News Tidbits 1/20/2019

21 01 2019

Now to start digging into the odds and ends:

1. For those interested in learning more about the Carpenter Business Park proposal, Northside United, the neighborhood group that represents the Northside Neighborhood, will be hosting the development team for a presentation and Q&A on Monday, February 4th 6pm at the Quaker Meeting House on 120 Third Street. Here’s the project breakdown as provided in email by Northside United:

Affordable Housing. A 4-story building with 42 one and two-bedroom units of working family housing will be sited near Farmer’s Market and 3rd Street and targeted at those in the 50-60% of area median income ($30,000-$35,000 household income range). The affordable units are in a separate 4-story building from the market rate units, they say due to federal/state requirements for low-income housing tax credits. Park Grove Realty (with staff formerly associated with Conifer) will manage the affordable units.

Market Rate Housing. In addition to the building affordable housing, two other 4-6 story buildings in the development will be targeted at market rate rents (and also include commercial/retail).  Maybe 150 or so units of market rate housing.

CMC Medical Office Building. This 4-story building, at the east end of site near Cascadilla Street, is slated to be mostly medical/specialist offices and a still to be defined “healthcare location,” but not a “convenient-care” type facility.

Commercial Space. Tentatively there will also be approximately 20,000 feet of commercial space in the development.

Neighborhood Design and Features. They talk about this being a small “new neighborhood” of its own, but knitted together with our existing Northside neighborhood.

Community Gardens. Ithaca Community Garden retains its current size (following a land swap) and becomes permanent (pending agreement with Gardens and City). As this is being negotiated with the Gardens and City, NU probably does not need to spend time on it.

Opening Fifth Street to Rt. 13 is being considered.  

Northside United participants have asked the development team consider an urgent care or dental clinic on-site, screening the parking from the rode, better pedestrian and bike access (with reference to Form Ithaca’s boulevard concept), consider townhomes vs. multistory buildings, making the Fifth Street access pedestrian/bike only, well-designed green space, include a local committee of officials, residents and developers to guide the design process, and satisfaction with the affordable component, though they’d like it mixed with other buildings. That last one is always tough, because state-administered affordable housing grants don’t allow this out of concern the market-rate section goes bankrupt; so if they were in the same building, they would still have to be one contiguous entity within the building, as with Visum’s Green Street proposal.

Kind word of advice – if you want to attend but are not a Northside resident, be as respectful like you’re a guest invited to someone else’s house. In the 210 Hancock debate, Fall Creek was strongly negative to the affordable housing proposal, which was in neighboring Northside and better received in Northside. But Fall Creekers had a habit of steering the conversation, which created tensions with Northside United.

2. Dryden’s Tiny Timber Homes has been keeping busy. The firm is rolling out a new line of smaller homes in an effort to better meet the needs of the middle-income housing market. The first home shown above is their first truly tiny timber – a 330 SF home that sells for about $75,000 fully finished. The second example is a U-shaped ranch home being built on Landon Road in the town of Caroline; that 2-bedroom, 856 SF home on 1.2 acres is selling for $199,000, which is practically the maximum buying power of the median family income in Tompkins County (3.4 * $59,000 = $200.6k). The new line of homes will include designs ranging from the 330 SF example, to 1,100 SF, which can be built for $150-$200/SF depending on the home model, location and features.

Tiny Timbers has also rolled out its next cluster development, a 20-home development on 6 acres on a vacant West Hill at the dead end of Campbell Avenue. Plans call for screened parking, a community garden and a multi-use trail. As reported by my Voice colleague Devon Magliozzi, the Planning Board was enthusiastic but cautioned that West Hill was generally averse to any new development. I dunno if that is totally true in this case; I had a conversation with George McGonigal a few years ago when Tiny Timbers bought the property, and he was cautiously optimistic for owner-occupied housing as long as they weren’t “packed like sardines”; dunno if ~3 units/acre passes the test. This would be their second such development, following the Tiny Timbers Varna plan, “The Cottages at Fall Creek Crossing”, which has sold at least four of its fifteen lots (the website shows three sold, but it’s not clear when the webpage was last updated) and is undergoing site prep for the new homes. The homes here would likely be similarly priced, in the $200k-$275k range, and 850 SF – 2,000 SF.

3. Here’s a look at the New York State Department of Transportation’s plan for a new regional facility on Warren Road in the town of Lansing. Here’s a description of the plan as reported by the Lansing Star, per DOT representatives at the meetings to the county and town last week:

“Buildings on the site will include a 30,000 square foot ‘sub-residency’ maintenance building, a 5,000 square foot Cold Storage, a 8,200 square foot Salt Barn, and a 2,500 square foot Hopper Building (covered lean-to). The proposed maintenance building will have vehicle storage for 10 trucks, a loader and tow plow, with one additional double depth mechanical bay and single depth, drive-thru truck washing bay. It also includes an office area (three rooms), lunch/break room (30 people), toilet/shower/locker rooms, storage rooms and mechanical/electrical rooms. The site will also contain stockpile areas for pipe, stone and millings, and ancillary site features including a fueling station, parking for 40 vehicles, and stormwater management facilities. The project will require construction of an access drive from Warren Road and the extension of utilities.”

