News Tidbits 7/7/2018

7 07 2018

1. The infill project at 209 Hudson has been revised and reduced in size. The new plan from the Stavropoulos family of developers calls for just one new duplex at this time, on the existing lawn and swimming pool of the extra-large lot. The rear duplex was eliminated in the revised plan. A small zoning variance is still required for the subdivision (side yard deficiency), but it’s less likely to catch the ire of BZA members this time around because more mature trees are preserved in this reduced-size iteration. Modest bay window projections, fiber cement panels and wood trim will help create a higher quality product.

The duplex would be a quick build since it’s modular, but it’s not going to be ready in time for fall semester – spring (January) would be feasible, if the individual units are assembled before the snow flies. The Planning Board will make their recommendation this month, and the BZA will have their vote in early August, with potential final approval in late August. Quick note, as this has fallen under the threshold for the Ithaca project map (3 units or more), it has been removed.

Also due for review this month are final approvals for 128 West Falls Street (above) and a 3,200 SF endcap addition at South Meadow Square, and approval of a subdivision at 508-512 Edgewood Place.

2. Recently, Visum Development posted photos on their Facebook/Instagram taken during setup for an interview with Park Productions, and Ithaca College student media group. Normally, that’s not something to write about, but this caught my attention:

327 West Seneca is the new all-affordable project they introduced at last month’s planning board meeting. As for the others, I don’t have much of a clue. Ithaca does not have a Main Street, so that’s likely another community. 409 State may refer to an older building at 409 West State or 409 East State, but 409 East State is Travis Hyde’s Gateway Center property (and who at last check had no plans to sell).

As for the others, it looks like the first number was erased. Also of note, there is no East Cayuga, it’s just North and South. So I dunno quite what to make of it – hints of projects with some red herrings, it seems. Worth a look, but it’s not much to work with just yet.

3. Time for a little more speculation. A vacant lot east of 404 Wood Street in the city of Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood sold for $70,000 on June 26th. The buyers were a husband-and-wife pair who also happen to work for Taitem Engineering, a prominent local consulting engineering firm with specialties in structural engineering and associated branches in the context of green/sustainable building operation. The pair previously did a LEED Platinum, net-zero energy home in Ulysses two years ago. The likely guess here is that they’ll be building their next net-zero energy residence on this lot.

As previously noted when the property went up for sale in January 2016 (it was later subdivided from 404 Wood, which was sold a while ago), “(p)laying with some numbers a little bit, there are a couple of options if a buyer wanted to build something. The first and probably easier option would be to subdivide the lot and build on the vacant corner parcel. That would give, per R-3b zoning regulations of 40% lot coverage and 4 floors, about 1400 SF per floor. That gives 5600 SF, and if one assumes 15% off for circulation/utilities and 850 SF per unit, you get a 5 or 6 unit building at theoretical maximum.”

TL;DR – if they want to do a small infill net-zero apartment building, they can. If they want to do a sizable single-family residence, they can do that as well. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

4. On the policy side, the Ithaca Common Council voted Wednesday night to move forward with a CIITAP stipulation stating projects pursuing the tax abatement must have a mandatory affordable housing component of 20%, available to those making 75% Area Median Income, affected all residential projects with ten units or more.The extension of CIITAP applicable properties along the Waterfront was also approved.

The policy comes forth after considerable debate over the right percentage and right income to apply. It’s the Goldilocks principle – too little and you don’t add an appreciable amount of affordable housing and may even decrease the amount once redevelopment occurs in lower-income blocks, too much and developers just won’t build (the Portland problem), and those who stick around will renovate existing buildings instead, meaning less supply overall, fewer existing lower-income units and accelerated gentrification. Among things discussed Wednesday night, a proposal to modify the mandatory size requirement of affordable units from a minimum of 80% the square-footage of the market-rate to 100% failed 5-4 (needed six), the % of affordable units went from 10% to 25% (the 25% was the First Ward’s George McGonigal, who has a history of being opposed to new market-rate and affordable housing, and did not get a second to open discussion).

It’s too early to say if this is too much or not enough – the City Harbor folks were in attendance for the discussion (they were at the meeting for a different topic), but didn’t raise concerns to 20%, so it seems likely their project is able to continue. The county IDA is the grantee of abatements with the city in an advisory role only, so they’ll have the final say on the application of the new law.

