Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 1/2018

23 01 2018

At this point, the expansion is done, and the construction at hand is the new $7 million Community Practice Service Building at 107 Farrier Road, where the Poultry Virus Lab once stood. It looks like a waterproof spray coat was applied above the previously-applied water-resistive barrier, based on the overspray on the rough window openings. There are plastic sheets with ribbing up over some of the exterior walls and part of the front entrance – the rendering shows concrete walls with decorative finishes,  so what might be happening is that these are still curing, and the sheets are there to keep precipitation (whatever it may be this time of the year) from penetrating and changing the concrete and water mixing ratio, which can weaken the wall.

The roof equipment (HVAC commercial units) appears to be in place, but the synthetic rubber membrane has yet to be laid. A truck at the rear of the construction site suggests Michael A Ferrauilo Plumbing and Heating of Rochester is one of the subcontractors. They’ll be busy for a while yet; stacks of insulating form board and galvanized metal utility ducts suggest plenty of interior and exterior work still left to be done before the May opening.

Background info on the project can be found here.





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 1/2018

22 01 2018

Finally, the glass for the new western staircase bump-out makes its debut. There appear to be visible brackets between glass panels in the curtain wall, so this is quite recent – the aluminum frames have yet to be finished. The copper flashing up top is nice and fresh, and if the renders are any indication, the wood panels just below that will be finished with steel panels. Peer inside closely and you can see the outline of the new staircase and the metal railings on each landing.

Worth noting, there is a major difference between the approved drawings and the built product – notice that the bump-out is four floors. The renderings show five, it was expected to extend down to ground level. That bottom section with the Lowes Green Guard (polystyrene foam insulating boards) might still be finished with steel panels and decorative “Cornell Law School” lettering, given its width; but, can’t be sure at this point.

With the newly-enclosed loggia already finished, this $10.2 million renovation project is in the home stretch; although a January 2018 was initially planned, a March completion seems fairly likely.

Background info on the project here.





Maplewood Redevelopment Construction Update, 10/2017

17 10 2017

For project background and planning, click here.

For a site plan breakdown, click here.

For a construction timeline, click here.

Looking at the photos closely, there are some differences between what was shown in renders, and what’s being built. “Nt”, the corner building, has different window patterns and sizes, different dormers, and a steeper roof pitch than shown any of the renders. Taking a guess, the project team is value engineering on the fly, going with quicker or easier design options to save on costs and stay closer to the tight timeline. As long as the habitable square footage and distribution of units/bedrooms in unchanged, this is allowed, for both projects that require an EIS, and smaller ones that fall under the usual SEQR negative declaration. It is rather odd to have such a steep roof pitch on “Nt” if there’s no habitable space in the attic, because that’s not really a time saver or money saver compared to the lower roof pitch, and no windows means no legal bedrooms.

The neighboring strings on Mitchell were also modified, though at a glance at “Ot”, it only appears to be the dormers, which were combined and made flush with the exterior wall. There’s a pretty strong likelihood that Pt and It-2, which are still being framed, will show similar modifications.

The modern string that has been framed, fitted and wrapped, “Kt-2”, appears to have the same shape and features as advertised. The modern units are cheaper to build per unit, so they would have been less likely to undergo additional value engineering.

Apartment Buildings “B” and “C” are being framed, with “C” up to its top floor, and “B” still working on the first floor. There are no obvious changes to the design of Building “C” when compared to renders.

Most subterranean utilities have been laid at either end of the site, and several foundations have been completed. Excavation and utilities installation are ongoing closer to Maplewood’s center. With all the disturbed soil piled around, it’s hard to tell just how many structures have commenced with excavation and foundation work, but an offhand estimate for the number of foundations underway or complete is at least one dozen. Some wooden forms for concrete pours of later townhouse strings can be seen around the property, as is steel rebar for strengthening the concrete, and the large cement mixers towards the northern end of the site. CMU stairwells have been or are being built for the northern trio of multi-family apartment buildings, “D”, “E”, and “F”. Note the construction staging basically has the ends of the site being built first, with work moving steadily inward through the fall and winter. The first units will be finishing up around the time the last ones start construction.

 

 





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 9/2017

30 09 2017

It appears the loggia has been enclosed at the Cornell law school. The fence is down, the landscaping is in place, and apart from some exterior finishing work, that portion of the renovation is complete. The new glazing works well with the collegiate Gothic architecture.

