industrial/research, which allows commercial and industrial uses – the owners argue that its location on the west side of Warren Road near other residential development along Hillcrest means that a commercial or industrial use would be out of character.

One could make an argument that this is desirable in that their small size would help address the  middle-market for housing demand, which has been lacking in new options, resulting in existing options being pressured upward in price. The project would cost about $200,000 to build and the owner/developer estimates two months to build each cottage, though it’s not clear if construction of each cottage would be concurrent, or one at a time.

Quick side note, Milton Meadows has submitted a construction plan for the new access road in tandem with the town’s realignment of the Woodsedge Drive/Route 34 intersection. Taylor the Builder, the general contractor for the project, is planning for November 2018 – September 2019 for the 72-unit affordable apartment complex.

7. Urban Core LLC has started exterior demolition and reconstruction work for the Press Bay Court project. I’ve been waiting to officially move this into the construction column for a while, could never quite be sure when walking past – the full rundown and description of the project can be found in the October introduction here. To quote part of it:

“What Urban Core’s latest plans would do is expand that “experiential” micro-retail mix eastward towards the corner of Green and Cayuga Streets, the Commons and the downtown core. The parking lot in front of D. P. Dough would be converted into a plaza much like Press Bay Alley’s, and the first floor of 108-110 West Green would be renovated into 5-8 micro-retail units facing the new plaza (the Green Street entrances would be retained), with 320-2200 SF per unit. The second floor would be renovated into four below-market rate one-bedroom apartments with 510-660 SF of living space, and the exterior masonry would be cleaned and repaired. The hawk mural will be preserved. New signage, bike infrastructure, curbing, sidewalks and a parklet are included in the plans. The total square footage in phase two is about 9,000 SF.”

8. 105 Dearborn has received a construction loan to move forward. The 10,930 SF, 12-bedroom, 16-person high-end skilled care facility will cost $4.2 million to build according to the loan filed this Friday the 20th, and over the next year it’ll slowly take form on what is now a vacant corner in leafy Cornell Heights. Bridges Cornell Heights will run the facility, and add a handful of news jobs as a result of the new addition. Tompkins Trust Company is the lender, and the historically-inspired design was penned by Rochester-based Bero Architecture.

7. Looks like a fairly interesting monthly meeting ahead for the Ithaca City Planning Board. Here’s the agenda:

1. Agenda Review 6:00
2. Privilege of the Floor 6:01

3. Subdivision Review

A. Project: Minor Subdivision 6:15
Location: 508-512 Edgewood Place
Actions: Determination of Environmental Significance – Consideration of Preliminary and Final Approval

This subdivision at the end of a private street in the East Hill neighborhood would re-subdivide a double lot that had been consolidated after the original house burnt down in the late 1930s. Any news structure on the newly created .326 acre lot would be subject to Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission design review. No specific plans are on file.

4. Site Plan Review

A. Project: Stewart Park Inclusive Playground 6:30
Location: Stewart Park
Applicant: Rick Manning for the City of Ithaca
Actions: Consideration of Project Changes

Project Description: The project was approved by the Planning Board on March 27, 2018. The applicant is now requesting project changes, including relocation and redesign of the bathrooms and parking area, and layout and programming changes to the overall playground.

The bathroom building was to be combined with a pavilion, but that proved to be expensive and the playground architects had bad experiences with the original structural supplier, so local architecture firm STREAM Collaborative stepped in to design a separate 24′ x 24′ bathroom building with utility rooms and storage space. The pre-school playground and sand garden were moved, the splash pad tweaked, some swings were added and the adult wellness area was deleted for this initial buildout.

B. Project: Minor Subdivision & Construction of a Duplex 6:45
Location: 209 Hudson Street
Applicant: Jagat Sharma, architect, for Bia Stavropoulos, owner
Actions: Determination of Environmental Significance

Touched on this one a couple of weeks ago – the project was revised from two duplexes to just one, with three bedrooms per unit. Even development-averse councilwoman Cynthia Brock offered support for the plan (with minor aesthetic tweaks), which is about as good as one can hope for a green light to proceed. Note no approvals are planned because this has to go to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a lot size variance.

