209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 6/2017

13 06 2017

For news about today’s event, please go to the Voice.

Most of the rear and east facade are complete on the Breazzano Center at 209-215 Dryden Road. The Larson sheeting on the utility/loading dock refers to Larson Alucoil, the brand name of the aluminum metal panels being used to complete the less photogenic vantage points of the new 6-story building. The clips on the rear wall will be used as hinges for architectural sunshades.

Most of the windows and spandrel glass has been installed on the read and east facade. Note that spandrel glass is purely decorative, and there are metal panels between the glass and the lip of the floor plate. The white stripes indicate where the salmon-colored metal panels will be installed over the glass, although I personally would be just as happy to see them go without; the glass curtain wall gives the building an airier, less overbearing appearance. The bottom floor uses clear glass to give the building greater transparency at street level, and is meant to enliven (“activate”) the block. In photo 9, you can see the ceiling of one of the large group instruction classrooms, meaning that the drywall has been hung on at least the lower floors, and utilities rough-ins have been completed.

At the time these photos were taken, workers were easing a new panel section of the front curtain wall into place – it’s a bit of a delicate process to hoist the glazing with the crane and line everything up just right, and then quickly fasten it into place so they can move on with the next section, pulling the tarp back and continuing down the line. One imagines it must get a bit stuffy under the plastic sheeting this time of the year. More complicated exterior sections like the projecting atrium wall have yet to be tackled.

The Breazzano Center should be open in time for the fall 2017 semester. Not long thereafter, the staging area next door at 238 Linden will becoming a project of its own with the erection of a 4-story, 24-studio apartment building. That project is up for final approval later this month.





209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 4/2017

17 04 2017

Work on the new Breazzano Center continues in Collegetown, with the exterior plastic sheets slowly being replaced by the metal and glass facade. On this particular windy day, the tarp was flapping enough to reveal a bit of the exterior metal stud walls underneath. On the rear of the building, the salmon-orange and dark grey panels now cover most of the exterior wall. The recently proposed 238 Linden townhouses will come up to about the top of the third floor, where the salmon panels change over to grey. 238 Linden will be roughly the same color as the lower-level panels, probably with the same metal finish. Note the clips on the exterior wall, which are for aluminum sunshades.

I’ve had contractors tell me that one of the ways you can tell the quality of the curtain wall glass is by how much distortion one sees in the reflection (optical distortion). Based off that criterion, the glass used on the entry level appears to be a fairly high grade. The opaque glass panels are called spandrel glass, and are used to conceal the floor slabs.  It looks like the thin vertical steel panels will be installed over the curtain wall, though not in all places – The northeast corner and ground floor will not have the steel panels, nor will the atrium at the front of the building.

One can barely see the interior work in these photos, but the interior stud walls were up and drywall has been hung on the lower floors, which means that most of the utilities rough-ins have been completed.

The last photo, which comes courtesy of Tom Schryver, gives an idea of the scale of the building in context – at six floors and 80 feet, it is the tallest that the Collegetown form zoning allows without a variance. At 76,200 SF, it’s the fifth-largest by square footage, after Cascadilla Hall (77,913 SF), The Schwartz Center (80,989 SF), Eddygate (95,000 SF) and 312 College Avenue (112,392 SF).





News Tidbits 4/1/17: High Energy Debates

1 04 2017

1. There might be yet another potential hang-up with the Lansing Meadows project. Previously, developer Eric Goetzmann presented planned to the Lansing village Board of Trustees to densify the initial 12-unit plan and add a small retail component, such as a coffee shop, diner or similar gathering venue. The idea was well received, and so Goetzmann approached the planning board with 20 senior housing units and a small commercial lot TBD, where it was A) news to them, and B) not-so-well received.

According to the Lansing Star, the objection is not to the housing; in fact, the planning board said they’d prefer another four housing units rather than commercial. But they’re not comfortable with the sudden change, and Goetzmann’s looking at the additional costs of revised plans because the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board were not on the same page. It is kind of a weird situation, although not unprecedented (it bears some similarity to the 201 College debate in Ithaca city last year, where the Planning Department and Planning Board were not on the same page). The boards are supposed to meet in early April to retify their differences so Goetzmann knows what he can move forward with, hopefully by this summer.

Looking at the screenshot above, Salem R. LaHood of suburban Syracuse is the architect; apart from being a design partner for some high-end outlet malls, I can’t find much else on his resume.

