News Tidbits 3/18/17: Shoveling Snow to Dig Foundations

18 03 2017

1. A lot of Lansing stuff this week. Let’s start off with a brief update. It’s been about a year since the Thaler family received approvals for their 60-unit mixed-use Cayuga View Senior Living project on Cinema Drive in the village of Lansing. Well, it looks like they are finally ready to get under construction. The County Office of Aging included the project in their list of projects underway, and a check of the project’s Facebook page says they are starting construction this spring for a Spring 2018 opening. The upmarket project will contain 48 1-bedroom units and 12 2-bedrooms units, on a vacant parcel that is one of the last undeveloped high-density properties left in the village. Taylor the Builders will be the general contractor.

2. For a while now, the town of Lansing has been touting a figure of about 900 housing units being held up by the gas moratorium. Here are the statistics to back that up.

Now, the document from town planner Mike Long suggests that for multi-phase projects with some units already complete, the balance has been applied to the summation. If that’s the case, than Village Solars is shooting for a much larger buildout than originally anticipated. The doucment says that still plan on building 423 units. That’s a lot more than the ~310 currently on file. The first stage was increased from 174 to 206 as the result of unit-splitting, so the second set of phases may now have 217? That seems to be what’s implied here.

Note that the gas moratorium is a complication for the Village Solars, but not a project stopper. The newer buildings use electric heat pumps, which are a little more expensive than conventional gas, but they were able to pass the costs on within the rents (+$50/month) without much issue.

3. On another note with that town study, most of the projects noted have already been aired – Cayuga Farms on North Triphammer Road, the Pinney duplexes off of Scofield Road, Schickel’s Farm Pond Circle, and so on. However, a couple are new.

One appears to be a project called “English Village”. It consists of 59 townhomes and 58 single-family home lots. The other is “Cayuga Farms with Lake View”, which lists 30 units. The next has been cast for information, so watch this space.

4. Eric Goetzmann’s senior housing is finally ready to move forward, according to Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star. Lansing Meadows looks to be aiming for about 20 units of senior housing on Oakcrest Road, and a small commercial retail component that complements the housing – an idea being tossed around in the Star article is a coffee shop.

Technically, a coffee shop isn’t allowed in the 2011 PDA that approved BJ’s and the units, but it’s a minor change from the neighboring zoning, and likely to pass without issue. The senior units have been delayed for several years because Goetzmann bit the bullet and built wetlands to replace those that would be disrupted by construction, as required by state law; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to review and sign off on the newly-created salt marsh as satisfactory. That only happened last October.

5. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission is looking at options for a Collegetown Historic District. Initially, they wanted the 400 Block of College Avenue, the 100 Block of Oak Avenue, Cascadilla Hall, the College Avenue Bridge and 116 Summit Avenue. Then after consultation, they realized that may be a little too much to try and justify to the rest of the city, so it seems they want to move ahead with two individual designations instead – the CTB Building (403 College, the Larkin Block), and 411-15 College Avenue (Stella’s, the Chacona Block). Both are older buildings in the valuable MU-2 zone. The Avramises, who own the Chacona block, did talk about wanting to redevelop it at some point, but that was almost a decade ago, and there haven’t been any formal plans. I can see some kvetching from the ownership, but it seems unlikely that the city will argue against historic designation for these two properties if it moves forward.

6. Looking at the agendas for local planning boards – the town of Ithaca will be looking at a renovation at East Hill Plaza (former Wings into Sedgwick Office Interiors), a 2-lot subdivision on Bundy Road, and a 10,100 SF warehouse/industrial operation at Greentree Nursery’s new building at 142 Ithaca Beer Drive. The Bundy Road subdivision is the big purcahse mentioned a couple of weeks ago – the buyers want to subdivide a 2.27 acre section and have no plans for other 64.7 acres.