C. Project: Major Subdivision (3 Lots), Two Duplexes, One Single Family Home & Site Improvements 7:00
Location: 128 West Falls Street
Applicant: Ron Ronsvalle
Actions: Consideration of Preliminary and Final Subdivision Approval and Site Plan Approval

BZA gave Ronsvalle’s five-unit rental project in Fall Creek the all-clear. This project came up earlier this month in a previous news roundup – a five-unit infill project in Fall Creek, originally approved in February 2015, and revived now that the developer has found a way to continue working after a debilitating accident. Don’t foresee any issues here.

D. Project: North Campus Residential Initiative (NCRI)
Location: Cornell University Campus
Applicant: Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture on behalf of Cornell
Actions: Intent to Declare Lead Agency

This will be huge – 766,000 SF of space for 2,000 student dormitory beds and associated program space, including a 1,200 seat dining hall. I’ll have more coverage next week. John Novarr favorite ikon.5 is the project architect.

E. Hudson Street Townhomes – 117-119 Coddington Road –Sketch Plan 7:50

One of this week’s new shinies. This project appears to be slated for a parking between two apartment complexes and across the street from the Elks Lodge just north of Ithaca College’s campus. Depending on how they reconfigure the existing parking lot, they could do a high single-digit or low double-digit number of townhomes. Zoning here is R-3b. Up to four floors/40 feet, 40% lot coverage, one parking space per unit of per three bedrooms (two spaces for 4-5 bed units). Lot coverage may end up being based on a subdivision, since this falls into the South Hill Zoning Overlay and no additional primary structures are allowed on a lot. The property has been owned by the Dennis family since 1979, but the developer may be someone else with a purchase deal on the subdivided lot.

F. Falls Park Project – 121-125 Lake Street – Sketch Plan 8:05

This would be whatever Travis Hyde Properties is planning for the former Ithaca Gun site on Gun Hill. I have been told this is “substantially different” from the earlier Ithaca Falls Residences plan. Assume residential. This was rezoned R-3a not long back, up to four floors/40 feet, 35% lot coverage, one parking space per unit of per three bedrooms (two spaces for 4-5 bed units). I would expect a fair number of units for a 1.42 acre property; the IFR plan was 45 units.

5. Zoning Appeals 8:10
#3102, 209 Hudson St., Area Variance
#3103, 216 University Ave., Area Variance
#3104, 737 Willow Ave., Area Variance




News Tidbits 12/2/17: The Changing Calculus

3 12 2017

1. Perhaps the big news of the week is that Visum Development Group’s project for 311 College Avenue (the Nines restaurant and Bar) was revived after negotiations with the seller moved in a favorable direction. This time around, it appears that Visum is bringing something close to an “A” game proposal; Jagat Sharma is still the architect of record, but Visum’s VP for New Market Development, Patrick Braga, had a heavy hand in the design work and historical research. The designs produced are more historically inspired and embrace some of the elements that make the old fire station attractive to the public – the first floor doors will pull up like garage bays or slide open to create a sort of open-air loggia on warm days, and a cornice element is retained. Floor to roof will be about 66 feet according to the Times’ Matt Butler, and still contain about 50 1-bedroom and studio apartments as well as 750 SF of retail. For the record, he and I did a bit of collaboration on describing the architectural features before we ran our respective stories.

The sketch plan had a kinder reception from the Planning Board this time around, if still cautious. Even though John Schroeder made it clear he would never accept any plan for The Nines, he said something to the effect of, if this design were proposed for any other MU-2 in Collegetown, he would have no problems with it whatsoever. The rest of the board did a quick poll to see if the other members would at least entertain a proposal, and no one else said no, so the project is considered active.