As is often the case with high-priority state projects, the construction time frame is fast – the governor’s office wants the site built and fully operational by the end of the year. Also, much to the chagrin of some very unhappy neighbors who don’t want a DOT facility nearby, the town of Lansing is not Lead Agency in environmental review – the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) is, given proximity to the airport (the county sold the 15.5 acres of land to the airport last September). Public resource projects by the state, like state-owned office buildings, state maintenance facilities and labs, are generally excluded from local zoning codes and do not have nearly as lengthy of an approval process. The nearly 1,000 page Environmental Site Assessment report can be found on the DOT website here. CHA Companies (formerly  Clough Harbor and Associates) of Albany, a prominent state contractor, did the assessment on behalf of the state.

There’s always going to be a bit of limitation in where the state can go with a project like this. The state wants out of the waterfront, not just because the county wants the land to be redeveloped, but because the salt and vehicle fluids could pose risks to the water quality of the inlet and lake (and DOT doesn’t want to be on the hook for that), access to 13 is more difficult due to urban traffic, the location isn’t efficient to where the state plows state roads previously handled by the town, and lastly, the state has simply outgrown the waterfront site -it needs more land, and taking the railroad’s or the Farmers Market’s is not a viable option. The state did originally plan using a site in Dryden on Ellis Drive, but the state determined that response time to urban areas was too long, and since some of the land was federally designated as wetland, the site was too small.

4. In the county’s deed filings, one of the more common recordings is the easements filed by NYSEG, often for new line connections to the power grid. Once in a blue moon, they turn up something interesting. The above site sketch comes courtesy of one of those filings. Scott Morgan owns 543 Asbury Road, and in 2015 he had proposed eight duplexes on the property, but the town had issues with that much density on a rural lot, so Morgan shelved the plan and the town amended the code to prevent such density on rural parcels. In turn, it appears that Morgan subdivided the 5-acre lot into four parcels, and is building a duplex on each. If they’re like his Lansing rentals, expect them to be ranch-style units with two bedrooms each.

 





News Tidbits 1/18/2019

19 01 2019

It’s been a while. Let’s start with the bad news first; projects that have been cancelled over the past month, or are on the ropes.

1. Heading over to Lansing, the Lansing Senior Cottages is dead. The project, which was developed by Beer Properties in conjunction with Hunt Engineers, had been reduced in size from the initial proposal, from 108 units to 97 units, in 84 buildings (71 single-family, 13 two-family) on about 40 acres. In order to move forward as a pocket-neighborhood housing development (houses closer together than permitted under a medium-density residential zone in the village), it would have needed a Planned Development (PDA) designation from the village of Lansing.

The Planning Board has eight criteria to establish a PDA, and felt that the project didn’t meet four of the criteria (maximum choice in ownership types and occupancy tenure, convenience in location of non-residential facilities, efficient use of land, and desirable change in environment), and was therefore insufficient to merit a PDA. Their vote to deny the PDA also killed the project, since the design isn’t possible in Lansing’s medium-density zone. The density is the legal, albeit at the maximum allowed, which in sewered areas is 20,000 SF (0.46 acres) per single-family, and 25,000 SF (0.57 acres) per two-family. But the law states they have to be on their own, non-clustered lots, with setbacks, minimum road frontage and so forth. In other words, a conventional suburban subdivision.

The site was originally approved for just such a project, the high-end, three-phase, 31-lot Millcroft development, of which only the first phase was ever platted and prepped before the Great Recession kicked in and the market for very large, very expensive homes shrank. The Bush family limited homes to 2,500 SF or greater, and with half-acre lots selling for $80,000, it was clearly geared toward high-end homes, but they lack the combination of acreage or lake views that are the usual prerequisites of Lansing’s $500k+ home sales. Well over a decade later, and the thirteen home lots still have yet to be fully built out, and interest has never been strong. Three of the four recent home sales here sold under assessment, which is a rarity in Tompkins; last year, it was less than ~6% of properties.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Millcroft land went up for sale in 2017. When the Bush family sold a purchase option to the Beers, it was taken about as well as a stick to the eye, and Millcroft Lane residents strongly opposed the 800-1,200 SF senior cottages. In theory, the remaining eighteen lots in the subdivision are still an option, or another layout could be submitted; but a developer is not legally obligated to build houses as big or expensive as the first phase if the Bush family agrees to remove the covenants, which the Beer cottages proposal shows they very are open to.

