Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 10/2016

11 10 2016

Home stretch for the Marriott. Official opening is November 15th. Although that means they’ll be opening towards the start of the slow season for the local hospitality industry, the general manager says they hope that it’ll give them a chance to work out any wrinkles in service before the lodging season perks up again in March. Hiring has been underway for service staff, with full employment expected to be somewhere between 50 and 60, 75% full time, with wages starting at $10 plus tips for restaurant wait staff, up to $18-$19/hour for other service positions.

From what can be found by playing on the Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons webpage, a mid-week one-night stay in a king or double queen will set you back $195 at a minimum, while the weekends start around $269/night. A run-down of some of the amenities can be found on the website, or in the August construction update. The hotel will have 151 regular guest rooms and 8 suites, which are the rooms with the floor-to-ceiling glass at the corner of State and Aurora.

The Nichiha metal panels are almost complete, with just the west face exposed at this point. I did not expect them to be so bright, beyond the unintended gleam-o-vision of my camera. The rooftop mechanical penthouse has been framed but has yet to have its exterior panels attached. Some of the Marriott signage has been attached already. Most of the stone veneer has been attached, although the finishes for the Commons entrance are still a work in progress. Judging from the plastic sheets on the roof, the synthetic rubber membrane still has yet to be applied. Photos on the hotel’s facebook page show that the front desk is in and sheetrock has been hung and mudded in some places (the “mud” is a premixed joint compound used to cover joints and seams and to allow for a smooth finish for painting). The banner at the top of the penthouse says “The Place To Be”, with the Marriott logo at top.

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News Tidbits 9/24/16: The Implicit and the Explicit

24 09 2016

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1. Over in the town of Dryden, it looks like Buzz Dolph and STREAM Collaborative’s Tiny Timbers project is up for preliminary approval. The site plan hasn’t changed much, just slight modifications for a dumpster/recycling enclosure and a bus pull-off. However, the home options have been expanded a bit. There will be five options, ranging from a 1-story 525 SF home starting at $99,500, to a 1,050 SF model priced at $184,500. Design specs (flooring, finishes, HVAC) can be found here.

Along with Tiny Timbers, Dolph is planning a similar, smaller project near his house on Quarry Road in Dryden town. That $800,000 project, called “Quarry Ridge Cooperative“, consists of two duplexes (four units), all owner-occupied. The homes will be connected to a shared driveway and carport through breezeways. Back of the envelope calculations suggest these units will be around 1,000 SF each. The 2.26 acres will be collectively owned by the four homeowners.

2. On a related note, another sister project to Tiny Timbers is being prepped for a site on the city’s portion of West Hill. Dolph et al. are looking to do a similar development to the one in Varna on a 5.45 acre parcel at the south end of the 400 Block of Campbell Avenue, which was noted in a weekly news roundup when it hit the market back for $195k in August 2015. The Journal’s Nick Reynolds touched on it in a through write-up he did earlier this week. The comprehensive plan calls this portion of West Hill low-density residential, less than 10 units per acre. Current zoning is R-1a, 10000 SF minimum lot size with mandatory off-street parking, although maybe a cluster subdivision would come into play here. The Varna property is a little over 6 units per acre. If one assumes a similar density to the Varna project, the ballpark is about 35 units, if sticking to the 10000 SF lot size, then 23 units.

On the one hand, expect some grumbling from neighbors who won’t be thrilled with development at the end of their dead-end street. On the other hand, these small houses are modestly-sized and priced, they’ll be owner-occupied, and if the Varna site is any indication, the landscaping and building design will be aesthetically pleasing.

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3. I dunno if I’ve ever seen such strenuous contention between the planning board and the city’s planning department. The planning board’s objected to Zoning Director Phyllis Radke’s determination that the project is legal per the Form District MU-1 Zoning.

The document put forth by John Schroeder and approved by the board rests on the following interpretations:
-in cases where the zoning isn’t explicitly stated in denser zones, it should rely on what is stated in less dense codes, and interpretations of the introductory “purpose and intent” section of the code, which qualifies similarities of form and scale if the numbers and dimensions for facade length aren’t explicitly stated.

-The argument also draws debate towards the unstated but implied interpretation of street facade, which refers to the building’s primary face, vs. building facades facing both streets. The board’s filing argues that the Bool Street facade was intended as a primary facade early on.

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-Unlabeled parts of the diagram, such as MU-1’s, have no meaning. Even if they could give the impression of longer facades, it’s not the intent of the code.