News Tidbits 1/28/17: Helping You Avoid Politics For Five Minutes

28 01 2017

1. Looking at sales, it looks like there were a couple of big ones this week in the Ithaca area. The first was on Friday the 20th, where 402-04 Eddy Street was sold for $913,000. The buyer was an LLC tied to Charles and Heather Tallman, who own several properties in Collegetown. The $913k price is above the 2015 assessment of $880k, but below the 2016 $1 million assessment. The Tallman historically have not been the kind to redevelop property, and the three-story mixed-use building is part of the East Hill Historic District, so don’t expect any big changes.

The next two were on Wednesday the 25th – Parkside Gardens on the Southside at 202 Fair Street, and Lakeside (Grandview Court) on South Hill, were sold for a whopping $10,450,000 from a Long Island landlord (Arbor Hill Homes) to an LLC based out of Delaware. Parkside has 51 units and was built in the 1950s, and is assessed at $2 million. It sold for $4.2 million, about double what the $2.145 million the owner paid in 2007. Lakeside has 58 units and was built in the 1970s. It is assessed at $2.8 million, the previous owner paid $2.58 million in 2007, and just sold it for $6.25 million.

Up until 2014, they accepted housing vouchers, but according to an email from the IURA’s Nels Bohn, The Learning Web handled the vouchers and the IURA has nothing about the complexes on file after 2014. It might be a case similar to Ithaca East, where the affordable housing lease period ran out and the owner converted to market rate. The Voice tried to do a story on it in Fall 2015, but it went nowhere, and then again in January 2016, and it went nowhere. I did research but Jeff and Mike were going to be the respective writers. Here are my notes from September 21, 2015:

The two complexes were recently offered for sale, but the listing was deactivated. According to 2011 IURA minutes, the owner is kind of a sleazeball, uses them as an investment property but doesn’t do maintenance. Another company (Rochester-based Pathstone, they’ve done work with INHS) considered buying Parkside in 2011/12, but backed out when problems arose.

One could argue that the two complexes had a shady owner who just cashed out big. The buyer can be traced through its unique name to a Baltimore company called Hopkins Holding, and a LinkedIn profile of a partner in the company saying their specialty is student housing. At the high price paid for Lakeside, I could easily see a redevelopment happening, though I’m not as certain about Parkside’s future.

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2. There were also a couple of construction loans filed this week. Tompkins Trust lent Collegetown Crossing $500,000 according to a filing on the 23rd, but the type of work is unspecified in the county docs. Tompkins Trust also lent INHS $1,581,796 in a separate filing on the 23rd, to finance the seven for-sale townhouses underway at 202 Hancock Street in Northside, part of the 210 Hancock affordable housing project.

3. A few weeks ago, the pending sale of the former Phoenix Books barn at 1610 Dryden Road came up. Now we what the plans are. It appears a local businessman wants to renovate the barn and use it for automotive trailer sales. The plan requires a special use permit from the town because it’s a residential zone, and the project is seeking a landscaping outdoor area to showcase trailers for sale. It doesn’t read as if the barn itself will be greatly altered in appearance, although its structural stability is in question, so it will need its north wall shored up, and roof repaired so that rainwater stops pouring into the basement. The town will be going through the project over the next couple of months, but there don’t appear to be any big obstacles that will prevent a permit from being issued.

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4. For the sake of acknowledgement, the ILPC approved of Jason Fane’s renovation plans for the Masonic Temple. There was a little back-and-forth about window replacements, and they made sure to note that the “for rent” signage was not grandfathered and would have to come down once the three commercial spaces are rented out, and the signage would not be allowed to go back up even if the spaces were vacated at a later date. The ILPC also seems inclined towards a historic district on the north edge of Collegetown along Oak Avenue and Cascadilla Place, but that still has yet to take form.

