Harold’s Square Construction Update, 4/2018

10 05 2018

Ithaca weather is not accommodating. Originally, the pour for the concrete slab was supposed to take place on April 3rd. It’s tricky, because this is a large footprint and the building is very heavy, necessitating a thick slab – 30 inches thick. That has to all be poured at once, without any potential interruptions like rain or snow, which can weaken the concrete as it cures (upsets the mix and water balance). That was rescheduled the first time due to winter weather, and was expected to take place on the 11th, which was rained out. 4/16 was also cancelled due to winter weather. Finally the concrete was able to be poured on the 23rd.

In the photos below, you can see some wood forms are still in place for smaller sections (entryway, lower right of site). The vertical concrete column bases are being poured (note the squares of vertical rebar in the sections yet to be encased), with steel plates atop the finished column to tie into the steel beams. The hole in the lower right (southeast) corner is for one of the elevator cores. Taylor the Builders will have this heading skyward in short order.





107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 4/2018

4 05 2018

The new 11-unit apartment building at 107 South Albany Street is fully framed and roofed. It looks like the roof underlayment is down and the shingles are starting to go on -the photos below show plumbing and electrical boxes already installed on the first floor. Most of the sheathing is in place, and given the plastic, utilities roughs-ins are likely ongoing inside the new structure. From the listing on Zillow:

“Brand new luxury 1 bedroom apartment in Ithaca’s newest development available August 1, 2018. One block from the Ithaca Commons and a bus stop with multiple routes at your door.
The Unit:
– Is beautifully furnished
– Boasts high end finishes throughout including: custom cabinetry, quartz counter-tops, stainless appliances and a beautiful tiled bath.
– Has laundry in building
– Includes indoor bike storage
– Water, high speed internet, common area maintenance and snow removal included in this professionally managed 11-unit building
The exterior, with cornice and orthodox windows are additional architecturally designed items that add to the beauty of the building. No detail has been overlooked. A must see as downtown Ithaca continues to grow. Photos are from other recent projects and are for illustrative purposes. They represent the types of finishes you will find within apartment.”
 

I have never heard the phrase “orthodox windows” unless the topic was a church.

An August 1st opening means this building’s going to have to move at a fairly quick pace over the next few months. I don’t see any current information on rent, but the last I had seen was $1,100/month for a 1-bedroom, which isn’t Collegetown extreme, but it’s premium-priced for the State Street Corridor, and not unusual for new construction. Apartments.com seems to suggests that all the units are spoken for.

Background information on the project and its specifications can be found here. Renting Ithaca (Nick Stavropoulos) is the developer, and Flatfield Designs (Daniel Hirtler) is the architect.





Village Solars Construction Update, 3/2018

24 03 2018

It looks like 102 Village Place is just about complete from the outside, with only some minor finishing work like trim boards remaining on the to-do list. Its peer, 116 Village Circle, is a little further behind, with rough-ins, insulation and drywall in place inside, and exterior facade work underway. The air-source heat pumps have been installed, but not fully hooked up yet. The 42 units in these two (24 and 18 respectively) should be ready for occupancy by the end of the spring.

I never caught it before, but the project docs say the developer, Lifestyles Properties (the Lucente family), will plant over 500 cherry trees on the property as phases concludes and the land is no longer disturbed. Perhaps a few of the saplings below are included in that figure.

According to the phasing plan, the next phase is to replace 2 Village Circle and 22 Village Circle with a pair of 18-unit buildings. Those would be twelve studios and six two-bedrooms each, replacing two ten one-bedroom unit buildings (net gain of 28 residents, for those keeping in track). These would likely start later this year for a 2019 completion.

After that time, Phase 3b, a 20-unit, 20-bedroom mixed-use community building (building “F”, all-new), would also start construction, with the start of phase 4, the 24-unit replacement of 36 Village Circle, to follow in the 2019-2020 timeframe. 3b has to start before Phase 4 if even just one day sooner, as that was added as a stipulation by the town planning board before any new phases commence (presumably, it would also have to be completed in reasonable time). Lifestyle Properties says the two buildings per year phase-in works well for Tompkins Trust Company as lender (its market segment and location can comfortably absorb another 42 or so units every year), and for the in-house construction team and preferred subcontractors. Spring 2022 is the practical conclusion, but there are plans for additional buildings east of the current site, which could add a few hundred more units throughout the 2020s.

