210 Hancock Construction Update, 6/2017

18 06 2017

210 Hancock is chugging towards completion later this summer. Lecesse Construction has all four sub-components of the apartment building have been framed and sheathed. Building A is almost finished from the outside, with some exterior finished and trim still on the to-do list. The Blueskin will be faced with Alpolic aluminum panels, some of which have already been installed. Masonry work is underway on Building C, using Redland Whitehall Brick (it’s not often one sees unpainted white brick). More information on the exterior materials can be found in April’s post.

Note that the buildings are all elevated at least a few feet from ground level, and it’s particular noticeable with the five rental townhouses on the northeast corner. This is because of floodplain restrictions – several blocks of Fall Creek and Northside have the unfortunate luck of being in the 100-year floodplain, and most of Northside except for few blocks around Lewis and Jay Streets are in the 500-year floodplain. This approximated frequency is at risk of decreasing as the inlet gets clogged and layered with fresh silt, and with less volume and capacity, the un-dredged inlet would be more likely to have a high water event overflow its banks. It’s one of many reasons why the city is pressing for state dredging of the inlet before disaster strikes.

WHCU reported a few weeks ago that INHS has had no shortage of applicants for the 210 Hancock rentals. After receiving over 200 applications, they set up a lottery in which 122 “made it through” , and then selected the top 60 (there are 59 rental units though…might be a just in case there’s a drop-out, or it could just be conversational rounding). If it’s anything like New York City’s lottery, what happens is that each application is validated, sorted for requested unit type, and is assigned a randomized log number – those who get 1-48 for the one-bedroom subset, and 1-11 for the two-bedrooms subset, are awarded dibs on a unit, so long as they pass the income check and background check. In previous measures, about 86% of rental applicants, six out of every seven, came from inside Tompkins County, with just under half from other parts of the city of Ithaca.

The seven for-sale units are also just beginning sales marketing. The three on Hancock are, from east to west, 204, 206 and 208 Hancock Street, and the four for-sale units on Lake Street going south to north are 406, 408, 410 and 412 Lake Street. 206 Hancock, 408 Lake and 410 Lake will be 910 SF 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath units that will sell for $112,000 to qualified buyers. 406 Lake and 412 are 1088 SF, 2 bed 1.5 bath units priced at $129,000. The largest units, 204 Hancock and 208 Hancock, are 1300 SF, 3 bed 1.5 bath units that will sell for $145,000. The plan is to have buyers lined up for all seven units by the end of the year.





210 Hancock Construction Update, 4/2017

23 04 2017

There is so much going on at INHS’s 210 Hancock site, this might be the record for most photos in a single construction update. Let’s go counterclockwise from the southwest corner, since that’s the order these photos were taken.

With the apartment building string, Section “A”‘s Blueskin has been mostly bricked over with Redland Heritage Brick. Some Blueskin remains exposed in areas that will be faced with Alpolic exterior metal panels. Fingers crossed that the mustard yellow shown in the elevations looks less jarring in person. It looks like an additional layer of thermal insulation was installed above the windows to go between the Blueskin and the metal panels (mostly dark grey, a few yellow…technically they’re called Alpolic Charcoal and EYL Yellow. the armchair architect in me really wants to harp on the yellow metal panels. I remember a Noah Demarest quote about yellow being a really hard exterior color to pull off. Why not a red or an orange-brown?). The roof is finished and interior fixtures and flooring are being installed.

Then we get to the first string of three for-sale townhouses, which will have addresses for the 200 Block of Hancock (apart from 202, I’m forgetting the exact numbers). They look nothing like the elevations submitted for IURA review, and that is not a bad thing. INHS is using Certainteed clapboard siding on the exterior. The one on the west (left) is “Autumn Red”, and the one on the east (right) is “Mountain Cedar”, both of which were used on the Stone Quarry project. The shades of brown and grey are so similar it’s hard to tell what the middle one is, maybe “Hearthstone”. It looks like a mixture of sizes as well, maybe 4″ on the left and middle, and 7″ Mountain Cedar on the right. The trim pieces are Certainteed vinyl and vary slightly in color, neutral whitish or tannish shades like “Sandstone Beige”, “Natural Clay” and “Desert Tan”.

Circling around to the 400 Block of Lake Avenue highlights a construction contrast between the for-sale units and the five for-rent units further north. The for-sale units are wood-frame, plywood Huber ZIP sheathing, and exterior finishes. The for-rent units are wood-frame, standard plywood sheets, Tyvek Housewrap, and exterior finishes. The difference between the two is really a matter of preference – both are effective water-resistive barriers if installed properly. ZIP panels tend to be easier to install (lower labor cost), but more expensive as a product.

