Village Solars Construction Update, 3/2020

22 03 2020

This mostly reuses the Voice gallery writeup, but it’s a chance to publish all the unused photos as well.

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At the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 square-foot 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards has yet to happen, perhaps because the Lucente family’s in-house construction team was waiting for warmer weather.

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It too is now fully framed, sheathed, and roofed. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out). The 50 year-old blue apartment building in the photos below will be torn down later this spring to make way for a larger apartment building.

As previously reported in late February, Rocco Lucente Jr. gave the following timeline for buildout: “We are on time, on budget, the project is going very well. We should have our current two (#36 & #119) completed by June and July. The next two (community center and #117) will come the next summer, and the final two (#2 & 22) will be the summer after that! So by Summer 2022 the current project will be completed.”





East Pointe Apartments Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Going to go ahead and say these are substantially complete. All 14 townhouse strings appear to be occupied or at least ready for occupancy. According to the rental advertisements, the prices will be in the upper/premium side of the market, though not as high as some of the luxury units in Ithaca: one-bedrooms are $1,695-$1,795/month, two-bedrooms $1,895-$1,995/month, and three-bedrooms $2,445/month. Units come with fiber optic internet connections, cable TV, USB ports in outlets, vinyl plank flooring, 42 inch cabinets, fitness room and lounge access, pool/clubhouse, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, washer/dryer, ample parking and smaller dogs and cats (for a $299 initial fee plus another $35/month).

DGA Builders made quick work of what is a relatively large project by Tompkins County standards. It’s not clear if they’ll be a part of Park Grove Realty next local project, the multi-family and mixed-use buildings at the Carpenter Business Park / Cayuga Gardens site. Park Grove’s 51-unit Downtown Elmira building just opened and a Buffalo project is expected to launch in the next couple months.





Village Solars Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Over at the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 SF 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards is just getting underway. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out).

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It is undergoing framing now and has yet to top out with roof trusses. If I had to take a guess, I’d say 36 Village Circle North will be ready by the end of April, and Building M will be ready by the end of July.

So, avoiding the political question of whether the town supervisor should have voted on approving the PDA amendment on the community center because that’s not this blog’s wheelhouse, it was granted, but the outcome for the community center is still murky. As previously discussed back in September, it could either be built at its original location in its original ground-floor community/commercial with 20 one-bedrooms above, or with a different design in a location further east, more central to the property next door for sale by Rocco Lucente Sr.’s estate.

A few weeks ago, an ad showed up on commercial real estate website Loopnet advertising Lucente Sr.’s holdings, listing the property for $10 million. For that price one gets 96.44 acres and 42 existing units in four buildings, as well as plenty of development potential. Now, my gut is that the negotiations between Steve Lucente and his father’s estate were either not going well or had fallen through completely, but no one in the family is talking, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that big merger of the two sites will happen. If it doesn’t, Steve Lucente will start work on the originally-planned community center building next year, as the modified Planned Development Area states.

I did not realize TCAT Bus Route 37 now passes through here (it appears to have started to make stops here earlier this year) but it makes sense given the population growth. At the start of the decade there were about 56 bedrooms here and about 30 on the elder Lucente’s property next door. When the latest building open next year, it will be 420 or so bedrooms on this site and 54 next door (the elder Lucente built a final 12-unit building with two-bedroom units in 2011-12). When all approved construction is complete in about 2022 (the three remaining rebuilds and the community center mixed-use), that will be up to 507 bedrooms in 333 units, not considering future growth on the property next door. It’s not quite the scale of Cornell’s dorm projects or Collegetown Terrace, but it’s probably the next largest single development site after those, it’s just no one notices because it’s rather out of the way and the build-out has been modest but steady.

According to a county deed filing just after this post went up, Northwest Bank, a regional bank mainly operating in Western Pennsylvania, is lending $4,935,000 for the construction of the two buildings.





119-125 College Avenue (College Townhouses) Construction Update, 10/2019

10 11 2019

Probably the last update for this one. All that’s left is some landscaping, at least until the power lines are buried. Definitely one of the stranger projects I’ve covered. Practically no online presence apart from city documents and what I’ve written for the Voice and here. As far as I’m aware, these are just privately-owned Cornell faculty apartments.