Now, things can get a little awkward from here. The city planning director, JoAnn Cornish, made it clear that they could move forward with design if they want, but there’s a risk that the property may get landmarked before they get approval. Speaking with the city historic preservation director Bryan McCracken the day after the article, he said that a decision on whether or not to move forward with the landmarking process would be on the agenda for the ILPC’s December meeting. If they move forward, it still has to go to Common Council. I had previously heard through the grapevine that the council was favorable to landmarking in the case of the Nines, but that was before Visum brought forward a new plan. The truth is, things are fairly unpredictable at the moment, and it’s a matter of waiting and watching how different stakeholders act and react.

2. I like Matt Butler, he has time to do the stories that I can’t. This time, a look into the plans for a centralized government facility at the site of the Central Fire Station on the 300 Block of West Green Street. That study is still active, under the guidance of Kingsbury Architecture and TWMLA, as is the second study for a combined Public Works facility. The appraisal process and estimates of cost are also still underway.

It’s kinda a given that this would have tremendous impacts, as noted in the Voice. A lucrative Collegetown site and other redevelopment sites would be on the market, and hundreds of workers and daily visitors would extend Ithaca’s core down State Street, which the city wants, considering it to be one of the few directions downtown can expand towards without compromising too much of Ithaca’s existing urban fabric. The ILPC would need to sign off on plans due to the fire station’s proximity to the “Downtown West” historic district (it actually contains the IFD’s parking lot for the sake of contiguous parcels), so “super-edgy hypermodern” probably isn’t on the table design-wise. The city also has to make a decision relatively soon – the current city hall (former NYSEG HQ, built 1939) and “Hall of Justice” (1920s, renovated/expanded 1964-66) are in need of major renovations.

3. Also on the visionary end of discussion are future plans (2020 onward) for Collegetown’s transit network. Here, it is often a delicate case of balance; it’s a dense, lucrative secondary core of the city, but parking and traffic are problems, as is the lack of infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. One option being explored is a new bike lane up College Avenue that would eliminate 35 parking spaces (and was not well received), and the other is a more modest plan that largely keeps College Avenue as is, which many didn’t like either.

Perhaps the most interesting note from the article is that the city is examining the feasibility of expanding the Dryden Road garage by adding additional floors to the 1980s structure. The Dryden Road garage has the highest parking rates and a high occupancy, and is the most lucrative of the city’s four garages. The city is also looking at incentives for on-site parking, which to be honest, probably isn’t going to work in Collegetown for a number of planning and financial reasons (i.e. a developer will make a lot more from a rentable unit per SF, than from a parking space per SF).

4. Nothing much of note from the town of Ithaca Planning Board agenda. The owners of a former convenience store at 614 Elmira Road are seeking to perform minor renovations to the building for a bottle and can return (to be called IthaCAN & Bottle Return), and Maplewood is asking the town planning board permission to work on Saturdays in a mad dash to have the 872-bed complex ready for occupancy before August. Normally, renovations don’t need to visit the board, but the zoning for the Elmira Road requires a visit for each change of occupancy/use.

The city of Ithaca’s Planning Board memo is short as well, just the long-brewing plans for a garage-replacing addition to 115 The Knoll in Cornell Heights. The 1950s garage will be replaced with a 4-bed, 2-bath addition for Chesterton House, an all-male Christian interest group Sophia House, an all-female Christian group.  It appears the design has changed very little if at all since the plan first became public in May. The $349,900 addition, designed by STREAM Collaborative, would be built in the Spring and Summer of 2018 for an August opening. (Correction: Chesterton House is next door and owned by the same group. The project is for Sophia House. Thanks to Lyn for catching that.)

5. Local developers Steve Flash and Anne Chernish (d/b/a Rampart Real LLC) will be taking on a partner in the 323 Taughannock project. The couple sold a $203,000 stake in the 8-townhouse plan to Arnot Realty of Elmira (d/b/a 323T LLC) on the 22nd. For Flash and Chernish, it gives them a much bigger partner with experience and connections to contractors; for Arnot, it gives them a toehold in the buregoning Ithaca market, their first step into the city. The deed explicitly states this is a joint venture.

6. So this is interesting. On Friday 12/1, an LLC purchased an industrial/office building at 37-40 Elm Street in Dryden for $260,000. The property was built in the late 1980s and is about 25,000 SF, with a warehouse, manufacturing space, office space and three apartments.

