Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 9/2017

30 09 2017

It appears the loggia has been enclosed at the Cornell law school. The fence is down, the landscaping is in place, and apart from some exterior finishing work, that portion of the renovation is complete. The new glazing works well with the collegiate Gothic architecture.

The new west stairwell has yet to be installed, with some plastic sheeting serving as an exterior membrane for the time being. With the old exterior wall removed, installation of the structural frame is likely to start soon, and it seems plausible that Welliver and Cornell would like to have the new stairwell closed up before winter comes. From the inside, it looks like some of the new office and academic space has been completed, while the southwest wing remains in the interior framing stage, with some metal wall studs visible through the hazy plastic sheet separating the construction area from the finished spaces.





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 7/2017

31 07 2017

On the outside, progress is modest – the windows and CMUs from the upper floors have been removed from the west face to make way for the future glass-encased stairwell. The steel beams sitting in the staging area are part of the Certainteed Drywall Suspension System and will be used in the construction of the new ceilings in the gutted interior, although some of the different gauges present may also be used for interior wall framing. There has been no visible progress on enclosing the loggia yet.





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 5/2017

24 05 2017

Externally, not much has changed since March, although it looks like work is starting on enclosing the north loggia. The Fork and Gavel Cafe is closed for renovations through September, but a carry-out offshoot will serve in its place. Most of the work on this $10.2 million project is internal, converting former dorms into academic office and support space. With any luck, the next visit will be from the inside.





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 3/2017

28 03 2017

Finally starting to see a little bit of progressing on the renovations to Hughes Hall. The rest of the old masonry wall on the lower floors has been stripped out, and is covered with plastic and plywood for the time being. Eventually, the space will be opened as the new glass enclosure is built for the new west staircase. For the record. the stairwell is completely new; it replaces one that was slightly further to the east, on the inside corner of the building. This gut renovation is down to the studs, and then some. No work on enclosing the loggia just yet.

Design work is by KSS Architects, with offices in Princeton and Philadelphia. Frequent Cornell collaborator Welliver is the general contractor. The project is expected to cost about $10.2 million and take about 13 months to complete, meaning November 2017 if all goes to plan.

 





Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 1/2017

17 01 2017

From the outside, it doesn’t look like much is happening. But, given all the steel beams on site, the safe bet is that the former dorms inside are still being gutted to nothing but the load-bearing walls, and those beams will become a part of the new interior partitions, new stud walls for the enhanced faculty office and professional space. This is by and large an interior renovation, but perhaps after the deepest cold of the season passes, we’ll see more progress towards enclosing the loggia and the new stairwell on the west face. The wire mesh over the exposed west wall is for safety reasons.

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Cornell Law School Renovation Update, 11/2016

22 11 2016

Introducing a new project to work into the rotation – work has begun on Cornell Law’s renovations of Hughes Hall. Coincidentally, I broke this story for the Voice almost a year ago to this date.

In Summer 2012, the Cornell Law program embarked on a three-phase renovation and expansion program to their facilities. The first phase was a 17,500 SF, mostly-subterranean addition of an auditorium space, two large-group classrooms. foyer space, and a renovated courtyard. Designed by Boston-based Ann Beha Architects and constructed by Welliver, that $23.8 million phase, certified LEED Platinum, was completed in late summer 2014. Plans for phase II came forth in November 2015, and were approved by the city this past March. Phase III, which calls for renovations to the law school library, has yet to be presented.

Hughes Hall was built by the university in 1963 and named for former professor Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes only spent two years at Cornell, partially because of the need to make better money from private practice, and partially because of familial pressures to leave behind a “one-horse town like Ithaca”. He would later serve as governor and a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hughes was a source of inspiration for mid-20th century megadonor Myron Taylor, and so the new law school dorms were named in his honor. The building served as the dorm and dining facility for the law school until 2005, when the first and second floors were renovated for administrative and faculty office space.

The Hughes Hall remodeling will have three basic components: enclosing the open-air loggia that currently connects Hughes Hall with Myron Taylor Hall, adding a staircase to the west side of Hughes Hall, and repaving the dining terrace by the Fork and Gavel Café. Administrative offices and event spaces will be on the lower floors, and faculty offices on the upper floors. The renovations will be seeking LEED Silver certification – this is two levels lower than the LEED Platinum of phase one, but it’s a lot easier and cheaper to achieve energy savings when a project is underground.

As a result of the remodeling, the last law school dorm units, totaling 47 student beds, were removed. At the time this was announced, Maplewood had yet to come forth, and I did a rare editorial for the Voice calling Cornell out on a lack of planning and poor stewardship. Minor site plan and landscaping improvements are planned.

