Visions Federal Credit Union Construction Update, 1/2020

21 01 2020

For regional businesses, Ithaca and Tompkins County are attractive markets to try and break into. Compared to its Southern Tier and Finger Lakes peers (Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn), it’s a sizable market that’s more affluent and more economically prosperous, two things that bode well for business growth if a company thinks they can make the initial investment costs will pay off.

Visions Federal Credit Union appears to making the leap. Founded in 1966, Visions FCU is headquartered in the Binghamton suburb of Endwell (where it recently doubled the size of its headquarters) and currently hosts 52 branch offices across three states. The not-for-profit financial institution boasts over 200,000 members, $4.1 billion in assets and 650 employees. Currently, the closest location to Tompkins County is the branch office in the Tioga County town of Spencer.

Site plans first submitted to the city in May 2019 indicated that the new credit union branch would be built at 410 Elmira Road, on a vacant lot fronting the Elmira Road Shopping Plaza, which houses Home Depot, Kohl’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Widewaters Group, the Syracuse-based firm who owns the plaza, had quietly marketed the outparcel space on since at least early 2018, envisioning a restaurant or similar small-scale establishment would one day occupy the site, along with a sizable amount of parking.

Here, Visions Federal Credit Union is proposing to build a 3,320 SF branch office with a parking lot containing 20 spaces and drive-up ATMs. The building will be finished out in a fairly standard mix of painted aluminum metal panel system and fiber cement, with a CMU base and aluminum window system. More interestingly, the majority of the lot would be fenced in from the adjacent roadways and turned into an outdoor amphitheater. A 940 SF stage structure would be built at the southern end of the property, and the lawn would be maintained for use as an outdoor event and entertainment venue – rough estimates put the seating capacity at about 500, with the shopping center parking lot to double as a parking area for concert series attendees (the initial plan is five concerts from May-September, with smaller events in between). The remainder of the property would be fitted out with stormwater retention areas, landscaping improvements, a small amount of sidewalk, electric vehicle charging stations, a pet-friendly outdoor waiting area next to the building and bike racks.

According to the Site Plan Review (SPR) document, the $1.25 million project will take about eight months to build out – the original construction period was to be October 2019 – May 2020, but as these projects often go, the actual groundbreaking was delayed until just a couple of weeks ago (or rather, at least the site prep is underway; I did not see a building permit filed with the city when I visited the permits office last week, but then again, that’s an 800-page stack of paper including everything from bathroom remodels to new multistory buildings). The number of jobs that would be created is not stated in the filing, but a bank/credit union branch office of this size typically employs eight to 10 people. Design/build firm PWCampbell of Pittsburgh is listed as the project designer, with Rochester-based Costich Engineering serving as the engineering consultant.

Some details were tweaked during review – the amphitheater was adjusted away from the road because of safety concerns. There will be a heavy-duty three-rail wood fence and some trees between the road and seating area. The building itself was largely unaltered, which is rather unusual, but this is a less fussed-over part of the city and the project fully complies with the SW-2 zoning. The supplemental docs say they were looking into heat pumps and a solar canopy for their electric charging stations, but it’s not clear if those will be installed. Approval was granted in August 2019.

According to the Visions FCU press release, “Visions brings a new banking option to the Ithaca community that includes lower interest rates on loans, competitive earnings on savings, a shared network of fee-free ATMs, and more. As a member-owned not-for-profit, Visions is committed to both member and community service.” The credit union is looking to make a positive first impression through some monetary charitable donations to local non-profits, and plans to sponsor and participate in community service events to ingratiate itself with the greater community.

The site is being cleared and graded for construction at the moment. The elevated pad in the first photo is where the new branch office will be built. The third photo shows the graded site pad for the amphitheater.





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 1/2020

18 01 2020

The new exterior cladding is going up on the renovated and expanded Maguire Ford-Lincoln at 504 South Meadow Street. Generally speaking, the materials consist of Alcoa ribbed aluminum panels on the back and sides, Alpolic aluminum panels on the front, and painted panels on the old service wing being retained and incorporated into the renovation. For automakers, aluminum panels are often the desired finish of choice because it projects a clean, modern image, and automotive sales are all about pushing the latest and greatest technologically-advanced four-wheeled machines out onto the roads. You can see on the rear wall how rails are attached to the exterior wall, and the panels are attached to the rails above the sheathing. (The reason why the facade wasn’t finished out in that section is because they’ll be installing an awning atop the ribbed panels.)

