News Tidbits 4/26/19

27 04 2019

1. Here’s a little more information on the proposes medical office building at 2141 Dryden Road. Site Plan here, planning department memo here. A local doctor operating as “Slaterville Springs Real Estate Company, LLC” is planning a 3,676 SF pre-fabricated building on the site. The building would be built using a Superior Wall precast concrete foundation (Superior Walls are commonly seen with modular builds), and built into the hillside – one story from the front, two from the back. The doctor’s office would occupy the upper level, and the lower level is spec space. The plans include a roof-mounted solar system, electric heat pumps, and an electric vehicle charging station in one of the three proposed parking areas. 48 parking spaces are indicated, four of which are ADA compliant. A covered bicycle rack and dumpster enclosure are also provided.

Having all these green features at a semi-rural site with gobs of parking (the Institute for Traffic Engineers’ parking standards for medical offices is about 3.5 per 1,000 SF, or 13 in this case) is liking having a diet coke with your Big Mac. A project can be “green”, but much of its green impacts are mitigated if it encourages fossil fuel use with increased vehicle traffic. It would benefit the town to plan and zone for developments like this closer to villages and hamlets.

The site also includes landscaping, some limited signage, lighting and stormwater features. The town planning department’s opinion is that the project is not substantial enough to merit full site plan review. Spec Consulting of Groton is doing the project design.

2. The Black Diamond Trail will receive a major addition after New York State announced funding for a bridge over the Cayuga Lake flood control channel earlier this week. The $1.2 million award from the state will pay for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge for the trail, which will span the inlet from the current trail segment along Floral Avenue, to the intersection of Cherry Street and Cecil Malone Drive. This would provide greater connectivity for West Hill residents to the businesses along the waterfront and the big box corridor, giving them to option to walk/bike through here instead of going up to West State Street. In an interview with the Journal’s Tom Pudney, city transportation engineer Tim Logue notes that design work, public hearings and municipal approvals for the bridge will take another 18 months, so construction won’t be until 2021.

3. Now for a look at Dryden’s Mill Creek subdivision. Site plan application here, proposed covenants here, site plans here. This is the 908-acre subdivision of land west of Freeville into forty home lots. It looks like the Lucente family (as RPL Properties, for the late Rocco P. Lucente) is working with surveyor Alan Lord to plat the lots. The 40 lots range in size from just over 5 acres, to 60 acres. 23 acres on the eastern edge of the parcel would be deeded over to the town for land conservation.

Even as subdivisions go, this is a very questionable design because it’s not really following state guidelines for conservation subdivisions, which cluster houses near roads on smaller lots so as to preserve natural space. These lots aren’t designed for that, which really opens up the possibility of large-scale natural space degradation or destruction. Given that the zoning here is a conservation district, it meets the word of the law, but not the sentiment.

4. Courtesy of the County Clerk’s office, we now know what the amount of the construction loan was for the latest phase of the Village Solars. 24-unit Building “K” (113 Village Circle) and 24-unit Building “L” (40 Village Place) received a $5.6 million loan from Elmira Savings Bank, which is mildly interesting in that the previous building loans were from Tompkins Trust. Note that the buildings are switched around from the site plan above, so that middle building is “K” and the building to the east is “L”. Both buildings are expected to be completed by the end of September 2019. I

n February, my last visit, Building “K” was substantially finished from the outside, while Building “L” was just a foundation pad. However, the Lucentes in-house construction team have been building these for years and have the process down pat, so if they’re framing by now, they could certainly have “L” finished by the end of September.

5. The recent article regarding the U.S. Census Bureau estimates created quite a stir and a number of strong and/or concerned emails. Before anyone gets hung up on the numbers,realize that the census is all about estimating from an annual survey of about 2.1 million households nationwide, out of a little over 126 million. They’re reasonably comfortable with national figures, a little less so with states, and generally, they just hope to be close with counties, especially medium-sized one like Tompkins who are hard to sample but can still vary by several hundreds of people from year to year.