As for the Beers, it’s a shame the plan won’t move forward, as senior rentals (and senior for-sale, more crucially) are an underserved market in Tompkins County. Potentially, other locations in Lansing or elsewhere might be suitable and more open to cluster-style senior cottages, but after sinking tens of thousands into this proposal, the Beers are unlikely to submit something else in the near future.

2. A little further north in the town of Lansing, a pair of projects are struggling. The 102-unit Cayuga Orchard Apartments project is up for sale from WB Property Group of New York City, as is a 28-lot subdivision, Cayuga Way, which was intended for high-end homes. Cayuga Orchard is asking $3.1 million for the 30.5 acres and plans, though the seller has stated interest in a Joint Venture partnership if a potential buyer is interested and willing to negotiate. The ad briefly states:

“30.5 acres, now approved for 102 units, approved to tap into municipal sewer. Open to JV or to sell outright Located in prestigious town of lansing, best in class schools, 15 min from Cornell University Extremely long approval process for multifamily.”

To be fair, the town of Lansing is one of the easier municipal approval processes in Tompkins County, though an uncertain and red-tape-filled process has been cited as both a barrier to affordable housing and housing development within the county.

The Cayuga Way ad, also from WB Property Group, is for either all 28 lots or by the lot:

“All approved for 28 lot subdivision, roads/improvements are in. Best piece of land remaining in the prestigious Lansing area on “the hill.” All wooded lots. 15 minutes from Cornell University, Downtown Ithaca, and Ithaca and Lansing High Schools.”

Price on request, also called price on application (POA) can be done for several reasons – market fluctuations, a fear of influencing other properties if higher or lower than expected, and more questionably, a chance to size up buyers to see how much they can afford. Presumably, a buyer seeking 1500 SF homes here wouldn’t want to pay as much as someone thinking 3000 SF. Joint ventures are also being considered for this project.

For a town hoping to develop its way out of the continued decrease and likely loss of what was once its largest taxpayer, this isn’t good news. But we’ll see if a partner or buyer comes along.

3. This one was a bit surprising. The Dryden town Zoning Board of Appeals shot down a 3-lot subdivision at 1932 Slaterville Road. The plan was for Habitat for Humanity to buy the property, create two more lots and renovate the existing dilapidated 150 year-old farm house, all three of which would have been sold to qualified low-income families who put in the “sweat equity” to help build and renovate.The variance was needed for a flag lot, because with the land acquisition and renovation costs, the project only penned out financially with two more lots.

On paper, that actually seems like a slam dunk. I thought it would be smooth sailing after Dryden’s Planning Board, which is advisory but tends to be less pro-development than Dryden’s other board, had recommended the variance be approved; in fact, David Weinstein, one of the planning board’s most stringent members, was very supportive, citing the desperate need for affordable housing and feeling its 1-acre per lot density was appropriate for the area. But then the Zoning Board of Appeals runs out with this:

It’s like they’re talking about two totally different proposals. I’d also like to point out that describing affordable owner-occupied housing as “there would be an undesirable change of the neighborhood, which is not in the character of the neighborhood, and could possibly have detriment to the neighborhood” is a really tasteless and poor choice of words.

With the denial of the variance, the project is dead. That’s unfortunate for Habitat, who due to logistical difficulties had to cancel their previous project for four townhomes at 402 South Cayuga Street. As for the $40,000 they were due to receive from the joint Cornell-city-count Community Housing Development Fund, it will go unused.

 

4. Emmy’s Organics is not moving forward with their Cherry Street project. The plan ran into trouble when initial geotechnical studies found that the soils may be in such poor shape on the site that they’re unable to reasonably support the concrete slab for a single-story industrial building, and not even stable enough to support a parking lot. The IURA hired a second geotechnical engineering firm (John P. Stopen Engineering) for $5,000, which found that it would be possible to build, but only if the top three feet of soil were removed, which would raise the project cost. The IURA was willing to consider a larger loan, but Emmy’s decided the project, which was on a tight timeline, was simply no longer feasible. The owners are now looking to build elsewhere, so not only is the $1.4 million project and its 5-10 new jobs are lost, it’s not clear where the firm will move and what’s going to happen with their existing 19 mostly living-wage jobs. It also puts the IURA in a spot because the undeveloped remainder of Cherry Street just became a lot less desirable for smaller light industrial projects like this one.

The project was to use $175,000 in NYS-administered Community Block Development Grant Funds (CDGF) for job creation for low and moderate-income households. These funds have to be allocated by the city by March 31st, or they have to be returned to the state. In a rush to use them before they lose them, the IURA is proposed to shift $49,000 towards lighting improvements in Titus Park, and $126,000 towards $290,000 in acquisition costs to buy the 9,100 SF Immaculate Conception gymnasium from the Catholic Diocese, for use in indoor recreation and presumably as part of the sale of the rest of the property to INHS. The IURA is not totally sure if either use qualifies for the funds, but they’re in a rush to find alternatives before the state takes the money back.