“John Novarr and Phil Proujansky’s latest Collegetown development appears to be in the home stretch. The glass and steel facade is basically complete, the concrete entry stairs have been poured and cured, and railings, trim and other exterior finish work is ongoing. Interestingly, these appear to come pre-furnished. Peering inside the windows, unopened mattresses were laid out on new frames and tables and chairs had been stocked in the apartment units.

Part of the reason for that might be the intended market – during the approvals process, the project team stated that the 67 units of rental housing geared towards Cornell visiting faculty and researchers. Reasonably, many of those folks would arrive in Ithaca with little in the way of furniture, and given the relatively short appointments for visiting faculty and staff (a year typically, maybe two), it would make sense to offer units pre-furnished. It would also probably explain why these units aren’t advertised online. Welliver and their partners should have the apartments ready for their first tenants by the end of this year.”

A history of the project can be found here.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 10/2019

10 11 2019

One of these days, we’ll get a tour to line up. Harolds Square’s project team does allow tours on a limited basis, if one can do Thursdays. Trying to get myself, the Voice staff photographer, and the project team to get all our schedules to align has so far not panned out. Maybe after Thanksgiving.

With that in mind, these photos were originally intended for use in the Harold’s Square feature, but after the second time it fell through, they ended up in the construction gallery instead. To quote that:

“It’s a boxy yellow giant. That bright material going over the exterior steel stud walls is the outer layer for Georgia-Pacific DensGlass fiberglass mat-faced gypsum sheathing. Fire-proof and mold-proof, DensGlass is common for commercial and mixed-use structures. The blue material around the rough window opening is likely a water-resistive barrier to prevent any rain or outside moisture from getting in under the window frames. Then a more general waterproof coating is applied over the structural walls, mineral wool insulation is attached, and then rails and clips for the aluminum exterior finishing panels.

On the inside, utilities rough-ins (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) are probably underway, but interior walls have yet to be fully built out on the uppermost levels. The large opening facing the Commons (to be a glass curtain wall section with decorative metal panels and fins) only shows fireproofing and sprinkler systems in place.

Completion of the 78 apartments, 52,000 SF of office space, and 14,400 SF of retail space is planned for summer 2020 – a little earlier on the office space and retail, a little later on the apartments. There have been rumors of an office tenant lined up, but no official announcement, and there have been neither rumors or announcements for potential occupants of the Commons-facing retail space.”

 

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The terra cotta used on the exterior, seen in the Commons-dacing photos, is Avenere Cladding’s NeaCera Rain Screen Terra Cotta product. Thanks for the shout-out on Twitter guys, but you got the city wrong by about sixty miles. Henderson-Johnson, the terra cotta installer / cladding subcontractor, is based out of Syracuse.

It still amazes me just how much this building is visible from other parts of the city and county. Granted, the DensGlass stands out, but 139 feet and 4 inches is enough to be readily visible from parts of South Hill, West Hill and the flats.

The design of the project’s been tweaked a bit (northwest corner windows, top floor panel color, entries and facade details on the Commons-facing portion), and some new renders, interior and exterior, can be found on CJA Architects’ website alongside floor plans. Initially I thought the paneling had changed on the northeastern wall, but it appears it’s always been a darker color, it just didn’t show up well in the older renders.

OLD:

NEW:





323 Taughannock Boulevard Construction Update, 9/2019

21 09 2019

Clearing out the photo stash from the article for the Voice earlier this week.

I didn’t press into in the article, but I don’t understand the relationship between Arnot Realty and local investors Steve Flash and Anne Chernish, who came up with the project. I was on the understanding going in that Arnot bought a 75% stake, but when I asked, the question was immediately shot down and warned that it could not be discussed – I didn’t even get that much pushback from the IDA tax abatement question.

The IDA question was actually my one stipulation when they reached out to suggest a walkthrough – I wouldn’t consider an article unless that topic was addressed. I’ve had people complain articles like this and East Pointe can come off as “fluff pieces”, but there is a real effort to ask and get answers to questions and issues related to those projects.

A close-up of one of the “lifts”. As mentioned in the article, because they aren’t commercial grade, they can’t formally be called elevators.