The new west stairwell has yet to be installed, with some plastic sheeting serving as an exterior membrane for the time being. With the old exterior wall removed, installation of the structural frame is likely to start soon, and it seems plausible that Welliver and Cornell would like to have the new stairwell closed up before winter comes. From the inside, it looks like some of the new office and academic space has been completed, while the southwest wing remains in the interior framing stage, with some metal wall studs visible through the hazy plastic sheet separating the construction area from the finished spaces.





Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 9/2017

29 09 2017

After two years of updates, the vet school expansion is practically finished. The exterior finishes are complete, and the Flower-Sprecher library is stocked with bookcases and workstations. Final landscaping and interior finish work appears to be all that is left on the agenda. According to a construction update from the Vet School, the academic spaces officially opened for academic use on September 11th. The exterior landscaping will be finished by October 1st, and offices and labs will be fitted out from now through December. The interior atrium is certainly cavernous and imposing, and it’s a shame the doors were locked during this past weekend’s visit.

The veterinary complex has never been an especially attractive group of structures, and the expansion project, designed by Weiss/Manfredi of New York, manages to add a modern update without being ostentatious. The boost in class sizes will give more students (120 per class, vs the current 102) a chance at Cornell’s quality veterinary education, and the growth provides fringe economic benefits for the Ithaca area as well. The new lecture halls, tutorial and surgery areas will no doubt be put to good use educating students and serving the community at large.

If I want to mark one concerning note, and be the obnoxious discriminating alum at the same time, I could point out that it appears that what was once the #1 vet school in the country is no longer #1 – UC Davis, whose student population is nearly 25% larger, is the new gold standard. So I suppose alumni could take to arguing over where the vet school’s resources would be better used. But, I study puffy clouds and cow farts for a living, and vet school politics is a debate outside this blog’s scope.

While this is the last update for the expansion, the new $7 million, 12,000 SF Community Practice Service Building will continue to use the same tags and headings, since the projects, though separate, have always been included in the same update posts. At this time, general contractor G. M. Crisalli & Associates has completed the foundation and underground utilities, and is erecting the wood framing for the walls of the one-story building. It looks like the front entrance area uses structural steel framing as a canopy. Sections of plywood sheathing are also up, and it looks like they may be planning to use a form of housewrap. A bit surprised they didn’t spring for ZIP panels, but each barrier has its pros and cons.  Some interior stud walls have also been assembled. The front sidewalks have already been poured and the curbing extruded, which seems reasonable as heavy equipment enters and exits from the other side of the construction site. The new CPS Building, designed by local firm HOLT Architects, should be open by May 2018.

Old:

New:





Upson Hall Construction Update, 9/2017

26 09 2017

Upson Hall’s renovation is complete. The building became fully re-occupied as of August 22nd, per the Cornell Daily Sun. It’s been a long time coming. Two phases, 27 months, $74.5 million invested. One supposes that staying cutting edge in engineering requires a certain investment in cutting-edge labs and equipment.

The interior is certainly impressive with its airy, industrial feel. The interior fit and finish appeared impressive, Cornell getting their money’s worth. However, on the outside the quality of Upson’s appearance is diminished somewhat by the puckered seams and slight imperfections of the aluminum panels on the stairwells/elevator cores.

To be totally honest, I was more a fan of the old Upson’s clean modernist lines. Certainly the interior needed work, but this just looks…gimmicky? I dunno how well it’ll age on the outside, but hopefully the inside will lend itself to creating exciting engineering feats and technological advances.

New York’s LTL Architects and engineering firm Thornton-Tomasetti were the primary architects and engineers for the project, assisted by the original architecture firm for the building, Perkins + Will. The landscaping, which will be finished at a later date, was designed by local firm TWMLA. The Pike Company served as the general contractor for the project.

Before (from 2008/2009):

After:





News Tidbits 9/16/17: The Big Surprise

16 09 2017

1. Ostensibly, the biggest newsmaker of the past week was the announcement of the Green Street redevelopment in Ithaca’s downtown core. To be frank, I was freaking out at my desk. Even more astounding was that the city slipped it out so casually, embedding it in a monthly PEDC meeting file that typically focuses on more mundane legal and planning concerns.

All photos that follow are from Jolene – pardon the marginal quality, we were both in note-taking mode, and these presentation papers weren’t given out to the public. North is towards the top of the floor plan images.

While the documents have yet to be uploaded to the city’s website, some basic details were released during the meeting – the number of parking spaces for the whole complex is 525. There would be two towers with residential units, a U-shaped west tower and a boxy east tower with projecting corners. 15 floors apiece. 350 units, “designed to appeal to a broad demographic”. Abatement likely, with the details to be ironed out as the percentage of affordable units is determined. The middle portion will also have residential units on top of the existing garage. 30,000 SF of conference space is planned under the eastern tower, if my notes are right.