The document goes on to say that Radke “invented claims unsupported by the text”, uses “tortured logic” and “silly conclusions”. Ouch.  Since interpretation is not a cut-and-dry matter of clear definitions, so we end up with an argument from both sides that relies on an interpretation of ambiguities, something more akin to a court room. A curious result of this discussion is that the Planning Board had to send out a letter to neighbors saying they would be arguing zoning determinations, which are going to be far out of most readers’ expertise, as the precise details and intent of the 2014 zoning will be the primary driver of this debate.

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4. The Ithacan is reporting a mid-to-late October opening for the Marriott, the Journal is reporting November. Presumably, one of them is correct. The delay from the original August opening is attributed to a labor shortage. Hiring is currently underway for the 159-room hotel and its restaurant, which according to the IJ, are expected to employ 50 to 60 in total. About 75% will be full-time, and wages are expected to run from $10/hr + tips for wait staff, to $18-$19/hour, with the hope that a premium paycheck compared to similar positions at other local hotels will translate to a premium experience for guests.

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5. It looks like TC3’s Childcare facility is well on its way to reality. At least $4.5 million has been secured for the $5.5 million project and its scholarship endowment for students with children. $2.5 million for that was recently received in a set of state grant and funds, according to WHCU. Another $2 million comes from benefactor Arthur Kuckes, for whom the new facility will be named.

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6. It’s been a while since I’ve done house of the week. So, here’s a new house underway on the 200 Block of Pearl Street in the city’s Bryant Park neighborhood. Ithaca’s Carina Construction is doing their modular magic here, the pieces have been assembled and most of the siding and roof trim has been attached. Not 100% sure if there will be a porch, the lack of siding above the door suggests it’s a possibility.

To be honest, when I was going through my list of single-families underway, I was mostly finding that Carina dominated the list. Since Avalon Homes went under, and most stick-builds are beaucoup bucks due to higher labor and materials costs, Carina’s offerings have broad appeal in Ithaca’s isolated, tight home market.

The lot was created four years ago by a subdivision of 222 Miller across the street. Since then, it exchanged hands a few times before a local realtor sold the property for $130,000 in July to a family who relocated to the area from Texas.

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7. The Planning Board Agenda is up, and it’s the shortest in ages, thanks to that special meeting last week. Here’s the rundown:

1.  Agenda Review                                                      6:00
2.  Privilege of the Floor                                              6:01

 3.  Subdivision Review

A. Project:  Minor Subdivision                                      6:15
Location: 404 Wood St.
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency  – PUBLIC HEARING – Determination of Environmental Significance – Recommendation to BZA

A minor subdivision to split a double-lot in Ithaca’s South Side neighborhood into two lots, one with the existing house and one that would be used for a new house or small apartment building. A variance for an existing rear year deficiency of the house would need to be approved (the rear deficiency wouldn’t be affected by the new lot which is on the east side, but it’s a legal technicality).
B. Project:  Minor Subdivision                                          6:30
Location: 1001 N. Aurora St. (Tax Parcel # 12.-6-13)
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency – PUBLIC HEARING – Determination of Environmental Significance
Touched on this one last week. Deconstruction of an existing single-family home for two two-family homes, each on its lot.

4. Site Plan Review

A. Project:  Two Duplexes                                              6:45
Location: 1001 N. Aurora St. (Tax Parcel # 12.-6-13)
Applicant: Dan Hirtler for Stavros Stavropoulos
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency – PUBLIC HEARING – Determination of Environmental Significance – Consideration of Preliminary & Final Site Plan Approval

B. SKETCH PLAN:  Townhomes & Apartments at 119-121 & 125 College Ave.        7:00

I’ve spilled some electronic ink on this project before – Novarr’s $10 million project for faculty townhomes and apartments. Rumor mill says “modern-looking” and “glassy”, which given Novarr’s fondness for ikon.5 architects (his guest house is on the main page of their portfolio), that isn’t a surprise. The three parcels are CR-4 zoning, so 4 stories and 50% lot coverage allowed. Previous estimates were for 50-60 units. I’d say the biggest uncertainty in approvals comes from the existing apartment houses, which haven’t been declared historic, but former councilwoman Mary Tomlan and the Planning Board’s John Schroeder recommended for consideration in 2009 (only 15 of the 31 suggestions were considered, and only 2 received historic designation, Snaith House and Grandview House). Novarr’s been amenable to compromises before (see Collegetown Terrace), so we’ll see what happens here.

5. Zoning Appeals
• #3044, Area Variance, 170 Pearsall Pl.
• #3046, Area Variance, 404 Wood St.
• #3048, Appeal of Zoning Determination, 201 College Ave.                                 7:30

 





Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 8/2016

27 08 2016

If all had happened to plan, the hotel would have opened this past Tuesday. Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned, as it often happens with large construction projects. Marriott’s website gives an October 2016 opening. A few simulations of the room interiors are included below. If I remember right, a while back someone told me that the rooms are a little smaller than Marriott’s standard (which looks to be true – the king-sized rooms are 300 SF, and comparables that I’m finding at other Marriotts are 360 SF), so the interiors were designed to be more plush and higher-quality to compensate. Among the amenities include 49″ TVs, Wi-Fi, mini-fridges, a business center, a fitness center, an “M Club Lounge“, laundry service, complimentary coffee/tea, down comforters, and a bunch of other things that are staples of premium hotels. The in-house restaurant will be called “Monks on the Commons”, and serve American comfort food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kinda interesting to see which local restaurants they chose to highlight on their website.

Of the 159 rooms (finally, a confirmation it’s not 160!), 8 will be suites, and the hotel’s 3 meeting rooms total just under 2,500 SF. I tried to set up a reservation to see the prices, but the website wasn’t allowing bookings. The “largest event space” can hold 198 guests, along with the ridiculously cheesy line of “Reserve our wedding venue in Ithaca, NY and say ‘I do’ in a ceremony as unique as your love. ”

So, those are to-be’s, now to the what-are’s. On the outside rear, the Nichiha metal panels are being attached to the waterproofed sheathing. The brick is done, but the stone veneer on the lower floors has yet to be applied. You can get an idea of the interior work underway by peering through the suite rooms, which face the Commons and State Street; notice the work on the ceilings progressing as one works their way down from the top floors.

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News Tidbits 7/16/16: Summer Storms of a Different Kind

16 07 2016

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1. It looks like the first round of funding has been filed for INHS’s 210 Hancock project. The $7,790,511 construction loan was filed with the count on July 11th, with the lender of record listed as “CPC Funding SPE I LLC”. CPC is the Community Preservation Corporation, a non-profit lending institution funded by 69 different lenders in a revolving loan fund in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This includes big banks like Citi and wells Fargo, and smaller regional banks like Chemung Canal Trust. Since affordable housing isn’t intended to be a moneymaker, it’s difficult to get lenders to cover the construction costs of a project. CPC serves as a middleman, allowing multiple private lenders to engage in modest amounts of financing for affordable, multi-family housing.

The 54 apartments and 5 townhouses partially funded by this loan are expected to be ready for occupancy next summer.

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2. Things aren’t going well with the Old Library redevelopment. In Tuesday’s joint meeting between the ILPC and the Planning Board, some felt the current design of Travis Hyde’s DeWitt House proposal was too dull, some felt the previous design was best, and some fell in between. But, it seems like none of the three approaches has enough support to get a Certificate of Appropriateness, with a few of the members feeling that no design will work for the site because they feel they’re all too big. Frost Travis replied that the project can’t afford a major size reduction and still be feasible. Now the county’s getting involved since they selected the Travis Hyde proposal, and things are getting quite contentious.

Doing a quick check, for at least the previous iteration, the Travis Hyde proposal was about 85,600 SF, and the Franklin/STREAM condo proposal was 5 floors and 58,000 SF. Would residents have pushed Franklin/STREAM to reduce floors and potentially make the condo project infeasible? Who knows. If folks start clamoring for three floors or less, that will likely eliminate any proposals due to the cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction, and the county will have no viable options for a building in need of expensive repairs just to be usable. We’ll see what happens next month.

3. Namgyal Monastery has officially sold its city property. The house they owned at 412 North Aurora Street sold for $275,000 on the 13th, which is the same price it’s assessed at. Namgyal has purchased for the property for $150,000 in November 1992. A 2006 assets assessment placed the value of the Aurora Street house at $300,000, which might have been a bit generous.

On the one hand, the sale nets the monastery funds to continue construction of the new 13,000 SF facility on South Hill, which was recently selected to be a site of the Library of the Dalai Lamas. On the other hand, their webpage states they intended on keeping the Aurora Street house.

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4. The Ithaca Times’ Jaime Cone, new wind turbine laws in Newfield may effectively prohibit their construction. The town of Newfield decided to expand the radius of legally required unoccupied space from 1.5x the height of the turbine, to three times the radius of the propellers. In the case of the turbine that Black Oak Wind Farm (BOWF) was looking to put there, that raised the necessary easement support area from within 750 feet of the base, to 1,760 feet. Also, instead of 750 feet away from occupied structures, it’s 1,760 feet from any property line – in case anyone wanted to build on vacant land. Quoting Marguerite Wells, the beleaguered project manager of BOWF, “It makes it unbuildable…It’s a common way to outlaw wind farms in a town, to make the setback impossible.”

Apparently, things are so bad now, the town of Newfield voted to block a BOWF driveway that routed through Newfield to get to one of their Enfield sites. Given that a Tompkins County town is actively preventing and being malignant towards alternative clean energy sources and providers, it’s surprising there hasn’t been grater push-back from the sustainability proponents.

