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.





News Tidbits 10/8/16: No Rain, But the Money’s Flowing

8 10 2016

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1. The Sleep Inn project at 635 Elmira Road went back to the town of Ithaca planning board last Tuesday. The initial write-up looked good – town planners were very pleased with the proposed changes, and the developer, local hotelier Pratik Ahir, proposed two different concepts to the board to see which one they were more comfortable with. The one that the board likes would be finalized in the plans and submitted for final approval later this year. No media were at the meeting, so I do not know which concept they preferred.

Both concepts by HEX 9 Architects attempt to maintain the rustic character that the town seeks to maintain for its part of the Inlet Valley Corridor. Concept one at top uses stone veneer (Elderado Stone), timber trusses, Hardie plank lap siding, and asphalt shingles. This design features balconies on both the front and rear of the building. Concept 2 incorporates a more varied roofline and building face, metal roof panels, stone veneer and a couple different types of Hardie Board. Concept 2 has less timber and no balconies. The town planning department felt that both concepts were unique enough and rustic enough to get its benediction in the SEQR analysis they sent over to the board. The concepts are a big improvement over the rendition we saw in August.

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2. Looks like the Canopy Hilton is a go. The project secured a $19.5 million construction loan from ESL Federal Credit Union on Friday September 30th. ESL is a new face to the local market – “Eastman Savings and Loan” was founded in Rochester in 1920 to serve employees of former photography giant Eastman Kodak. The 7-story, 131-room hotel is expected to open in Spring 2018.

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3. Also funded this week – the second phase of Poet’s Landing out in the village of Dryden. Citibank is lending $7,702,326 to Rochester-based Confier LLC to build the 48 affordable apartment units across the street from Dryden High School, just west of 72-unit phase one. The documents were filed on Tuesday the 4th. The design of the second phase’s will be the same as phase one’s, an eight unit per building design by NH Architecture that is one of Conifer’s standard designs. The total project cost is $10.8 million, with the balance come from state affordable housing grants and tax credits. The build-out is expected to take about a year.

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4. So a few news bits about 201 College. The partially-deconstructed house at 201 College is now getting torn down, which had nothing to do with approval, and everything to do with break-ins and safety issues – there was evidence of squatters taking up residence, and the expense of a tear-down is worth avoiding a lawsuit or tragedy. Speaking of which, although a ruling on 201 College has yet to be issued and won’t be for a few weeks, Neil Golder’s lawsuit has already been re-filed. The court hearing is scheduled for December. According to an exchange with my colleague Mike Smith, Fox is planning rowhouses along Bool Street, within a 45-foot height limit but spanning the block, as it seems he has a purchase option on neighboring 202 Linden.

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5. According to Nick Reynolds at the Times (yes, he jumped papers), the buildings to be deconstructed for the Harold’s Square project are to be vacated by the end of October. Developer David Lubin plans to start the deconstruction process, which is a little more intensive and lengthier than a typical demolition, in November. Things have been complicated by the city’s decision to forego the project in the Restore NY grant application, where the $500,000 was allocated to pay for demolition, and must now be sourced from elsewhere. Once secured, the plan is to file for the permit, and by law they have up to 30 days to start deconstruction from the day the permit is issued. Construction should go for about 18 months, once the site is cleared.

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6. The 8-unit 607 South Aurora project will be seeking “Declaration of Lead Agency” at the Planning Board meeting, and materials have been filed with the city. Project narrative here, SPR application here, drawings here. The big changes since sketch plan were sidewalk and parking lot revisions, and rotating Building D to establish harmony with Hillview Place. The project is estimated to cost $1.5 million and aims for a construction timeline of March to September 2017. This is the next incremental step up for Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals, whose M.O. is to quietly pursue modestly-sized infill projects in less dense parts of the city (ex. the two duplexes planned for 312-314 Old Elmira). In a change of pace, the staff of Sharma Architecture are the designers this time around.

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7. From the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, the new two-family house at 123 Eddy Street has been granted zoning variances. Expect the Sharma-designed two-unit, six-bedroom rental property to start construction next year in time for the 2017-18 academic year.

