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.





Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 3/2017

26 03 2017

There’s been quite a bit of progress over at the Vet School. It looks like the exterior glass and aluminum are going on the new library and administrative wing. Windows and sheathing have been installed on the north face as well, with a water-resistive barrier applied over the sheathing. The new atrium is being framed out.

According to the Vet School’s construction update page, interior framing and utilities installations are underway in the new wing, and the new cafeteria is under construction – both are aiming for August completions. The new atrium and lecture hall will be closed off shortly, with interior work to launch in earnest once that occurs.

Thanks to Maria Livingston over at HOLT Architects, readers now know what the new Community Practice Service building will look like. Syracuse’s G. M. Crisalli and Associates Inc. has been selected as general contractor, and construction for the $7 million, 12,000 SF wood-frame structure is expected from March 2017- March 2018.





News Tidbits 2/11/17: Cooperation Required

11 02 2017

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1. It looks like the plans for 107 South Albany Street are getting a major revision. Readers might recall that previously approved plans called for a rear addition onto an existing house to create a 9-unit, 11-bedroom apartment building. The latest plans are a little more substantial.

For one thing, the existing house would be no more under the new plan. In its place looks to be a 3.5 story, 8,427 SF, 11-unit apartment building, all one-bedroom apartments. Developer Stavros Stavropoulos has once again turned to local architect Daniel Hirtler for design work; for each of them, this is the largest project they’ve worked on to date. Hirtler came up with a design that offer contextual features like a cornice and an orthodox window arrangement, but adds a modern vertical stair element in the middle of the structure to keep the design from being an imitation. Zoning is CBD-60, so no parking is required, 100% lot coverage is allowed, and the 40.5′ proposal is comfortably within the 60-foot height limit.  According to the SPR filing, the construction cost will be about $900k and the construction period will be from September 2017 to June 2018.

As much as I dislike seeing attractive old houses come down, the new design fits well into an older urban context. Plus, if the medical practice on State ever gets redeveloped, 3.5 floors offers a nice transition to the lower-density structures further south. I’m not a super big fan of the blank wall next to the recessed entry, although the intent is to make it interesting with light fixtures, a brick pattern and an iron trellis that will be grown over with vines. Fiber cement will be used on the upper floors, with brick veneer and granite accents at street level.

On another note, it looks like the city will be looking at a one-lot subdivision next month at 109 Dearborn Place in the Cornell Heights Historic District – the owners, a married couple who are renovating the old PRI into a historically appropriate two-family residence, are looking to sell some of the land as part of the “partnership dissolution”. The PRI renovation is expected to continue. The application says a house was previously located on the undeveloped portion of the property (a glance at old maps indicate a schoolhouse was located on-site in the 1920s). It’s worth noting that the wife is also the owner of Bridges Cornell Heights, a high-end senior living facility on the next block. Bridges previously subdivided a Cornell Heights lot in 2005 to build a second residence to serve its deep-pocketed clients. Any new house would need to go through ILPC review.

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2. Meanwhile, the Ithaca Common Council had their monthly Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting. It looks like the revised 323 Taughannock project has been caught up in the TM-PUD, so it will have to get Common Council approval. Apart from a certain councilor’s general objections to housing near or on the waterfront, this one isn’t likely to stir up much controversy. The construction timeline for Steve Flash’s 8-unit , 16,959 SF owner-occupied townhouse project is June 2017 – January 2018, with an estimated value of $2-$3 million. Potentially, there could be 16 units, since each townhouse comes with a live/work space that could be converted to a separate studio apartment unit.

Also included at the meeting was a session on electric car infrastructure, votes to send laws allowing dogs in Stewart Park and a temporary altar to the Common Council, votes to circulate a zoning amendment to allow brewpubs in business zones, and a discussion of tree plantings. The Maguires also discussed possibly shifting their project to Southwest Park behind Wal-Mart, which is covered on the Voice here.