The buyer was an LLC, but the LLC filing address traces back to 312 Fourth Street in Ithaca, a 13,800 SF complex of buildings and warehouses home to the All Stone & Tile Company, Ithaca Ice and Strawbridge & Jahn Construction. So either someone is growing out of space and the others are staying, or they are all moving. If they are all moving, that could be an opportunity. Zoning is B-4,  which allows a very wide variety of business and residential uses. Zoning is 4 floors/40 feet maximum height, 50% lot coverage, but being on the tip of the Waterfront/West End corridor, my suspicion is that the city could be a bit flexible with zoning variances for density and/or affordable housing. The only places one finds B-4 zones are the fringes of downtown, so it’s not well-suited for big projects, but there’s room to explore options. Of course, the electrical substation next door isn’t ideal, and the property isn’t even up for sale, but this is worth keeping an eye on.

7. So, there’s no real avoiding it this week – the tax bill in Congress. It really hurts Tompkins County. I did my one and only tweetstorm to cover some of the issues, and most of it still holds. Two last-minute changes softened the blow between then and now. One was the inclusion of the Collins amendment to reinstate a $10,000 cap on SALT (State and Local property tax) deductions, since the original Senate bill had no deduction. The other was raising the endowment from colleges with an endowment of $250,000/student, to those with $500,000/student. Cornell’s is about $310,000/student (6.8 billion/22,300 students). For the record, it wasn’t done to protect Cornell, it was done to protect conservative Hillsdale College after an amendment to give it an exclusive exemption failed. At least 30 schools were still hit, and this detail has to reconciled with the House Bill’s $250,000/student figure.

So apart from the SALT and college impacts I had already noted, one thing that got missed was that the bills allow prohibit schools from taxing out tax-exempt bonds to fund construction. For Cornell’s plan to add 2,000 beds, this is a problem.

So let’s just overview this real quick – a bond is a fixed-income investment in which an investor loans money to an entity, which borrows at a fixed or variable interest rate for a fixed period of time. When you buy a bond, you hold the debt for that entity. Most investors typically have some proportion of bonds in their portfolio – they typically are more stable investments than stocks, though the returns are typically less. Their relative safety is why financial planners recommend a higher proportion of bonds as one gets closer to retirement. The riskiness of a debtor not paying back is given by their bond rating. Cornell’s long-term debt rating is AA, which is very good, high-quality investment grade.

Now, in the case of non-profit schools, typically the tax-exempt bonds are issued with the approval of local and state authorities. The project to be financed by the bonds is determined by the school. The school does its internal approval of the project and bond plan, and the project it goes up to the community for planning board/environmental review. Once approved, the school chooses an approved issuer of bonds, often a state or local development authority (ex. The Dormitory Authority of NYS). A working group is put together to establish a timetable and structure for the bonds, and once the bond structure is settled and reviewed for issues, a public hearing is held on the bond issue, so that any issues or concerns are made clear before issuance. Barring no problems, the government signs off on the tax-exemption for the bond issue, a closing date is established and the bonds are marketed and sold, mostly to banks and big investment firms. The received funds are disbursed to pay for the project.

That’s getting taken away by this tax bill. That means any future bonds will be taxable, and have a much higher interest rate. Borrowing just became more expensive. A 30-year AA tax-exempt bond might be 2.76%, and a taxable bond 3.37%. That might seem a small difference, but a 2,000 bed project is on the order of $200 million (recall Maplewood is 872 beds and $80 million). So we’re talking millions of dollars more that Cornell will now have to pay to make those dorms happen. It opens up a distinct possibility that the project could be scaled back and/or delayed, which impacts the overall housing market. Probably the federal SALT tax cap is going to hurt much more.

Really, this bill was practically designed to decimate real and perceived enemies of politically conservative groups as much as it was designed to help billionaire donors and corporations. Poorly conceived, ignoring multiple non-partisan analyses and relying on overly optimistic projections, hastily put together and shoved through, blowing the debt trillions higher and immediately or eventually raising taxes on tens of millions. This is every cartoonish stereotype of Republicans amplified in one piece of legislation.