Just as a subjective observation, there has definitely been a change in Lansing’s development pattern. It’s still fairly suburban, but the numerous 3,000 SF Cardamone homes that seemed to be ever-underway on cul-de-sacs in the mid 2000s have now been reduced to a trickle – I never see more than 2 or 3 underway at any one time these days, and driving through Cayuga Way, Woodland Park and Whispering Pines is often a waste of gas. However, multi-family is taking off in areas with sewer access, like here at the Village Solars, and with the English Village / Cayuga Orchard properties between East Shore Drive and Triphammer Road. Likewise, the village is getting plenty of infill on its vacant parcels, from large projects like the Bomax Drive Apartments and Cayuga View Senior Living, to smaller ones like Triphammer Row.

There’s some evidence to back that up – according to the federal HUD Building Permits Database, from 2003-2006, Lansing town and village approved 187 single-family homes and not a single multi-family unit. From 2013-2016 (the latest available), the two approved 92 single-family homes and 148 multi-family units.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 2/2018

22 02 2018

Not all cranes come on wheels. Many larger cranes are assembled and disassembled on site. A concrete crane pad is formed and poured to provide a base for the crane, with the pieces assembled upward from the base. That’s what you can see in the photos below. The size can vary depending on the size of the crane required, whether it’s free-standing or tied-in, whether there are rock anchors that can be used, and the soil upon which it and the pad will rest. Here, the crane pad will rest on a thick, firm mud layer beneath, and the concrete will be reinforced with a tied-in (meaning the grid bars are tied together) steel rebar grid. According to the Harold’s Square website, the crane pad itself will rest on a 4’6″ deep concrete, 38′ x 38′. Keep in mind, there will actually be two cranes on-site. The one mounted here will be the heavy-duty 300-ton crane, but they construction team will use a mobile 55-ton crane as well. The elevator pits are also being boxed and formed.

All the piles have been driven in at this point, and the sides of the site have been shored up as necessary with lagging and steel H-beams. The low-rise Commons-facing portion of the building will utilize an 18″ rebar-reinforced mat slab foundation, while the tower portion will have a 30″ rebar-reinforced mat slab. These pours should happen by mid-March. The structure will be anchored into the foundation, which will evenly distribute the weight and support the floors above. After the foundation is in, the only way to go is up.





107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 2/2018

20 02 2018

The wood frame for the eleven-unit 107 South Albany Street project is now up to the second floor. ZIP panel sheathing has started to be attached and interior stud walls have been erected. It does not appear utilities rough-ins have started on the ground floor yet.

The project recently underwent a last-second but substantial design change. It doesn’t affect the interior square footage (something that would have sent it back to the Planning Board), but the aesthetic have changed up quite a bit.  The tall mid-building stair column and flat roof with cornice have been ditched in favor of a less prominent stairwell with a small gable, and a large hipped roof. The fenestration and ground floor details remain largely the same. Before and after renders are at the bottom of this post.

Marketing for the eleven one-bedroom units has started, with units starting at $1,395/month – pricey, but not Collegetown pricey. The advertisement for a “luxury unit” reads as such:

“Brand new luxury 1 bedroom apartment in Ithaca’s newest development available August 1, 2018. One block from the Ithaca Commons and a bus stop with multiple routes at your door.

The Unit:
– Is beautifully furnished
– Boasts high end finishes throughout including: custom cabinetry, quartz counter-tops, stainless appliances and a beautiful tiled bath.
– Has laundry in building
– Includes indoor bike storage
– Water, high speed internet, common area maintenance and snow removal included in this professionally managed 11-unit building

The exterior, with cornice and orthodox windows are additional architecturally designed items that add to the beauty of the building. No detail has been overlooked. A must see as downtown Ithaca continues to grow. Photos are from other recent projects and are for illustrative purposes. They represent the types of finishes you will find within apartment.”

It’s a bit of a risk, since the real estate waters are generally untested west of Ithaca’s downtown, although a couple other small projects are planned along the State Street Corridor. Long-time residents also worry about gentrification encroaching on the edge of the Southside neighborhood. However, city planners are pushing development westward from the downtown core, and the possibility of a government center on the Central Fire Station site a block away means that there may soon be a large employer practically at its doorstep. The Facebook ads are pitched with an eye to students, but that seems a stretch; even with the buses, this is a bit too far out for many Cornell or Ithaca College kids to consider, and it’s double the per bedroom price of shared South Hill, Fall Creek or outer Collegetown units.