Note the electric heat pump.

It was clear to me when asking about occupancy that there was some shyness with the response, trying to explain away something, which generally means it’s not good. Here, they said they were happy with the studios, a wide degree of interest, but that people were hesitant to commit to the two-bedroom units without them being more substantially complete. Here’s the transcript:

Brian: [00:06:17] I know we touched on this earlier but just so I have the recorded version of it here, how has the market interest been for the units? Are the studios more popular, or the two bedrooms? [00:06:24][7.7]

Taryn: [00:06:26] Right now, like I said the studios are more popular to hold. [00:06:32][5.5]

Taryn: [00:06:33] But people are looking at the two-bedroom units, we have a lot of people waiting for pretty much this week and next week to see what they would look like with final touches. [00:06:40][6.7]

Ian: [00:06:46] I would say that from an interest perspective it’s been very balanced, right. [00:06:49][2.6]

Ian: [00:06:52] But perhaps that consumers who are interested in the townhomes are a little bit less, in perhaps less of a time crunch as they put it right? If you’re student or a young professional, you have a very definite timeline for moving and occupancy, whereas perhaps if you’re selling a home you’re in a more flexible situation. [00:07:07][15.1]

The units will be ready for occupancy by the end of the month.

The views are great.

High ceilings. They’re still debating whether the small attic spaces will be legally permitted for use as storage space.

The two-bedrooms have plank flooring, while the studios have concrete floors.

Brian: [00:10:23] What surprised you in a good way as this was all coming along, and what surprised you in a bad way? [00:10:28][5.1]

Ian: [00:10:28] This is all coming from, I mean, I was I was going to say like with any construction project there are things you find out in the process of building that that are perhaps surprises, I wouldn’t say that there have been any particularly nasty things that we’ve come across. Or course any time that you’re working on a deep pile foundation, You’re kind of trusting that you know underground is going to be smooth sailing, and for the most part it was and we were really fortunate. [00:11:06][38.1]

Brian: [00:11:07] This uses a unique timber pile deep foundation, right? Because typically a deep pile of steel. [00:11:13][5.5]

Ian: [00:11:13] Yes. [00:11:13][0.0]

Brian: [00:11:14] But this uses like a treated timber that as long as it’s not exposed to air, it could last hundreds of years. [00:11:18][4.0]

Ian: [00:11:20] Right. So yeah. So this is on over one hundred and thirty timber piles, and they’re all driven to a depth of about 30 feet. [00:11:30][9.9]

Brian: [00:11:32] And was it Benson, Bensonwood did the modular components and they got trucked in. [00:11:37][4.6]

Ian: [00:11:37] Right. So it was a panelized construction in terms of the actual structure of the building. So D squared, local contractors out of Lansing. [00:11:46][8.8]

Brian: [00:11:48] Doug Dake? [00:11:48][0.1]

Ian: [00:11:48] And Doug Boles, hence D Squared. Yeah. The did that foundation and they poured the slab and then Bensonwood brought in their panels from New Hampshire and actually raised the building. Over what was probably only about a month and a half to get the whole thing raised, and then finishing is D Squared comes back in. OK so in terms of the labor used on the project, we’re well over 80 percent of what TCAD considers local labor. That has been another focus of ours. [00:12:25][37.3]

Brian: [00:14:40] And this is going to sound terrible. Is it Ar-NOT or AR-noh or something else? [00:14:45][4.8]

Taryn: [00:14:45] Almost like Ar-NIT and like Garnet but yeah. Well there is a gentleman named John Arnot who was a big I think he’s a doctor correct? About a hundred years, maybe not a hundred years ago but a while ago and then so we have the hospital we have, you know, so there’s a lot of places of that (name). [00:15:10][25.1]

Ian: [00:15:12] I guess to clarify by we, the Arnot name, as far as we the Arnot Realty company, we’re not involved with the hospital. [00:15:22][9.4]

Taryn: [00:15:22] Oh sorry. Yes. No we are not at all. [00:15:24][1.8]

Taryn: [00:15:25] There is just um there’s just a lot of aspects of the area that use that name but it’s not. It would have that name but it’s not, they’re not associated. [00:15:32][7.8]

Taryn: [00:15:33] Okay I should. Sorry. That’s sounded. [00:15:35][2.0]

Ian: [00:15:36] That’s fine. We just don’t want to see a video statement from the hospital. [00:15:39][2.6]

Taryn: [00:15:39] Yeah we do not. [00:15:43][4.2]

I have nothing but kind things to say about D Squared Inc. They were courteous and professional the entire time I was on site.