3. The city of Ithaca has been awarded funding to build a replacement bridge for North Aurora Street over Cascadilla Creek. Continuing the city’s heavy infrastructure investments of the past few years (for instance, the bridges as Lake Street, East Clinton Street, and the work planned for Brindley Street/Taughannock Boulevard), the state is giving $1.178 million towards the replacement span. Engineering work and public meetings will take place in 2017 and early 2018, with construction and completion by 2019.

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4. Over in the town of Ithaca, final approval has been granted to Cornell and EdR’s Maplewood project, meaning that everything is good to go and barring any unforseen circumstances, the 441-unit, 872-bed complex should be open for graduate and professional students by the end of July 2018. The difference between preliminary and final approval is that in preliminary, the concept is greenlighted but there needs to be additional filings completed – tree planting schedules, revised labels on diagrams, construction staging plans, and proof of final approval from the city for their portion. For those who are wondering, the 150-200 workers on-site will be parking at a temporary lot behind the Kinney Drugs at East Hill Plaza, and will be walking the five minutes down Mitchell Street to get to the job site. The first building should start to rise in late Spring of this year, with new structures rising in stages as we go through the rest of 2017.

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The town planning board also reviewed revised plans for the Rodeway Inn at 654 Elmira Road, where the old wings will now be torn down and rebuilt on the same footprint and an enclosed corridor will be built into the new wings. The final result will have a net increase of four motel rooms, to 44 (the previous plan added only two motel rooms). The plan for renovating the single-family home on the property into a community center is unaffected by these changes and moving forward as originally planned.

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5. It’s been behind schedule a few months, but DiBella’s Subs is expected to open at 222 Elmira Road on February 16th.

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6. It seemed a little odd when The Computing Center stated in their IDA application that their plans had already been approved, and there was nothing on file. Turns out they’re hoping to get approval for their 4,600 SF HQ from the town of Lansing next week.

The full suite of documents can be found on the town of Lansing’s website here. It looks like the farmhouse next door to 987 Warren Drive will be spared from the wrecking ball; although The Computing Center bought the property, it’s being subdivided and the barn-turned-garage is the only building that will be torn down. Lansing has one of the more lenient planning boards, so although this probably won’t be fully approved next week, there’s a good chance this project will receive final approval by the end of March.

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7. Over on West Hill, a large vacant parcel on Bundy Road just exchanged hands. The 66.98 acre parcel has been marketed for the past few years as a development opportunity – it has municipal water and sewer, and it’s a stone’s throw from Cayuga Medical Center, Overlook and the Conifer/Cornell developments off of Route 96/Trumansburg Road. Its previous ownership, a family that has owned it in some form since 1964 (moving between members in 1984 and 1991), had it on the market for $359,900.

The buyers, a husband-and-wife pair of medical doctors who live nearby, paid $305,000 for the deed, according to a filing on the 9th. An online search for future hints doesn’t really give much guidance – the doctors have donated modest amounts to Finger Lakes Land Trust and have signed some anti-fracking petitions, and while they own undeveloped properties around them, this parcel isn’t adjacent to their house. It doesn’t really fit the Land Trust’s ideal land donations either, since it’s been substantially subdivided with medium-density residential, and borders a growing corridor. So, it’s hard to gauge just what exactly is planned here. For the record, the land is currently zoned medium density residential (max 3 floors, up to 2.9 lots/acre), but the town’s new comprehensive plan sees the property as new urbanist medium density (5-8 units/acre small-scale mixed-use), with undeveloped open space towards the southwest corner of the parcel.

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8. Let’s finish this week off with a talk about energy. Good news first – there might be a solution to the West Dryden pipeline issue. Background here, but the nutshell is, Lansing has tapped out their natural gas capacity, and in order to accommodate new development that would need natural gas, NYSEG needs to build a higher capacity pipeline from their current facilities in the town of Dryden. This new pipeline would go along West Dryden Road, but has run into fierce opposition, mostly because Dryden residents are famous for being anti-natural gas – this was the town that took on the fracking companies and won. Keep in mind, these folks aren’t just disdainful of natural gas, they are adamantly opposed. So using their property to accommodate something they don’t like is a bit like asking to build an abortion clinic next to an evangelical church because that just happens to be where the land is cheapest, but they would have to share a driveway.