The developers, the Stavropoulos family, don’t seem especially inclined towards any one neighborhood. Previous projects include a pair of duplexes in Fall Creek, a new home on Linn Street, and home additions on South Hill. The Stavropoulos family’s next project after this would potentially be the duplex pair at 209 Hudson Street on South Hill, if approvals are granted. Arguably, South Hill is a safer bet financially thanks to Ithaca College, though becoming less amenable due to the concerns from permanent residents regarding quality-of-life manners, which has led to a new zoning overlay to rein in infill in that neighborhood.





Harold’s Square Construction Update, 12/2017

31 12 2017

Grab a cup of coffee or tea for this one, it’s a long introduction.

Touching on a familiar topic again, downtown and urban living has enjoyed a revived interest in the past fifteen years, and coincident with moderate but steady economic growth in Ithaca, it has created plenty of opportunities for those with assets and expertise. Succeeding in those opportunities is a slightly different story – money and a strong project team are important, but some projects have an easier go of it than others. Harold’s Square has experienced substantial obstacles in its long pre-construction period, but thanks to developer David Lubin’s flexibility and tenacity, as well as an accommodating local government and growing market, it has surmounted those challenges and is now underway.

The first version of Harold Square at 123-139 The Commons was proposed back in October 2012. At the time, the plans called for first-floor retail, a few floors of office space, and 60-70 apartments on the upper floors of the 11-story building. The Sage Block (Benchwarmers) and W.H. Miller Building (Home Dairy) would be renovated, while three less historic buildings would be taken down to make way for the new development. The estimated price was $30 million and the plan was to have the 126,000 SF building finished by summer 2014. At that time, the building would have needed a fairly substantial zoning variance – the entire site was CBD-60, and it reached about 135 feet.

With the exception of the first-floor retail and Sage Block renovation, none of the other details have remained the same. However, the five major design iterations have all been by the same architect – CJS Architects (formerly Chaintreuil | Jensen | Stark Architects), with offices in Rochester and (later) Buffalo.

Lubin already had some familiarity with the project site – one of the storefronts to be removed used to be home to Harold’s Army Navy Store, a business started by his father and expanded to sixteen locations across the region. These stores were closed in the late 1990s as Lubin chose to focus on his development project and other business endeavors, like his computer recycling business. Harold’s Square is a nod to his father’s store, and the famed Herald Square of New York City.

The project design was critiqued and reviewed thoroughly over the next ten months, which also produced the first major set of design changes – in fact, if you’re googling Harold’s Square without prior knowledge, images of this version, v02, turn up enough that even many current agencies and organizations (and even the posters on the construction fence) treat it as the final design. The 2015 image from the contractor’s website, Taylor the Builders, is shown above. It did away with some of the less-liked design features of v01, but retained a clean, contemporary profile with a curtain wall of glass, and terracotta panels that extended to the roof canopy. During this period, plans to acquire the W.H. Miller Building were dropped.

This was the version that was approved in August 2013, and received CIITAP tax abatements two months later in October 2013. It had 162,750 SF, with basement utilities/storage, ground-floor retail (20,670 SF), three floors of office space (56,855 SF) and 46 apartments on floors 5-10. The eleventh floor was a 5,000 SF penthouse for tenant use. The price tag was about $38 million.

At this point, post IDA approval, we kinda enter a publicly dormant period. Publicly, apart from the occasional reassurance from Lubin that the project was still alive, and the re-application for approval permits since those expire after two years, there didn’t appear to be much going on. Behind the scenes, it gets a little more interesting.

The project was having trouble securing a construction loan, and that was for a couple of reasons. For one, Lubin (as L Enterprises LLC) was having trouble securing a major office tenant, and office space made up about a third of the building. No one had any concerns about the apartments since the residential market was (and still is) strong, and retail is not hard to sell when it’s on The Commons, but office space is a different matter altogether. The demand for new space is modest, and often custom built for a tenant, rather than speculative space to be filled by tenants after it’s complete. So if we’re being fair but critical, the project team made a fair gamble but ended up overestimating the market for office space. Unless that space was spoken for, there would be no financing.

Re-examining the mix of uses, Lubin decided to revamp the project when seeking re-approvals in August 2015 – two floors of office space would be replaced with apartments. The first mention of this actually came through the New York Times, followed by the Voice and the Ithaca Times. With the drop in office space, the number of apartments jumped to 86. This also required some design changes, which were going to be reviewed by the city in Fall 2015. My notes show August 2016 ended up being the review date. We’ll call this version 3, v03.