The Certainteed colors on the rentals are “Spruce”, “Sable Brown”, a split-level “Autumn Red/Hearthstone”, “Flagstone” and another “Autumn Red”. Some of these will be 4″ clapboard, others 7″ shingles – all Certainteed, all to give the impression of individual units so they play well with their older, detached neighbors. The Spruce Green unit looks a little odd with that big blank wall above the porch, and in the renders and elevation it appears to be bigger than the final product.

Apartment sections “C” and “D” are still being framed, and “B” has been fully skinned and fitted out with windows. “B” will be faced with will use Carolina Ceramics Teakwood Brick and Morin blue-grey corrugated steel with pearl, EYL yellow and charcoal Alpolic metal panels, “C” will use Redland Whitehall Brick (white brick) as well as Alpolic panels, and “D” will use the same Heritage Red brick as “A” but, with some corrugated steel on the stairwell. “C” and “D” also have a first-floor covered parking garage. The garage will be face in Barnes and Cone Masonry, but the city’s November 2015 filing makes reference to a product that doesn’t appear in their brochures.

The apartment will be ready by August 1st, and the for-sale units will be on the market by the fall. Lecesse Construction is the general contractor.





210 Hancock Construction Update, 4/2016

21 04 2016

So far, not so good. When it first came out that INHS was dropping its contractor, Hayner-Hoyt of Syracuse, due to Hayner-Hoyt’s settlement in a government fraud of disabled veterans’ funds, my assumption was that alternatives had already been arranged and it would be just a token piece to fill out my writing quota.

Then came the interview with INHS’ Paul Mazzarella. And the words “in limbo”. That set a grim mood for the rest of our conversation.

At that point, there was some mental debate about passing the piece to someone else on the Voice staff, but given the complexity of the situation, there was a good chance it wouldn’t be done properly, or another news outlet would pick it up and miss some of the nuances. INHS didn’t know what was going on, since the investigation and negotiation were under seal. A check with the North New York District Court verified it. A bad situation that was in many ways beyond INHS’s control.

Dropping Hayner-Hoyt saved face, but also put the non-profit developer in a bind, since they were not just the general contractor, they were the construction manager, meaning that this was a design-build and everything had been priced out with Hayner-Hoyt’s help. Another contractor could have different, higher prices, which would put the project in jeopardy.

On the bright side, it looks like the project will move forward. Speaking face-to-face with Scott Reynolds last week, he described it as “more of a hiccup” at this point. Hayner Hoyt helped them locate new potential contractors, and there is likely a new firm who will take on construction manager duties. Hopefully, the Voice will have an article on that when INHS is ready to make the formal announcement.

Turning to the project itself, the ca. 1957 grocery store, and one-story 1970s office building, are gone. Demolition is complete, and there’s a pause in work “while the contractors get organized”. Further site work is expected to commence no later than late May, with pile installation occurring over a one-month period at a rate of about six per day, between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM. The before photo was taken in late February, the weekend before they started tearing down Neighborhood Pride, and the latest photos are from this past weekend.

The store was previously a P&C Foods, before P&C went bankrupt and the Ithaca stores were bought by Tops in 2010. The original builder of the grocery store, Tony Petito, launched a new independent grocery store called “Neighborhood Pride” in February 2013, which came with a $100,000 loan from the IURA. However, the store was unable to compete with other nearby grocers (Aldi’s, Wegman’s), and shut down at the end of the year. INHS acquired the property for $1.7 million in June 2014. Community meetings to develop a housing plan were held during the fall and winter of 2014/15, and the 210 Hancock proposal received planning board approval last year, after an unexpectedly heated debate. Originally, build-out was expected to start in September of this year, but the project was one of the very rare few that managed to get affordable housing funding from the state on the very first funding try (meaning that Ithaca has a well-documented need, and that it was a very good application).

If built on schedule, 210 Hancock will bring 54 apartments and 12 moderate-income townhouses to market in July 2017. 7 of the townhouses will be for-sale units. Total construction cost is anticipated to be about $13.8 million.

The 54 apartment units (42 1-bedroom, 12 2-bedroom) are targeted towards renters making 48-80% of annual median income (AMI), defined by the HUD as $54,000 for a one-bedroom and $61,750 for a two-bedroom. The one-bedroom units will rent for $700-1,000/month to those making $25,950-$43,250, and the two-bedroom units will rent for $835-$1300/month to individuals making $29,640-$49,400. Three of the units will be fully handicap adapted. The project also includes two commercial spaces, one of which will host a daycare program run by TCAction for lower income families. The building would seek LEED Certification.