Overall, it’s been a rough month or so for green energy producers in Tompkins County – Ulysses is furious at Renovus and their solar panel installations, and Lansing’s planning board wants to vote in a moratorium on commercial solar panels.

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5. The county’s PEDEEQ (Planning et al.) Committee is voting next week to take $2,500 from the county’s contingency fund to host a housing summit this fall. Another $2,500 will come from the Planning Department. The purpose of the $55,000 summit is to take all the updated plans and housing needs assessments (the county’s, which is the big one, is due out next week) and figure out way to incorporate them into an updated county housing strategy. $45k comes from a Park Foundation grant. From the tone of the summit description, it doesn’t sound like the county’s affordable housing issues have improved since 2006, but we’ll see just how severe the housing issue has become when the study comes out later this month.

On a separate note, the county is looking to award the 23-bed Amici House project $225,000 in affordable housing grants, plus a loan forgiveness of $75,000 in pre-development costs.

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6. To round out this week of mostly unpleasant news, Mark Anbinder at 14850.com is reporting that the Marriott’s opening will be delayed from August 23rd to a likely opening in October, according to the director of sales. However, as extra padding in case of further delays, it appears won’t be taking further reservations for dates before mid-November. Unfortunately, this is well past Ithaca’s big tourist season, so it’s a safe bet to say neither Marriott nor the folks who had August and September reservations are pleased.





Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 6/2016

16 06 2016

The Marriott is moving right along. Ten stories of reinforced concrete topped out at the beginning of May, with the mechanical penthouse being the last component. Exterior steel stud walls have been erected, fire-proof gypsum sheathing is being installed, and the black waterproofing material has been sprayed all along the front (east) face, and most of the back (west). Work on the brick veneer is steadily progressing up the north and south faces. The first floor facing South Aurora will have a stone veneer, while the top floor and the overhanging portion of the west face will use a few different shades of grey Nichiha fiber cement panels.

Work is also continuing inside as well – interior stud walls, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Specialty projects such as utilities are typically handled by various sub-contractors selected from bids.

In case you missed it, I did an interview with contractor W.H. Lane Inc. about the project for the Voice here. Plans still call for an August 23rd opening. During a debate on diversity at the latest city PEDC meeting, TCAD’s Heather McDaniel mentioned that Marriott has already hired four staff for the new hotel, of which three are women, including the general manager.

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 4/2016

29 04 2016

Just clearing out the photo stash. An interview with Marriott contractor Mark Lane of W. H. Lane Inc. can be found on the Voice here.

Also, in the first photo, that’s probably the third-ugliest BMW in the world.

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 2/2016

1 03 2016

Now that the fairly complicated foundation work has been completed, things are moving along at a good pace over at the Marriott construction site in downtown Ithaca. Concrete has now been poured up to the seventh floor of the ten-story building. USG Securock glass-mat sheathing panels are being attached to exterior metal stud walls erected over the lowest levels. The floors are covered in plastic sheets from about the fourth level down, a sign of sprinkler fitting and major utilities roughs-in underway (given the major heat wave in the medium-range forecast, they may not be needed much longer).

A story I’ve heard through the grapevine is that Marriott worked with developer Urgo Hotels to design a new room design format for this Ithaca project. The rooms will be at a premium price point, but somewhat smaller than most comparable hotel rooms, so Marriott is approaching the hotel and the rooms themselves with new styling concepts that make efficient use of the space while maintaining a high-end look and feel to each hotel room. Marriott has a history of working with Urgo for new design areas, so if done well, this will be yet another proverbial feather in their cap.

This project gets a lot of flack from certain angles for not being “Ithaca-like”, but given that the site had been a small, awkwardly-accessed parking lot since the Green Street garage was erected in the early 1970s, it’s a huge, huge improvement. The hotel’s 160 rooms are expected to average occupancy between 70 and 80% (the market average is closer to 60%, but new hotels and downtown locations tend to have higher occupancy rates). That translates to 112 to 128 travelers on any typical day who will literally be able to walk right out onto the Commons, eating at restaurants, shopping at the boutique stores and spending their dollars on the “Ithaca-like” businesses that people hold near and dear. Not only does the project create dozens of jobs downtown, it has a real stabilizing effect on other businesses by offering a steady stream of well-heeled customers that will buoy bottom lines and be an asset to shopkeepers and restaurateurs as they ride out slow periods. For nearby businesses, there’s reason to look forward to its August opening.

The $32 million hotel was designed by  Cooper Carry Architecture of Atlanta, and Binghamton-based William H. Lane Inc. is the general contractor.

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