5. Out in the towns and villages, there isn’t anything too exciting on the agenda. Cayuga Heights had a one-lot subdivision for a new home site at 1010 Triphammer for their latest meeting. The town of Dryden had a 5-lot subdivision off of 1624 Ellis Hollow Road, and a 7-lot subdivision at the former Dryden Lake Golf Course.Dryden also received the sketch plan for the 12 Megawatt solar array planned by Distributed Solar at 2150 Dryden Road (12 MW is enough for ~2400 homes). Ulysses had to review a special permit for turning a nursery business into a bakery/residence, and a 2 Megawatt array at the rear of 1574 Trumansburg Road. The town of Lansing had a meeting scheduled, but nothing was ever put online, nor was there a cancellation notice.

6. The townhouses at 902 Dryden are starting to rise up. Visum Development’s facebook page notes that the foundations for all structures are complete, and framing is underway; you can see roof trusses on the right of the photo. Looks like a typical wood frame with Huber ZIP sheathing, which has become the popular (and arguably more effective) alternative to traditional plywood and housewrap. According to the hashtag overkill, the 8-unit, 26-bed housing plan is still on track for an August 2017 occupancy.

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7. Quick wrap up, we now have addresses for the two-family homes going up on Old Elmira Road. They will be 125 Elmira Road and 129 Elmira Road. This means the end of the awkward Spencer Road/Old Elmira Road disclaimer in the next (and probably last) update in March, although for the sake of continuity the title of the post won’t change – continuity was the same reason 210 Hancock was co-tagged with neighborhood pride site for about a year. Just trying to make it easier to follow along.





News Tidbits 11/12/16: Oof.

12 11 2016

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1. Starting off this week in Lansing, the village has okayed a zoning change that would allow the planning board to move forward with consideration of a 140-unit upscale apartment project on Bomax Drive. Neighbors came out to oppose the zoning change for the 19.5 acre parcel from office park business/tech to high-density residential, saying it would create additional traffic and hurt property values. The village board, however, responded in dissent, noting a lack of housing, a fit with the 2015 village comprehensive plan, and that this was about the zoning and not the project, which the planning board will critique as a separate action. The zoning change was approved unanimously. Park Grove Realty is now free to submit plans to the village, and planning board review will go from there. Expect it to take at least a few months.

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2. A couple quick notes from the town of Ithaca – Therm Inc. has commenced construction on their 20,000 SF addition at their South Hill plant. It’s a few months later than originally anticipated, but underway nevertheless. The $2.5 million project is expected to create 10 manufacturing jobs, according to the county IDA.

Also underway at this point is the renovation and expansion of the Rodeway Inn on Elmira Road. The plans call for expanding the existing 25 motel units, adding 2 new units on the ends of the main structure, and renovating a house on the property for a 1,146 SF community room to serve guests. Landscaping and lighting would also be updated. The town pegs the construction cost at about $679,000.

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3. Here’s some good news – it looks like someone has taken up the Iacovellis on their offer of a free historic house at 341 Coddington Road, providing that the taker moves it. It appears NYSEG was creating some hangups since the power lines have to be moved out of the way (NYSEG is infamously difficult to work with), but with any luck, the house itself will be saved. My colleague Mike Smith is doing the legwork on a story, so hopefully more details on the “buyer” will come forth shortly.

4. Back in July, several West End properties owned by an out-of-area LLC hit the market. Now, at least one of them has sold. The duplex at 622 West Buffalo (blue in the map above) was sold for $90,000 to a gentleman from suburban Syracuse. Immediately after, paperwork was filed with the county for a $179,145 building loan courtesy of Seneca Federal Savings and Loan, a small regional bank out of Syracuse. The paperwork does not indicate if it will be renovations/additions to the existing building, or a new structure (sometimes the sale price is a part of the building loan, but in this case the buyer paid separately, with $171,187 set aside for hard costs).

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5. Sticking with county filings, the construction loan for the third phase of the Village Solars was filed with Tompkins County this week. $6 million is being lent by Tompkins Trust to fund construction of 42 units, 21 in each building. Initially they were slated to have 18 units each, but because the three-bedroom properties don’t have quite the same appeal as smaller one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, Lifestyle Properties (the Lucente family) has broken up the units without significantly changing the exterior appearance and layout. Actual Contractors LLC, another Lucente company, is the general contractor, with Albanese Plumbing, T. U. Electric, and Bomak Contractors (excavation/foundation) rounding out the construction team.