The first floor appears to have at least two retail spaces, a lobby area, and an office, probably for management of the complex. The middle section will retain access to Cinemapolis and the garage. On levels two and three would be rebuilt garage sections (note the center section was rebuilt ten years ago and unlike the ends, is in good shape). Another floor of parking will be added.

Cooper Carry is the architect, and the initial design looks fairly safe, attractive if not particularly inspired. After the Marriott, it’s good to be wary of potential value engineering. It appears to use brick veneer, Nichiha-like metal panels and maybe fiber cement. Also, with Harold’s Square and City Centre off to the left, this would arguably create a broad-shouldered if stubby skyline for downtown Ithaca, more impressive than many communities Ithaca’s size.

My notes are that Marriott co-developer Jeff Rimland had non-public information about the Green Street garage because he owns the ground facilities under the garage’s eastern deck, and would be impacted by renovations. He was made aware of city looking at their options and put something together. The city only learned about the plan four weeks ago, and mayor Myrick wanted to make sure it was brought forward for public discussion and to determine if it was a wise choice to move froward. Ostensibly, if this came out as a surprise, a hornet’s nest of opposition would be stinging. Being transparent now helps later.

It seems the intent is an RFP for the garage for the sake of fairness, but I dunno how effective that will be. Rimland has a big advantage as owner of a portion of the parcel, since any other developer would need to arrange legal agreements with him in order to carry out a project. It was suggested by Brock, who has never been a fan of development, and I cynically wonder if this was an attempt to ensnare or at least stall the proposal. An RFP does put the city in a more legally comfortable position, perhaps. On the flip side, I cringe at the thought of another Old Library-like mess.

On a final note, there’s also a name, seen in the lower right of the rendering – “Village on the Green”. Very punny guys.


2. The other big news item of the week was 311 College Avenue, more commonly referred to as “The Nines replacement”. The Nines is a much-loved restaurant and bar that has long been a part of Collegetown’s drinking and musical scene – in the late 2000s, if I had to describe Collegetown bars, where Johnny O’s was the “fratty frat” bar and Chapter House the erudite tweed-clothed crowd, The Nines was the laidback, indie band geek-turned-rocker. Add in its location in a ca. 1908 fire station, and one of the few sizable outdoor patios in Collegetown, and one can understand that a project on this site was never going to be warmly received.

Granted, I’ve been raked over the coals a couple of times for the article, whose first headline said The Nines was being kicked out. It was an honest copy-editing mistake. For breaking news I publish ASAP, like with the Green Street development. However, that’s discouraged because the business pieces are useful for filling slow periods during the day, or to give time for others to prep articles during the early morning. Many of my articles are written in the late evening, submitted to the schedule, and skimmed through before hitting the website. In this case, I submitted Sunday night, my editor Jolene read through it early Monday morning, she thought the opening lines implied an eviction and changed the title (the original was a generic “Apartments Proposed for The Nines”). Sometimes title get changed for clarity or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but this particular time it created a false statement. I didn’t see it until I was at work on Monday, and uncomfortable conversations ensued. Sorry all. The next article won’t wax poetic.

Anyway, with that error noted, it makes this next opinion segment more uncomfortable. I’m not a developer. But if I were one, and heard the property was being put up for sale, I’d probably have steered clear. With all due respect to Todd Fox, my gut feeling is that the cons outweigh the pros.

Ithaca is not an easy city to do a project in. A developer has to pick and choose their battles. In this case, the battle is taking a building with some degree of historic value, but more importantly a lot of local sentiment attached, and proposing to replace it with, frankly, a mediocre design with high-end student units. I understand the economics of the site, the market, and the unfortunate though economically necessary impacts building flush to lot lines has on the ability to install windows on the sides. My concern is external impacts, by creating an emblem for opposition to organize around, because it wraps several perceptibly negative impacts into one proposal. That may make future projects that much more difficult. I worry that whenever a controversial plan is brought forth in years ahead, it will be pejoratively described by NIMBY types as “just like that Nines replacement”.

It has taken years for Ithacans to become slowly more amenable to density and development. Proposals that inadequately address community concerns threaten that progress. Consider the case of Jason Fane. He toyed with the city plenty of times. Eventually it caught up to him and he got burned. The sad part is, 130 East Clinton was a solid project, and to this day I believe that had it been another developer, those apartments would have been built.