Design work is by KSS Architects, with offices in Princeton and Philadelphia. Frequent Cornell collaborator Welliver will serve as the general contractor. The project is expected to cost about $10.2 million and take about 13 months to complete. The project was initially slated to begin in June 2016 and wrap up in July 2017, but it appears the construction launch ended up being a few months later than anticipated.

In the photos below, some of the exterior stone veneer has been stripped from the wall, and on the lower levels the windows and some of the concrete masonry wall has been removed. This will be where the new glass-enclosed staircase will go. Work on closing up the loggia has yet to start.

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News Tidbits 1/30/2016: A Doozy of a Week For All the Wrong Reasons

30 01 2016

I’m not going to lie – this was a rough week. For those who like old buildings, the city tore down 404 West Green and 327 West State this week. For those who are consider themselves eco-activists, Black Oak wind farm is on life support. State Street Triangle is likely cancelled, the Printing Press Lounge is off the table, Cornell continues to pour most of its attention on its new New York City campus, and a grocery store and a downtown shop are closing their doors and putting people out of work. There have been better weeks for news round-ups.

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1. State Street Triangle isn’t dead per se, but it’s indefinitely stalled. I think the best headline goes to the Ithaca Times since they’re the most accurate. From chatting with planning consultant Scott Whitham, who’s involved with the project, it sounds like the impasse is the result of Campus Advantage wanting to pay less for the site since they can’t build as large of a project, which would decrease their revenue. The contract for the land purchase from Greenstate Properties/Trebloc Development (Rob Colbert) was up for re-negotiation after the December expiration, but neither side wants to budge on what they feel the price should be. So nothing can move forward without a deal between the two parties. I reached out to Colbert Wednesday, but the secretary paused for a minute and then said “he’s, uh, busy in a meeting, care to leave a message?” So he’s probably not going to say anything further.

Could it move forward? Possibly, it could be revived if a deal is made. But as things are, it’s stalled and it’s outside the control of any community group or government authority. It’s definitely a shame from the standpoint of Ithaca’s worsening housing crisis because it’s less that will be entering a market flooded with students, people moving here for work, and wealthy retirees who have apparently decided this is the Asheville of the north. And given the battles of “structural racist gentrification” and “uncivilized crime-producing trouble-making affordable housing“, where everything is accused of being one or the other, I’m not especially hopeful at the moment.

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2. Now for something that is definitely dead in the water – The Printing Press Lounge. Developer Ben Rosenblum had wanted to put a jazz lounge in a 7700 SF industrial warehouse at 416 East State Street, but neighbor objections to noise and traffic proved a little too much for the Board of Zoning Appeals, whose members appeared unlikely to support necessary variances for the vacant facility. So the developer pulled the lounge proposal, but the office space and apartment are still under consideration.

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3. Also from the same phone conversation as State Street and Printing Press – the Canopy revisions were approved, so at least there’s a good chance that will be breaking ground this Spring. The Chain Works review schedule was also approved, although given the couple emails from the Voice article, the public review period is going to be groan-inducing. One of the letters commanded that nothing should be done there and it should be kept as is because it encourages traffic and “its density is ruining Ithaca”. They might have meant size, but density is a buzzword at the moment. Apparently, they also overlooked the fact that it’s already built and won’t be fully cleaned of toxic chemicals until a reuse plan is in place. The development team will have to respond to all of these comments, perceptive or not.

4. In real estate sales, an LLC in suburban Corning picked up the former Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone Creamery space on Elmira Road. 0.74 acre 407 Elmira sold for $640,000 on January 22nd. A little research into the rather exotically-named “Armiri LLC” shows that they were previously registered at an address home to an Econo Lodge, and that the owners have about 70 or so other LLCs related to hotels and the hospitality industry. A little more digging, and the owner turns out to be Corning-based Visions Hotels, a developer of suburban chain hotels with locations from Albany to Buffalo. So if I were to make a guess, the five-year old Tim Ho’s building won’t be long for this world, and a suburban hotel is likely to rise in its place in a couple years. But we’ll see what happens.

5. Meanwhile, just up the road, Maines will be shutting down their store at 100 Commercial Avenue. The 26,146 SF building was built for the Binghamton-based grocery chain in 2010. February 7th will be the last day. Although there don’t seem to be any figures online, the move will likely put at least a couple dozen people out of work. A phone call and email to Maine’s asking for employee totals and reasons for closure were not returned.

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6. Let’s talk about money. The construction loan docs for Collegetown Terrace Phase III were filed with the county this week. The price? A cool $39.25 million, from PNC Bank. That’s just for 247-unit, 344-bed Building 7. Previously Valentine Vision Associates LLC (John Novarr/Philip Proujansky) received $50 million on 8/22/13, $50 million on 7/1/2014, and $50 million on 11/20/14. Do the math out, and $189.25 million in loans is a lot of money. Then again, this is also a 1,200+ bed project.