The two-story wood frame townhouses would also be LEED Certified. Of the seven for-sale units, five two bedroom units (1,147 SF) would be sold for about $114,000, and the two three-bedroom units (1,364 SF) for $136,000, available to those making 60-80% of local AMI, or $37,050-$49,400/year per the March 2016 IURA document. The townhouses would be a part of the Community Housing Trust (CHT), keeping them affordable even as they are sold to others in later years. The anticipated construction period is November 2016 – June 2017. The five rental units (4 2-bedroom, 1 3-bedroom) would be built at the same time as the apartment building.

To get on the waitlist for the affordable units, contact INHS here.

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Affordable Housing Week 2016

8 03 2016

Expanding on last year’s theme, it’s affordable housing week. The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency will be holding public hearings on March 24th and 28th as part of the process to determine who will receive money from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants awarded to the city. The 25 applicants (up from 21 last year) range from jobs training to community services to the development of affordable housing. All summed up, there’s $1.85 million requested, and $1.56 million available, so that means an 84% chance of funding, all parameters being equal. For comparison, in 2015, $1.78 million was requested out of $1.215 million available, just a little over two-thirds of the total. The chances for funding have gone up this year.

Part of the reason for the better chances this year is unfortunate – the return of $273,869 in 2014 HOME funding meant for INHS’s 402 South Cayuga project that has not come to fruition. Although HOME funds can be awarded for rental projects, the funding was awarded by the city specifically for owner-occupied housing, so the money comes back into play. There’s also about $26,300 left over from last year that went unallocated.

Without discounting the value of the other applications, the focus here will be on the real estate development projects. For the record, writing about a project is neither an endorsement or opposition from this blog.

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1. Last year, INHS applied for and received almost $458k for 210 Hancock, for which site prep is currently underway. This year, they’re applying for funding for two projects – seven owner-occupied units at 202 Hancock (new tax parcel), and the single-family home planned for 304 Hector Street.

The 202 Hancock townhouses are requesting $567,000 towards a total project cost of $2,359,013. This is a high figure, but it also seems like it would address the recent, very major issue of rapidly rising construction costs derailing multiple affordable housing projects. INHS will be putting up $550,000 of its own money, and already has received a $280,000 city/county/Cornell grant (Community Housing Development Fund) towards the project. The rest comes from bonds, the state, land equity and the buyers themselves.

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Doing the math ($1,438,640 construction cost, 8,463 SF total), the construction cost budgeted is $170/SF, a little less than the $190/SF they paid for 203 Third Street, but not impossible. Perhaps a larger project of townhouses can utilize cost efficiencies to keep the price down a bit.

The two-story wood frame townhouses would be LEED Certified. Five two bedroom units (1,147 SF) would be sold for about $114,000, and the two three-bedroom units (1,364 SF) for $136,000, available to those making 60-80% of local AMI, or $37,000-$49,000/year. The townhouses would be a part of the Community Housing Trust (CHT), keeping them affordable even as they are sold to others in later years. the anticipated construction period is November 2016 – June 2017. HOLT Architects of Ithaca is designing the townhomes.

Design wise, they look halfway between the first iteration of the rental townhouses, and the approved version.

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2. Also from INHS, the 304 Hector application. The amount requested is $100,000 towards a $369,294 project. This seems remarkably high. In the application, INHS notes the construction costs of $262,000 are from actual bids received from Rick May Construction (who is also doing 203 Third Street) and subcontractors. The math comes out to about $191.50/SF. One of the reasons for the very high cost is that INHS is required to hire contractors with enough liability insurance to cover any major accidents, and a lot of smaller builders don’t have enough insurance. $40,000 has already been granted towards the project from the CHDF.

The house would sell for $142,000 to a family making $37,000-$49,000/year (60-80% AMI), the same parameters as the 202 Hancock townhouses. The house would also be a part of the CHT. An April 2017 – January 2018 construction is planned. Local company STREAM Collaborative is the house’s architect.

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3. Meanwhile, at the 402 South Cayuga Street site, developer/architect Zac Boggs and Isabel Fernandez are requesting $105,000 towards their 4-unit townhouse project, priced out at $1,020,000, of which $820,000 is for construction. Of the 4 units, one two-bedroom unit will be available to a family making 80% AMI or less (i.e. $49,000/year or less), selling at $150,000. The other three units, 2 2-bedroom and 1 3-bedroom, would be rented out for 2-5 years, and then sold on the “lower-end of market-rate”, which is estimated in the mid to upper $200s. The units would follow LEED standards, and the affordable unit would be put into the CHT.