Unsurprisingly, the town of Dryden enacted a moratorium on large-scale pipeline installation. The town of Lansing is not happy because it stymies their development, and they’re extra-concerned that their biggest property taxpayer, the Cayuga Power Plant, is about to go belly up and leave the town with $100 million less on its tax rolls. The county wants to move away from fossil fuels, but it also wants to encourage development and not leave Lansing in the lurch.

This week, a plan was put forth that might accommodate both needs. A small compressor station would be built to keep pipe pressure from falling too low during times of peak demand, so that guarantees service for existing customers. The second prong is to wean existing development off natural gas and encourage new development to use other means – electric heat pumps, like those to be used in Maplewood and City Centre. This encouragement would be given through subsidies or tax breaks. The compressor station and the incentives would be in effect by late 2018.

It looks promising, but the feasibility studies are still ongoing, and Lansing is not totally on board. Both Lansing Village and Lansing Town feel they were not represented during these discussions with NYSEG, and that heat pumps are a major financial burden to saddle homebuilders with. They also wonder if the electrical grid would be capable of supporting so many heat pumps.

Speaking strictly from my experience, I’ve visited construction projects with heat pumps, and while they are a cost increase, it’s a couple percent more than the same structure with conventional heating – there’s a recently-built single-family house I can think of offhand where the cost of heat pumps was about $5,000 more on the $200,000 construction cost. If it’s incentivized, one could make it financially sensible, at least for residential options if not all. Also, I’m wary of Lansing’s reasoning because they piddled away the three town center projects five years ago – if they had stayed on top of it, they’d have $50 million more in property value and this wouldn’t be such a pressing issue now.

That being said, there are problems with this area’s approach to alternative energy. Newfield is the big culprit here – they’re about to put in a moratorium on commercial solar panel installations, which is worrying since this is the same town that redesigned their wind turbine law to ban them in essence. If municipalities are limiting residents’ abilities to turn to alternative energy sources (many urban areas have to turn to commercial arrays or turbines because there’s not enough room/too much demand on-site), then the community will be unsuccessful in weaning the population off of fossil fuels. But Dryden, which is in the process of changing their laws to accommodate large-scale solar arrays, is at the forefront of this issue – those panels could provide the electricity for the heat pumps and help turn the tide on energy sources. It only works if everyone cooperates.

 

 





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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Previews and Reviews From the AIA Design Crawl

10 10 2016

Last Friday, several Ithaca-area architecture and engineering firms banded together to co-host an open house night at their locations across the city. Here are some of the latest and greatest plans are from some of the local designers.

The first stop was John Snyder Architects in Ithaca’s West End. On display were the Carey Building plans and other recent works, like the internal renovation of the South Hill Business Campus for CBORD.

The second location on the list was HOLT Architects at 619 West State, which was probably the most family-friendly of the hosts, based off of the pizza bar and the children’s play-room. HOLT had several new and in-progress projects they shared with the public that evening.

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The Computing Center is looking to move out of the Cornell Business Park and into a new property to be built at 987 Warren Drive in the town of Lansing. The property is currently a two-story farmhouse and includes a vacant lot on the corner of Warren Road and Warren Drive, purchased by its current owner (an LLC) in December 2014. The new building appears to be a one-story structure.
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HOLT is arguably the local specialist for medical facilities and lab structures. Here’s a pair of projects recently completed at Cayuga Medical Center. The Surgical Services Renovation is a renovation and addition that includes space next to the front entrance, creating a new “face” for the complex. The Behavioral Health Unit is an addition on the northwest side of the building, and isn’t visible from most nearby roads and structures.

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The online version of these will be showing up in the Voice soon enough, but here are the latest design plans for the Old Library site. The indoor parking was eliminated so that the fourth floor could be set further back, and the entire building has been pulled away from West Court Street. The building still has 57 apartment units for the 55+ crowd.

The next stops were at Taitem Engineering and SPEC Consulting. Taitem (which stands for “Technology As If The Earth Mattered”) serves as structural engineering for many local projects, focusing heavily on renewable energy sourcing and energy efficiency. The focus of their open house was a tour of their LEED Platinum, 120-year old building at 110 South Albany Street, which they said was only the fourth renovation of its kind to achieve Platinum designation. I snapped a photo of Taitem’s staff, but that was taken for the IV Twitter account.