TC3 Arthur Kuckes Childcare Center Construction Update, 11/2018

24 11 2018

Normally I’m a little more on top of construction starts, but Tompkins-Cortland Community College (TC3) is somewhat isolated, so I rarely check it out. This time it paid off.

Over at TC3, the footers are in, the foundation slab has been poured and the steel frame is being assembled for what will be the newest addition to the college’s campus, a $6.5 million, 9,875 SF daycare and early education facility. The construction costs are about $4.5 million, covered in part by $2.5 million in state grants and a $2 million donation from Arthur Kuckes, the founder of local firm Vector Magnetics, and a longtime supporter of the college. The funding goal was 50% state sources, and 50% private donors. The remainder of the funds will be used to pay for equipment purchases to outfit the facility, and to set up an operating endowment. The previously vacant project site was selected for its easy vehicular access and picturesque views.

The purpose of the building is multi-pronged. For one, it provides a much-needed daycare option for students with infants and young children, giving parents more flexibility to take classes while their kids are in a safe, stimulating environment nearby (it’s also open to the children of faculty and staff). A 2014 feasibility study commissioned by the college found that about 5,400 children in Tompkins and Cortland Counties are in need of third-party childcare, and that existing providers, ranging from formal childcare facilities to babysitters, serve about 3,000 children in the study area, meaning a 45% deficiency and by extension, a lack of affordable childcare options. The existing on-site daycare can care for 33 children, and does not have the capacity for infants. The new facility is expected to serve up to eighty children in two infant rooms and six early childhood classrooms, and create a dozen jobs. The college expects about 90% of the enrollees will be the children of students, with a small number of faculty and staff children. If there are still openings (few if any are expected outside the TC3 community), members of the greater Tompkins-Cortland community may apply.

Secondly, it gives students in the Early Childhood education program a greater chance to develop hands-on experience. The Early Childhood program also expects to increase its number of on-site student interns from 14 in the current campus daycare, to 45-50 students over the course of a typical year.

The project was first publicly announced in February 2016, with a somewhat grander design that was toned down (value engineered) in an effort to stay withing budget and start construction sooner rather than later. The fundraising campaign launched in June of that year, and the project went out for construction bids in February 2018. The project expenses still increased somewhat in the few years from conception to execution, growing from about $5.5 million to $6.5 million. The groundbreaking in May suggested an opening by the end of 2018, but Stormwater Pollution Protection Plan (SWPPP) stated August 2019.

According to the construction documents (all 702 pages of them), local architect Claudia Brenner designed the new facility, with Lansing’s Dende Engineering on board as a structural engineering consultant, T.G. Miller for surveying and civil engineering work, Jade Stone Engineering PLLC of Watertown for mechanical, electrical and plumbing design and engineering, Ithaca’s TWMLA for landscape architecture and Albany’s Ran Fire Protection Engineering for the sprinklers and other fire suppression systems.

The foundation is a standard concrete slab-on-grade shallow foundation, and given the immense need for fire protection for a facility like this, the frame will be fireproofed steels, with extensive fire suppression systems (fire-rated doors, sprinkler system), and fire-rated gypsum board sheathing. Finishes will include masonry, fiber cement, and metal exterior panels, and asphalt and metal roof materials. Windows will be typical commercial-grade aluminum frame, and the trim will include wood and metal flashing. Note that the exterior play areas will include not one, not two, but three play areas, for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers respectively. In the photos brlow, the foundation appears to be finished, with some rebar and orange rebar safety caps still on-site. The steel skeleton is still being assembled, with some roof trusses and corrugated steel decking sitting near the structure, ready to be hoisted into place.

Site plan, as seen in the geotechnical report.

Interior render.

Current design, front entrance.

Older design, rear wings with the pre-school and toddler playgrounds.





802 Dryden Road Construction Update, 11/2018

21 11 2018

802 Dryden Road, also called “Ivy Ridge”, was originally the product of local developer Charlie O’Connor, CEO of Modern Living Rentals. However, just as site preparation and underground utility installations were getting underway late last summer, the project changed hands. On September 12th, the site and construction plans were sold for $2.075 million. Filed on the same day was a construction loan from M&T Bank to pay for construction of the project – a rather substantial $8.6 million for the 42-unit, 108-bedroom townhouse complex. The buyer’s LLC was linked to a suburban Pittsburgh address for Matthew Durbin, and a little online searching indicates Durbin is a Cornell Johnson School (MBA) Alumnus, a former investment banker turned business executive. In short, an outside investor but with a demonstrated familiarity with the Ithaca area, business acumen and the money to make things happen. The sale does not appear to have altered the plans (any revisions would need to be approved by the town of Dryden) or the timeline.