The latest loan docs require an opening by fall 2018, but expect it to be about a year sooner than that, August 2017.

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7. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council has approved the Chapter House plans. All that’s needed at this point are the Building Department permits, which are technical and just require that everything will be built up to code. Things are looking good for that February construction start.

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8. Something to look forward to at next month’s Planning Board meeting – further discussion of Cornell’s renovations to Hughes Hall. Planning Board Presentation here, drawings here, Site Plan Review application here. KSS Architects, with offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, will be in charge of design. KSS has been to Cornell’s campus before, having designed some of the Hotel School additions and part of the previous phase of law school renovations. Local firm TG Miller is handling the engineering work. The project is expected to cost $10.2 million and construction would go from June 2016 to July 2017.

Quick refresher, the plan is to renovate 4 floors of what were previously student dorms into academic office, admin and student organization space. Cornell anticipates about 200 construction jobs will be created, but nor more than 80 at any one time, and 20-40 on-site most days. No new permanent jobs, limited visibility, and minimal transportation/ground impacts will limit much of the customary Planning Board debate.

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9. Meanwhile, New York City outlets are reporting on the progress of Cornell’s massive new tech campus in New York City. The Real Deal is reporting Snøhetta, an Oslo/NYC architectural firm, will design the Verizon Executive Education Building. The other three buildings underway are the Bloomberg Center, The Bridge, and CornellTECH Residential, which are the work of Morphosis Architecture, Weiss/Manfredi Architecture, and Handel Architects respectively.  300 students and 200 faculty/staff  will move into the new 26-story dorm by August 2017. Verizon paid $50 million for their naming rights, and billionaire former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg paid $100 million, making up a sizable portion of the $590.6 million donated to Cornell over the past year. Once the initial wave of construction is complete, it’ll be worth seeing how donations break down – years ago, MetaEzra noted that Weill Medical received an outsized proportion of charitable giving.

Not to go all conspiracy theorist, but there are times when Living in Dryden blogger Simon St. Laurent’s thought piece seems uncomfortably relevant.

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10. At the county’s PEDEEQ Committee meeting Friday (PEDEEQ being the acronym for the unnecessarily long Planning, Economic Development, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee; agenda here), the county did two things worth mentioning here. One, they awarded the $35,000 airport industrial park feasibility study to the team of Clark Patterson Lee of suburban Albany, and Saratoga Springs-based Camoin Associates. Two, they passed a resolution calling for “the Timely Development of the Black Oak Wind Farm” project in Enfield.

The Black Oak opposition really seems to have picked up momentum after one the major landowners involved with the project pulled out. Neighbors in the area are actively attacking the project by calling it a danger to human health and a destructive environmental menace financed by wealthy out-of-towners (a shot at Ithaca), and the wind farm’s executive board is struggling to address these accusations in the revised environmental review due to be completed in April. For the local eco-activist crowd, this is an unwelcome and unusual position to be in because more often than not, they’re the ones opposed to development. The county legislature, which has several green activists, is doing what they can by giving verbal support, and a subtle sort of wrist-slap to the opposition. Dunno if it will work, but we’ll see what happens this spring.

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11. Here’s the sketch drawing for Elmira Savings Bank’s new West End Branch at 602 West State Street. It would appear the plans call for a modern addition to the north side of the building, and renovation of the rest of the two-story restaurant into office/service space. Local companies TWMLA and HOLT Architects are handling the design.

According to the Twitter feed of the IJ’s Nick Reynolds, the building plan was received well enough at the Planning Board meeting, but the rest of the plans call for demo of the other buildings, including the affordable housing that had some folks up in arms, for a parking lot. That didn’t go over very well. Demolition of low-cost housing for parking is going to be about as welcome as a Hitler costume at a bar mitzvah. Expect another trip to the board with some revised plans.

12. The Dewitt Park Inn is for sale for $950,000. Owners Tom Seaney and Nancy Medsker are selling the property they purchased for $320k in January 2012 and renovated into a high-end bed and breakfast. The two were vocal advocates for the popular though foregone Franklin/STREAM condo proposal for the Old Library site, although Medsker didn’t do the debate any favors when she decided to trash her rear neighbor, senior services non-profit and Travis Hyde project partner Lifelong in a letter to the Ithaca Journal. The county has the Dewitt Park Inn assessed at $575,000.

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13. Nothing too exciting for the town of Ithaca planning board agenda next week. The town’s planning board will choose whether or not to sign off on the review schedule for Chain Works, and they have to re-approved plans for a smaller parish center at St. Catherine of Siena in Northeast Ithaca. According to the provided docs, the parish center has been reduced from 10,811 SF to 8,878 SF due to rapidly rising construction costs (seems to be a common refrain these days).