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6. House of the week. Instead of one underway, this week will show two recent completions. Leading off is this house on West Hill’s Campbell Avenue, built by Carina Construction. This project came up in a weekly roundup back in late May – it’s a $320,000 project per the permit filing with the city, with $280,000 lent by Tompkins Trust. The contrast between the wood siding and the (fiber cement?) vinyl siding is a nice touch, as is the two-story porch. Definitely a unique house, and a showcase of just what kind of variety one can do with modular pieces if they’re willing to get creative.

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Now for house number two. This isn’t a new build, but a very thorough renovation. Every time I take photos, I run into the owners, and normally I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. But, given that I’ve run into him twice, he’s familiar enough with me that we’ve had a conversation about his work.

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This is in Fall Creek on North Aurora. The couple who own this place moved in from Pennsylvania, they were just starting retirement when the wife’s father was no longer able to take care of it. It had been a duplex, but the other unit was more workshop space. The building was in good shape, but these folks wanted to modernize and refresh it, so they decided to do a to-the-studs renovation, basically turning it into a new home within an existing shell. Fiber cement, wood shingles, a few modern touches (the south bumpout, the unusual gable/shed hybrid dormers), a carriage house, a lot of work went into it over the past year and a half and it shows.





New Tidbits 5/14/16: A Land Subdivided

14 05 2016

6-29-2014 162

1. This week, the city rolled out a strategy memo for “Design Guidelines” for Collegetown and Downtown. The city held focus meetings back in March with Winter & Company, a Boulder-based urban design and planning firm with experience in cities and college towns from coast to coast. No specific individuals are mentioned as being part of the focus groups, but the focus group meetings consisted of “residents, property owners, developers, architects, design professionals, Planning and Development Board members, Common Council members, and City staff.” The memo is meant to help guide continued discussion of design standards, and to identify key issues in each area that could arise with planning and implementation.

The feedback from the focus groups shouldn’t come as a surprise – use high quality materials, respect historic character but don’t emulate it, recognize that development costs in Ithaca are very high, promote walkability and active street use, encourage parking lot infill, define transition areas between smaller-scale neighborhoods and denser cores, and so forth.

One of the major components being reviewed is whether design guidelines should be mandatory or just a set of recommendations. The city has a design review process that comes into play for certain projects like those on the Commons, but otherwise it’s non-binding unless the BZA or planning board mandates it as part of approval. Regardless, more meetings are expected as the guidelines are fleshed out.

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2. The Ithaca Times is checking in with the Al-Huda Islamic Center plan for Graham Road in Lansing. Fundraising is still underway for the 4,828 SF mosque, which according to a member of the Al-Huda board of Trustees, is expected to cost between $650,000 and $1 million, per contractor estimates.

Fun fact of the day, Islamic law prohibits mosques being paid for with funds that collect interest (tainted by usury). Everything must be paid for up-front and in full.

The village of Lansing has already signed off on the mosque plans, and the vacant land at 112 Graham Road is bought and paid for. Pretty sure the above drawing is outdated, but I haven’t seen an image of the latest plan available online. The Times has an interior shot of the current plan to accompany their story.

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3. The town of Ithaca passed the nine-month moratorium on two-family dwellings by unanimous vote at its meeting this week. Anyone seeking to build a duplex in the town of Ithaca will now have to wait until February 2017 for a building permit, unless “unnecessary hardship” is demonstrated by the law’s imposition. The law was driven by the construction of multiple 2-6 unit student-oriented structures east of Ithaca College in the Kendall/Pennsylvania avenue area, which they felt was undermining the neighborhood’s character. Earlier versions of the law called for a year’s length, but the town received numerous complaints that a year would actually hit two construction seasons, 2016’s and 2017’s.

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4. Also in lawmaking, the bike lanes proposed for the 300 and 400 blocks of Tioga Street in downtown have been shot down in favor of sharrows, 3-2. This comes after strong advocacy by city bicyclists and some planning and sustainability groups, and strong opposition from some elderly and disabled advocacy groups, suburban neighborhood residents and the town of Ithaca’s town board.