Framing has started on one of the townhouse strings (each string is seven units apiece) and foundation work has started on a second. The plan is to have the units ready for occupancy in time for the Fall 2019 academic semester – being right next to the Cornell Arboretum, it’s a literal stone’s throw from the edge of Cornell campus, and is intended to appeal to graduate or professional students (especially students of the veterinary school, whose location on the eastern edge of Cornell campus has left them with few walkable options). STREAM Collaborative designed the units, Taitem Engineering is on board as a structural engineer, and Granger Construction of East Syracuse is the general contractor.

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





News Tidbits 9/18/18

19 09 2018

1. Unofficially, here are the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Economic Development Committee ratings for the four Green Street Garage proposals, with a screenshot courtesy of Councilor Steve Smith (D-4th Ward). I’m not quite sure how the total score was calculated, but overall, the Vecino Group’s proposal was the most highly rated, followed by the Visum/Newman Group submission. The general consensus was that the Harold’s Holdings plan was aesthetically pleasing but didn’t include enough of the benefits that the city was seeking, and the Ithaca-Peak proposal was underwhelming in terms of affordability and community benefits.

2. So here’s an interesting little item that came out of last week’s PEDC Meeting. A developer had apparently approached Committee Chair Seph Murtagh (D-2nd Ward) with the idea of redeveloping the Family Medicine site for an eight-story building. Murtagh did not state the intended mix of uses if any was stated (probably ground-level commercial with residential above), but he did express strong reservations for their plan, which would have required a PUD, the D-I-Y zoning the city uses to allow more flexible project design in exchange for community benefits signed off by the Common Council as well as the Planning Board.

Few would argue with the statement that the Family Medicine site, located on the 200 Block of West State Street just west of Downtown Ithaca, is underutilized. It’s a one-story ca. 1980 structure with surface parking. The Cornell Baker Program has used the site among others for student projects to come up with cost-efficient proposals in various parts of the city (officially for academic purposes, but no doubt the local development scene pays at least some attention to the final presentations). I remember one project that showed a seven-story building would be just enough of a return on investment to possibly entice redevelopment with Family Medicine remaining in the ground-level of the new structure. This theoretical proposal did make use of a tax abatement. By this argument, an eight-story proposal could be a better sell, or it could be the result of an attempt to work in an affordable housing component while still making enough money per square foot to appeal to lenders. Regardless of what the circumstances were to push eight floors, this idea likely won’t be coming to the planning board anytime soon.

3. It looks like the Ivy Ridge apartment project in Dryden has been sold to a new developer. An LLC associated with local real estate firm Modern Living Rentals (Charlie O’Connor) sold 802-812 Dryden Road for $2,075,000 on September 12th. Filed on the same day was a construction loan from M&T Bank to pay for construction of the project – a rather substantial $8.6 million for the 42-unit townhouse complex.

The buyer’s LLC could be traced back to a suburban Pittsburgh address for Matthew Durbin, and a little online searching indicates Durbin is a Cornell Johnson School (MBA) Alumnus, a former investment banker turned business executive. In short, he has a demonstrated familiarity with the Ithaca area, business acumen and the money to make things happen. Site prep is underway and no changes to the project design or timeline are indicated. As for O’Connor, he’s now a much wealthier man, and we’ll see if any of those recent gains are turned into equity for future MLR projects.

If anyone else is still looking for shovel-ready multi-family projects, 1061 Dryden is still for sale.

4. On a somewhat related note, 312 East Seneca Street was sold by Jagat Sharma (better known for his architecture firm, but 312 East Seneca house his office) for $800,000 on September 14th. The buyer was an LLC that traces back to the Stavropoulos Family on West Hill, who have undertaken a number of small to medium-sized development projects in the Ithaca area over the past several years.

This purchase would impact MLR and Visum Development’s plan for Seneca Flats, a 42,000 SF multi-story mixed-use structure at the corner of East Seneca and North Aurora. The two firms based their initial drawings on the presumed purchase of this building. However, they had also drawn up floor plans for options that did not include 312 East Seneca – offhand, the plan with the site had 85 units, the plan without had 60 units. Basically, lop off the rightmost (northern) quarter of the above drawing. As for the Stavropouloses Stavropoli, they paid more than double the assessed value ($390,000), so there’s a good chance they have their own plans.

5. This blog gravitates towards hard/quantitative data, so here are a few facts about the airport expansion from the SEQRA environmental forms:

– The Passenger Terminal Expansion. will consist of three additions totaling 15,600 SF. 8.500 SF is an addition to the passenger holding area (which makes flying sound about as comfortable as it feels), 5,400 SF for additional bagging screening space and office space for the TSA and for airlines, and 1,700 SF by the main entrance for expanded passenger circulation and ticket counter space.