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6. This is one of those unusual months were the city projects memo and the project review meeting agenda go out in the same week. Apart from the Collegetown Townhouse project, there are no new projects being presented, but there is new information and new renders.

In the projects memo, Novarr’s project is the new shiny, while Amici House, the8-unit project at 607 South Aurora and City Centre are being carried over as old business. Regarding City Centre, it doesn’t look like any particular points of contention have been raised by city planning, the framework for mitigating Historic Ithaca’s design complaint is already included, and most of the other requests are for more information/paperwork. From the Design meeting, it looks like the debate on the townhouses project is minor, mostly with where to locate the trees out front, and window details. They will not be putting windows into the north face because it’s on the lot line, but they will vary the materials for visual interest. The Design Committee requested that City Centre insert more windows in some areas, and less signage, as well as consideration of decorative elements to highlight the curved facade facing Aurora and East State Streets.

The project review committee meeting has all of the above, plus updated submissions from the Maplewood project team. Although no substantial development will occur in the city, the Maplewood project crosses municipal boundaries and the city has deferred to the town for lead agency. The meeting will also have a few zoning variances to comment on. The only notable zoning variance is for local realtor Carol Bushberg, who wants to do a one-story 812 SF rear addition at her office at 528 West Green Street, which is in a WEDZ zone and requires two floors.

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Looking at the Maplewood submission, the new dormer/gable style will be for the building strings that front Mitchell Street, and the two strings most visible from Walnut Street. More modern designs will be used for the remaining structures. Looking closely, the designs do vary from string to string, which will give the site some character and additional visual interest. The project timeline is pretty tight with submissions, meetings and approvals, aiming for preliminary approval from the town on December 20th, demolition to start immediately thereafter, and final site plan approval by January 3rd.

For links, here’s the Collegetown Townhouse updated submission, engineering narrative, site plan render, and cross section render. Here are the updated materials for 607 South Aurora (no significant changes, just a summary of submission materials),  here’s a new site survey for Amici House, and the project update for Maplewood.

7. Meanwhile, there’s nothing too exciting on any of the town boards next week. Lansing town will consider additions to a self-storage facility, a one-lot subdivision and a climbing wall facility next to The Rink. Ithaca town will be conducting their own analysis of Maplewood, and a one-lot subdivision.

Now, after this week’s election news, one might wonder if this has any impacts on local housing/development. Arguably, there are a few. Expect federal funds for affordable funding to be cut drastically, and grants for mass transit projects to also take a major hit. While those are major losses, the state has far greater control, so there will still be some funding available, but definitely not as much as would have been expected under a Democratic administration. Most land use and building issues are decided at the local level, so don’t expect significant impacts there.

More of a question would be infrastructure investments. The president elect wants to launch a massive rebuilding program, but the Republican Senate majority leader has already said that’s not something they’re interested in, so we’ll just have to see if he can force it through or not. If there’s any silver lining to all this, it might come in some form of deregulation, but while he might be a fan of urban environments, most of his cabinet will likely not. We also have to keep in mind the disdain for elite colleges like Cornell, so research funding, and the economy built off it, is probably going to take a hit. For the Ithaca area, the change in administrations is likely a net negative.





Simeon’s Reconstruction Update, 4/2016

28 04 2016

After the metal stud walls and fireproof gypsum board went up, it looks like another layer has been applied to the exterior. On portions of the structure that will be covered by brick, a closed-cell spray foam was used. Architect Jason Demarest provides a link to Goodale Construction of King Ferry on his Twitter account, so that might have been the subcontractor. Closed-cell spray foam, made with polyurethane and applied a few inches thick, provides insulation under the brick. On areas that will be covered by metal panels and details, Huber ZIP panels have been attached. Some of the original cast iron was salvaged after the accident and will be reused, but I haven’t seen anything that indicates if all the exterior trim will be cast iron, or if the exterior will be finished with metal panels that have a similar appearance.

