Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 6/2015

14 06 2015

The pile driving work continues at the Marriott project site downtown. Quoting an anonymous source familiar with the project, about 10 more caissons are left to be piled, and grade beams are being built.  Per wikipedia, a grade beam is a reinforced concrete beam that transmits the load from a bearing wall into spaced foundations such as pile caps or caissons; a grade beam spans the the space between the caissons, distributing the weight among the caissons and ensuring the hotel’s structural stability. In image three, you can see the pile driver at work drilling a caisson, using a rotary bore so that it can more easily penetrate deep into the soil. The expectation is that the project will begin to rise starting in just a couple weeks, and builds its way skyward over the course of the summer and fall.

On a side note, check out that new window inserted into the Rothschild Building. Much better than the blank brick wall that was previously there.

The $32 million, 10-story, 159-room hotel is slated for an opening in Q3 of 2016 (July-September). The hotel will include a fitness center, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and 3,000 sq ft of meeting space.

The hotel has been designed by Atlanta-based Cooper Carry Architecture and development is a joint venture of Urgo Hotels of Bethesda and Ensemble Hotel Partners, a division of Ensemble Investments. Urgo’s portfolio includes at least 32 other hotels totaling 4,500 hotel rooms. Interior design will be handled by Design Continuum, W.H. Lane of Binghamton is the general contractor, and Rimland Development contributed the land to the joint venture and is a partner. Long Island-based Rimland was the original firm that pitched the project in 2008 as the “Hotel Ithaca”, before the old Holiday Inn downtown went independent.

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 2/2015

10 02 2015

The land for the new Ithaca Marriott exchanged hands on January 13th, the groundbreaking ceremony was January 22nd. With those events filed away, there appears to be some real site prep going on at the site, located at the intersection of E. State and S. Aurora Streets. The site has very clearly been disturbed, although last Saturday appeared to be a day off for the construction workers. The sidewalk on S. Aurora Street is closed, and excavators and dump trucks are ready and waiting. The first major step in this project will be to clear the asphalt and soil on site and dig deep enough to enable foundation work to take place. Expect that work to take place for the rest of the winter and into the spring.

The $32 million, 10-story, 159-room hotel is slated for an opening in Q3 of 2016 (July-September). This is pushed back from the previously given date of Spring 2016. While this new date misses the lucrative graduation season, it will still be able to take advantage of the summer crowds and back-to-school visitors, if all goes to plan (and we’ll see if it does). The new date also places the opening of the Marriott a couple of months behind the opening of the new 123-room Canopy Hilton a couple blocks away. With 282 more hotel rooms downtown, businesses that cater to tourists and other travelers will welcome the boost in business. Who knows, perhaps the Commons will finally be done with reconstruction by then.

According to a press release from developer Urgo Hotels (or the Ithaca Journal paraphrase), the hotel will include a fitness center, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and 3,000 sq ft of meeting space. While the hotel is underway, some details are still being ironed out – the hotel signage (which requires a zoning variance) was derided as too generic and bright, and Urgo Hotels withdrew the proposed design. Urgo has a year or so to figure out what kind of signage they and Marriott would like to install, and don’t expect any delays just because of signage.

The hotel has been designed by Atlanta-based Cooper Carry Architecture and development is a joint venture of Urgo Hotels of Bethesda and Ensemble Hotel Partners, a division of Ensemble Investments. Urgo’s portfolio includes at least 32 other hotels totaling 4,500 hotel rooms. Interior design will be handled by Design Continuum, W.H. Lane of Binghamton is the general contractor, and Rimland Development contributed the land to the joint venture and is a partner. Long Island-based Rimland was the original firm that pitched the project in 2008 as the “Hotel Ithaca”, before the old Holiday Inn downtown went independent.

Off the record, have we settled that it’s 159 rooms and not 160? Because this is confusing me to no end.

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 11/2014

7 12 2014

Officially, the downtown Ithaca Marriott is underway with site prep. Perhaps because it only just started, there was hardly anything to speak of on its site. An orange plastic construction fence blocks off the perimeter of the property, and there appear to be some pipes and concrete blocks on site. IPD had the parking lot blocked off, presumably to keep the lot closed to downtown patrons, and to use Green Street to meet their monthly ticket quota.

Although multiple sources indicate a Spring 2017 completion, the sign attached to the front of the site displays Spring 2016 as the completion and opening period. Binghamton-based William H. Lane Inc. was selected as contractor for the project, and opened an Ithaca office to oversee the operation. The $32 million, 10-story, 160-room hotel was designed by Cooper Carry Architecture and is being developed by Urgo Hotels out of Bethesda, Maryland. Urgo’s nearest other hotels are the Whiteface Lodge in the Adirondacks, and several in the NYC area, and Ithaca is well outside their normal scope. I suppose the Marriott could be used as an example of how Ithaca is attracting the attention of out-of-town investors and developers.

hotelIthaca_2010

This project really has had quite the drawn-out process, originally proposed as the Hotel Ithaca back in 2008. At that point, it was a 9-story, 102-room hotel with a cost of $17 million, to be developed by Rimland Development and operated by boutique firm Gemstone Hotels. Well, a lot happened along the way. The project was approved, the recession hit, the project stalled due to an inability to get financing, the cost kept going up from $17 million to $25 million to $27 million, and the number of rooms went from 102 to 125 to 140. Then the Marriott version came into play in 2012 with a $19 million price tag, it was approved, it too failed to get financing, and went back to the board with a value-engineered design for the now $32 million project. With money from Ensemble Investments, the project has been able to launch. There have been three separate designs with ballooning price tags. To actually have something underway is a welcome denouement to this saga.

The Marriott is one of only several hotels planned for Ithaca, with the new 123-room Canopy a couple blocks away intending to start construction shortly, and 76-room and 37-room hotels for Elmira Road. With high room rates and low vacancy rates, the market is expected to comfortably absorb at least two of those. All of them might cause an older suburban hotel to be closed.

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News Tidbits 10/4/14: Risky Business

4 10 2014

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1. According to the IJ, Urgo Hotels finally has a construction company lined up for the long-awaited downtown Marriott hotel. The firm, William H. Lane Inc. out of Binghamton, is no stranger to the area, with previous work on Cornell and IC’s campuses. Construction would hopefully start in October and take place over a year or so; late 2015 would be great, but early 2016 seems more plausible. The journal article makes reference to the firm also being involved with a dorm expansion planned at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) starting construction this fall; this is the first time I’ve heard anything about there being more dorms out in Dryden. I checked TC3’s news archives and found nothing, and I contacted their residential life but received no response. The main classroom building is undergoing renovation, so it could just be a typo on the Journal’s part.

With as many delays as the Marriott project has had, I won’t believe the hotel’s under construction until I see foundation work underway.

2. In economic news, a quickly-growing local company is applying for tax abatements to help fund its expansion. BinOptics of Lansing is based out of the Cornell Business Park over near the airport, at 9 Brown and 20 Thornwood Drive. According to their TCIDA tax abatement application, the abatement is to underwrite some of the cost for expanding in those two buildings, and adding a 2,800 sq ft clean room onto 9 Brown (BinOptics works in the manufacture and sale of optical and laser devices). The project is expected to cost $7.7 million, mostly on new equipment. On paper, it sounds promising; the 14 year-old company claims to have grown from about 50 to 143 employees in the past 3 years, 35 in the past year alone. They expect to add 91 more jobs over the next 3 years, of which the vast majority pay living wage. The abatement is for about $200k in mortgage and sales taxes, and a multi-million dollar abatement on property taxes (I’m not sure of the exact figure because it deviates from the TCIDA standard plan, but it is greater than the standard plan).

I’m not about to support or oppose this until I know how much the tax abatement is for, but the glassdoor reviews don’t bode well.

3. And now there are four – Integrated Acquisition and Development has pulled out of the Old Library competition. Its “Library Square” project had the most units, but was generally unloved by constituents. INHS dropped out of the running when it acquired the Neighborhood Pride grocery site a few months ago and decided to focus on thatThat leaves Travis Hyde’s proposal, Cornerstone Group, and the two favorites, DPI’s condo proposal, and Franklin/O’Shae’s reuse proposal. Both have ardent groups of supporters; as an observation, what DPI has in big name supporters, Franklin/O’Shae is counteracting with grassroots outreach. Both have their own merits, one promoting home ownership, the other ecological sensitivity.

Now comes the actual RFP (Request for Proposals). According to the county press release, it will include

“…detailed site plan, building design and floor plans; detailed cost and financial information, including the proposed financing for the project; certification of ability to close on acquisition (or lease) by a given date; verification of any agreement or memorandum of understanding with Lifelong (if a part of the project), and with any other parties committing to lease or own space in the building.  Among other recommended elements are any anticipated request for tax abatements or tax credits; strategies to manage parking demand; specific measures to reduce carbon footprint; and evidence of meeting with the City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and with City staff to assure that the project meets zoning and code requirements.”

The draft RFP is due to be reviewed at the November 7th meeting.

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4. The Ithaca Times is running a piece where shop owners on the 300 Block of East State are fretting about the loss of the municipal parking lot for the Hampton Inn project. Will the loss of adjacent parking be inconvenient? Sure, a little bit. This was also a block that historically (The Strand, 1916-1993) had a large theater occupying much of the site. Some of the shopkeeps and property owners are cautious and neutral about the parking changes and coming hotel, which is fair; one seems to think it will ruin their business. The same one who, although quoted that she’d support downtown residential projects, has also gone on the record for opposing the Carey Building addition, saying the addition was out of character. Hmm. Regardless, it will be logistically complex, but I think the end results will justify the nuisances.

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5. On the other hand, the ever-increasing Commons delays are a serious, serious problem. I can’t claim to know much about the bidding process, but Vacri was the only one who bid for the third phase, came in well over budget. What Ithaca is getting is a watered-down, overpriced, much-delayed project that threatens downtown’s commercial vitality, which is really unfortunate. Michael Kuo, the Commons project manager, probably wants to crawl under a rock. I wouldn’t blame him for that.

6. The Belle Sherman Cottages project on the east side of Ithaca says that sales and prep work are underway for their townhomes. The townhomes will be built in 2 sets of 5 units, one set will have garages facing the front side (thumbs down) and the other will have garage doors in the back (thumbs up). All of the units are 2-bedrooms, 2.5 bath, and start at about $250k. That makes them a bit of a premium price in the Ithaca market, but they are new, and I have no doubt at least a couple of the units will be bought by deep-pocketed Cornellian parents who don’t want to worry about their little ivy leaguer paying rent. I know at least one townhouse unit has already sold.

Spring seems to be intended completion period, whether that’s for one set of 5 or both, I’m not sure. I’m going to guess that it depends on sales this fall.

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7. In other town news, the planning board will be looking at plans to make Ithaca a little boozier. Local brewery Ithaca Beer plans to more than double the size of their current 16,000 sq ft brewery and restaurant with a 23,800 sq ft addition. The addition will house increased production and storage space, something that in the documents filed, the brewery claims in necessary to keep up with its “tremendous growth”. Its unknown how many jobs would be created by the expansion, although the paperwork implies there will be a sizable increase.

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8. Over at the city’s design review board, the owners of the Rothschild’s Building (215 E. State) want to add another multi-pane window to the 1970s structure. I can comfortably say it’s an improvement.

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9. Lastly, from the city’s planning committee comes intended start dates of several local projects. The Hotel Ithaca addition and convention center? Shooting for a November start. Also, Ithaca Gun will be an apartment complex.

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Suddenly There’s A Lot of News At Once

22 05 2014

Latest planning board agenda is online and there’s a lot — and I mean a lot — that will be discussed. I’m going to be updating this post as more information comes online, so this first draft is a sort of “here’s what we know” going into the meeting.

A. No surprise, the Ridgewood student housing project (the address has been updated from 1 Ridgewood to 7 Ridgewood) is up for discussion once again. The project needs a “certificate of appropriateness” from the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC) since it’s in the Cornell Heights historic neighborhood, and things are not looking all that auspicious, given the recent report from the Ithaca Journal. The planning board would likely give approval with stipulations if the ILPC approves the plan, but that’s a very big “if” at this point.

B. The downtown Ithaca Marriott. This site is the triangular parking lot next to the Commons at Aurora Street, and has been covered in detail both here and at IB. The history here goes back five years, back when it was going to be called the “Hotel Ithaca” (now the name for the former Holiday Inn). This one has been stalled since the fall due to financing issues, but that has been taken care of in the past couple of weeks and they want to start construction ASAP. They have several changes that need to be reviewed since they have completed “value engineering” (a phrase I fear, since it’s the pretty way to see they cut back on material costs and design features), so we’ll see what this will look like. The current proposal’s rendering, at 10 floors and about 160 rooms, is below.

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C. Likewise, the Stone Quarry project was also approved a while back in the fall of 2012, but only now managed to secure funding. Here’s the previous discussion here, and here’s details from IB. The project, slated for a parcel on Spencer Road where Ithaca Taxi Dispatch keeps a parking lot, will bring 35 units of INHS-run affordable housing. This one is also up for re-approval for value engineering reasons, and looks to start construction early this fall.

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D. 140 College aka the John Snaith House addition, discussed earlier this week here.

E. “205 Dryden Road, Student Housing, Jagat Sharma – Sketch Plan” — Now here’s something new. 205 Dryden is the Kraftee’s Building. Jagat Sharma is a prolific local architecture firm, responsible for many of the larger apartment buildings in Collegetown. I can’t seem to find the owner from the tax records, which indicate the current owner has been the owner since 2004. Jagat Sharma tends to be a favorite architect for Ithaca Renting/Jason Fane, and Lambrou Real Estate, but neither of them seem to own the parcel from what I can tell (it’s possible one of them does, but the upstairs units are not rented).  Novarr-Mackesey owns three parcels next door, but I don’t see anything on their website either. Regardless, this falls in a Collegetown MU-2 zone, 4-6 stories, and 45-80′ in height. Whatever is proposed here is going to be pretty big, comparable to Josh Lower’s Collegetown Crossing project.

Edit: Jason at IB tells me it’s owned by Pat Kraft, the guy that runs Kraftee’s.

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F. Speaking of which, 307 College, aka Collegetown Crossing, has a new sketch up for review as well. With the new zoning guidelines, the current version isn’t doable because it impedes on the lot to its east. So this version will have a 9% smaller footprint at least, but parking will no longer be an issue. For the record, here’s the site, and the old design.

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G. “Downtown Hampton Inn Hotel, Scott Whitham – Sketch Plan” – Another re-do of sorts. This one appeared in its original form in December 2012. The original proposal, proposed by Neil Patel (his family members are the ones developing the hotels off 13) was for a 6 story, 92-room, $16 million hotel that would have demolished the Carey Building, and the original design was by Jagat Sharma. Scott Whitham is another local architect, so given the revised space constraints and the new architect-of-record, the design of this will be something completely different.  Although hopefully it doesn’t involve tearing down buildings the developer doesn’t own.

H. 314-320 E. State Street, the Carey Building addition – discussed earlier this week here.

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In sum, there’s a lot of stuff going on all at once. I’ll update as it all plays out, and documents and renders become available.

UPDATE 1: The new design of the Stone Quarry apartments:

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Due to concerns with how the soil will settle on site, the walkways and elevations of the buildings have been altered. Each townhouse now steps 8 inches going north to south, which makes the middle ones look a little misshapen. The soil issue also forced a re-do of the ends of the apartment building, since it couldn’t be graded as originally planned. On the cost-cutting end, balconies have been replaced with windows, the south facade of the apartment building was tweaked, some of the trim has been removed or down-valued on the Spencer Road side of the townhomes, and a few more windows punched in on the sides of the townhome end units. there’s a few tweaks to the site plan as well, which can be found at the link above.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the proposed Hampton Inn, details here. The new hotel would be built on the parking lot behind the Carey Building.  The proposal calls for six floors, 120 rooms, and 2,000 sq ft of retail/restaurant space, with only about 9 parking spaces on site. The entranceway would be via a driveway between the Carey Building and the Eagles Buildling, which I imagine being a bit of a logisitical nightmare at the moment, given that the Carey Building has its own renovations underway and additions planned.
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 UPDATE 3: Up next, revisions to 307 College Avenue, Josh Lower’s Collegetown Crossing project. Nothing fundamentally different here, but the design has definitely been tweaked. Full details here. The revision reduced the number of apartments to 43, with 98 bedrooms (previous was 103). There would be five retail spaces on the ground level of the six-story, 63’4″ structure. The size and scale of this revision fit comfortably within the rules of the new Collegetown MU-2 zoning of the parcel.

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UPDATE 4 (6/5/14): The updated design of the Marriott has been released, and will have its own special planning board meeting on June 10th. Apart from updated Marriott signage and some materials tweaks, this one has virtually the same design as the original, which has me breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps this one will start construction in July after all.





News Tidbits 9/28/12: No Seriously, I Love A News Deluge…

28 09 2012

I feel like a clearing house at the moment, but a bunch of little tidbits have been proposed/modified lately that merit a brief blurb before I return to non-newsy matters.

67 new townhouses are proposed for the Eastwood Commons area, a relatively dense development out within the suburban neighborhoods south-southeast of Cornell.

The development consists of duplex-style townhomes with a couple of side streets, not new urbanist but definitely in the realm of nodal development. The town will be pleased.

Worth noting, the land needed for the developed is being bought from Cornell. One of the stipulations for this sale is that Cornell employees be given priority for sales; INHS may offer some programming assistance for CU employees with modest incomes.

News item number two comes out from the Ithacan, IC’s newspaper. The Hotel Ithaca project, which was rebranded to a Marriott, has released an updated rendering. While the cladding, roof-ware and entry area have been changed substantially, the building retains its general shape and configuration (however, the changes still need to be re-approved). The project is shooting for a March 2013 construction launch.

While I would prefer they keep the “Hotel Ithaca” theme with it’s Zinck’s-branded bar, I have no qualms about the proposed design – the lines are clean, vaguely modern, and it seems to fit in with the other recent development in the downtown area (this statement assumes homogeneity is preferable). Also, I’d like someone to explain to me all the tallish buildings in the background – are they attempting to make Ithaca look bigger, or attempting to make the building look smaller?

Last on the news wire is that the Collegetown Crossing project, the rather controversial six-story building proposed for the 300 block of College Avenue. The project has obtained an agreement to a 20-year lease from local grocery store co-op Greenstar. This is important for two reasons – the city and many local residents have expressed strong interest in a C-Town grocery store, and it also makes the project lass likely to be just another empty storefront. However, it’ll be a while before Greenstar has to worry about its second third location, since the project is still caught up in red tape with obtaining zoning variances, especially for parking. This project would likely not open until at least 2014, assuming it gets approved in the next few months.





News Tidbits 7/29: Hotel Ithaca Gets Green Light; C’Town Terrace Not So Lucky

30 07 2009

In the city of Ithaca, when the only thing standing in the way of construction is a parking/bus stop issue, that means things are looking pretty good for construction in the near future. As for the Collegetown Terrace Project, the anticipated summer 2010 construction start may be more of a pipe dream than a reality.

http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20090729/NEWS01/907290338/1126/news/Terrace+proposal+raises+historical+issues

ITHACA – Ithaca’s Planning Board has given preliminary approval to the Hotel Ithaca project and has begun the environmental review process for the Collegetown Terrace Apartments.

 At their Tuesday night meeting, planning board members approved a document that laid out concerns on issues such as traffic and historic resources related to the apartment project. 

 The proposal calls for demolishing all but three buildings in the 16.4-acre area bounded by Quarry and State streets, Valentine Place and Six Mile Creek and replacing them with seven buildings that would house approximately 1,270 people. The site currently houses about 635 people. 

 The three buildings that will remain are all within the East Hill Historic District. At Tuesday’s meeting, planning board members and city planning staff said there may be other buildings in the area that are not historically designated but that merit further research on their historic value during the environmental review process. 

Board member Tessa Rudan highlighted the former nurse’s residence, which “may be dedicated” to Finger Lakes native Jane A. Delano. Delano founded the American Red Cross nursing corps, led the entire nursing corps during World War I, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Rudan said.

She also has been featured on a stamp in the African Republic of Mali because “she figured out the mosquito netting technique before there was scientific evidence to explain why it worked,” board Chairman John Schroeder said.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on issues they think should be addressed in the project’s environmental impact statement at a meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at City Hall, 108 E. Green St. The city planning department will also accept written statements on the project.

For Hotel Ithaca, the proposed $27 million hotel at the eastern edge of the Commons, the biggest outstanding issue is where to locate the bus stop, project architect Scott Whitham said.

While the hotel is under construction, the stop is scheduled to move around the corner to East State Street, near the Community School of Music and Arts. Hotel developers, the city and Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit officials have discussed the idea of moving the bus stop there permanently so that the stop and the hotel drop-off don’t interfere with each other.

The move would require eliminating two metered parking spots, which half a dozen merchants and property owners said Tuesday would spell disaster for their businesses. Property owner Donald Dickinson said he rents to four tenants on the block and two have said that if the new bus stop goes there, they’ll leave.

But keeping the bus stop on Aurora Street could result in hotel guests parking in the bus pull-off, Whitham said.

Schroeder said he wants to make sure the Hotel Ithaca doesn’t mimic the situation at the Hilton on Seneca, where the guest pull-off squeezes out the sidewalk.