SPEC Consulting had on display a couple of home renovations they have underway, a mixed-use building in Johnson City, as well as rehab of a vacant commercial building in downtown Binghamton into a 70-unit mixed use building. To be honest, I was more focused on the personal than professional when I was at SPEC – I ran into someone I knew from undergrad whom I hadn’t seen in nine years, who apparently settled in the area and married a SPEC architect.

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At STREAM, several projects were on display – 201 College Avenue, State Street Triangle concept drawings, and a room showcasing Tiny Timbers. According to Noah Demarest, this was the first time they had shown all the home plan designs together. Also there was Buzz Dolph, the entrepreneur behind Tiny Timbers.

Not shown here but on display were a pair of attractive design concepts for CR-4 zoning in Collegetown. They might become more than concepts at some point.

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This is the latest Maplewood site plan, courtesy of Whitham Design and Planning. Here are the two big changes (previous site plan here) –

1. The Maple Avenue building has been broken up into two separate buildings.
2. Townhouses sit on Mitchell at the southwest corner of the site, replacing the multi-story apartment building previously planned.

The number of beds, previously 887, has probably decreased a little bit as a result.

I did not make it to Chiang O’Brien Architects, unfortunately. It looks like from their website they have a new project underway at SUNY Oneonta.





A Look Inside HOLT Architects’ New HQ

22 04 2016

Most of my photos are from the outside, so it’s pretty cool when I get a chance to inside.

HOLT moved into their new digs at 619 West State Street a few weeks ago, a few minutes’ drive away from their old location at 217 North Aurora Street (a building that used to be Ithaca College’s gym). First walking in, one of the first things that stood out was that there was little street noise coming in from West State, even though several large windows front the road; the secretary said that even she was surprised with how quiet it is.

I like that HOLT displayed not just their latest work, but also several older building models in their reception area. Among the projects on display were the Educational Opportunity in Center in Buffalo; the Peggy Ryan Williams Center at Ithaca College; the Roy H. Park Building downtown, and a campus setting I didn’t quite recognize. The Roy H. Park Building was done in the early 1990s, so the Strand Theatre was still standing when the model was produced.

The spaces are pretty wide open; it was explained that this was purposely done to make it easy to exchange ideas between staff, who are often split into groups according to the projects they’re working on. Some of the desks are sitting, others are standing-enabled. The principals have personal offices on the east side of the building, the left side of the first photo below. The southern space / rear section is a miniature shop area to assemble models of projects.

I did get a chance to speak with a few of the architects on staff while visiting; one was Tom Covell, a long-time architect who recently joined the company from Rochester’s SWBR. SWBR was involved in the Cornerstone proposal for the Old Library project, but Covell said he was not a part of that work. Another architect who was nice enough to take out some time to chat was Andrew Gil, who specializes in architectural design of lab spaces; this led me off on some tangent about my primary employer, who is a major stakeholder/tenant in plans for a new building, and all of our senior research staff are essentially like kids in a candy store, while the architect is like the babysitter whom the parents only gave so many dollars to work with. Andrew, if you read this, thanks for tolerating my babbling.

Briefly, a few younger staff also introduced themselves – one was from the West Coast, another went to school in the region, and the third immigrated to the United States. It was definitely a mix of background, which hopefully translates to a variety of ideas.

The building is designed to be net-zero – the energy that goes in is equal to the amount of energy the building produces, so on the balance it has no impact on the power grid. This includes automated lighting systems, solar panels, and roof and building envelope improvements among other things. More info about the green features and the construction progress can be found in the blog’s “HOLT Architects” entries here. More about HOLT and their interest in the West End of Ithaca on the Voice here.

For the sake of acknowledgement, there were a few of their latest projects on the tables; but that wasn’t the point of the visit. They’ll hit the blog pages when they’re ready.

A big, big thanks to HOLT’s Maria Livingston for the tour!

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