Simeon’s, which is being built under a different contractor, is expected to reopen in June. Five apartments on the upper floors will hit the market later this year.

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News Tidbits 4/2/16: The Walls Come Tumbling Down

2 04 2016

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1. Demolition and site prep work has begun for the Hotel Ithaca’s new 5-story addition. The work appears to be right on schedule, since a March construction start had been planned. The $9.5 million, 90-room project replaces a two-story wing of rooms built in the early 1970s. Hart Hotels of Buffalo hopes to have the new wing open for guests this fall. NH Architecture of Rochester is the firm designing the project, which received some “sweet burns” when it was first presented with cross-hatched panels and “LEED-certified stucco”. Eventually, the planning board and developer settled on a design after review, and the project was approved late last year.

For those who like to see walls a-tumblin’, the Journal’s Nick Reynolds has a short video of the demolition on his Twitter feed here.

2. Looks like there’s a little more information about the 16-unit “small house” subdivision planned in Varna. A Dryden town board document refers to the document as “Tiny Timbers”. Which is a name that has come up before – in STREAM Collaborative’s twitter feed.

Making an educated guess here, STREAM is working with landowner and businessman Nick Bellisario to develop the parcel. It would also explain the huge mounds of material that had been on the site as of late – compressing the very poor soil so that something could be build onto it, even if they’re merely “tiny timbers”. It doesn’t look like these are more than one or two rooms, with an open floor plan on the first floor and either a room or loft space above.

At first impression, these are a great idea – relatively modest sizes tend to be more environmentally sensitive, and with the subdivision, it’s likely they would be for-sale units with a comparatively modest price tag. On the other hand, tiny houses are something that a lot of local zoning laws don’t accommodate well (minimum lot size, minimum house size, septic), so that would be something to be mindful of as the project is fleshed out more and starts heading through the town’s approval processes.

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3. Here’s some good news – the initial reception to Visum’s 201 College Avenue project was favorable. Josh Brokaw at the Times is reporting that apart from debates over a more distinctive roofline and setbacks from the street (which is more ZBA than Planning Board), the board was supportive of the project.

Meanwhile, as for something they were not in support of, the possibility of removing the aesthetic parts of site plan review as a benefit to affordable housing incentive zoning was not something that sat well with them. One thing that does get missed in the article, though, is that that benefit would only be in areas with form zoning guidelines for building appearance and siting (right now, that’s only Collegetown).

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4. Never a fan of being scooped, but the Journal’s Nick Reynolds broke the news of a 3-story, 39,500 SF outpatient medical facility planned for Community Corners in Cayuga Heights. Owner/developer Tim Ciaschi (who also did the Lehigh Valley Condos on Inlet Island) will build-to-suit for Cayuga Medical Associates, with design work by HOLT Architects.

In most towns, this would be fairly cut and dry. But this is Cayuga Heights, which probably has the most stringent board in the county. The village routinely says no to anything that could draw students in (mostly housing, but historically it also included taverns and restaurants), and people prepare multi-page tirades against two-lot subdivisions, let alone what happens when a sorority tries to move in. In the project’s favor are its distance from homes and its modest densification of Community Corners, which the village has been slowly migrating towards in the past few years. The board’s raised concerns with not enough parking, so a traffic study was included with the March materials. We’ll see how this all plays out, a medical office building might work well with Cayuga Heights’ older population.