Precision Builders of Ithaca would construct the project. A May 2016 – June 2017 build-out is planned, though it doesn’t appear to factor in the planning board approval process.

Aside from the grant, most of the funds for the project will come from a bank loan, with $120,000 of their own money and $40,000 in county bond funds. Assuming these are the same size as the 2 and 3-bedroom INHS townhouses, the construction cost comes out to about $170/SF.

One thing that comes to mind in the context of the inclusionary zoning debate is that this might be the only way to really go in the long-term. If INHS gets priced out of feasibility in the city, trying to cover the cost of affordable units with substantially more expensive market units might be the only option, which is a rather uncomfortable thought. One of the issues with inclusionary zoning is that it prices out the middle; developers have to make up the cost somewhere, and the market-rate units are the scapegoats. Communities end up with a small portion of affordable housing, but mostly expensive housing. With this project, part of the money is being recuperated by renting the other units for at least a few years, which some may scoff at, but costs are, what they are.

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4. Habitat for Humanity is requesting $75,000 towards their $305,500 duplex project at 101-107 Morris Street (to be redesignated 202-204 Third Street) on the Northside. Each unit will sell to a familiar making less than 60% AMI ($36,750/year), and the families will have to put in “sweat equity”, helping to build the houses (350 hours of labor). To keep costs down, labor is volunteer-based and materials are donated – as a result, the project only has a $180,000 construction cost, a little over $60/SF.

The units will be two-story, have porches and designed to fit into the neighborhood. The state has given the project a $70,000 grant already, and the city/county/Cornell CHDF has given $80,000. the rest is covered by corporate grants (Cargill, Lowe’s, M&T Bank) and individual donations. A timeline of April 2017 – April 2018 is anticipated.

No renders, but the above site plan was included in the application.

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5. Last, the only truly new project for this post. 622 West Clinton Street in the South Side neighborhood. The applicant, Jerame Hawkins, proposes deconstructing a decaying barn at the rear of the property and replacing it with an affordable owner-occupied duplex. Hawkins, who runs the county’s Youth Advocate Program, would make each unit available to a family making 60% AMI or less ($36,750/year or less), in particular Section 8. The duplex would be modular, 3-beds and 1,561 SF each, with Carina Construction and Finger Lakes ReUse working with Hawkins on the project. The construction cost of $292k works out to about $93/SF.

The house at the front of the property, which dates from the late 1800s, would be renovated and retained as affordable housing. Hawkins is requesting a grant of $135,000 towards the $364,634 project. A project timeline of October 2016 – January 2017 is given in the application.

The one potential red flag I’m seeing is a line in the app that says “retaining for a minimal [sic] of 1 year”. Either that gets clarified and extended, or the IURA won’t be interested this proposal on account of it not being affordable for long enough a period of time.





News Tidbits 12/12/15: Money Money Money Money

12 12 2015

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1. Time to do a little rumor-killing. There’s been some confusion as to whether or not the Hilton Canopy is actually happening, since it was supposed to have started construction by this time and it hasn’t. There was also an article in the Ithaca Times that suggested that construction costs much higher than original estimates had caused the project to be cancelled.

Well, the project has definitely been delayed, but it looks like it will still be moving forward. According to a utility easement resolution at the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Economic Development Committee (IURA EDC) meeting, a project financing commitment has been secured and the developer of the Hilton (Neil Patel of Lighthouse Hotels LLC) is planning a construction start in the first quarter (Jan-Mar) of 2016, which would suggest a mid-2017 opening.

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2. Also in financial news, INHS looks to have secured grant funding that will allow it to move forward with its 210 Hancock project in the next four months, according to INHS Executive Director Paul Mazzarella. The grants were officially awarded in an announcement from the governor’s office on Tuesday. $3.6 million will come from the state’s Housing and Community Renewal program, $500,000 from the state low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, and $1.03 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s LIHTC program. In total, the award is valued at $5.13 million, about a quarter of the estimated $20 million development cost. The project has received about $17 million in grants and tax credits to date.

The money awarded covers only the rental units – 54 apartments in the four-story mixed-use building, and five townhouses. The seven owner-occupied townhouses remain unfunded.