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5. One of the many issues that faces large-scale planning and development in Tompkins County is that, over the many decades, land has been heavily subdivided and sold off between many different owners, with the properties often passed down or even traded, leaving records piecemeal. With so many owners, some untraceable, it can become logistically difficult, especially if not everyone is on board with a plan.

In front of Moe’s down in big box land, the county owns a 0.3 acre parcel of land previously a part of the flood relief channel. Since 2005, Benderson Development has rented the land as part of its shopping complex – now they just want to simplify things and buy the land from the county. With an offer of $112,500, which is $17,500 over the county’s assessment, and with the county’s 2005 confirmation and 2016 re-affirmation that they have no public use for that slice of land anymore (much of the channel’s land has already been incorporated into other parcels), they’re planning to finalize the sale at the Legislature’s meeting next week.

6. If you glanced at the Voice, you know there’s a plan cooking for 36 townhouse units east of Varna. But according to Dryden’s town planner, that’s not the only project that’s been brought forth to the town. A different applicant brought forth a plan for 20 single-family homes on 9 acres near the intersection of Route 13 and Mineah Road, a rural stretch between Varna and the village of Dryden. The units, expected to be rentals, are allowed as of right in Dryden’s mixed-use zoning – if it’s under 4 units/acre, it doesn’t need a special use permit, or even site plan review. A check of property records reveals several parcels owned by Ryszard Wawak, a Lansing businessman who picked up the land a number of years ago and has already built a duplex (2-bedrooms each) and a 5-bedroom house on subdivided parcels.

If you happen to start seeing houses popping up between Dryden and Varna, it’s probably this project slipping under the radar.

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7. Taking a glance at the Ithaca Projects Review committee meeting agenda, the Elmira Savings Bank and 201 College Avenue projects will be undergoing review before heading to the planning board meeting later this month, and the subdivision/reconfiguration to build two two-family houses at 312-314 Old Elmira Road will also be reviewed. There are also a boatload of zoning variances being sought for various projects – Marriott signage, an apartment reconfiguration on Farm Street, a basement home salon on Center Street, a home addition on Cobb Street, parking variances for 121 West Court and a area variance for an existing carport on Grandview Avenue that was apparently never approved by the city when built in 1973. In total, there are nine. It’s times like this that the city would benefit from a simplified zoning code.





Hotel Ithaca Construction Update, 4/2016

27 04 2016

Demolition and site preparation are the task du jour at the Hotel Ithaca at 222 South Cayuga Street. The north wing of hotel rooms is being demolished now, and the west wing of hotel rooms will be demolished once the new building is complete.

The new 30,000 SF, 5-story wing will contain 90 rooms, 2,900 SF of additional meeting space, breakout rooms, and a new fitness center. 100 hotel rooms are being taken offline and demolished, reducing the number available at the hotel from 180 to 170. But, the primary goal of the project is to modernize the Hotel’s offerings, and stay competitive with newer hotels downtown, including the Marriott currently underway, and the Canopy Hilton due to start later this year.  The project applied for, an received a 7-year tax abatement under the CIITAP program, making it the only project that has pursued the 7-year option over the more common 10-year enhanced option. CIITAP may not be popular from a P.R. standpoint, but as shown on Ithaca Builds, the high property tax rate downtown plays a large role in the program’s necessity.

 

Photo from C. Hadley Smith Collection

Photo from C. Hadley Smith Collection

The Hotel Ithaca originally opened in 1972 as part of the city’s urban renewal plans, initially operating as a Ramada. At the time, it only consisted of the two-story wings, as seen in the 1973 photo above; the 10-story “Executive Tower” was added in 1984/85. The hotel was rebranded as a Holiday Inn until the start of 2014, when it switched to an independent operation as the “Hotel Ithaca”. The Hotel Ithaca was also the working name of the Marriott project early on, so the two projects are easy to mix up. As part of the change, the hotel carried out $2.4 million in renovations (phase one) to the tower rooms and utlities.