5. The city decided to take action on the owner of the Dennis-Newton House by fining him $5,000 for building code violations. Steven Centeno, who picked up the property from the Newtons in 1982, was initially charged with over 11,000 violations, and pleaded guilty to 35 counts. According to the city, Centeno was ordered to make repairs in 2012, and got the building permits, but never commenced with repair work. If he fails to bring the property up to compliance within six months, a further fine of $42,000 will be levied. This is not unlike the case last April where the city fined lawyer Aaron Pichel $5,000 for code violations on 102 East Court Street, the “Judd House”. Work on that property is underway.

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6. Likely to be some bureaucratic progress on the Maplewood Park redevelopment next week. The town of Ithaca will be looking at declaring itself Lead Agency for environmental review of the 500-600 unit project. designs and exact plans are still in the formative phases, so no new news on those quite yet. In order to build the new urbanist, form-based project as intended, Cornell will be seeking a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which will give them flexibility in how they can lay out the site. The portion in the city of Ithaca, the two buildings towards the northwest corner (boundary line goes down Vine Street), will be built as-of-right, and it looks like a sketch plan will be presented for the city’s portion during their April Planning Board meeting.

A FEAF is included in the meeting agenda, but since the project will have to undergo a Environmental Impact Statement (much more detailed than a FEAF), it’s not very descriptive.

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7. Ugh. I give credit to the town of Ithaca’s planning board for trying to accommodate a solution where the 170-year old house could at least be moved to a different site. I’m disappointed in both the town of Ithaca’s Planning Committee (members of the town board) and the Iacovellis, neither of which seem to be devoting much thought to an amenable solution. The town’s planning committee chair is hell-bent on keeping students out, and the Iacovellis are now trying to rush the demo permit since they feel their livelihood is threatened. This is an unnecessary loss due to intransigence.





News Tidbits 4/18/15: Where Will Ithaca Grow From Here

18 04 2015

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1. Leading off this week’s news round-up, here’s a thorough piece by the Ithaca Journal’s David Hill looking at the boom in local construction. Many developers had good things to say about the city’s even hand on the market, but then there’s this gem from Jason Fane:

The new Collegetown zoning isn’t universally praised in all aspects. Major Collegetown and downtown landlord and developer Jason Fane welcomed the removal of parking-space minimums from much of the neighborhood. But he said the rezoning added other rules that run up costs, such as requirements for high ceilings and adding “further retail space to a market that already has too much retail space.”

Hmm. Too much retail space, or a notoriously poor landlord to retail tenants?

From the IJ article, we also learned that Jason Fane’s 12-story 330 College project has been mothballed, Travis Hyde’s Ithaca Gun redevelopment will be called “Falls Park”, and Frost Travis himself isn’t optimistic about condos in Ithaca:

No owner-occupied units are in the plans for the gun-factory site. It’s a challenging site, Travis said. “I have not found a way to support condominiums in Ithaca yet,” Travis said. “But I’m not going to stop trying.”

Mayor Myrick expresses optimism that some of the more far-flung outer Collegetown housing might revert back to family housing, but with Cornell’s rapidly growing student population, don’t count on it.

2. Following up my January post, it looks like Cornell’s AAP school is releasing the first rendering of the new Fine Arts Library. At a glance, it looks like the form of Rand Hall will be kept the same as it is now, although there’s no real indication at this point what the exterior will look like after the new library is built.

The architect is a Cornell alum, Vienna-based Wolfgang Tschapeller M.A. ’87. Herr Tschapeller has made some pretty wild looking staircases before (definitely not for the faint-of-heart), so this avant-garde design seems well within his normal repertoire.

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One concern I have is that Rand’s windows are reduced to single panes in the rendering. It may be an intention of the design or it might be because the windows aren’t the focus of the render, but I always thought one of the charms of Rand Hall was the many-paned windows are a characteristic of the early 20th “daylight factory” industrial style that Rand (built 1911) is representative of. I am surprised that Rand Hall is not a part of the Arts Quad Historic District as designated by the city, but at this point I wish it was.