Many of the windows have yet to be fitted, and the old service wing is still sheathed in Tyvek housewrap while it waits for its exterior panels given the way it was flapping in the breeze, the contractor might want to use more fasteners). The curved “airfoil” feature with the Ford blue oval has yet to be installed at the front entrance, but there are spaces on either side of the entrance that suggest where it will be attached to the main structure. The Lincoln logo will go above 2×3 black aluminum swatch on the northeast corner next to the entrance, as requested by Ford corporate design guidelines. Initially, the plan was to have an exposed concrete masonry base, but late in the review process they upgraded to stone veneer, which lends a more upscale and aesthetically pleasing appearance to the structure. It does look like some windows were changed or deleted when compared to the last set of drawings from review, but minor fenestration alterations are typically a minor enough change that re-review isn’t warranted.

According to a filing with the Tompkins County clerk on January 13th, CFCU Community Credit Union is lending the Maguire Family of Dealerships $5,362,500 to fund the renovation and expansion. This is unusually high; the Site Plan Review estimated the cost of the project at $1.5 million. The loan notes that fees and other expenses mostly related to the mortgage total $1.788 million, which still lends a very substantial $3.574 million towards the construction project itself, to be paid out in six payments, and all except about $12,000 of that going to the general contractor, G.M. Crisalli & Associates of Syracuse. The terms of the agreement stipulate a completion no later than July 1st.

Background information and project details can be found here.





GreenStar Co-Operative Market Construction Update, 12/2019

18 12 2019

In the home stretch at 770 Cascadilla Street. From the outside, the project is largely complete. The exterior siding for the 16,500 SF store is nearly finished. The landscaping and paving have been laid out, with the grass seeded, the asphalt striped (148 spaces) and the lighting fixtures in place. The custom protective metal grates around the trees are a nice touch. The farm stand pavilion accessory structure has yet to be installed, the signage has yet to go up, and about the only major detail on the main building that appears to be unfinished is the exterior mural on the northeast wall, something that may have to wait until the warmer spring months. Unfortunately, it looks like some details, like the windows above the front doors, were value engineered out late in the design process.

The inside is in the process of being fitted out with equipment, with some late-stage finishing work apparent through the windows. The store is expected to open in March 2020, after the equipment is in, shelves are stocked and electronics are tested. Once that happens, GreenStar will sell its old properties to the City Harbor development team for $2 million.

At last report, the GreenStar Capital Campaign, largely intended to serve the project through community-based owner-members, had raised $1,938,500 towards its $2 million end of 2019 goal. Click this link for some more interior shots, showing the new lighting, interior outfitting, and high-efficiency refrigeration equipment. Also up are some construction videos of the project on YouTube.

This will probably be the last visit; as far as this blog’s concerned, this project is complete. The project is the result of a partnership between GreenStar and the City Harbor partners (Edger Enterprises, Morse Construction and Lambrou Real Estate) as Organic Nature LLC. Local architecture firm STREAM Collaborative is in charge of exterior design, and architect Pam Wooster will handle the interior layout. Elmira’s Edger Enterprises will be the general contractor for the buildout. Delaware River Solar will supply the solar energy to power the building via an off-site array.

History and project specs can be found here.

 





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 10/2019

8 11 2019

Over at 504 South Meadow Street, the concrete foundation pad is in, and the exterior masonry block wall and steel frame appear to be built out. Fireproof gypsum sheathing board are being attached to the structural steel at the back – interestingly enough, the building doesn’t appear to have exterior stud walls, so it’s not 100% clear if the west windows as depicted in the renders will make it into final product. Lighter gauge steel at the front denotes future architectural details like the curved foil vestibule and the modern, clean image Ford wants its franchisees to project. That part’s not really negotiable. Maguire is required to follow a preset design language and the architect (John Snyder Architects) has to keep the design within those bounds. Some interior steel stud walls can be seen in the building’s interior, though it doesn’t appear much progress has been made on the utilities rough-ins (mechanical, electrical, plumbing).