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Early plans called for a $17.8 million, 140,000 SF addition with a 9-story, 115-room hotel, restaurant and conference center designed by Buffalo-based Roberts, Shackleton and Boy Architects. The conference center was very well received by local officials and business leaders, and is seen as really crucial to Ithaca’s business interests – the city lacks the ability to host mid-size conferences and conventions (midsize meaning about 500 attendees), which sends conventioneers elsewhere. Currently, the lack of meeting space limits conferences to about 250 guests. The addition of a convention facility is seen as a major benefit to downtown retail, as well as other hotels that would handle overflow guest traffic. Convention traffic typically happens during weekdays, when regular tourist traffic is lowest. The plan was later revised to 8 stories and 97 hotel rooms, and then that didn’t move forward due to financial difficulties.

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The current project was proposed last September, and as the project had evolved, the tax abatement had to be re-voted (and passed 6-1). A potential third phase calls for a 3-story addition to the 5-story wing, and the coveted conference center, on the corner of W. Clinton and S. Cayuga Streets.

The $15 million second phase is aiming for a completion in May 2017. About 21 new jobs are expected to be created, most of those service positions near or a little above minimum wage.

Hart Hotels of Buffalo, founded by David Hart in 1985 and operating locally under the name Lenroc L.P., is the project developer. Krog Corporation, also of Buffalo and a favorite of Hart Hotels, is the general contractor. NH Architecture of Rochester, another frequent partner of Hart Hotels, is the project architect.

 

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News Tidbits 11/16/2011: Cayuga Green II Gets a Revival (and a Revision)

16 11 2011

In terms of Ithaca-area development, I consider myself an optimist. But Cayuga Green’s second phase was one of those projects I had written off as left for dead. For a quick background, Cayuga Green is the formal name for the mixed-use project that has been underway on Green Street in downtown Ithaca for about ten years. The project, proposed for a piece of land that was then-used for a large parking ramp/lot, was aimed to revitalize that section of downtown, but was not without controversy due to its use of property tax abatements by developers Bloomfield & Schon. The first phase includes the new Cinemapolis (one of the results of the controversy was to switch from a new multiplex to a new space for Cinemapolis), the redone parking garage, a creekwalk, and the Cayuga Place Apartments, where the new TCAT stop is.  The first phase was completed a couple years ago.

By a fair account, the project has had mixed success. What has been built is doing quite well. Gimme! Coffee, Palmer Pharmacy and Urban Outfitters filled the new commercial space (all of which were new, not companies that moved space), and the apartments had a low vacancy rate. Cinemapolis has adjusted to its new space and the street is rejuvenated. The project spurred nearby development, including Gateway Commons and the Hotel Ithaca project. The caveat comes from the second phase, which was supposed to start in mid 2007. The financial market started to tank, and this phase had never gained financing, government or private. The space it was intended for, behind the city’s new parking garage, was left empty.

It would seem that is about to change. Thanks to a tip from from frequent visitor and favorite old fart “Ex-Ithacan”, the project is going in front of the Planning and Economic Development Board. The revision is for a six-month extension on the site (construction was supposed to start by 12/31/2011, even after a previous delay),  The amendment notes the project seeks no tax abatements, but must go to the Common Council at the end of the month for final approval.

Also notably, the project is revised. The original proposal looked like this (image from developer’s website):

Which was revised to this:

and now looks like…this (from the agenda):

The newest incarnation is 6 stories, 35 units of condos, and 8,500 square feet of office space, of which about 5,000 feet is reserved for the Park Foundation, a local non-profit. No new environmental review is required, which should save time in the approvals process, and that will be handy since final approval and building permit will have to be issued by June 30, 2012.





Let’s Go Downtown, Part II

14 09 2008

The Cornell Daily Sun Building on West State Street. Notably, the Daily Sun was not the first newspaper on campus, but rather took the title from the Cornell Era, which was founded shortly after the school opened, and then after twenty years or so began to take a different direction (literary journal) that would lead it into obscurity and termination. The Sun also holds the prestigious title of being the oldest continually-independent college daily in the U.S. [1]. I believe the printing press is on site, but if someone wants to provide a little more detail on that, please be my guest.