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3. On a brighter note for historic structures, some work is finally getting done on the forlorn house at 102 East Court Street, just north of downtown Ithaca. Unfortunately, it’s not because the owner suddenly had a change of heart about the decaying 187-year old house, which sits in the DeWitt Park Historic District. It’s because the city finally had enough of this crap and fined the owner, Ithaca lawyer Aaron Pichel, $5,000 last month, with threats to fine him another $15,000 if he didn’t bring the house up to code within six months.

I first wrote about this house in April 2012. Quoting that entry:

“Historically, the house is the “Judd House“. The house was built in 1828 – the same year Ezra Cornell had arrived in the budding town of Ithaca, which has hardly twenty years old. An estimate establishes the house as having about 3,100 sq ft, 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Furthermore, the assessed value of the house is $190,000, although given its condition the land it sits on is probably worth more then the physical plant itself.

A casual online search reveals a photo from Cornell’s A.D. White Collection, which shows the house in a much better state of affairs in what the vehicle to the left suggests is the 1920s. Furthering searching indicates the house was most likely designed by Ira Tillotson, the same architect for the Clinton House, which is a contemporary to this home. The once-stately residence was built for Capt. Charles Humphrey, a veteran of the War of 1812, on what was then the corner of Cayuga and Mill Streets. The house and a long-removed barn were constructed for a cost of $2,105.56, which places the cost of construction likely somewhere in the upper six digits to $1 million-plus today. The name Judd House comes from long-time owners of the house in the 1900s, who apparently took great pains to keep the house in good shape. Sadly, that is not the case today.”

Plans filed with the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC) by local company McPherson Builders indicate plans to restore the front porch to an “acceptable condition”, with new roofing and rafters, cornice reconstruction, replacement of the semicircle window above the porch columns, porch column stabilization and repaint, and restoration the northwest chimney to its original configuration (full length with capping, as seen with the other two chimneys in the above photo).

Yes, please and thank you. It’s a shame it had to come to this to get the needed repairs addressed, but at least the historic home won’t be at risk of destruction. The plans underwent review at the ILPC’s April 14th meeting.

4. Touching real quick on this week’s Chapter House disaster – it’s hard to say what will happen with the site moving forward. It and 406 Stewart Avenue were contributing members to the East Hill Historic District. Probably the best solution at this point would be a sympathetic new build, like the one happening with 202 Eddy Street a few blocks away. But there’s no guarantee that will occur.

Notably, the two buildings exchanged hands only a couple weeks ago. On April 2nd, two sales for $615k and $835k were recorded for two tax parcels consisting of the Chapter House and the apartment buildings on either side (the tax parcel for the Chapter House building is combined with 406 Stewart, the apartment building that burned down). An LLC in suburban Orlando sold them to an LLC in suburban Philadelphia. I doubt there’s anything nefarious here, but the new owner is probably feeling a bit shell-shocked at the moment.

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5. Nothing big going on at Ithaca College, but there will be a small project to keep an eye on this summer: a small addition to house an elevator between Textor Hall and Friends Hall. Being a small project without significant impacts, the town is prepared to waive certain requirements for preliminary and site plan approval – this should be a pretty quick approvals process.The planning board will review the project next Tuesday the 21st. Comments on the project can be made here.

 





News Tidbits 3/14/15: A Spring Thaw and A Warming Housing Market

14 03 2015

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1. This past Friday the 6th, the city IURA (Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency) sold off a vacant city-owned property at 215-221 West Spencer Street to Edward Cope for $110,000. The name might not sound familiar, but a quick address check of the sales documents reveals an association with PPM Homes, a local rental company with a few hundred bedrooms in dozens of properties scattered around the city, most of them subdivided homes. Edward Cope also bought a vacant privately-owned lot at nearby 228 West Spencer Street for $15,000 on February 19th. 228 West Spencer, a small, steep site with tight zoning restrictions, was approved last year for one custom house design with 1536 sq ft. of space (the design plans came with the sale). As for 215-221 West Spencer, it was noted in July of last year that the city was selling the parcel (though I was under the impression it had already sold) and the buyer was intending multi-family housing. The 0.47 acre site has the potential for a medium-sized apartment building (20 units), but that’s a simple calculation using the zoning. With topography and neighbor considerations, the reality will be smaller.