– Apron reconstruction, 40,000 SF. The apron is the area where planes park, refuel, and where some passenger loading/unloading takes place.

– Utilities replacement, interior “building enhancements”, one new passenger boarding bridge, and refurbishment of the existing boarding bridge.

– Installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system using 40 underground wells, 350-400 feet deep, and a closed-loop piping system. The operation is similar to a heat pump system, using the earth’s latent heat as a reservoir. The ground disturbance area to install the wells will be about 15,000 SF (~0.35 acres).

– Installation of overhead canopies with solar panels in the airport parking lot.

-Construction of a new 5,000 SF customs facility. The facility will be a one-story masonry structure with steel framing. The facility will accommodate no more than twenty passengers, and is exclusively tailored towards international business visitors – it’s been previously stated that business executives and Asian visitors, who often come in via Canada, have expressed a strong interest in private jet accommodations.

– Approximately ten new employees as a result of the terminal expansion, and six more from the construction of the new customs facility, for a total of sixteen new full-time jobs.

6. Thanks to reader Alec for this tip – a collection of contiguous Avramis Real Estate-owned Collegetown rental properties at 120 Catherine, 122 Catherine, 124 Catherine, 128 Catherine, 302 College, 304 College, and 306 College were not made available for rent for the 2019-2010 academic year. A check with sources indicates that according to the rumor mill, a buyer has them under contract, but the sale has yet to be finalized.

This is worth noting because we’re talking about a multi-million set of properties with 68 existing beds, but more importantly they have significant redevelopment potential – the lots can be consolidated into a large MU-2 zoned parcel (six floors, 100% lot coverage no parking) and a large CR-4 zoned parcel (four floors, 50% coverage, no parking)In fact, back in 2014, the Avramises proposed a two-building development that would have resulted in about 102 units and 202 beds. The Jagat Sharma-designed proposal never began formal review. The off-record commentary was that the Avramises got cold feet during the heat of the Collegetown building boom, though given their central location, these properties would be better insulated from a downturn in the student rental market than Outer Collegetown or fringe neighborhoods. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

7. We’ll wrap this up with a pair of Dryden projects. The first, 1610 Dryden Road. Most folks better remember this barn as the former Phoenix Old Used and Rare Books, which closed in 2015 after a 30-year run. In early 2017, a proposal came along to use the barn as a trailer sales dealership, but it did not come to be. Now, for the second time in as many months, the proposal is a veterinary clinic, “Elemental Pet Vets”. Local veterinarian Curtis Dewey and his wife Janette are proposed to renovate the 6000 SF barn with accessory parking and landscaping. The property is zoned rural residential, so any commercial plan needs a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the town of Dryden. The town planning department is generally amenable to the reuse even if out of sync with zoning, so long as the parking and accessory structures are approved by the town, the curb cut meets NYS DOT regulations, and a landscaping buffer is in place. Ithacor of Cortland will be the general contractor.

The rendering is a bit…strange, so strange that I’m still not sure if they plan on taking down the pitched roof for a flat one, or if they decided thirty minutes in their late 1990s rendering software would convey enough to get approval. Seriously, this might be one of the worst renders I’ve seen for a project, and that’s saying a lot given the number of low budget drawings that go through the boards for small projects.

Meanwhile, as previous covered by the Journal, the Laser Brewer fashion boutique at 1384 Dryden Road has closed with the retirement of Peggy Laser after forty years of business, and her son Riley is expanding his Brew 22 coffee bar, kitchen and beer taproom to fill out the 3248 SF space. This project also requires an SUP because the younger Laser is adding a drive-through window (for the coffee and baked goods, brew-thrus are illegal in New York but okay in plenty of other states). Other than that and an exterior paint job, no further structural changes are planned.

 





News Tidbits 9/2/18

2 09 2018

1. For lovers of old houses and those trying to restore them, the 1880 Queen Anne-style house at 310 West State Street, dubbed “The Tibbetts-Rumsey House”, is offering a tour of the renovations later this month. The tour, which starts at the front entrance at 11 AM on September 22nd, is free, but registration is required; if you’re so inclined, and since late September in Ithaca is generally a pretty nice time of the year for weekend outings, you can register here. The plan is to restore the house into a nine-bedroom co-op style living space, with a new six-bedroom co-op unit in the rear of the property.

The 3,800 SF residence was designed by local architect Alvah B. Wood and built by contractor John Snaith (of Snaith House) in 1880. Wood, a Cornell classmate of the more famous architect William Henry Miller, designed a number of prominent local structures, including the old Ithaca town hall at 126 East Seneca Street (built 1881, demo’d 2003, now the site of Tompkins Financial brand new HQ), the Immaculate Conception Church (1896) and the railroad/bus depot at 701 West State Street (1898). Union Army Captain J. Warren Tibbetts and his family were the first residents of the home. It was sold to the Rumsey family in 1885, and they owned it until 1966.