As for the building itself, it was built in 1916 and was the home of the Elks Lodge in Ithaca. The Daily Sun’s Alumni Association bought the structure in 2003 and completely renovated it over the next several months. The building also happens to be located next door to the Ithaca’s Journal’s offices (who don’t even print here—they print in Johnson City, near Binghamton [2]).

The Immaculate Conception Church is a Catholic Church in Ithaca that falls under the Archdiocese in Rochester. The building was constructed in 1898 and designed by architect A.B. Wood [3].

Across the street is St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox Chruch. It was constructed in the 1900s.

Shortstop Deli is a popular sub/deli/convenience store near downtown Ithaca. The Deli was founded in 1978 by Albert Smith [4], although by my guess the buidling dates from the 1950s. Shortstop is also the company that owns The Hot Truck.

The Clinton House was built as an upscale office and hotel building in 1828-1829 [5]. Designed by Ira Tillotson, it is named for NY Governor DeWitt Clinton (DeWitt Park is up the street). The building has been renovated numerous times in its nearly 200-year history, which is clearly evident by the glass wall stairway addition in the rear of the structure and the colonial details that were added in a 1901 renovation of the building, after a fire destroyed the roof and upper floors. The building underwent renovations again in 1985-1987 and more recently in the mid 2000s, returning Clinton House to it’s “1852-1862 era appaearance”. The building is maintained by the NPO Historic Ithaca, but the last I heard they were seeking to sell it to a willing buyer.

Admit it, you’ve thought about going here if you haven’t already.

The Tompkins County Public Library (TCPL) on Green Street. The building was originally a Woolworth’s department store until it closed in 1998, and it was renovated into the library space in 2000. Prior to that time, the library was located about five block farther north in a ca. 1968 building. The first library was a gift from Ezra Cornell to the city, but later went into private use, and it was torn down in 1960 [6].

So I had a special request for this photo. The State Street Theater was originally built as the Ithaca Security Garage Auto Company and Dealership, built in 1915. The building was renovated into a theatre by the Berinstein family and opened as a theatre on December 6, 1928. Due to changing times, the theatre struggled to remain open past the mid-century and closed by the 1980s. Slated for demolition in the mid 1990s due to a number of structural and health concerns, a grassroots effort to resotre the theatre took hold, and enough funds and renovated were completed in the late 1990s that it was reopened on December 5, 2001 [7]. Today, the theatre continues a slow but steady renovation, and hosts a number of live acts from music groups to comedians.

Yes, Ithaca has a Holiday Inn too. The low-rise portion of the building was built in 1972 as a Ramada Inn. The tower was built in 1984/85.

As I mentioned previously, the City Hall and Town Hall are two different structures for two different entities. City Hall dates from the 1930s. The original city hall, if you’re lucky enough to find an old photo of it, had the appearance of a country church.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cornell_Daily_Sun

[2]http://theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/CUSTOMERSERVICE02/50411002

[3]http://www.immconch.org/history.html

[4]http://www.shortstopdeli.com/welcome.htm

[5]http://www.ci.ithaca.ny.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B0374E3DD-2B1E-49D3-AA16-ECA42FEF728F%7D&DE=%7B6C41E3A4-5DC1-4EA1-AD3F-32631AF0F4F4%7D

[6]http://www.tcpl.org/about/history.html

[7]http://www.stateofithaca.com/statetheatrehistory.html





Going Downtown

3 09 2008

Information that might be worth knowing about Downtown Ithaca, so you can impress your friends by making it sound like you actually leave Cornell and Collegetown.

Built in 1914, the quirky DeWitt Mall (named for Dewitt Clinton) formerly served as the city’s high school before the new facility on Lake Street was built in 1960-61. Apart from having a bunch or quirky shops and stores, the building’s sub-street storefront is home to Moosewood Restaurant (est. 1973 [1]) of vegetarian dining fame.