Now Harold’s Square was 180,090 SF, with basement utility/storage space, ground-floor retail, second floor office space, and ten floors of apartments. The project had grown from 11 to 12 floors, but the height was nearly the same since residential floors have lower floor-to-ceiling heights than Class A office space. The total unit count was now 108, with 40 micro units (all the rage these days), 30 1-bedroom units, and 38 2-bedroom units. This version was approved in September 2016. By the time the project was up for re-approval, the city zoning had changed such that 140-foot buildings were allowed on-site, so no further height variance was needed.

With the space utilization issue worked out, the project was still seen as a sizable risk to potential lenders – it was at its inception the largest project proposed in downtown Ithaca since 2005’s Seneca Place, and Lubin had some experience with smaller projects, but nothing this size. Finding a partner to buy in to the plan would reduce the loan needed and add experience, making the project an easier sell to lenders. This is where McGuire Development, a major interest in the Buffalo market (3.5 million SF), came into play. They saw the potential in Lubin’s vision and the value in the Ithaca market, and agreed to buy in as a development partner. This appears to have been finalized in January 2017.

Fast forward to May 2017. With McGuire playing a role on the project team, major design iteration #4 (v04) removed the terracotta panels in favor of metal, and reconfigured the Commons storefront retail to use a common entrance, for “financial viability”. The enclosed atrium was removed and a mechanical penthouse added. It seems likely that McGuire wanted to ensure a certain return on investment. This version was approved without much further comment, except perhaps a bit of exasperation from city officials. Concurrently, the project team re-applied to the IDA for a revised tax abatement – the project’s price tag was now up to $42 million, and they were seeking revised, slightly more generous terms, which were granted with some grumbling. Complaints include a lack of explicitly affordable housing units, local labor concerns, and gentrification. The use of heat pumps and 60 kW of rooftop solar panels assuaged the sustainability crowd.

By October, the project was underway, courtesy of a construction loan from Norwich-based NBT Bank. The bank is a regional player with about 1.5x the assets of Tompkins Trust. This is new territory for NBT, which typically limits itself to single-family home loans in Tompkins, and has no service branches within county lines. The loan is for $33,842,000. L Enterprises and McGuire have each put up $5 million to cover the $43,842,000 cost of the project.

So here we are. The site has been cleared, and shoring and excavation by Paolangeli Contractor will take place over the next six weeks. After that comes ten days of pile driving, using a zero-resonance hammer to reduce vibration and noise – ostensibly, because is probably the second-most high-profile project site in the city after City Centre (which used the same method). Project completion is expected in Spring 2019. Sorry folks, but the Commons playground will remained cocooned and closed due to safety concerns.

The project team includes L Enterprises LLC (led by David Lubin) as lead developer, McGuire Development as co-developer, Taylor the Builders as the general contractor, CJS Architects, Fagan Engineers and Land Surveyors handling the application and civil/structural engineering work, and Brous Consulting for public relations. Those who want to follow the project without this blog as an intermediary can sign up for update on the project webpage here.

With the latest update on their webpage also comes the latest version of the project design, v05 – which doesn’t really affect the program space, but it does have several visual changes. The corner units now have exposed balconies vs enclosed rooms, the dark metal band on the top floor facing the Commons has been removed, and the retail frontage was reconfigured a bit on the Commons facade (the north module was stretched, one of the entry doors moved, and different fenestration patterns have been applied to some of the modules and the northwest face).

Pre-demo photo:





107 South Albany Street Construction Update, 12/2017

22 12 2017

Since October, it looks like the foundation slab has been poured over the footers, and the construction crew is preparing to start work on framing. Judging from the materials on-site, it looks like wood-frame with Huber ZIP panels. Wood-frame structures tend to rise quickly, so once the project team is ready, it should go up at a rapid pace, and probably top out in within just a few weeks. The 11-unit, $1.1 million apartment building is expected to be ready for occupancy by July.

It’ll be interesting to find out what Stavros Stavropoulos’s next project is, since the plan for a pair of duplexes at 209 Hudson Street was kiboshed by the city after the South Hill zoning overlay went into effect. If he’s looking at other locations along the State Street Corridor, he’d likely find the planning department and Common Council more amenable. If his name shows up in any sales, I’ll note it in the round-up.

On that note, expect a brief holiday pause in the daily posts. They’ll be back next week.

For reference, project summary here.