Now consider the statistics mentioned in the article. From 2010 to 2017, the area added 2,412 housing units, and from 2010 to 2018 it added about 6,000 jobs (1.4% annual growth). The colleges add 800 or so students in total. All signs point to steady, modest growth.

Here’s an exercise. Let’s take those 2,412 housing units. 964 single-family homes, and 1,448 multi-family units. The average household size is 2.5 persons/home, and 2.2/persons per multifamily unit. So a gross estimate for the number of occupants in new housing is (964 * 2.5) + (1,448 * 2.2), or 5,596 people.

Now for a couple of adjustments. Household sizes are known to be getting smaller. Nationally, from 2010 to 2018, the change was 2.59 to 2.53, so applying that same percent decrease to the single-family figure and the multi-family figure reduces the gross gain to 5,466 people. Also, let’s assume that not every housing unit permitted was built. The vast majority are, but not all. Let’s say 98% were. That reduces the figure to 5,356.

Secondly, some new housing replaces older housing. Those stats aren’t so readily available. But I track them here. In this case, the number I have on file is that of projects recently completed or proposed, net gain is 90.6% of the gross gain. That number is going to be a bit low because I don’t track single-family home construction, which typically happens on vacant lots. Still, assuming it’s otherwise an acceptable estimation, then (5,356 * .906) = 4,853 people.

Now, let’s account for vacancy. Overall, Tompkins County is ticking upward, though still below a healthy market rate / too tight in the urban areas. It was higher in 2010, lower in the middle of decade, and creeping up now as new construction is completed and occupied. Let’s say (rather optimistically or pessimistically, depending your view) there’s a one percent increase since 2010,. Tompkins had 43.453 housing units as of 2017. So with a +1% vacancy since 2010, that’s 434.5, of which 52.7% are homes if we break it up perfectly, but since rentals have a slightly higher vacancy rate in general, let’s say 50-50. So ((217.25 * 2.5) + (217.25 * 2.2) ) * (2.53/2.59) = 997 people.

Let’s do the math. 4,853 people – 997 people = 3,856 people. Add that to 101,564 reported in 2010, and you get 105,420 residents in 2017. The Census’s 2017 estimate for Tompkins County was 104,871. Extrapolate it out a bit, and assuming Tompkins continues to add at about 551 people/year, and 2020 will clock in around 107,073 people. 5.4% growth. A hair below national average, but well above most of upstate New York and the Northeast.

So with that exercise in mind, don’t worry about the Census estimates. They will be what they will be, whether 2,000 people magically disappear or not. They’re not looking to be great, they just hope to be kinda accurate until the next census rolls out in 2020.

 





602 West State Street Construction Update, 7/2017

19 07 2017

The new Elmira Savings Bank is open in Ithaca’s West End, and this project is done. A former restaurant is now 5,000 SF of renovated space plus 1,600 SF in a contemporary addition. Design-wise, it’s a smart re-use of a century-old structure, modernizing it but maintaining the integrity the original structure. Kudos to HOLT Architects for a successful blend of old and new. Elmira’s Edger Enterprises brought the $1.7 million project from the drawing board and into reality.

There’s no doubt that the project is further proof in the increased vitality and attraction of Ithaca’s long-forsaken West End, and another step on the the path to turning it into a stronger neighborhood. Within just a block, one has the new Planned Parenthood (2014), the 17-unit Iacovelli Apartments (2013), the renovated HOLT Architects office (2016), a gas station renovated into the Jade Garden restaurant (2015), and the new microbrewery opening up in the rear of the Cornell Laundry warehouse.

If there is one thing I wish had gone different with this project, it was the sale of the property and removal of three low-income families. That got ugly, and it tarnished what was otherwise a decent project. The story I’ve been told in the two years since is that the bank were mislead by the previous owner, who gave them old rental paperwork saying tenants were month-to-month, and ESB mistakenly assumed it was still accurate. So there’s something to be said about due diligence and taking a couple hours out to meet with tenants before any notices go out.