Seneca Place on the Commons is one of the largest buildings by gross area in downtown Ithaca. The 121-ft. tall, $32 million building was completed in 2005 by Criminelli Development [1]. It houses 100,000 sq. ft. of offices (Cornell is the primary tenant at about 70,000 sq. ft.) and a 104-room Hilton Garden Inn [2]. Starbucks and Kilpatrick’s faux-Irish pub make up the ground floor retail. The site was previous home to a parking area and two low-rise buildings.

The beige box on the left is the Community Bank Building, which was built about 1981. The previous structure on the site, a four-story YMCA building, burnt down in a reported arson in 1978. The building on the right is the older portion of the Ithaca Town Hall (not that it’s not Ithaca City Hall, which is another building), which dates from 1858[3]. Prior to renovation in 2000, it was the (vastly underused) main Post Office in Ithaca.

The M&T Bank Building, formally known as Tioga Place, was originally built in 1924 [4]. The awkward addition, like a piece of food stuck between someone’s two front teeth, was built on a half century later.

Center Ithaca, on the Commons. The building was built in 1981. It was an early attempt at a mixed-use structure designed to take advantage of the Commons and to make the area more lively. Well, didn’t really work out as planned. Rothschild’s, a department store that was the ground-floor anchor, closed early on. The 62 apartments were difficult to rent out at a time when downtowns were still considered dangerous places to be. And it ran over-budget, pushing its developer and the cash-strapped city into financial hell. Today, the building has worked out most of its kinks, but it didn’t fulfill its original goal, so it worked with mixed results.

Token Commons shot. Completed in 1974 on what was a part of State Street, the Commons was the brainchild on Thys Van Cort, the recently-selected city planner. Pedestrian malls were all the rage in the 1970s; most closed down within a few years. Ithaca’s has persisted, much to the delight (or loathing) of locals. Talk around, and you’ll find some adore the Commons, and some want it turned into a street with parking on the sides. Whichever you prefer, it’s there for the time being. The tracks in the foreground mark where the streetcars used to turn in the downtown area before they closed in 1935/36.

The foreground building that houses Viva Taqueria is the Wanzer Block, which dates from 1905. The building that hugs it in an L-shape is the Roy H. Park building, which was built in the 1990s. Roy H. Park was an Ithaca-residing executive for Proctor & Gamble who was also a substantial donor and investor in Ithaca College and  the surrounding area.

For now, it’s a parking lot. By 2010, as long as things stay on schedule, this will be the site of a 9-story, $17 million,  102-room Radisson hotel by Rimland Associates (rumors have it to be a Radisson, but it will be a recognized chain that occupies the new building) [6].

The center building is the Tompkins County Health Services Building, constructed in 1990 [7]. On the right is the nearly-finished Cayuga Green Apartments, a 59-unit building that will house Cinemapolis on the streetfront. The Parking garage on the left (built in 2005), will see the addition of a seven-story, 30-unit condo tower (Cayuga Green Condos) on the backside (the side facing this photo).

I know, bad photo, but it’s visible most everywhere else in Ithaca City. Limestone Tower, built in 1932, is slated for an apartment conversion and renovation by the Ithaca Rental Company and its head, Jason Fane. The building  was originally built for the G.L.F. Exchange Farmers’ Association.

Just outside of downtown is the William Henry Miller Inn. William Henry Miller, of course, was one of the first Cornell architect graduates, and also designed Uris Libe and Boardman Hall. He designed this house and its carriage house, which were built in 1880 and 1892 respectively [8].

 

[1]http://www.moosewoodrestaurant.com/aboutus.html

[2]http://www.re.cornell.edu/senecaplace.htm

[3]http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/newtown.htm

[4]http://www.emporis.com/en/wm/bu/?id=tiogaplace-ithaca-ny-usa

[5]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_H._Park

[6]http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3718/is_20080418/ai_n25443972

[7]http://www.kwikfold.com/Pictures-PhotoWork/Hascup.jpg

[8]http://www.millerinn.com/inn.htm