I don’t like to get political, but I’m a registered Republican, and have been my whole life. As a pragmatic never-Trump moderate, I joke that I’m a New York Republican and a Texas Democrat. When one writes about government red tape, the Cargill Mine, and Ithaca’s progressives attacking affordable housing, it tends to reaffirm beliefs.

But hell, this tax bill is throwing every principle out the window with this bill, causes a ton of damage to a place I care about, and with a morally deficient and unstable president at the helm, I can’t do it anymore. I mailed off the form today to become an independent. After this, I just can’t see myself voting Republican again, not for a long time.

 





News Tidbits 5/6/17: Starting Small and Dreaming Big

6 05 2017

1. The Evergreen Townhouses in Varna was hotly debated at the last town board meeting, per the Times’ Cassie Negley. Linda Lavine, one of the town board members, was particularly fierce in her criticism, calling the solar panels “useless”, and others in attendance expressed concern about appropriate room for amenities.

However, it also seems one of the phrases bandied about was that it wasn’t “family-friendly”. If you’re reading this and one of those folks, do yourself a favor and stop using that term. It’s an enormously baited phrase, historically used to fight affordable housing as a racist/classist euphemism, because people of a certain class or color were apparently less appropriate for families to be around. For an unfortunate example, it was a phrase used with the INHS 210 Hancock affordable housing plan in Ithaca. Think of it as the equivalent of a religious group claiming a TV show isn’t “family-friendly” because it has a same-sex couple, or feminists.

Although this project is market-rate, deciding whether or not something is “family-friendly” is subjective and potentially baited. It gives others the wrong idea on how to discuss the pros and cons of a project, which should be about features, or lack thereof. TL;DR, find a different phrase.

Oh, and on another note – Planning Board member Don Scutt. For someone claiming Dryden is getting an anti-business reputation, your work fighting the solar panels isn’t doing the town any favors. I don’t always (often?) agree with your mirror opposite and board colleague Joe Wilson, but at least I can say he’s consistent in his views.

Anyway, off soapbox. It looks like the public hearing was left open as the project may potentially pursue a modified plan of some form, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

2. The Trebloc property, future home of City Centre, has exchanged hands. 301 East State Street sold for $6,800,000 on April 28th. The seller was “Trebloc Development Company”, the company of developer Rob Colbert. The buyer was “City Centre Associates LLC”, a limited-liability entity created Newman Development. This brings the 8-story, 218,211 SF mixed-use project one step closer to getting underway.

3. A couple of news notes from the Tompkins County PEDEEQ (planning/dev catch-all) Committee meeting:

I. OAR’s transitional housing at 626 West Buffalo Street will be called “Endeavor House”.

II. The county is set to start work on its draft housing strategy. The annual goal figures through 2025 include:

–580 “workforce units” per year, of which 280 are rentals going for 50-100% area median income, and 300 would be for-sale, with 80 of those condos.

–student beds, either dorms or student housing developers, commensurate with enrollment growth

–special needs beds to those making 50% or less of AMI. No quantitative descriptor is given.

–350 units in the urban core, 50-100 in “emerging and established nodes”, 30 in rural centers and 100-150 in “other areas”, which includes suburban Lansing.

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4. 607 South Aurora Street is officially underway. Modern Living Rentals posted an update to their facebook page showing site prep for their infill residential project in the city of Ithaca’s South Hill neighborhood. The four new buildings will be two-family units with three-beds each (24 total), similar to those recently completed at 125 and 139 Old Elmira Road. If the statistics are correct, the existing house will be renovated into a two family house – the banner suggests a 4-bed unit and a 2-bed unit to bring the total to 30 beds. This project will get a full write-up later this month, and its progress will be tracked as it heads for an August completion.