2. The solar arrays planned in Dryden are getting are less-than-welcome reception, per Cassandra Negley at the Ithaca Times. The argument is pretty similar to the one often used on affordable housing – “we know it’s needed and we like it in concept, but we don’t want it anywhere near us”. But then far from one person is close to another; and it results in lackluster solutions, like affordable housing so far out that it’s isolated from needed goods and services.

One of the biggest sources of opposition is from family and friends of those interred at the Willow Glen Cemetery, which is the landscaped area south of the panels in the image above. Although many of the opposed do not even live in New York, let alone Dryden, it’s argued that the project is “sneaky back-room industrial solar” and will “destroy the atmosphere” (coincidentally, the land across the road from Willow Glen is zoned for and being marketed to roadside commercial tenants). It’s fine to be concerned, but looking at this particular site, the anger is a little overblown – there is sufficient room for a green screen of hedges and trees between the panels and the cemetery, which could easily be included as a stipulation as part of the approvals. Sustainable Tompkins is attempting to push back against some of the criticism, but on the balance, the public comment on the Dryden solar arrays is negative.

Let me approach this with an overarching view. Dryden is strongly opposed to an increase in natural gas (much to Lansing’s chagrin). Wind energy has been vociferously opposed just over the valley in Enfield, and Newfield essentially outlawed wind turbines. Solar panels are also being fought in Ulysses and Newfield. In Ithaca, there have been onerous battles over allowing panels on rooftops in historic districts. The energy to power homes and businesses has to come from somewhere; the preference seems to be for a sustainable option, rather than oil or gas piped in from Pennsylvania or beyond. Every choice is going to have its pros and cons – gas is cheap but environmentally unsound; wind turbines are tall and highly visible; solar panels need space for their cells. Frankly, a lightly-populated area on untaxed land owned by Cornell, which would then pay a PILOT fee for the solar panels, seems like a reasonable option. Someone has to step up and lead by example. Why not the town that fought fracking and won?

Anyway, the town pushed their meeting on the project back by one week to digest the onslaught of criticism. The meeting will be held at the town hall on Thursday April 6th at 7 PM.

UPDATE: The April 6th meeting has been cancelled and cannot be rescheduled until additional paperwork about the project has been received.

3. On the topic of energy, it looks like Cornell wants to move ahead with a trial run of its experimental geothermal project. Per the Times, the initial test phases of the “Earth Source Heating” project could take up to six years and $12-$15 million, which is a lot of money given that no one is certain if it will ultimately be a viable source of renewable energy. Some concern is being expressed that the project is too similar to fracking, but unlike the fracking process, where water is used to shatter shale beneath the surface to extract natural gas, the water used here is much lower pressure and kept in a closed loop, in comparison to fracking’s constant expansion of extraction sites. For the time being, the naysayers are assuaged, so now comes years of designing the project and permitting; an extensive Envrionmental Impact Statement (EIS) seems almost certain. ESH would be groundbreaking in more ways than one, if successful.

4. It looks like the major hurdles to the Travis Hyde Properties Old Library redevelopment have been cleared. With the historic district Certificiate of Appropriateness granted from the city’s ILPC, it’s now a matter of going through site plan review – the developer is hoping for an expedited process that’s settled by May, which given the joint meetings between the Planning Board and ILPC, may be possible. The design review is already complete as is most of the documentation, so at this point, it’s just a matter of making sure there are adequate environmental mitigations in place. After that, it’s time for the county to draft up their docs for the $925,000 sale of the property, and hopefully THP can get the mixed-use project underway later this year. The 73,600 SF project will host 58 market-rate units for the 55+ crowd, community space administered by senior services nonprofit Lifelong, and 1,250 SF of street-front commercial.

5. The Tompkins County IDA held its public hearing for the City Centre tax abatements. As expected, the reactions were mixed. A couple of developers not associated with the project (Frost Travis and Todd Fox) came out and spoke in support, which is really great. For one, these guys are invested in the city and knowledgeable about the market, so they should have an idea on whether City Centre would be a welcome economic addition or detraction. For two, it’s nice to see members of the same real estate community standing up for each other. There are cases now and in the not-so-distant past where developers went out of their way to fight other projects, with the parochial scope that as few units as possible would mean as high rents (revenue) as possible. I’m not necessarily saying every project is great and they need to stick up for it, but it’s heartening to see some are taking a broader scope and speaking on behalf of the ones they recognize as beneficial to the community.