5. Tompkins Cortland Community College’s Childcare Center has the funds it needs to move forward. The project, first proposed in February 2016, calls for an 8,000 SF, $4 million building, plus a $1.5 million endowment for operating costs. State funds support much of the cost, as well as a $2 million donation from Ithaca CEO and major TC3 donor Arthur Kuckes, for whom the center will be named.

According to Jamie Swinnerton over at Tompkins Weekly, the project includes six classrooms with two infant rooms, three playgrounds, and be, in part, staffed by students studying to be teachers and childcare providers. 12 jobs will be created, and since it’s for faculty, students and staff, those jobs are expected to be full-time and all year-round. The building is expected to be partially opened by the start of the Spring semester, and fully occupied by the Fall 2019 semester.

Design-wise, the latest design in Tompkins Weekly shows smaller windows and the loss of some hipped roof bumpouts at the rear of the building (older version here). Value engineering noted, but the goal of helping students with children stay in school, and get the degrees they want to build their professional foundations on outweighs any shade thrown at the design changes.

6. Also finally moving forward – Lansing Meadows. There was an 11th-hour holdup for the 20-unit senior housing project when the village expressed discomfort with accepting future ownership of Lansing Meadows Drive, feeling the turns were too sharp and posed a liability. Developer Eric Goetzmann relented and agreed to maintain the road as a private road, and the village board approved the project 3-2; there are still a lot of sore feelings about the often-delayed and arguably underwhelming final proposal. Goetzmann has until July 31st to obtain permits to begin construction, or else the county IDA will recommence seeking clawback reparations from abated taxes, most of which went toward the BJ’s that was built in 2011-12.

7. Let’s slay some inbox rumors. East Hill Village is not cancelled. Nor is Trinitas’ Dryden Townhomes project. I checked with the project teams – both are still active projects. However, East Hill Village is waiting on the town of Ithaca to finish updating its zoning to a more form-based code, and the project will not move forward until that happens.

8. For fun: here’s a Google Docs spreadsheet on how the Ithaca metropolitan area lines up with other metros on new home construction permits since 1980. Key takeways – Ithaca/Tompkins County was in the top 10% of metros in 2017 for multi-family housing permits per capita (30th of 381), but it lags quite a bit in the construction of single-family homes, so its overall rank is only the 64th percentile (137th of 381). Even then, it’s still one of the fastest growing housing markets per capita in the Northeastern United States. 2016 and 2017 have been strong years, while 2015 and earlier were generally well below the national average.

The multi-family number per capita is arguably skewed higher than a typical year thanks to large projects like 441-unit/872-bed Maplewood, but the message seems to be that the community is seeing real results from its push for housing. However, with a lack of single-family being built, Ithaca and Tompkins County need to figure out ways to compensate for what single-family provides (i.e. home ownership). It’s not necessarily “we should build more single-family homes” although that is part of the answer. It’s also encouraging suitable single-home substitutes (condos) in desirable areas while maintaining a strong, steady flow of new units as the local economy continues to grow.

 





(UPDATED) Cornell’s Library Shutdown Count Up to Three

23 06 2010

So, I log into facebook and find this page being posted into my news feed.

So, this comes as a bit of surprise. But I don’t buy into it. First of all, there’s nothing online — nothing on the Daily Sun, nothing on the engineering website, no data to back this up at all. Secondly, decisions like this are usually made over the span of months, even years (for example, the physical sciences library’s shutdown was formalized in March 2009 (an attentive reader of this blog actually told me about it before the Sun even had published the story); the library did not shut down until nearly a year afterwards (and no offense to Munier, but that library was definitely one of the lesser-used and therefore more expendable library facilties on campus). Decisions like this aren’t just “made” without a great deal of debate beforehand.

The one grain of truth I can throw into this is that the master plan indicates that the facilty to replace Hollister and Carpenter is under way — but that would suggest Carpenter getting demolished, not reappropriated. Plus, that’s still in the planning phases. Maybe a library would be in the Gates Hall plans, which are currently at the very beginning of the funding and approvals process; but I doubt it at this time.

I call bullcrap on this one until some information is published that indicates otherwise (see update). If there is any truth to it, going all alarmist  and calling the office staff (like the page suggests) is just going to make matters worse.