The northern end of the property has preserved a few mature trees, and in the long-run ESB would like to partner with a developer, affordable or otherwise, to do something along West Seneca. Plus, there are organizations like Lakeview, who coincidentally looked at doing a development where ESB is nowand are moving forward with affordable housing in the West End. More opportunities for mixed-use plans with market-rate and affordable housing will open up as properties go on the market and Ithaca’s economy continues to develop – and plans like Cayuga Med’s are big if auspicious question marks.

While it’s great to have new housing plans brought forward, it’s also important to maintain existing affordable housing (and programs to assist) while adding those new options. With Lakeside and Parkside scooped up and pushed upmarket, and Maple Hill now market-rate Ithaca East, that takes hundreds of units out of the equation, and this is a significant concern. It’s no surprise that tensions boiled over given the difficulties in preserving existing LMI housing options, and in approving and building new ones.

Anyway, enough with the final thoughts. Enjoy the photos.

Before:

After:





602 West State Street Construction Update, 5/2017

30 05 2017

Starting to get a good idea of what the final product will look like at the future Elmira Savings Bank location at 602 West State Street. The structural steel for the drive-thru canopy is up, the new front and rear entrance canopies are being erected, and the new curbing is down. The new north addition has its steel and masonry with matching belt course, but it looks like the new interior stairs have yet to be built (the floor plan of the new addition is basically a stairwell albeit an imposing one, an elevator lobby and the elevator). the two-story opening facing Meadow Street will be framed with metal panels and fitted out with a contemporary glass curtain wall.

The early renders suggested a beige color for the aluminum panels, but according to the final materials submission, the panels will be Alucobond “Anodic Satin Mica”, which most folks would describe as a soft tan/dull tan. The alumnium roof coping, flashing and gutters/downspouts will be Hickman Sandstone, and the stucco will be painted Benjamin Moore Horizon Greyboth are close approximations of the building’s historic paint colors.

Taking a guess, the arched windows have to be custom-made, and given the time that takes, it might explain why they’re the last replacement windows to be inserted. The windows will be fitted with metal sunshades towards the end of the construction period.

Construction on the $1.7 million renovation/addition (5,000SF/1,600 SF, total 6,600 SF) is due to wrap up in August. Elmira Savings Bank will occupy 3,300 SF on the first floor. The second floor, also about 3300 SF, will host for-rent office space (a little too big for the Voice though, which I’d wager at 800 SF off the cuff). HOLT Architects is in charge of design, and Elmira’s Edger Enterprises is in charge of the buildout. It looks like glazing has been subcontracted to Frontier Glass Inc. of Rochester.





602 West State Street Construction Update, 3/2017

21 03 2017

The new addition has risen out of the ground at Elmira Savings Bank’s new $1.7 million branch office at 602 West State Street. The cinder block shaft will host the elevator shaft/stairwell, and the steel framing is underway for the new 1600 SF north extension. The non-historic blue paint is being stripped from the bricks of the existing structure, and from the plastic on the roof, it looks like a new roof is being laid, probably EPDM (synthetic rubber) or something similar. The building’s insulation is being updated, and the plan is to have an all-electric HVAC system (heat pumps).

Although the initial press release called for March opening, June or July seems more likely. Elmira Savings Bank will occupy 3,300 SF on the first floor. The second floor, also about 3300 SF, will host for-rent office space. HOLT Architects is in charge of design, and Edger Enterprises is in charge of the buildout. Based off the signage, it looks like John Mills Electric (IBEW Union, Local 241) is doing the subcontracted electrical work.





602 West State Street Construction Update, 1/2017

13 01 2017

With the sidewalk along Meadow St closed off, getting up close to the Elmira Savings Bank project just became much more difficult. From the front, there hasn’t been much exterior work yet – judging from the dumpster, Edger Enterprises has been more focused on gutting the interior of the hundred year-old building. It does look like that, since November, some of the historically inaccurate blue paint has been stripped from the east facade. It doesn’t look like there’s been much progress on the new wing on the north side, the foundation looks about the same at it did two months ago. Dunno if they’ll be hitting that March 2017 completion date.

More info about the project can be found here.

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602 West State Street Construction Update, 11/2016

29 11 2016

It’s been a busy period for construction starts. Elmira savings Bank has started work on their new branch office at 602 West State on Ithaca’s West End.

