News Tidbits 7/14/2018

14 07 2018

1. We’ll start of in Dryden with some revisions to the Trinitas project. This project has slowly but steadily been winnowed down in size. The original proposal in late May was 224 units and 663 beds. The June revisions dropped that figure to 22 units and 649 beds. Now with the latest set of revisions, the unit and bed count has fallen to 220 units and 610 beds. In other words, capacity has dropped by about 8% so far. A copy of the presentation Trinitas gave to the town board last month can be found in their minutes on the town website here.

From a site plan perspective, you can see a number of substantial changes – some townhouse buildings were lengthened in the southern corner, other strings shortened or broken up, the clubhouse/community building is now a mixed-use structure, and a couple of townhouse strings were deleted outright. About the only portion that was unchanged was the trio of structures closest to Dryden Road.

The early working name for this project was “Fall Creek Village”, which while referencing Fall Creek just to its north, may not have been a wise choice given the neighborhood of Fall Creek in Ithaca, which has been the epicenter for Ithaca’s gentrification. It was suggested they change the name, ideally to something with “Varna” in it. There’s about a hundred other pros, cons and general thoughts shared during the meeting, which can be read here. The project team would like to have approvals by the end of the fall, for a Spring 2019 – August 2020 construction period. As all the paperwork is filed, reviewed and discussed, expect more revisions to the project before any final approval is considered and granted.

2. Tompkins Financial may have relocated all its operations to its new headquarters, but that doesn’t mean its the end of the road for its old properties. 1051 Craft Road, formerly home to the Tompkins Insurance Agency, was sold to Ithaca Dermatology Associates of Ithaca on June 5th for $1.2 million. The 7,541 SF building was built in 1995 and assessed at $990,000, so Tompkins Trust did okay with the sale price – they purchased the building for $965,000 in 2007.

The new chapter is, as you might’ve already guessed, medical office and service space. With the assistance of a $1.5 million construction loan from Tompkins Trust, the Ithaca Dermatology is renovating the building for its new clinic. The hard cost of the renovations (materials/labor) is $1.025 million, and the spruced up facilities are expected to be open by January. Local architecture firm Chiang O’Brien, who have a specialty in medical facilities (they did Cornell Health’s new building and Planned Parenthood’s new regional HQ) is designing the renovated space, and Hammond Heating and Plumbing is the contractor.

3. If you’re looking for something interesting in local planning board agenda, there isn’t much to see at the moment. The town of Ithaca’s PB will be looking at a vacant lot subdivision between 721 and 817 Elmira Road (no future plans stated), and a lot subdivision on Enfield Falls Road to create three home lots and a large wooded parcel to be conveyed to the state as a conserved natural area. Over in Lansing, they’ll be looking at a plan for five micro-sized rental cottages at 16 Hillcrest Road.

4. The near-waterfront office building at 798 Cascadilla Street has been sold. 798 Cascadilla LLC made a deal with the too-similarly named Cascadilla 798 LLC for $2.55 million on Thursday the 12th.  As reported when then building went on sale, the 18,271 SF office building is home to Palisade Corporation, a software firm specializing in decision making/risk analysis tools. 798 Cascadilla LLC is the managing company for Palisade co-founder Sam McLafferty, who recently passed away. Cascadilla 798 LLC is a bit of a question mark – they were created in May and registered to this address, so maybe someone else associated with Palisade is buying it. The asking price for 798 Cascadilla was $2.7 million, and the tax assessment is for $2 million. Pyramid Brokerage’s David Huckle conducted the sale.

5. Maybe something the infill folks in the city want to watch – 622 West Clinton Street just sold to Jerame Hawkins, who two years ago wanted to do an affordable duplex (60% Area Median Income) to replace the old barn (yes, barn) at the rear of the property, as well as keep the existing house locked in as affordable housing. Carina would have supplied the modular units for the three-bedroom townhomes, and Finger Lakes ReUse would have salvaged the barn. Hawkins had applied for $135k in IURA federal grant funds, but the proposal was not funded. However, his purchase of the property now makes a potential affordable infill project somewhat more likely, though we’ll have to wait and see.