To give an idea of that corporate design language, the recently renovated Maguire’s Ford Lincoln in Palmyra Pennsylvania also has the curved foil vestibule, large glassy facade facing out into the public lot, and muted light and dark greys with aluminum (Alpolic) metal composite panels. The architects can decide where those features go and how they fit together, so long as they fit together in a way Ford approves (and Ford does weigh in – they rejected some of the Planning Board’s ideas, so Maguire had to sort of meet the two stakeholders halfway with details like the rear/west wing masonry. It’s not Ford’s particular desire, and it’s less than what the Planning Board wanted, but they accepted the compromise).

It’s always struck me as a little odd to put in curbing while heavy duty vehicles are still coming in and out of the construction site given the possibility of crushing the newly-laid curbing, but it’s not all that unusual. The new curbing (laid by machine, kinda mesmerizing to watch) gives an idea of where the new greenspaces will be on site. The planning board was very adamant about having a certain percentage of green space on the dealership lot when reviewing the project, which will be filled in with a number of trees and ornamental shrubs much later, when construction is nearly complete.

The last I checked, although approvals have been granted, the Maguire Nissan on Cinema Drive in Lansing village did not yet appear to be underway. The Nissan brand will move to that new 25,200 square-foot location when it is complete.

I’d expect this $1.5 million, 24,110 SF project to be ready sometime next spring. Background writeup and project description here.





GreenStar Co-Operative Market Construction Update, 9/2019

14 09 2019

Over at the new GreenStar Co-Op at 770 Cascadilla Street, framing for the structural awnings and entrance bump-out are underway, and new windows have been fitted into what had been the windowless (if colorful, thanks to street art) exterior. The Owner Investment Program, which allows Co-Op members to invest in the expansion and receive a share of profits (dividends), has raised $1,659,500 and has a fall 2019 goal of $2 million (the ultimate goal is $2.5 million).

In a blog post, the Co-Op touts the new customer shopping experience to be had starting next spring, including expanded service areas and food offerings, as well as a number of cutting edge features in the name of ecological sustainability (100% solar power, 85% waste diversion through recycling/composting/donation of food, etc.). The accompanying photos show some new interior renders, as well as interior stud wall framing, drywall hanging, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing installation.

For better or worse, GreenStar’s issues haven’t involved the new flagship under construction lately, but potential labor violations and accusations of unfair treatment of workers seeking to form a union. Beyond the purview of a construction blog post, but just pointing it out for the sake of acknowledgement.





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 8/2019

14 08 2019

The north wing of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln dealership is about as gutted as it can get, with nothing left but the foundation footers, the concrete slab, and the structural steel.

New rebar is being kept on site for the foundation slab of the new additions, with a steel mesh likely intended for the concrete pour. The mesh will be laid into the excavated footprint and used to strengthen the concrete as the slab hardens. It’s a little hard to tell from a distance (the fencing perimeter is quite large, given that some of the site is still actively in use for car sales), but it looks like wood forms have been assembled for pouring and curing of the foundation walls and footers for the northwest addition – the northeast addition is not so clear, because the large soil mound blocks it from view. The trailer on site belongs to Breton Construction of Attica, perhaps for subcontracted excavation or foundation work. G. M. Crisalli & Associates is the general contractor.

The last I checked (drive-by a few weeks ago), work had yet to start on the new Maguire Nissan in the village of Lansing. Nissan will relocate from this site to their new showroom across town when it is ready in about a year. (It’s a strange combination of automakers. Ford and Nissan shared design and mechanical work on the Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager minivan back in the ’90s, but I can’t think of any other overlap between the brands.)

Project information and a detailed history and description of the Maguire Ford-Lincoln reconstruction can be found here.

Final site plan.





Maguire Ford-Lincoln Construction Update, 5/2019

2 06 2019

When the Maguire Carpenter Park proposal was shot down in November 2016, that wasn’t the end of the company’s expansion plans. Maguire is by far the largest auto sales firm in the county, and is the 11th-largest employer with about 440 employees as of 2018. Auto makers expect constant refreshing of facilities to keep up with their designs; a failure to maintain the preferred aesthetics and desired features in a sales facility could result in the loss of privileges to sell the latest models rolling off the assembly line.