The project itself isn’t controversial. But the $1.75 million purchase in December 2015, followed by the very controversial eviction of three low-income families so that their homes could be turned into parking lots…well, that didn’t go over very well, nor should it have. Now with the chance to do some retrospective, it appears that the primary malefactor was the previous property owner, who signed new leases with the tenants but didn’t tell Elmira savings Bank when he sold them the properties. Elmira Savings Bank could have saved themselves many headaches if they had done some due diligence by meeting with the tenants of the properties they were purchasing, but, live and learn, sometimes the hard way.

Plans call for renovating the 5,000 SF building that once housed the Pancho Villa restaurant, a 1,600 SF addition on the north side of the building, and a new drive-thru for bank customers. 16 parking spaces will be included. Edger Enterprises of Elmira will be the general contractor for the $1.7 million project, which is expected to be completed in March 2017. HOLT Architects, headquartered just across the street, is the design firm on record. The primary change during the review process was to limit the house demolitions – the board strongly encouraged ESB to find a partner to develop those lots rather than convert them to parking. At the moment, one of the houses has been torn down to make way for the drive-thru, but the other two will be left as-is and vacant for the time being.

The new addition will incorporate a limestone base, red brick similar to that of the existing structure, Alucobond anodic satin mica colored metal panels above and below the aluminum window curtainwall, and Hickman sandstone-colored metal roof coping. The blue painted brick will be restored to more historically accurate grey-green, and the bricked-in windows will be restored. Bronze-colored metal sunshades will be installed over the windows, and the steel drive-thru canopy will be the same color. The roof will be a white single-ply membrane.

In the construction photos, the new addition has had its foundation excavated and it looks like the concrete is in the process of being formed and poured, with subsurface utility lines poking out in the excavated, yet to be poured portion. The small windowless addition and fire escape on the western wall of the existing structure have been removed as the building advances through renovation – the first and second-floor doors will be replaced with appropriately-sized and historically-accurate windows to match the bricked-in window towards the front.

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News Tidbits 10/22/16: Seal of Approval

22 10 2016

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1. In yet another twist in the 201 College Avenue saga, the project will be moving forward. The Board of Zoning Appeals sided 3-1 with the city Zoning Director and denied the Planning Board’s consideration that the building be considered illegal due to facade length. According to a report from former Times reporter Josh Brokaw (now operating as an indy journalist),  the board was swayed by arguments of time and ambiguity in the code. Brokaw’s reading makes it sound like there’s still some raw feelings between staff and board. The way to solve the most pressing issue would be to clarify the code based on the facade debate, and have the common council ratify those changes over the next few months. All in all, the Form District code works pretty well, and a number of projects have been presented without big discussions over semantics. But in the case of 201, it’s clear that the CAFD wording and imagery could use further refinement, so that everyone is on the same page. With 201 resolved, now is a good time to do that.

Dunno what the completion date will be offhand (August 2017 would be a breakneck pace, but we’ll see). Neighbor Neil Golder has refiled his lawsuit, but the case isn’t especially strong.

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2. Also getting underway this week is the renovation of the former Pancho Villa restaurant at 602 West State Street into the West End branch of Elmira Savings Bank. This is quite a bit earlier than initially planned – Site Plan Review docs suggested a July-December 2017 construction/renovation. Edger Enterprises of Elmira will be the general contractor for the 6,600 SF, $1 million project, which is expected to be completed in March 2017.

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3. The Dryden town board has approved 4-1 the concept of the Evergreen Townhouses plan for 1061 Dryden Road just east of Varna. This means that they accept a PUD can be appropriately applied for the site, but the project will need to submit a formal, more detailed development plan before any final approvals will be considered. One of the major changes that is being requested is a 15-foot setback between the property line and the units at the southeast side of the parcel (25-36), so expect those to get a little trim off of the rear side (the dissenting vote, Councilwoman Linda Lavine, was because she preferred a 25-foot setback). If the setback and the other stipulations are accommodated, its chances of approval are pretty good. Developer and local businessman Gary Sloan has 270 days to submit detailed plans for review.