In short, keep an eye on these properties, because PPM has the money to make the house and the apartment building happen.

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2. From the March IURA Agenda, a few good notes from the attached February minutes:

A. The Hotel Ithaca conference center is still actively trying to move forward.

B. The IURA received an inquiry about vacant land in the Cherry Street industrial park, from a business seeking to relocate into the city.

C. The city is making progress on taking over the state-owned parcel at 508 Taughannock Boulevard, previously used by the U.S. Coast Guard.

D. The former Ithaca Gun site is virtually entirely cleaned up, which will allow the apartment project proposed for the site to move forward with the planning and approvals process.

All things to keep an eye on in the upcoming months.

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3. Looking at the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee Agenda, there was quite a pushback from locals and the county for the proposed Titus-Wood historic district. The city fire department objected to landmarking their parking lot, the county wrote a letter opposing landmarking 317 W. State (and 315 W. State, which is not a registered address but could be the parking lot) because it was felt neither was historic enough and that it impeded urban infill, and the owner of 110 S. Albany, Ian Shapiro of Taitem Engineering, protested because his previous experience with the ILPC has been very frustrating, and that the ILPC gives applicants a really hard time over energy conservation efforts such as solar panels.

For the record, he’s not wrong about that. Some ILPC members have not been a fan of solar panels (examples here, here, here and here), and it has been at times a months-long process to get installation approval. It boils down to a dispute of alternative energy use vs. historic preservation, both things that Ithacans love, but can conflict with each other in cases like these.

Regardless of the opposition, the PEDC passed the historic district resolution with a unanimous vote, and the resolution now goes on to the Common Council, who will likely approve the new historic district.

4. Over in Lansing, concerned citizens looks like they can put their fears to rest regarding development of the Kingdom Farm property. The 528.1-acre property sold to a Cayuga County dairy farmer on March 10th for the hefty price of $2.8 million (in other words, $5,302/acre). The farm has been in the possession of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the business branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses) for several decades, and the owners even pitched a 500-unit development for the site in the late 2000s. Back in October when the tax-exempt land went up for sale for $3 million, the Lansing Star reported that some more activist local residents wanted the town to step in and help a farmer buy the land so they could keep the property agricultural. There hasn’t been any news of the town taking that step, and it appears the problem resolved itself without the need of taxpayer dollars. Also, it means the property, assessed at $2.2 million, goes back onto the tax rolls. This might be one of the few cases where everything appears to have been worked out and all can go home happy.

5. 514 Linn Street has come down for a new duplex now under construction. Each apartment unit will have 3 bedrooms and be completed this summer. Although the predecessor building dated from the late 1800s, it was also an early “cookie-cutter” home; 512 Linn was the same design. Fall Creek is mostly developed, but Linn Street is no stranger to new builds – 514 follows a few years after 516 Linn, which was a new home built on a vacant lot.

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6. Lastly, it looks like the town of Ithaca’s planning board finally has a few things to work on, after having no meeting since early January. For their Tuesday meeting, the town will review plans for more luxury tents at La Tourelle, a new municipal water tank near Sapsucker Woods, and revised plans for the Amabel project off of Five Mile Drive. The number of units has been reduced to 28, and since November, two units were added to the far west portion of the parcel bordering Five Mile Drive (and as it turns out, those center units aren’t duplexes). Contrary to the example render, six different home designs will be available. Developer Sue Cosentini of New Earth Living LLC hopes to begin sales this summer.

Get connected:

Have comments or questions about these projects for your local government? Contact info below:

Town of Ithaca Planning Board: Use the form here – http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/contact-us

Ithaca Common Council: http://www.cityofithaca.org/341/Common-Council – click on your councilperson’s name, their email is on the subsequent page.