There’s also another factor that goes into vehicle sales, that being vehicle service, which is a large share of Maguire’s business (something like 40%). People don’t like to travel far to get their vehicles inspected and repaired. This limits Maguire’s ability to move to just the urban and inner suburban parts of the county; the town of Lansing might have offered them land at the Town Center, sure, but the Town Center site is too far away from most of the county’s population for the Maguires to maintain a viable business operation.

While the Chrysler-Fiat dealership was refreshed and modestly expanded a few years ago, the next phase of projects is more substantial. Maguire Ford-Lincoln-Nissan will be the first of those projects. Located at 504 South Meadow Street on the southwest side of the city, it is a two-story auto dealership on 3.11 acres, originally built in 1983 and expanded in 1999. Maguire will be demolishing some of the older portions and building new additions – the southern half of the building, used more for service, will remain largely intact from the outside, though the interior will be renovated. The northern half is where the bulk of the work will take place. The existing building is 18,500 SF, with 2,265 SF proposed for demolition and 7,865 SF of additions. The new building will be 24,110 SF.

The goals of the project are to meet Ford’s revised corporate standards and customer experience requirements, and improve interior circulation while expanding the Ford/Lincoln sales area (quick note for those unaware, Lincoln is the luxury sister brand to Ford; Mercury was the upscale in-between brand, before it was shut down a decade ago). The Nissan dealership will move to a brand new 25,300 SF location to be built off of Cinema Drive in the village of Lansing.

The western addition includes a service drive through addition to the rear (west side) of the building, including the expansion of the existing second floor for additional offices displaced from the first floor. This addition replaces an existing canopy (open air) structure currently used for car parking. The first floor will be renovated to include a new service waiting area for customers.

The northeastern addition includes expansion of the showroom end of the building (north and east side), aligning the building with the existing service bay portion of the building currently located on the south side of the building. Also included in this addition is a new entrance to the showroom meeting Ford corporate branding requirements. On the outside, Ford corporate requirements dictate new metal exterior panels that will encompass all sides of the building. The showroom (north side) will be differentiated from the service side of the building with differing types of metal panels. The showroom addition also includes the new Ford “foil” curved form vestibule. The interior will also feature new plumbing, electrical, mechanical and HVAC. To quote the application, “(t)his will transform the exterior appearance of the building making the exterior of this “utilitarian” car dealership into a modern, contemporary car showroom and service center.”

On the outside, new striping, LED lighting and landscaping will be deployed. During the review process, the planning board had issues with the lack of green space, so the lot attempts to use as much as possible within the limited size of the lot and Ford’s corporate requirement for parking spaces on-site (brands dictate a lot of the programming). The site will host 311 spaces, the vast majority (207) for new car display, and a smaller number for staff, customers and on-site service parking, but it also meets the 12% green space requirement for the SW-2 zone.

It’s a pretty tight timeline for construction, and Ford was pressuring Maguire quite a bit on the lengthy approvals process (the BZA wasn’t planning meetings in December 2018 or January 2019 due to lack of quorum, so the project team was practically begging the planning board to approve the front yard variance at the same time as preliminary approval). The project is expected to be completed by the end of the fall at the latest (this says September, but I dunno when the permits were issued in March as planned). During review, the project added more windows as requested, but did not employ masonry as suggested by the board because Ford rejected it.

John Snyder Architects of Ithaca is the project architect, and local firm Elwyn and Palmer is the structural engineer for the project. Saratoga Associates (of Saratoga Springs, fittingly) is the site and civil engineer. According to a tipster, G. M. Crisalli of Syracuse is the general contractor – and it’s not their first Ithaca rodeo, as they were GC for the Dryden Eddy Apartments and the Top of the Hill Apartments in Collegetown. The project cost is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to the Site Plan Review filing.

At this time, demolition is underway, and it looks like Bellisario Excavation and Drainage is the demo/site prep subcontractor. Some of the exterior facade has been stripped in the areas to be refaced and/or built out, while the northern wing is largely exposed thanks to the selective tear-downs. Props to the car salesmen who were working while all of this was going on.

 

Gosh, have trucks gotten expensive…

Early site plan.

Final site plan.