6. Color me intrigued – does Pat Kraft have a tenant lined up for the ground level of his Dryden South building at 205 Dryden Road? I have yet to see paperwork, but we’ll see.

7. It appears the Stavropoulos family, local landlords who have undertaken several smaller-scale projects in recent years, are about to add to their holdings. It would appear they are buying out Jagat Sharma’s properties as the well-known Collegetown architect heads into retirement (since he’s almost 80, I can’t blame him). The Stavropoulos purchased a four-unit house at 208-210 Prospect Street from Sharma this week (for $480k, well above the $350k assessed), and an LLC notice was posted recently for 312 East Seneca LLC, which is registered to the Stavropouloses’ home address. 312 East Seneca is also the office of Sharma Architecture (and the cat cafe), and was eyed as a potential Visum acquisition for its Seneca Flats mixed-use plan at 201 North Aurora Street (Visum has conceptual plans for versions with and without Sharma’s lot, so this sale doesn’t kill their plans, though not having the property shrinks it somewhat).

Slowly but steadily, the Stavropoulos are buying and building their way to significantly-sized landlords. Current projects include the 11-unit building finishing up at 107 North Albany Street, and the infill duplex planned for 209 Hudson Street. Last year, they developed four units at 1001 North Aurora Street, and they have a dozen other properties throughout the city under the business name “Renting Ithaca“.

8. We’ll leave this off with some thoughts from the Tompkins County Housing Committee, with four initiatives it will be pursuing to help address the lack of affordable housing in Ithaca and its surrounding environs:

I. Solicit the state attorney general for ways it might be able to legally expand or enhance its Community Housing Development Fund with Cornell and the city of Ithaca. The CHDF is the only way the county can fund housing development since it can’t legally fund housing development directly, but CHDF is relatively limited in its scale and abilities.

II. Develop a proposal for a municipal matching fund to help with grant writing for affordable housing, zoning improvement and infrastructure to serve affordable housing.

III. Planning staff will conduct an infill site analysis in development focus areas (Downtown, State Street Corridor). This would potentially find opportunities in surplus or underused county property that may be developed as affordable housing through an RFP process.

IV. Planning Staff will participate in the Policy Lab Study (“Jennifer and George’s Study”) to provide data and help inform the client committee. I honestly have no idea what this refers to.

 

 

 





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.

 





News Tidbits 5/6/17: Starting Small and Dreaming Big

6 05 2017

1. The Evergreen Townhouses in Varna was hotly debated at the last town board meeting, per the Times’ Cassie Negley. Linda Lavine, one of the town board members, was particularly fierce in her criticism, calling the solar panels “useless”, and others in attendance expressed concern about appropriate room for amenities.

However, it also seems one of the phrases bandied about was that it wasn’t “family-friendly”. If you’re reading this and one of those folks, do yourself a favor and stop using that term. It’s an enormously baited phrase, historically used to fight affordable housing as a racist/classist euphemism, because people of a certain class or color were apparently less appropriate for families to be around. For an unfortunate example, it was a phrase used with the INHS 210 Hancock affordable housing plan in Ithaca. Think of it as the equivalent of a religious group claiming a TV show isn’t “family-friendly” because it has a same-sex couple, or feminists.

Although this project is market-rate, deciding whether or not something is “family-friendly” is subjective and potentially baited. It gives others the wrong idea on how to discuss the pros and cons of a project, which should be about features, or lack thereof. TL;DR, find a different phrase.

Oh, and on another note – Planning Board member Don Scutt. For someone claiming Dryden is getting an anti-business reputation, your work fighting the solar panels isn’t doing the town any favors. I don’t always (often?) agree with your mirror opposite and board colleague Joe Wilson, but at least I can say he’s consistent in his views.