(UPDATED) So the author of the facebook page attached several official-lloking documents detailing the removal of the library’s book to Olin and Uris. IT would appear that the ACCEL computer labs would be kept and the labs would be made into a 24-hour unit (but isn’t that the lab in Upson exists?). Meanwhile, Munier has posted onto their page a link from Mann Library saying that the Entomology Library will be shut down and merged with Mann. So it would appear Cornell’s cost-cutting will shut down two more libraries they consider “less-used”.

I hope Cornell doesn’t release any more ads touting their expansive library system anytime soon.





Stupid Frat Tricks II: How to Screw Up Recruitment

23 01 2010

So I checked my email today and received the following excerpt in an email from the IFC:

“I am writing to provide you all with an update of events that occurred last night that resulted in a fraternity having their university recognition temporarily suspended.  The suspension is in response to a recruitment event at the fraternity house that resulted in the hospitalization of three students due to alcohol poisoning.  These students were transported to the hospital by brothers of the fraternity late last night.  The Ithaca Police Department responded to the event as well and are currently investigating along with Cornell University Police.  This incident is being taken very seriously and will likely have repercussions that effect the entire system.  At this time the fraternity has been instructed to desist from all activities including recruitment.”

While the chapter at least got them medical attention, the act was stupid, dangerous and intolerable. To the point that the fraternity (rumor mill suggests Pi Kappa Alpha) has lost recognition and will not be allowed to have a pledge class. Well, considering the similar incident that happened with Sigma Pi a couple of years ago, I guess this is proof that history has a habit of repeating itself.





Rumor Mill: Alpha Xi Delta’s New House?

9 06 2009

Being in another part of the country sort of limits my ability to keep this blog as active as it usually is. That being said, occasionally some tip or rumor comes along, and if it piques my curiosity, I’ll sooner or later get around to addressing it.

In this case, it would appear that popular rumor is ciruclating that Alpha Xi Delta sorority would be moving into Alpha Omicron Pi sorority’s old house. To make a long story short, AOPi closed this past year for a number of reasons, leaving their recently renovated (and rather luxurious, if I dare say) house on Ridgewood Road open. The house itself has a long storied history of being involved in the Greek system, with no less than four different Greek organizations calling at home at some point or another in its nearly one-hundred year history (see other entries).

The rumor has its plausible points. For one, Alpha Xi Delta doesn’t own their house at 115 The Knoll. That house is still owned by Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, which closed about six years ago [1]. Rumor mill seems to suggest that Alpha Xi Delta’s moving to Ridgewood may not be permanent, as AOPi stated that once the last sisters graduate (2011?), the sorority is hoping to reactivate itself, persumably in the house it owns.

I guess my question is, if the rumor turns out to true, then what’s being done with 115 The Knoll? Is Delta Phi Epsilon reactivating, or is the house intended for another purpose? I s’pose only time will tell on this one.

 [1]http://www.rso.cornell.edu/DPhiE/DRhistory.html





Trouble At “The Castle on the Rock”?

20 04 2009

100_1611

EDIT – So, they’re not going dry or closing, but they are reorganizing. Their Recruitment Chair was kind enough to offer an explanation on the validity of the rumors in the comments section.

Normally, I shy away from rumors, but this one has been persisting for some time, and so I’m going to address it now so that hopefully fact can be pulled from the fiction.

Naturally, this deals with the Greek system that has been the topic of many an entry. This is the story that rumor mill has supplied me, with little variation, from four seperate sources:

Beta Theta Pi will be either closing or going dry at Cornell University. Rumor mill claims that their alumni visited them on a Tuesday to find many of the brothers drunk, and they weren’t too happy. Apparently they were given the ultimatum to either go dry or disband. At this point, two sources said they’re going dry and half the brothers deactivated, and the other two sources said the fraternity is closing completely.

This vague passage from their website doesn’t help matters: [1]

“2009 marks a new chapter in the history of our great house. Reorganized, reenergized, and refocused, we are committed to developing worthy individuals to be the best that they can be.”

I think it’s a shame if their’s truth to the closing. Beta has been at Cornell uninterrupted since 1879 (it changed it name over after the original fraternity, Alpha Sigma Chi, merged with Beta Theta Pi [1]).

Not too surprisingly, the brothers I know in that house are staying fairly quiet about the whole situation, apart from saying that they have been having some problems lately that are being addressed. I s’pose is there was any truth to the rumors, I’d be keeping a low profile too.

[1]http://www.betadelta.org/history.html