5. Looking at the city of Ithaca’s projects memo, it doesn’t look like anything brand new will be coming up. The formal review process is set to begin on Visum Development’s 232-236 Dryden Road project. I’m kinda confused on STREAM’s project description because it references both 191 bedrooms and 206 bedrooms, and some of the numbers don’t match the parenthetical figures -for example, thirty-seven (42) bike spaces. Going off the FEAF, it looks like the number of beds has in fact been increased to 206. The construction timeframe is August 2017 – August 2018, and it looks like both buildings will comprise one phase. Deep foundation, so apologies in advance to the neighbors who may be hearing a a pile driver this fall. The developer is exploring net-zero energy options.

Also of note, 323 Taughannock received some visual tweaks. Gone are the cute sprial staircases leading to the waterfront, and in their place are more standard treatments. The group of five will now have their balconies on the third floor instead of the second floor. The changes on the front are more subtle, with the window fenestration now centered on each unit, and the front doors rearranged (old version here). Overall, the design is still roughly the same, it’s just a revision of a lot of details. Worth noting, given the crap soils on Inlet Island these will be on a timber pile foundation designed by Taitem Engineering. 238 Linden Avenue, 118 College Avenue and Benderson’s 7,313 SF retail addition are up for final approval this month.

6. Meanwhile, from the ILPC, it looks like there are a couple of density-expanding projects planned in the city’s historic districts. The first will renovate a garage at 339 South Geneva Street in the Henry St. John Historic District (part of Southside) into a one-bedroom carriage house. It’s infill, the garage is non-contributing and the design is an improvement, and it looks like a good if small project.

The other is a renovation of a classic Cornell Heights Mansion at 111 The Knoll into group housing for “Sophia House”, a Cornell Christian organization for women. The men’s equivalent, “Chesterton House”, is next door. The plan calls for renovating the five-bedroom, legal for eight-persons house into a 15-bed home. Part of that would entail demolishing the 1950s garage, which is connected by a breezeway to the ca. 1910 house, and replacing the garage with a four-bed addition, still connected through the breezeway.

Both designs are by STREAM Collaborative, as are 232-236 Dryden and 323 Taughannock. Can’t fault STREAM for being good at what they do – if a developer wants modern like 201 College, they get modern. If one wants traditional like the above examples, Noah Demarest and his team can do that too. They know the market and what works in terms of design. Unlike many local architecture firms, STREAM’s business is almost completely in Tompkins County – they did some concept design work in Rome and Utica, and some of the Tiny Timbers kits have been sold outside the county, but otherwise everything else is in or close to Ithaca. Business is good.

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7. Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, but Harold’s Square will eventually get underway. It appears the problem right now is that the tax abatement approved by the county is insufficient because of the increase in project costs (up 12% to $42.9 million), so the project team is heading back to the IDA to get the abatement revised (the Hilton Canopy did the same thing a few months ago). The project was previously approved for a 7-year abatement, but this time around they are seeking the 10-year abatement. Combined property, sales and mortgage tax abatement would come out to $5.089 million. New property taxes generated over the 10-year period would be $3.4 million (note that is on top of what’s already paid; IDA abatements use the current taxes as the baseline).

The office space and retail space look higher than previously stated (33k vs 25k, and 16k vs 12k), but it looks like that’s because the Sage Building renovations are included in the IDA numbers. The apartment count remains the same (108), although it looks like one 1-bedroom unit has been replaced with a 2-bedroom unit.

Two reasons are cited for the delay- issues with getting the office and retail space occupied, and a premium price on construction workers as a result of the increased local activity. The pre-development costs are clocking in around $800,000, so if it fails to get approval from the IDA’s board, that will be a pretty big cost to swallow.

Should it be approved, the construction timeline is stated as June 2017 through Q1 2019.

8. Just throwing this in for the sake of throwing this in – mark your calendars for May 17th, when Cornell hosts a forum about the new East Hill Village neighborhood from 5:30-7:30 PM at the East Hill Office Building at 395 Pine Tree Rd. The project website notes that it will start with a 30-minute presentation, followed by breakout groups to brainstorm what people do and don’t want included in the building plans – certain retail uses, housing components, general visions for the site. There will be more meetings over the next several months – the goal is an Autumn 2017 exhibition for the preliminary plans.