In case anyone still intends to use a studio as a workspace, these are intended to be filled in with business placards, and will be finished out with a decorative veneer when not in use.





Village Solars Construction Update 9/2019

13 09 2019

So there’s been some news regarding the Village Solars buildout. The community center is in flux. The original proposal was for a mixed-use building with ground-level commercial and community amenities, and 20 one-bedroom apartments on the upper levels. Now, it’s an unknown. Per the Lansing Star:

“(T)hey will relocate the community center site to a location more central what will become an enlarged, single development. The lower floor would have amenities like a restaurant, a work-out center, and other features, with apartments on the upper floors. If not, they would build the smaller community center as already accepted by the Town.”

That means that the community center is being moved to another location on the site, and potentially take a different physical form, though programmatically it remains the same (commercial/community use on the ground level, residential above).

When the article says a more central location, it refers to the 96.44 acres of land east of the complex. The Village Solars are owned by Steve Lucente, and the undeveloped land to the east by his father Rocco, who had purchased it in 1960 and was recently planning his own apartment complex (schematic in the early Village Solars site plan below). My understanding is that the two Lucentes didn’t get along at all – I was warned to never bring up Steve when interviewing Rocco. After Rocco passed away about 18 months ago, Steve saw an opportunity to purchase the vacant land to the east from Rocco’s estate, and build a bigger complex in future phases (as yet unapproved). The purchase offer, at least check, is still being reviewed by Rocco’s Executors.

However, this created a problem. Local Law #6 of 2017, the Planned Development Area (PDA, like Ithaca’s PUD it’s D-I-Y zoning) with the town, stipulated that the community center had to be built and open by the end of 2020, and only one more apartment building could be built before it was done. So Steve Lucente and his project team had to make the case to the town of Lansing Planning Board and Town Board give them time to purchase the land and design the new community center, and let them do three more apartment buildings in the meanwhile to keep on pace with their construction plans. If the offer feel through, he’d build the community center starting next summer and finishing in 2021, a year later than initially planned. Generally, of all the communities to have to make such a request, Lansing would be one of the most accommodating.

Officially, only the Town Board really decides PDA amendments. But here, the Town Board was uncomfortable with the request at first, referred it to the Planning Board for guidance, and then after the Planning Board weighed in, it returned to the town board with a recommendation to consider during voting.

This caused some debate, with some of the planning board feeling like their credibility was taking a hint with this latest delay (the community center was delayed at least once, hence why it was explicitly stated in the 2017 PDA revision), and at least one member of the town board feeling as if they were purposely misled since banks would have received the notice of intent to modify the plans several months ago, but Steve Lucente countered that it was not a firm plan and only became firm later in the year when the offer looked like it had a good chance of being accepted. On a 3-1 vote, the town is permitting three more apartment buildings and only two more, and expects a community center to start next year in either the old or the new location.

At this point, the last of the originally permitted buildings, 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios) has had its foundation footers poured and is awaiting the concrete slab pour. The tarp and mesh are in place for stability and added strength respectively, and you can see the below-ground utilities poking out, capped for the time being. A surveyor was on site during this visit to make sure everything was level and in good order before the wood frame starts to rise. The three newly permitted buildings are all reconstruction of existing 8-10 unit buildings, into two 18-unit buildings (2 Village Place, 22 Village Place) and one 24-unit building (117 Village Circle North).

Apparently, occupancy rates have been strong. Building “L” (113 Village Circle North) opened in June, and 22 of its 24 units were spoken for, with the other two rented shortly after.

As for the future, it’s not clear. Something will be proposed that may very well require more PDA amendments, but we’ll see. The elder Lucente’s complementary apartment complex was supposed to be around 300 units in size (built over several years), and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Village Solars plan expands by a similar amount.