The detractors seem less upset about the project itself than the abatements, and there is the fundamental misunderstanding that taxpayers are “paying” for this project. There is no paying; it just phases in the new property taxes on top of the existing value and taxes for the parcel, rather than one big lump increase from the moment of completion. For the sake of example, if they’re paying $100,000 in taxes now, and a given project will bring it up to $1,000,000 in taxes, an abatement means they’ll still pay $100,000 until the site’s developed, then $200,000 right after completion, then $300,000 the following year, and so on until $1,000,000 (plus inflation) is attained. I’ve tried to explain this in the Voice, the Times has tried to explain this, but it’s still a problem.

6. Two Collegetown projects were brought to light at last week’s planning board meeting. 232-236 Dryden, a Visum Development project, would replace a large surface parking lot and rundown 30-unit apartment building with a 191-bed, 2-building complex. 238 Linden, a Novarr-Mackesey infill project, replaces a 10-bed, non-historic apartment house with 24 studio units in a townhouse-format structure designed by his favorite firm, ikon.5 Architects of Princeton. The target market is Johnson students, particularly Executive MBAs who may want to be closer to the university. One of the neat features is that the rear will have a treated “chameleon-like” surface that will change color depending on viewing angle, not unlike the pearl metallics used on some custom cars.

The plan is to have both 232-236 Dryden and 238 Linden underway late this year. Both are likely to have August 2018 openings, although 232-236 Dryden might be a two-phase project, with the second structure coming online in August 2019.

Keen readers will note that the Times has the sole coverage of 238 Linden right now, and this was not in the Voice; Nick Reynolds was at the meeting, I was not, and while I’ve been trying to get renders, I have yet to come through with one. I’d rather play catch-up than sacrifice integrity. I’ll follow up in the Voice eventually, but in the meanwhile, the blog is fair game because I make no money from it.

7. The town of Ithaca planning board looks to have a fairly quiet agenda for next week. Renewing some temporary modular structures at Cornell, construction signage for Maplewood, and An 11-lot subdivision on South Hill, “Ithaca Estates III” featuring Lilium Lane, Monarda Way and Rock Cress Road.

Unfortunately, it’s the Monkemeyer property, where the town has been entertaining ideas of a new urban neighborhood since its new Comprehensive Plan was passed in 2014. Evan Monkemeyer chose to revive a plan from 2010 for two cul-de-sacs off of a new arterial road that would cut through the property; and given the long-term build-out schematic shown above, there would be more cul-de-sacs to come, for a fairly conventional 1990s era suburban layout. Even though he’s apparently mowed the future roads in place on satellite, this doesn’t match up with the town’s Form Ithaca-inspired visions at all. The issue isn’t the housing, it’s the layout. The town’s planning push has been moving away from cul-de-sacs and towards connected streets.

Monkemeyer’s gone down this road before. It didn’t work out very well. Reviving a seven year-old plan that doesn’t fit with the town’s more recent Comprehensive Plan is not, and shouldn’t be, something that is going to sail through the planning board. Token future park space isn’t going to change that. Of course, then he’ll just whine to Rep. Tom Reed again. To Monkemeyer’s credit, the town has been taken uncomfortably long with formulating their new zoning code, it looks like some of the multi-year delay was the town’s fault over who was responsible for a water easement – but given the 6+ years since the issue was raised, it doesn’t appear he was pushing the matter much.





Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 3/2017

22 03 2017

From the outside, Collegetown Terrace’s third and final phase is nearly complete. Some cement panels and clapboards are still being attached at the ends and the south face, and the entry areas need to be finished out, but otherwise it looks like the exterior is mostly finished.

Peering through the windows as the lights clicked on, it looks like drywall has been hung in most of the units, and closet doors and cabinetry are or are being installed, meaning they’re pretty far along and that finishing work is all that’s left for some units (there are 344 units, so it could take a while to do them all). All in all, things look on track for the expected summer completion. Kudos to Welliver for keeping such a massive building on schedule.

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209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 2/2017

1 03 2017

Admittedly, when the entire building is sealed up in opaque plastic covers, it makes for a less-than-interesting construction update. The plywood doors are for the loading and unloading of materials via lifts, and apart from those, there isn’t much to break up the monotony of white plastic sheets. Note that the access doors are not the same as the elevator shaft, which is located about midway along the west wall next to 205 Dryden/Dryden South.