Meanwhile, Tiny Timbers will be up for Dryden Zoning Board of Appeals review in early November. Since an internal road will be used to access some of the home lots, the town board will be viewing the site as an “Open Development Area” (ODA), which by Dryden’s definition is development with no direct road access. The town board will hold their public meeting on the 20th to approve the ODA, the planning board’s acceptance on the 27th. The ZBA is the last or second-to-last step in the approvals process (not sure offhand if the town will need to vote again to give a final approval).

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4. The senior housing next to the BJ’s in Lansing might finally be moving forward this spring. Dan Veaner has the full story here at the Lansing Star. The issue stems from working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine what parts of the land can and cannot be developed – delineating the wetlands, basically. Apparently, the wetlands were created by an overflowing culvert back when the mall was built in the 1970s. But regardless of how they were created, the USACE deems they have to be protected, especially since it developed into a rare wetland environment called an “inland salt marsh”. Since then, it’s been back-and-forth on units – I’ve heard as few as 9 and as many as 18. A portion of the wetlands would still need to be relocated. The PDA boundaries were changed slightly by the board at the request of developer Eric Goetzmann earlier this month to accommodate the USACE determination. The tax break Goetzmann received to build BJ’s is contingent on the senior housing getting built, though at this point, one has to wonder just how much this wetlands tangle has cost him. Hope it was worth it.

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5. From the sound of it, the Maplewood Park DEIS public hearing was fairly positive. Many of the neighbors are pleased with the changes, although some are still opposed to the density or have concerns about traffic. In response, it’s worth pointing out that the commute of Maplewood’s residents will almost entirely be bus, bike and foot during normal business/school hours, and its convenience to bus routes and services will also help minimize overall traffic impacts. As for density, well, if you want Cornell to house its students and reduce the burden on the open market, promoting density on the existing Maplewood site may result in a more sustainable, more cost efficient project if planned properly, with less of a neighborhood impact than building several hundred beds on an undeveloped parcel elsewhere (since the Maplewood site has been inhabited in some form since the 1940s, the growth in density would not be as prominent – about 490 beds, vs. 872 beds).

Should readers feel inclined, comments are still being accepted by town planners up until October 31st. The materials and submission email can be found here.

6. It looks like there were a couple big sales in the local real estate market this week. The first one was the Tops Plaza in big box land, just south of Wegmans. National retail developer DDR Corp. sold the property to another large firm, NYC-based DRA Advisors LLC, for $20 million on the 18th. The sale included three addresses – 710-734 South Meadow, 614 South Meadow, and 702 South Meadow – The Tops Plaza, The smaller strip to its south (called Threshold Plaza), and the pad parcels like Chili’s and Elmira Savings Bank. Perhaps the most notable part of this sale is that it’s slightly below the total assessed value of $20,941,000. However, DRA picked up the property as part of a bundle sale of 15 shopping centers in Western and Central New York, so maybe it was a bulk discount, or compensating for weaker properties.

The other big sale was between a long-time local landlord and a newer, rapidly growing one. The Lucente family (as Lucente Homes) sold 108, 116, 202 and 218 Sapsucker Woods Road to Viridius LLC for $1.276 million on the 18th. According to county records, each is a 4-unit building built in the 1970s and worth about $275k – meaning, Viridius just acquired 16 units for a little above the $1.1 million assessed. Viridius’s M.O. is to buy existing properties, do energy audits to determine what needs to be done where to maximize energy efficiency, disconnect them from fossil fuel heating and energy sources, install pellet stoves, heat pumps and the like, renovate/modernize the properties, and connect the more efficient house to a solar grid or other renewable energy sources. If Sustainable Tompkins were a developer, they’d look like Viridius.


7. This last one isn’t so much a big sale, but worth noting for future reference – 126 College Avenue sold for $510,000 on the 19th. The buyer was an LLC at an address owned by Visum Development’s Todd Fox.