2. The medical office building near the intersection of Warren and Uptown Roads looks like it’s one step closer to happening. An LLC associated with Marchuska Brothers Construction, an Endicott-based firm that has been making inroads into the Ithaca market, bought the 2.71 acre lot and the plans from Arleo Real Estate LLC for $470,000 on the 27th. A sketch plan was presented to the village of Lansing in February 2017 for the one-story medical office building, but no formal review was carried out after the site and plans went up for sale for $500,000. Marchuska is free to change the design as they see fit, so don’t treat the renders as final. The firm recently completed the renovation of a former manufacturing facility on Craft Road into medical office space primarily leased by Cayuga Medical Center, and are the general contractors for the Tompkins Center for History and Culture project.

3. The tiny houses project at 16 Hillcrest Road in the town of Lansing is over for the time being. The town Zoning Board of appeals shot down the variance required for the lot, which is zoned industrial/research due to what is essentially a boundary line quirk. The reason cited isn’t that they don’t like the project, but rather that they don’t think it meets the intent of ZBA variances. The neighbors were opposed to the 421 SF homes, but were okay with a duplex, which could arguably be worse for them because one could build a pair of 2,000 SF, three-bedroom units that could generate more traffic and have a greater environmental impact. Even moreso, if one fully utilized the 1.26 acre lot for an office or industrial structure, that would have much greater environmental impact than either residential option because the lot could be fully utilized within standard setbacks, meaning a larger structure and parking lot, greater stormwater runoff, commuter/work-related traffic, industrial noise and related activities. An argument can also be made that these small homes would have been provided a new affordable option in an area plagued with affordability issues.

The Lansing Star seems cognizant of those arguments, and in the write-up sounded disapproving of the vote. “The denial of the variance does not mean the project has been killed. But in a sense the project is before it’s time, or zoning ordinances are behind the times. With small individual houses growing in popularity, building small scale neighborhoods defies zoning laws that were designed for conventionally sized homes.”

It’ll be a while before any zoning change is approved, and any challenge to the ZBA ruling is unlikely to go anywhere, so this proposal has been deleted from the Ithaca project map until a revival seems plausible.

4. Exxon Mobil is set to auction off a trio of parcels in the hamlet of Jacksonville. Tying into the story of the old Methodist church I wrote for the Voice last March, a major gas spill fifty years ago contaminated the groundwater and made the properties practically unlivable; after years of attempting to bring Exxon Mobil to task, the multinational energy firm purchased the properties, tore down most of the buildings except the church (after the town’s pleading), and basically sat on the lots with minimal upkeep. A municipal water line was later laid through the hamlet to provide clean water, and the gas has disintegrated and diffused with decades of time to safe levels, per the state DEC’s analysis. The town of Ulysses picked up three of the six lots, selling two to architect Cameron Neuhoff to restore the church into a residence and community space, and holding onto the third for the time being as it figures out what to do with it. The other three still owned by Exxon Mobil are the ones going up for auction. There is no reserve and the auction is set for 5 PM on October 17th. More information is available from Philip Heiliger of Williams & Williams Real Estate Auctions here.

5. Cayuga Heights is continuing with its review of the renovation and conversion of 306 Highland Road from a fraternity into a 15-unit apartment building. The plans have been slightly modified so that with the addition, the building grows from 3,400 SF to 4,542 SF (previously it was 4,584 SF).  GA Architects PLLC of Dryden is the architect of record; their online presence appears to be bare bones, and may have previously gone by the name Guisado Architects – it looks like principal Jose Gusiado has done a few homes in the Dryden and Lansing areas. Former Cornell professor and startup CEO John Guo is the developer.

6. Here’s a rough timeline for the Green Street Garage preferred developer decision – the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Economic Development Committee is expected to rank the projects in order of preference by September 14th, discuss it at the September public hearing, hold an Executive Session with Common Council in October, and formally designate a preferred developer by October 25th. From 11/1/2018 to 2/1/2019 there will be an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) between the preferred developer and the city, which is a designated time to negotiate details regarding sales and development of the site. This serves as the basis for a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA), which would be reviewed and approved by the IURA EDC by the end of February. From there, the Planning and Economic Development Committee of the Common Council will hold their public hearing and vote in March, and the full Common Council at their April 3, 2019 meeting.

It’s a long and complex process, but the goal is to have the major details sorted out by that preferred developer designation on October 25th – given the garage’s degraded state and limited life span remaining (two, three years at most) and the time needed to stabilize the structure and determine continent measures for any rebuild, having either side pull at late in the negotiation would be very problematic (suing the city during any stage in this process is never a good idea). Hopefully everything works out between the city and its choice of developer.