Anyway, the ILPC would like to preserve it as-is, which draws the question why the discussion never moved forward 18 months ago when they had the chance. I don’t think that’s likely at this stage, and an overbuild probably wouldn’t work due to development costs (foundation shoring, elevator if 4+ floors) with respect to developable area – the big front yard setback is an impediment to that. I heard that an offer was floated to Neil Golder to move his house at one point during the 201 debate, so maybe moving all or at least the front (1908 wing) of the old station No. 9 is possible, but the expense would be great. As for the new building’s design, maybe modest fixed windows in the north/south brick faces, or glass block features like on Sharma’s 307 design, or even something as minor as a mural on the CMU blocks would help.

But, all that might be grasping at straws. This was always going to be controversial. I won’t fault someone for seeing an opportunity, even if it’s not a plan I’d advocate. It all depends on one’s appetite for development opportunities, and sensitivity to potential blowback.

3. For sale: 405 Elmira Road. 0.74 acres of parking lot next to Buttermilk Falls Plaza. List price: $465,000, courtesy of Pyrmaid Brokerage. Also noting – the chain hotelier who bought the former Tim Horton’s next door from the same seller for $640k in January 2016. Timmy Ho’s 0.75 acres is a little small for a hotel on its own, but combined with this lot, suddenly plans start to look quite viable for a mid-sized chain in the city’s suburban-friendly SW-2 zoning. Someone else may come along and buy it, but let’s see what happens.

4. It appears the 24-unit Pineridge Cottages project is off the table. The project, planned for the corner of Mineah and Dryden Roads in Dryden town, was greatly scaled back by developer Ryzward Wawak after water tests led to concerns about having enough to supply all the units. At this time, the plan is for four cottages, each a two-bedroom unit.

5. The Times’ Matt Butler has a nice summary and brief interview with Lakeview Health CEO Harry Merriman regarding the 60-unit affordable housing plan for 709-713 West Court Street. Some of the obstacles the project faced wouldn’t be a surprise to readers of this blog – the soils require a more expensive deep (pile) foundation, and land acquisition costs are climbing, which increases the overall costs involved with bringing a proposal into reality, let alone a plan that focuses on affordable housing. The increase in units from 50 to 60 was driven by the need to balance out revenue with expenditures and make the affordable housing economically feasible. Incremental cost increases per unit are significantly less than overall structural costs, so the per-unit expense for 60 units is less than 50, making the project more appealing in competitive grant processes.

Of the 22 units to be set aside for formerly homeless individuals, six will be reserved for HIV-positive clients of STAP, the Southern Tier Aids Programs. Those infected with HIV tends to experience much higher homelessness rates than the general population, with at least 81 homeless HIV-positive individuals in Tompkins County alone. This makes it hard to do things like refrigerate medication. These six units are a small number perhaps, but for those six folks it will make a huge difference.

6. Another feather in the cap of the local STEM sector of the economy. Biotech startup Jan Biotech Inc., based out of the Cornell Business Park by the airport, has received a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) that will be used in the research and production of an HIV diagnostic for detection and quantification of latent HIV-infected reservoirs in patients –  cells that have the virus but aren’t actively producing HIV, which current anti-retroviral therapies struggle with. Potentially, the diagnostic could help test new medicines for their ability to target those cells, and lead to a true cure for the virus before AIDS can occur.

Along with new equipment and renovated facilities, the grant is expect to result in the hiring of another 5 to 10 scientists and engineers for the four-person firm. Which is great, but truly, it’s their work to try and improve our treatment and medicine of a deadly virus that’s more important. The very best of luck to them.

7.  A bit of news from the Cornell Daily Sun regarding the additional 2,000 beds Cornell would like to build on its North Campus, as part of its freshman expansion and “Sophmore Village” plan. The university would like to begin construction on the first dorms in 2018, and start increasing student enrollment by 2020. For that to happen, the plans pretty much need to come forward for formal planning board review within the next few months. Presumably, they’d like to have the dorms ready by August 2019 – these will be used as flex space initially, so that existing dorms like Balch and Clara Dickson can start renovation. At a bare minimum, it takes three months to go through the city planning board. Given this project’s proximity to Cayuga Heights, the local patricians will want to have their say as well, even if it is just outside village lines. With the size of the project and a minor amount of inter-municipal complexity, four months from sketch plan to approval seems realistic. Considering the need to request and award contract bids, it would seem plausible that Cornell puts the dorms forward this fall for review, with approval expected by late winter. Bids would be requested and awarded during the Spring, and construction would start by June. Whatever the case, the first construction plans are likely not far off.