However, it does look like some exterior facade work is starting to get underway. Brown and grey metal panels are beginning to be installed on the building’s rear face – this is the side that will have the least amount of glass, as occupants won’t have much to see if developer John Novarr moves forward with his plans for townhomes on the double-lot of a house that came down to allow a construction staging area for the Breazzano Center. With the new home to the Executive MBA expected to open up this Spring, Novarr can proceed with options for that double-lot. 238 Linden is zoned CR-4, four floors with no required parking. The proposed townhouses could provide a visual transition between the 80-foot Breazzano and the 2.5 story houses that comprise most of the housing stock on this block of Linden Avenue, some of which are for pending sale.

In further detail, the rear facade windows are 1″ insulated glass with aluminum frames, and translucent insulated spandrel glass below the panes. The metal panels are insulated aluminum and are installed using a framing system – you can see the grey insulated panels with clips along the top edge of the panels. The plastic covers on the panels are to protect against scratches and scuffs prior to installation. ikon.5 sought to provide differentiation with mahogany brown panels on the south (Linden Avenue) side, with lighter salmon-peach panels planned for the north (Dryden Road). The west and east sides will be a little bit of of both. The first floor the street facing sides, and the atrium will be glass curtain walls. The dark panels are intended “to differentiate upper from lower and facilitate a relationship with the smaller scale of adjacent buildings,” per the application. Some of the later documents show a lighter shade of gray for the south side of the top floors, but to be frank, I am uncertain what is accurate.

Note that the fourth floor’s back side will have few windows because that is where the 1,990 SF video production studio will be located, and this requires a controlled-light environment. Presumably, with the green room and studio rooms, the intent is to have a comfortable and efficient interview space for live videos recorded for or streamed to students at remote campuses. The large flank of plywood panels at ground level is the service exit, with future loading dock and trash/recyclables enclosure.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 1/2017

8 01 2017

And to think that a year ago about this time, Collegetown Terrace’s Building 7 was just an excavated trench.

On the outside, facade installation continues. It looks like that, along with the fish scales and aluminum panels, there might be a dark blue fiber cement siding not unlike that seen on the smaller buildings lining East State Street. The east cinder block stairwell seen in November’s photos has been wrapped in waterproofing and is now receiving its exterior finishes. Most of the windows have been fitted at this point. The AC units have yet to be installed, and from what could be seen through the windows and openings, the inside has had drywall hung in some locations, but is still down to the stud walls in other sections. There are a couple of architectural quirks that give the building a little bit of visual interest – for instance, the reverse-pitch on the roof where Valentine Place terminates, probably indicating a stairwell or landing area, breaks up the monotony of the wall. I really like the curtain-wall glass used for the amenities/common area at the southwest corner of the structure.

A pine tree on the roof is a traditional way to celebrate the “topping out” of the building.

By the way, I have been wrong – the fish scales are in fact metal, their finish coat just makes them feel like vinyl. According to a trade industry website, they are “0.032-aluminum (0.032” thickness), diamond-shaped, flat metal CastleTop Shingles from ATAS International Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania. ikon.5 architects selected three standard colors-Hartford Green, Patina Green and Hemlock Green-and four designer colors-Adobe Dust, Metallic Gold, Acorn Yellow and Louisburg Green.” It looks like the shingles are more commonly advertised for roofing, although their interlocking tabs allow them to be used for walls as well. The three shades of green on Building 7 are the three standard colors, logic being that designer color shingles likely cost more and were used more sparingly. The other four show up on Building 3 where it approaches East State Street.

 

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209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 12/2016

14 12 2016

Cornell’s Breazzano Family Center at 209-215 Dryden Road is closed up for the winter. Literally, with white plastic sheeting, as a protective measure against the elements while interior work moves along. The plywood holes on the front and back sides are removable so that a lift can deliver materials to different floors of the 6-story building. One can make out the dramatic entry foyer above the steel stretching out the sheeting above the ground floor. Note that the height of the building, 80 feet, is the maximum permitted under Collegetown’s form zoning (MU-2, up to 6 floors or up to 80 feet).

The plan is to have the new 76,300 SF building open by Summer 2017. Hayner Hoyt Corporation of Syracuse is the general contractor.

After the last Breazzano update a couple months ago, I had contacted Cornell to do a piece about the expanding Executive MBA program, what’s driving the growth, why Collegetown, and so on…but after being led around or misled by several emails over a few weeks, I gave up on the piece. For what it’s worth, Poets and Quants did a thoughtful article and interview here with the Johnson School Dean, Soumitra Dutta, talking about the future of the MBA program and the business school merger with the Dyson/AEM program and the Hotel School. Maybe I’d have had better luck if I just sidestepped Cornell’s PR unit.

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