6. Not a whole lot of new and interesting coming public at the moment. A new “Dutch Harvest Farms” wedding barn at 1487 Ridge Road in the town of Lansing looks interesting. Tapping into the trend of using barns for wedding receptions, the 50.44 acre property would host a 7,304 SF pole barn, pond and associated parking and landscaping improvements. The facility would be capable of hosting up to 160 people on-site. The plans are being drawn up by local architecture firm SPEC Consulting, and the intent would be to build out the $750,000 project in the spring and summer of 2019.

7. Bad news for the Ithaca Gun site; a remedial investigation by the state DEC indicated that there is still enough lead present on the property that it poses a significant threat to public health. This doesn’t necessarily derail plans for the redevelopment by Travis Hyde Properties, but the DEC will need to conduct a review, make recommendations for cleaning, and sign off on any cleanup effort THP proposes.

8. A follow-up on the Ongweoweh Corporation news note from a couple weeks back – although they didn’t respond to my inquiry, they did respond to the Journal. And the move to the larger digs in Dryden comes with 25 to 50 new jobs in Dryden over the next few years, so while it may not have been my article, I’ll gladly share positive news.





802 Dryden Road Construction Update, 8/2018

5 08 2018

Not a high-profile project here, but sizable. 802 Dryden Road, also called “Ivy Ridge”, is the latest project to come out of Modern Living Rentals (MLR). MLR is led by local developer Charlie O’Connor, and as I noted previously, “[h]e is arguably one of the most reticent developers in Ithaca, preferring unobtrusive projects that he hopes will create as little debate as possible. It’s kinda funny in a way, because although he’s a business partner with Todd Fox (Visum’s property management is handled by MLR), the two of them are near-opposites in that regard.”

True to form, while 802 Dryden is a sizable 50,000 SF, $7.5 million project, it was the subject of relatively little public debate during its approvals process. It’s located next to arboretum, replaces four rental houses and a motorcycle repair shop, and the number of residences within 500 feet could be counted on two hands. The project consists of 42 two-story townhouse rental units on three acres, six strings of seven units in a right trapezoid layout. Each string contains four two-bedroom units, two three-bedroom units and a four-bedroom unit (108 beds total). It’s a two-minute drive from the east end of Cornell’s campus (B Lot), and an easy sell to students and staff looking to live in a quieter location near campus.

Zoning on the site is fairly dense, all things considered. Although rather far from Varna’s core, the project does fall under Varna Hamlet Mixed Use District zoning, which allows ten units per acre. A redevelopment bonus of dilapidated properties gave another two units per acre, and a green bonus of two units an acre was also permitted. The green features part required some debate and confirmation. The project seeks LEED Certification and will apply LEED standards for neighborhood design.

The project was first proposed in June 2017. At the time, its design was a virtual clone of another MLR project, 902 Dryden Road, albeit with different colors. The designs were revised at least three times. The design work was passed from STREAM Collaborative to John Snyder Architects, who did substantial alterations, and then again, and then STREAM once again did some work on it. The final set of renders are here, with the site plan docs here. Originally there were three townhouse string designs, but it looks like it was reduced to two in the final round. The six buildings are generally but not exactly the same – the gables are mirrored, some additional trim pieces are used on the gables for the Dryden Road pair, and they alternate between a dark blue vertical fiber cement panel (probably HardieBoard), and a dark green panel. Original approvals may have been issued in November 2017, but the last revisions were approved this past May.

Exterior features include 70 parking spaces, bike racks, trash/recycling enclosure, stormwater ponds, bioretention areas, signage, a childrens’ playground, pavilion and a dog park split up for large and small breeds. Planned interior features include granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, a washer and dryer in each unit, contemporary lighting, and marble tile. Expect these to be in the same price range as the other recent MLR units, which have been in the $650-$750/bedroom range. The units are expected to be ready for occupancy by June 2019.

There’s a little bit of pre-building infrastructure work that had to take place before construction, because this is a sort of no man’s land between the settled parts of the town of Ithaca and the town of Dryden where no municipal water service was available. The public water main had to be extended to service the project, and the main will be deeded over to the town. At this time, the existing buildings have been removed, but the land has yet to be cleared; we’re really just at the initial phases of the project.

Along with MLR, STREAM and John Snyder Architects, GMB Consulting Services did the LEED score analysis, T.G. Miller P.C. handled land surveying and Marathon Engineering tackled the civil engineering work – Marathon’s Adam Fishel shepherded the project through the town boards. I don’t have a contractor listed, but will share it when I do.

Pre-construction (Google Maps, Nov. 2015)

Renders:

August 3rd: