1001 North Aurora Street Construction Update, 6/2017

19 06 2017

Admittedly, at the moment this pair of two-family homes looks rather bland from Aurora Street, and slapdash from Queen Street. However, it looks like the painting is just starting. The LP SmartSide wood siding will be painted with Sherwin-Williams “Rice Grain” on the first floor and dormer, and the second floor will use S-W “Sawdust”. The swatches of wood shingle on the eastern building have the darker color on both the second floor and dormer, which doesn’t match the city’s filing, but paint typically isn’t the type of detail that will get you in trouble unless it was a stipulation of approval. The short of it is, it’s not clear if anything has changed with the paint scheme, but it might have. The trim boards will be painted S-W “Nacre”.

Another task still on the to-do list is building the porches that both units in the building will share. It’s a T-configuration – residents will step out and down their own step onto a shared landing at the top of the front steps. The porches will have decorative columns and banisters, and access panels below the porch landing. Most of the porch will be built with pressure-treated wood and painted in off-white “Nacre”, there will be dark brown steps (treated wood?), and the access panels will match the siding. About the only thing not wood will be the handrails, which will be steel.

A peek inside shows that the drywall has been hung. The next steps are typically flooring, cabinetry, bathroom fixtures and tiling, interior trim boards (baseboards, crown moulding) and painting. After that will come appliances and the finish work.

The 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath units at 202 and 206 Queen Street should be ready for occupancy later this summer. There were going for $2325/month ($775/bedroom) on Craigslist, and there haven’t been any ads lately, so it’s probably safe to assume all four units have been rented. Stavros (Nick) Stavropoulos is the developer, and Daniel Hirtler is the architect.





607 South Aurora Street Construction Update, 5/2017

2 06 2017

Projects are a bit like politicians in that the higher profile or most controversial ones get the vast majority of attention. 607 South Aurora Street fills neither of those specifications, and as a result, relatively few people are even aware of it.

The South Hill infill apartment project is located on an unusually large 0.73 acre lot. The property consists of an existing 5-bedroom, 2,300 SF home dating from about 1910, and had been in the possession of the Cassaniti family since at least the 1960s, legally split among the six Cassiniti brothers. If you’ve visited the hot dog and soda vendor on the Commons, you’ve met one of the Cassanitis.

Enter Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals (MLR). MLR is a young and ambitious rental company based out of Ithaca, a partnership primarily led by O’Connor and business partner Todd Fox. However, each has had their own ideas on how best to approach development – while Fox likes to think big and aim for high-profile projects, O’Connor is much more low-key and incremental in his approach. The two differ enough that they developer under different entities – Fox under his firm, Visum Development, and O’Connor as MLR. However, regardless of who develops, all their rental units are managed by MLR.

So while Fox is dreaming big with projects such as 201 College Avenue and 232-236 Dryden Road, and potentially sets off heated debates, O’Connor prefers to avoid controversy and take on less risk. His first project, with behind-the-scenes business partner Bryan Warren, was a pair of two-family houses at 312 West Spencer Road about half a mile southwest of 607. A bit of an unusual location, but close enough to urban destinations and Ithaca College that it was potentially viable, and after getting approvals last year, the project moved forward and is at least partially if not fully rented. Two existing houses that shared the original lot are being renovated as part of the project.

With those basically finished, O’Connor and Warren have moved onto MLR’s next project, 607 South Aurora. First proposed in August 2016, the location near downtown and IC makes it an easy sell, and in an area of 1.5-2.5 story owner-occupied and rental homes, four more two-family homes aren’t going to cause a big debate. In fact, in a city that loves giving its input, there were only ever a couple of neighbor comments about the project, and they were generally amenable – ‘better these than a large apartment building’ was the gist of it.

There were a few stipulations and revisions that were required, however. The original plan called for two homes near the street and two in the back of the L-shaped lot, with the renovated existing house in the middle. This was especially well received for aesthetic reasons (the city is still quite sore about the poorly-sited house MLR did two years before on the lot next door), so the site plan was redesigned to have three buildings on the interior side of the “L”, and one on the street to better match the curbside context. An internal driveway and clustered parking were added to help traffic and emergency vehicle circulation.

The building themselves didn’t change much – like 125 and 129 Elmira, they’re modular units on Superior Wall foundations. The unit facing Aurora has fiber cement siding and nicer details like a full lattice porch with railings, columns and brackets on the porch and roof. The rear units have small entry porches and use vinyl lap and shake siding.

With those details noted, the project was approved in November, and through an LLC, O’Connor and Warren bought 607 South Aurora, valued at $220,000 by the county, for $452,776 back in March (rule of thumb – if development is planned, expect a hefty premium).

Each of the eight new rental units will be three bedrooms and about 1,128 SF. The existing house will also be renovated and expanded slightly, raising the rear roof-line to add interior space. Expect occupancy by the start of the new academic semester in August. The apartments are being marketed at $2250/month, which works out to $750/bedroom.

According to county docs, the construction loan from Tioga State Bank was for $1.92 million and filed the day the house was sold. That figure is a combo of hard (materials, labor) and soft costs (acquisition, marketing, legal); by itself, the hard cost for the new construction and the renovation looks to be about $1.04 million.  Rochester’s Taylor the Builders, who will be doing Harold’s Square at some point, is the project’s general contractor.

Looking at the site last month, a new roof is underway, and you can clearly see where the roof was raised in the roof by looking at the trim boards; the new section is housewrapped, and presumably the whole house will receive a new exterior finish at a later date. The windows in the rear are just rough openings for now, new windows will come along shortly. The soil has been excavated for the slab foundation of Building “A”, but due to the angle and slope of the site from the roads, it’s hard to tell how much of the site prep for “B”, “C” and “D” has been completed in the rear, apart from some disturbed soil.





Ithaka Terraces Construction Update, 3/2017

20 03 2017

Over at the Ithaka Terraces located at 215-221 West Spencer Street, Building “A” is fully framed, sheathed, nearly all Low-E windows have been fitted and the roof has been shingled. Buildings “B” and “C” are still in the process of framing and sheathing. Building “D” might be excavated at this point, but all the snow made it impossible to tell.

Note that the condos use double-stud walls, meaning their are two sets of wood stud walls used in the exterior frame, parallel to each other but spaced apart by about 5 inches. That space is then filled with R39 densely-packed cellulose insulation. The result has its pros and cons. The cons are that it’s more expensive to build, and it reduces the interior space a little bit. The pro is that it’s very energy efficient, which comes in handy for a project trying to achieve net-zero energy use. Along with the low energy consumption and green features, the project will be powered by a solar array owned by the developer out in Caroline.

Since these buildings will have a stucco finish, and stucco tends to absorb moisture but ZIP sheathing does not, most building codes require a water-resistant barrier between the ZIP sheathing and the exterior stucco. This allows the wall to repel and drain off moisture without risking the integrity of the facade. In the photos below, the WRB is the would be the thin white coating going over the sheathing.

Formal marketing for the 12 units is expected to launch in a couple of months. 10 2-bedrooms and 2 3-bedroom units will be available, with prices ranging from $265,000-$390,000.





1001 North Aurora Street Construction Update, 2/2017

20 02 2017

Another project making rapid progress in a short time. The two two-family homes at 1001 N. Aurora Street are being framed out. Going over the wood studs are Huber ZIP sheathing plywood panels, like all the cool kids are using in residential wood-frame construction.

There are pros and cons to each approach. DuPont, in sales literature for its Tyvek Housewrap, touts easier installation, more durability during installation, and claims superior waterproofing. The ZIP system, however, has made significant inroads into the construction market because it does an excellent job at allowing moisture to escape while keeping external water from getting in, and although it requires a little more care to work with (taping), it’s still fairly easy to work with. ZIP panels also tend to be more expensive. Liquid water-resistant barrier (WRB) sprays like the ones you see used on commercial buildings and at Cornell tend to provide the best waterproofing, but they are the most expensive option. So if one drew a scale weighing cost and performance, they could have housewraps at the low end of cost and relative performance, ZIP panels in the middle, and WRB sprays at the top.

Anyway, these duplexes will be known as 202 Queen Street and 206 Queen Street. In the signage on the site, the bottom design is what was approved (quick tip – do not use old renders on signage). They replace a single-family home. Stavros Stavropoulos is the developer, and Daniel Hirtler the architect – the two are also behind the plans for the new 11-unit apartment building at 107 South Albany Street.

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Ithaka Terraces (215-221 West Spencer Street) Construction Update, 1/2017

14 01 2017

The first building of the Ithaka Terraces, Building “A”, is fully framed and in the process of being roofed. The project uses double stud exterior walls in tandem with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), which is thermally insulated plastic filled with concrete. The zip sheathing goes on over the surface. The purpose of the thick, more premium approach is for more efficient insulation, since the condo units are designed to be net-zero compatible (the high energy efficiency reduces the need for off-site renewable energy sources, and net-zero becomes more feasible as a result).

Further up the sloping site, smaller Building “B” has completed the ICF erection ground floor and is starting work on the upper floors. Note the reinforced concrete wall facing South Cayuga (east). That will eventually be back-filled and hidden from view. As seen in some of the early concept designs below, only the top floor of the three floors of Building “B” and “D” will have windows facing outward; the South Cayuga side of the property is where the parking lot will be laid.

The other large building in the four-building cluster, Building “C”, a mirrored floorplan of “A”, is just getting started; the site was being prepped and graded when these photos were taken last week. Building “D”, a mirrored floorplan of “B”, will start construction at a later date, as the other three get further along. In the last photo, one can see the winding temporary staircase workers use to get to the building themselves. AquaZephyr, an Ithaca firm specializing in eco-friendly construction, is the general contractor in charge of the buildout.

The 12-unit condo project will begin formal marketing later this Spring. There will be 10 two-bedroom units and 2 three-bedroom units, in the $265k-$390k range. A late 2017 opening is planned. Interested readers can submit queries here.

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1001 North Aurora Street Construction Update, 1/2017

11 01 2017

This is another one of those modest-sized infill projects where if you blink, you might just miss it.

1001 North Aurora is on the north end of Fall Creek, across the street from the elementary school. The plan replaces an old though not especially historic single-family home with twom two-family homes, each unit with three bedrooms for a total twelve. Four parking spaces are included. The project was approved in October 2016 by the city planning board; the lot subdivision that triggered board review.

Over the course of review, the board requested a little more character in the house designs, including more windows, two different shades of lap siding (which will be LP SmartSide wood siding, painted Sherwin-Williams “Rice Grain” and “Sawdust”), and dormers. The materials also include Owens Corning TruDefinition “Terra Cotta” shingles and S-W “Nacre” trim boards. The initial design looked like this, and the final is shown below. The eastern building will not have the dormer, and may not have the pocket windows in the west wall either, as those were stated to be cost-dependent. The side facing Aurora, however, has to put them in as a stipulation of the approvals; after some recent issues with other projects, the board’s been getting a little more assertive when it comes to building details being built as approved.

The developer is Stavros Stavropoulos. The Stavropoulos family is perhaps best known for running State Street Diner, but recently they’ve been wading deeper into the development pool, building a new two-family home at 514 Linn Street and a two-family addition onto 318-320 Pleasant Street. Tompkins Trust gave a $400,000 construction loan to this project back in August.

Each unit will ring in at about 1200 square feet. Local architect Daniel R. Hirtler, fresh off of another duplex on the corner of Oak Avenue and Oneida Place in Collegetown, is in charge of design. Construction is expected to wrap up by the end of May 2017. According to Craigslist, the units are renting for about $2325 each ($775/bedroom), and two of the four units are already rented. Quote:

“New duplexes featuring 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath apartments. Open floor plans, ductless heating and cooling in every room, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, corian counter tops, stackable washer and dryer, fully furnished, off street parking and much more.”

You’ll notice in the photos below that the completed foundation slab sits a little above the ground – the northern part of Fall Creek has a high water table, so to help avoid water/flooding issues, the buildings are raised slightly. Wood framing is just beginning, so look for these to take shape as we finish out the winter and head into spring.

Quick final detail – 1001 North Aurora Street was the old address. These properties will use addresses on the 200 Block of Queen Street.

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Ithaka Terraces (215-221 West Spencer Street) Construction Update, 11/2016

26 11 2016

Ed Cope’s Ithaka Terraces have made modest but noticeable progress in the past couple of months. Building A is up to the third floor, while Building C is undergoing foundation work. The other two buildings, B and D, will come along in later stages.

Since the 12-unit South Hill condo project is going for net-zero capability, its construction is a little different from the norm. Quoting the sales website:

“The building features nominal 12 inch thick double stud exterior walls with a total of R39 continuous dense packed cellulous insulation and 18 inches of R63 loose fill cellulous insulation in the attic. The walls and attic are completely air sealed with Zip sheathing with all seams taped to prevent vapor migration through the walls and ceiling.”

The exterior walls are a combination of thick wood stud walls, thermal plastic filled with concrete and Huber Zip sheathing. In between the cavities of the stud walls, local contractor AquaZephyr will be blowing in dense cellulose insulation (pictures of that process here). This will allow the condos to achieve a very high degree of energy efficiency, and assist in making the project net-zero capable.

More info on the project can be found here.

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