The apartments, which include a 30-child low-income daycare facility and commercial office space for non-profits, will welcome their first tenants in Summer 2017. They will rent from 27% to 105% of local median household income, depending on the unit. Descriptively, it’s a mixed-income project with residents’ incomes ranging from $25,000-$60,000 per year.

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3. From the Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, there are a few things of note this week –

A. The city seems to be looking towards greater encouragement and flexibility with redevelopment of waterfront parcels by making WF-1 and WF-2 zones Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). What a PUD does is allow greater flexibility in uses and design by removing or loosening zoning constraints on site use, and being more accommodating to mixed-use projects (the Chain Works District proposal is a PUD, for example). Previously, PUDs could only be applied to industrial sites. The other stipulation, however, is that the applicant would have to work with the Common Council to determine appropriate development of the site.

The Waterfront Zoning allows up to 5 stories and 100% lot coverage. The PUD will give flexibility beyond that, dependent on what the Common Council is comfortable with for a given site and proposal.  So if Applicant X shows up with a huge apartment building or a big industrial building, it’s probably not going to get very far. But if it’s well designed and has affordable units? Maybe the council will grant a little more density or another floor. It depends on a developer showing up with something that they feel offers some kind of community benefit and fits with the Comprehensive Plan, and whether the Common Council agrees with the developer’s reasoning.

There is great potential in the waterfront – those views can fetch a premium (i.e. higher land values, and more tax dollars), it’s far enough removed from the colleges that students would be unlikely residents, and many of the properties are underutilized, with only marginal public benefit.  So potentially, if someone wants to work with the Common Council (one can count on at least 8 or 9 of the 10 being willing to cooperate), there could be some benefits in the long-term.

B. The Commons first-floor active-use zoning ordinance looks to be heading for a Common Council vote in January. More about that ordinance here, Item 5.

C. That damned backyard chickens thing again. Only this time, it might be moving forward with a pilot program involving 20 families.

D. Per the Times’ Josh Brokaw, expect incentive/inclusionary zoning to be up for PEDC review in January.

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4. Hey look, this week’s eye candy. Tompkins Financial Corporation’s proposed downtown Ithaca Headquarters at 119 East Seneca Street will be reviewed for final project approval at this month’s Planning Board meeting. As part of that, here’s the final project design, part of the final Site Plan Review submission here.

From the front, it looks like some of the window layout has changed on the top floor and southwest corner, and there are fewer sunshades above the windows. There’s a third tree in the planting plan, and there’s variation in the cladding materials on the west wall facing the DeWitt Mall.

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In fact, it’s the non-primary facades that have changed the most, with different (and generally lighter-colored) brick and aluminum panels when compared to the previous rendition. Although there’s less glass than before, the lighter colors and greater variation in materials de-emphasize the bulk from the perspective of its townhouse neighbors at the rear. The 7-story, 110,000 SF commercial office building should begin construction in early 2016 with an eye towards completion the following spring.

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5. There was quite a sale on Ithaca’s West End last Friday. Nine properties outlined in red on the map above – 106, 108, 100 and 116 North Meadow Street, 607, 609 and 611 West Seneca Street, and 602 and 604 West State Street – were sold for $1,725,000 to Elmira Savings Bank.

Now, there are a few reasons why this is worthy of attention. For one, banks don’t typically shell out almost two million dollars without some kind of plan. For two, Elmira Saving Bank has been moving forward with expansion plans in the Ithaca area in hopes of capitalizing on the growing local economy. For three, there has been a lot of development in this neighborhood as of late – the Iacovelli Apartments (2013) and Planned Parenthood (2014) are right across the street, and it’s worth noting that the 18,000 SF HQ for Alternatives Federal Credit Union (2002) is on the other side of the block.

The properties are currently home to parking lots, several older, non-historic houses (most in poor condition) and a two-story 4,500 SF commercial building previously home to the Pancho Villa Mexican restaurant. The restaurant building had been on the market for $699,900.

The zoning here is all WEDZ-1a. West End Zone 1a allows for 2 to 5 story buildings, 90% lot coverage in the case of large assemblages such as this, and no off-street parking requirement. That means these parcels have a lot of potential. The previous owner had been rumored to be planning a mixed-use building on some of the properties, but nothing official ever came forth.

Two phone calls were placed to Elmira Savings Bank’s headquarters in Elmira, and two voicemails were left, but neither received a response. But these properties are definitely something to keep a close watch on over the following months.

6. That 9100 SF store being developed on the corner of East Shore and Cayuga Vista Drives in Lansing that was mentioned last week (here, Item 4)? It’s going to be a Dollar General. Not sure if that’s better than the auto/tire store speculated last week.

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7. Lest it be forgotten, it appears Lady Luck and some state bureaucrats smiled at the Southern Tier this week, awarded the region one of the three $500 million prizes of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, known colloquially as the Upstate “Hunger Games”. Rochester/Finger Lakes and Syracuse/Central are the other $500 million winners. Seven regions competed, and the four losers will receive $80-$100 million for their priority projects. The money will be paid out in five annual installments of $100 million. A copy of the Southern Tier’s plan is here.

I wrote about Ithaca’s plans for its share on the Voice here. The first year projects alone will have a range of impacts, ranging from job creation and training to municipal construction projects to quality of life projects like museum expansions. Potentially, it could result in hundreds of jobs in Tompkins County, financial capital for several major projects, and make the area more attractive for investment for both local and external entities. As these projects move forward, they’ll receive their due write-ups here and on the Voice.

Of course, the key things are that the community can manage this monetary award, and that someone can track and guide these projects to completion – something the Southern Tier has struggled with, when one looks at the result of previous, much smaller awards.

8. The state’s just shoveling money into Ithaca this week. The New York State Office of Community Renewal (part of the state’s HUD equivalent, the Homes and Community Renewal agency) has awarded $500,000 towards the rehabilitation of the Masonic Temple at the corner of East Seneca and North Cayuga Streets in downtown Ithaca.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1926 and designated a local historic landmark in 1994. The property is owned by Ithaca Renting Company (Jason Fane), who purchased the building from the Masons in 1993. Fane’s never been a fan of the historic designation because the ILPC can be expensive and onerous to work with, nearly everyone else hasn’t been a fan of his long-deferred maintenance of the 90-year old building (if you have ever wondered why that CIITAP rule was added about an applicant being in building code compliance with all their other properties…now you know). A few years ago, Fane had not been shy in his interest in demolishing the building.

After rejecting a purchase offer to turn the building into a community center and space for the New Roots charter school, Fane decided to go the preservation route earlier this year and apply for a grant to renovate the interior and add an elevator to the building to make it ADA-compliant. This would make the building much more marketable to commercial tenants, many of which have shunned the 17,466 SF building. Fane laid out a few different options this past summer, including one where four commercial spaces (rental, office, restaurant) would be created. Based on the grant announcement, it looks like that will be the option pursued.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance backed the application, as did the Common Council by unanimous vote at their July meeting.

The renovation will cost at least $1 million, and according to the grant announcement, seeks to start construction in summer 2016. Expect more info when it hits the ILPC and Planning Board at a later date.

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9. House of the week. This week, INHS’s new 2-bedroom, 1150 SF single-family home underway at 203 Third Street in the city of Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood. The house is framed, roofed and sheathed. Siding (Hardie board?) and trim is being attached on the sides, and one can expect a nice gracious porch to be attached once exterior materials are installed on the front. A home of the design was previously built at 507 Cascadilla Street.

203 Third Street was a vacant that the city seized in a tax foreclosure in 2011. It was transferred to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, who sold it to INHS for $17,000 in December 2014. The process is pretty similar for a lot of the home lots that INHS builds on – the non-profit buys dilapidated or vacant properties from the IURA, which they build or renovate into affordable single-family and duplex houses. In the case of 203 Third Street, INHS competed for the site, outscoring Habitat for Humanity’s submission in an IURA examination of proposals.

As with all INHS homes, this one will be sold to a buyer of modest means, which means someone making at or a little less than the county’s median household income of $53k/year (I think 80% of MHI is the low bound offhand, so about $42k/year). The houses will be a part of INHS’s Community Housing Trust, limiting the price it can be sold for and requiring that if put up for sale, it is sold to another family of modest means. It may just be one house, but it will mean a lot to one family.

Claudia Brenner is the architect, with Rick May Construction and Mike Babbitt in charge of construction (thanks to Claudia for the builder info).

 





News Tidbits 11/21/15: Building and Rebuilding

21 11 2015

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1. Starting off this week with some eye candy, here are some updates renders of the townhouses proposed for INHS’s 210 Hancock project in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Details and project status here. 210 Hancock has been approved by the Planning Board, and Cornell, the city and county do have dedicated funds ($200,000 total) going towards the affordable housing units, but still needs to be seventeen conditions prior to receiving a construction permit, one of which required revised townhouses to better reflect the neighborhood. The Common Council also need to vote to discontinue using the sections of Lake Avenue and Adams Street on which the new greenways and playground will be constructed, which apart from the time needed and paperwork generated, isn’t expected to encounter any obstacles, with formal conveyance to INHS anticipated by March 2016. INHS is shooting for a May construction start.

The Planning Board will be voting on “satisfaction of site plan approval” at its meeting next Tuesday, which should be a fairly smooth procedure, if the paperwork’s all correct.

Personal opinion, the townhouses, with more color and variation in style, appear to be an improvement over the previous version. These five will be rentals, while the other seven will be for-sale units, and built in a later phase (government funding for affordable rentals is easier to obtain than it is for affordable owner-occupied units, so it could take a year or two for those seven to get the necessary funding). The apartments have not had any substantial design changes since approval.

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For what it’s worth, here’s the final site plan. The rental townhomes will be on the north corner of the parcel, furthest from Hancock.

2. Turning attention to the suburbs, someone’s put up some sizable chunks of land for sale in Lansing village. The properties consist of four parcels – 16.87 acres (the western parcel) for $500,000, right next to a previously-listed threesome of 28.07 acres (the eastern parcels) for $650,000. The eastern parcel also comes with a house, which the listing pretty much ignores. Lansing has it zoned as low-density residential, and given the prices (the western parcel is assessed at $397,600, the eastern parcels at $561,100 (1, 2, and 3)) and being surrounded by development on three sides, these seem likely to become suburban housing developments, possibly one big 30-lot development if the parcels are merged. For the suburbanites out there, it’s something to monitor.

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3. House of the week – or in this case, tiny house of the week. The 1-bedroom, 650 SF carriage house underway at 201 West Clinton Street draws inspiration from 19th century carriage houses, which makes sense given that it’s in Henry St. John Historic District. It and the main house are owned by former Planning Board member Isabel Fernández and her partner, TWMLA architect Zac Boggs. The two of them did a major and meticulous restoration of the main house, which used to house the local Red Cross chapter, a couple of years ago (more info on that here).

Anyway, the framing is underway and some ZIP System sheathing has been applied to the exterior plywood. No roof yet and probably not much in the way of interior rough-ins, but give it a couple of months and that 1960s garage will be given a new life as a tiny house.

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4. Time to take a look at the Planning and Development Board agenda for next Tuesday. For reference, here’s what a typical project guideline looks like:

PDB (Sketch Plan) -> PDB (Declaration of Lead Agency) -> PDB (Determination of Env’tal Signif., PDB BZA reccomendation if necessary) -> BZA (if necessary) -> PDB (prelim/final approval).

Here’s the meat of the agenda:

A. 210 Hancock – Satisfaction of Conditions of Site Plan Approval (see above)
B. 215-221 Spencer St. – Consideration of Prelim/Final Site Plan Approval  – this one was first presented as sketch plan in March, to give an idea of how long this has been in front of the boards
C. 416-418 East State Street – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – “The Printing Press” jazz bar is a proposed re-use for a former printshop and warehouse that has seen heavy neighbor opposition. The bar has changed its emphasis, redesigned the landscape and moved itself to a more internal location to mitigate concerns, but the opposition is still strong, mostly focusing on noise and traffic. The board has simply and succinctly recommended that the BZA grant a zoning variance.
D. 327 Elmira Road – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – The Herson Wagner Funeral Home project. This one’s had pretty smooth sailing so far, only a couple complaints that Elmira Road isn’t appropriate for a funeral home. The Planning Board, however, applauds the proposal, which replaces a construction equipment storage yard, for better interfacing with the residential neighbors at the back of its property. It has been recommended for BZA approval.
E. Simeon’s on the Commons Rebuild – Presentation & Design Review Meeting – Before anyone throws up their arms, this is only to talk about the materials and design of the reconstruction, and to get the planning board’s comment and recommendations.
F. The Chapter House Rebuild – Sketch Plan – The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) must have come to some kind of acceptance on the proposed rebuild if the Chapter House is finally at the sketch plan stage. the Planning Board will have their own recommendations, which will have to be coordinated to some degree with the ILPC (the ILPC is arguably the much stricter of the two). We’ll see how it looks next week.
G. Hughes Hall Renovations – Sketch Plan – more on that in a moment
H. DeWitt House (Old Library Site) – Sketch Plan – originally slated to be seen a couple months ago, but pulled from the agenda. The 60-unit project is not only subject to Planning Board review, but ILPC review since it’s in the DeWitt Park Historic District.

5. So, Hughes Hall. Hughes Hall, built in 1963, has dorm housing and dining facilities for Cornell students attending the law school, but those 47 students will need to find alternative housing once the hall closes in May 2016 (yes, with Maplewood closing as well, Cornell is putting 527 graduate and professional students out on the open market next year…it’s gonna be rough). However, this has kinda been known for a while. Cornell has intended to renovate Hughes Hall since at least 2011, as Phase III of its law school expansion and renovation. The building was used as swing space while Phase I was underway, and then the phases were flipped and Phase II became Hughes Hall’s renovation, while Phase III became Myron Taylor Hall’s renovation. According to Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, who designed the law school addition (Phase I), the Hughes Hall renovation will “house offices, administrative support spaces, academic programs and meeting spaces.” Well see how the renovated digs look at Tuesday’s meeting.





News Tidbits 8/29/15: Stirring Pots and Stewing Minds

29 08 2015

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Short set this week. Things are relatively quiet for this week’s round-up.

1. Leading off this week, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services’ (INHS) 210 Hancock development has finally received initial approvals, after a months-long, contentious debate. With the zoning variances granted, it was up to the planning board to issue preliminary approval, and compared to previous meetings, the discussion and decision was brief and uncontested. The plan is to have the project start construction in its phase (the commercial space, 53 apartments and the five rental townhouses) next May, wrapping up the following year. Initially, the time-frame was next fall, but getting approvals now has allowed INHS to move up the time-frame a few months. The seven for-sale townhouses will be built at a later date, with funding separate from the rental units.

The project isn’t necessarily a 100% sealed deal (and really, no project is until it’s complete). INHS has to submit an application for low-income tax credits as part of its financing package, and those are due in by October 6th. Only about 30% of applications receive funding (recipients will be announced in January 2016), but INHS has a pretty strong track record to go on.

After the feud over the Stone Quarry Apartments, INHS made an effort to be transparent about the planning process with the Hancock project and openly engage with the community. Unfortunately, it backfired. It’s looking like INHS’s next major proposal will end up out in Freeville, so apart from one or two houses that may end up in the pipeline over the next year or so, INHS isn’t likely to propose any further affordable housing development in Ithaca for a while.

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2. One controversy subsides, another heats up. The Planning Board was not amused with State Street Triangle at the latest meeting. Now, given the wide spectrum of opinions that runs through the area, the folks that serve on the board tend to be fair and even-keeled. Not gung-ho about all projects, but definitely not a part of the “I oppose anything that makes Ithaca look different” commentary that comes out of some quarters. So this week’s comments tend to be about as harsh as it gets without saying no outright.

I personally don’t like the “It doesn’t look like Ithaca” comment used for the Ithaca Voice headline, because a city isn’t a static object – buildings are built or replaced, homes are painted and renovated, and retailers change. The Ithaca of 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, isn’t like the Ithaca of today or 20 years from now. Subjective comments are prone to pitfalls.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the size of this proposal makes a lot of people uncomfortable. The building can be built as-of-right (but board approval is still required before permits can be issued), but there might be a substantial benefit if Campus Advantage were accommodating of the concerns, especially with the tax abatement being pursued. For the sake of example, INHS was very receptive to incorporating suggestions in its 210 Hancock project, which really helped during the approvals process. A little more flexibility on CA’s part could make all the difference, assuming they can still make a decent return on investment. I’ve heard that there are further design revisions underway (whether they’re minor tweaks or major changes is not clear), and hopefully those will be put forth for review sometime soon.

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3. Here’s a detail worth noting from the County’s last Legislature meeting – the following is a line from Herb Engman, the town supervisor of Ithaca, addressing the legilslature as he announced his intent to retire at the end of the year:

“Cornell is moving on its consultant to plan the first phase of redevelopment of the East Hill area”.

The wording is a little odd, but my impression is that the consultant is moving forward with planning the first phase of the “East Hill Village“, or whatever Cornell’s planning staff are calling it these days. Actual plans are probably still several months or a year out, not to mention the months of trying to get approval, and then financing/construction. But given the rapid rise in enrollment at the university, any movement towards accommodating more students and reducing the strain on municipalities is welcome.

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4. There will be a full-fledged article on this in the Voice next week, but for those looking to kill time, here’s a “family budget calculator” from the Economic Policy Institute think-tank. There are several ways to calculate affordable housing, but many don’t take childcare into account, so it’s worth seeing just how much affordability changes when children enter the picture.

Word to the wise though – EPI’s data has some flaws. If you compare this to AFCU’s living wage calculation for adults with and without children, you’ll find some sizable differences.