126 College is a 2-story, 6-bedroom house that might have been attractive long ago, but someone’s beaten it with an ugly stick and paved much of the front lawn (growing up near Syracuse, we called paved front lawns “Italian lawns”, with my uncle one of the many offenders). The purchase price is a little below the asking price of $529k, but more than double the assessment. Zoning at the property is CR-4 – up to 50% lot coverage, 25% green space, up to 4 floors and 45 feet in height, a choice of pitched or flat roofs, and required front porches, stoops or recessed entries. This is the lowest-density zone for which no parking is required. The city describes the zoning as “an essential bridge” between higher and lower density, geared towards townhouses, small apartment buildings and apartment houses.

Granted, not everything Visum/MLR does is new, some of their work focuses on renovation. But given the location, and given that frequent design collaborator STREAM had “conceptual” CR-4 designs on display during the design crawl earlier this month, it’s not a big stretch of the imagination.

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8. Interesting agenda for the city planning board next week, if nothing new. Here’s the schedule:

AGENDA ITEM                 APPROX. START-TIME

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

3. Subdivision Review
A. Project:  Minor Subdivision           6:15
Location: 404 Wood St.
Actions: Consideration of Final Subdivision Approval
A minor subdivision to split a double-lot in Ithaca’s South Side neighborhood into two lots, one with the existing house and one that would be used for a new house or small apartment building. A variance for an existing rear year deficiency of the house would need to be approved (the rear deficiency wouldn’t be affected by the new lot which is on the east side, but it’s a legal technicality).
B. Project:  Minor Subdivision             6:25
Location: 123 & 125 Eddy St.
Actions:  Consideration of Final Subdivision Approval
Collegetown landlord Nick Lambrou is planning subdivision of a double lot to build a new 2-unit, 6-bedroom house designed to be compatible with the East Hill Historic District. CEQR has been given neg dec (meaning, all’s mitigated and good to proceed), and zoning variances for deficient off-street parking have been granted.
C. Project:  Minor Subdivision                6:35
Location: 1001 N. Aurora St. (Tax Parcel # 12.-6-13)
Actions:  Consideration of Final Subdivision Approval
One of those small infill builds, this proposal in Fall Creek takes down an existing single-family home for two two-family homes on a subdivided lot. The design has been tweaked, with more windows, a belly band, more varied exterior materials, and additional gables to provide visual interest.

4. Site Plan Review

A. Project:  City Centre — Mixed Use Project (Housing & Retail)           6:45
Location: 301 E. State/M.L.K., Jr. St.
Applicant: Jeff Smetana for Newman Development Group, LLC
Actions:  Declaration of Lead Agency  │ Review of Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF), Part 2

The 8-story mixed-use proposal for the Trebloc site. Comes with one letter of support, and a letter of opposition from Historic Ithaca, who have previously stated they will oppose anything greater than four floors on State Street, and six floors overall.
B. Project:  Amici House & Childcare Center            7:15
Location: 661-701 Spencer Rd.
Applicant: Tom Schickel for Tompkins Community Action (“TCAction”)
Actions: No Action — Review of Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF), Parts 2 & 3
C. Project:  Four Duplexes                               7:30
Location: 607 S. Aurora St.
Applicant: Charles O’Connor
Actions:  Declaration of Lead Agency  │ PUBLIC HEARING  │ Review of FEAF, Part 2
MLR’s four-building, 8-unit plan for South Hill. Comes with a letter of neighbor support saying the scale is appropriate.
D. 371 Elmira Rd. (Holiday Inn Express) — Approval of Project Changes      7:45
The debate over the Spencer Road staircase and rip-rap continues.
E. 312-314 Spencer Rd. — Satisfaction of Conditions: Building Materials   7:55
F. 119, 121, & 125 College Ave. (College Townhouse Project) — Update        8:05
Novarr’s 67-unit townhouse project geared towards Cornell faculty. No decisions planned, just an update on the project. Keeps your fingers crossed for some renders.
G. Maplewood Redevelopment Project — Planning Board Comments on Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS)     8:20
The city’s deferred judgement to the town, but the board can still have their say. The comments will be recorded and addressed as part of the EIS review process.
5. Zoning Appeals                          8:35
• #3047, Area Variance, 123 Heights Court