Anyway, off soapbox. It looks like the public hearing was left open as the project may potentially pursue a modified plan of some form, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

2. The Trebloc property, future home of City Centre, has exchanged hands. 301 East State Street sold for $6,800,000 on April 28th. The seller was “Trebloc Development Company”, the company of developer Rob Colbert. The buyer was “City Centre Associates LLC”, a limited-liability entity created Newman Development. This brings the 8-story, 218,211 SF mixed-use project one step closer to getting underway.

3. A couple of news notes from the Tompkins County PEDEEQ (planning/dev catch-all) Committee meeting:

I. OAR’s transitional housing at 626 West Buffalo Street will be called “Endeavor House”.

II. The county is set to start work on its draft housing strategy. The annual goal figures through 2025 include:

–580 “workforce units” per year, of which 280 are rentals going for 50-100% area median income, and 300 would be for-sale, with 80 of those condos.

–student beds, either dorms or student housing developers, commensurate with enrollment growth

–special needs beds to those making 50% or less of AMI. No quantitative descriptor is given.

–350 units in the urban core, 50-100 in “emerging and established nodes”, 30 in rural centers and 100-150 in “other areas”, which includes suburban Lansing.

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4. 607 South Aurora Street is officially underway. Modern Living Rentals posted an update to their facebook page showing site prep for their infill residential project in the city of Ithaca’s South Hill neighborhood. The four new buildings will be two-family units with three-beds each (24 total), similar to those recently completed at 125 and 139 Old Elmira Road. If the statistics are correct, the existing house will be renovated into a two family house – the banner suggests a 4-bed unit and a 2-bed unit to bring the total to 30 beds. This project will get a full write-up later this month, and its progress will be tracked as it heads for an August completion.

5. Looking at the city of Ithaca’s projects memo, it doesn’t look like anything brand new will be coming up. The formal review process is set to begin on Visum Development’s 232-236 Dryden Road project. I’m kinda confused on STREAM’s project description because it references both 191 bedrooms and 206 bedrooms, and some of the numbers don’t match the parenthetical figures -for example, thirty-seven (42) bike spaces. Going off the FEAF, it looks like the number of beds has in fact been increased to 206. The construction timeframe is August 2017 – August 2018, and it looks like both buildings will comprise one phase. Deep foundation, so apologies in advance to the neighbors who may be hearing a a pile driver this fall. The developer is exploring net-zero energy options.

Also of note, 323 Taughannock received some visual tweaks. Gone are the cute sprial staircases leading to the waterfront, and in their place are more standard treatments. The group of five will now have their balconies on the third floor instead of the second floor. The changes on the front are more subtle, with the window fenestration now centered on each unit, and the front doors rearranged (old version here). Overall, the design is still roughly the same, it’s just a revision of a lot of details. Worth noting, given the crap soils on Inlet Island these will be on a timber pile foundation designed by Taitem Engineering. 238 Linden Avenue, 118 College Avenue and Benderson’s 7,313 SF retail addition are up for final approval this month.

6. Meanwhile, from the ILPC, it looks like there are a couple of density-expanding projects planned in the city’s historic districts. The first will renovate a garage at 339 South Geneva Street in the Henry St. John Historic District (part of Southside) into a one-bedroom carriage house. It’s infill, the garage is non-contributing and the design is an improvement, and it looks like a good if small project.

The other is a renovation of a classic Cornell Heights Mansion at 111 The Knoll into group housing for “Sophia House”, a Cornell Christian organization for women. The men’s equivalent, “Chesterton House”, is next door. The plan calls for renovating the five-bedroom, legal for eight-persons house into a 15-bed home. Part of that would entail demolishing the 1950s garage, which is connected by a breezeway to the ca. 1910 house, and replacing the garage with a four-bed addition, still connected through the breezeway.

Both designs are by STREAM Collaborative, as are 232-236 Dryden and 323 Taughannock. Can’t fault STREAM for being good at what they do – if a developer wants modern like 201 College, they get modern. If one wants traditional like the above examples, Noah Demarest and his team can do that too. They know the market and what works in terms of design. Unlike many local architecture firms, STREAM’s business is almost completely in Tompkins County – they did some concept design work in Rome and Utica, and some of the Tiny Timbers kits have been sold outside the county, but otherwise everything else is in or close to Ithaca. Business is good.

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7. Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, but Harold’s Square will eventually get underway. It appears the problem right now is that the tax abatement approved by the county is insufficient because of the increase in project costs (up 12% to $42.9 million), so the project team is heading back to the IDA to get the abatement revised (the Hilton Canopy did the same thing a few months ago). The project was previously approved for a 7-year abatement, but this time around they are seeking the 10-year abatement. Combined property, sales and mortgage tax abatement would come out to $5.089 million. New property taxes generated over the 10-year period would be $3.4 million (note that is on top of what’s already paid; IDA abatements use the current taxes as the baseline).

The office space and retail space look higher than previously stated (33k vs 25k, and 16k vs 12k), but it looks like that’s because the Sage Building renovations are included in the IDA numbers. The apartment count remains the same (108), although it looks like one 1-bedroom unit has been replaced with a 2-bedroom unit.

Two reasons are cited for the delay- issues with getting the office and retail space occupied, and a premium price on construction workers as a result of the increased local activity. The pre-development costs are clocking in around $800,000, so if it fails to get approval from the IDA’s board, that will be a pretty big cost to swallow.

Should it be approved, the construction timeline is stated as June 2017 through Q1 2019.

8. Just throwing this in for the sake of throwing this in – mark your calendars for May 17th, when Cornell hosts a forum about the new East Hill Village neighborhood from 5:30-7:30 PM at the East Hill Office Building at 395 Pine Tree Rd. The project website notes that it will start with a 30-minute presentation, followed by breakout groups to brainstorm what people do and don’t want included in the building plans – certain retail uses, housing components, general visions for the site. There will be more meetings over the next several months – the goal is an Autumn 2017 exhibition for the preliminary plans.





312-314 Spencer Road Construction Update, 3/2017

20 03 2017

Last update for these two-family homes. 125 Elmira Road and 129 Elmira Road are done and at least one of the 3-bedroom units is occupied. Each house uses three different colors of Certrainteed vinyl siding. Each floor has a unique lap siding finish, while the gables have colored shake siding and are roofed with asphalt shingles. Side note, the two older homes at 312 and 314 Spencer Road are being renovated as part of the project.

It’s only now occurring to me that the elevations presented in the initial SPR filing don’t match either structure – the diagram shows a house with bay window projections and two front entrances. 125 Elmira has the dual front entrances but no bay windows, while 129 has a front entrance and a side entrance (and as noted in January, the shake siding does not cover the whole bay projection as originally intended).

It’s not a large or imposing project, but it does give the east end of Old Elmira Road a more residential feel, and thoughtful infill is always welcome. For those interested in the background story, here is the link.

Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals is the developer, and Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative was the architect. Superior Walls did the concrete foundation. I have not seen anything about the general contractor, but if any readers know, please feel free to leave a note in the comments.





News Tidbits 3/12/17: Affordable Housing Week 2017

13 03 2017

It’s been a busy week. Let’s start by reviewing some of the entrants for the city’s affordable housing funds.

The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency will be holding public hearings on March 16th and 23rd 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, same number as last year, range from jobs training to community services to the development of affordable housing. All summed up, there’s $1.982 million requested, and $1.149 million available; that’s up from $1.85 million requested in 2016, with $1.54 million available (about $273,900 of that came from the returned funding for INHS’s cancelled project at 402 South Cayuga Street). In fact, the amount of money available is the lowest it’s been in a few years – in 2015, $1.78 million was requested out of $1.215 million available, just a little over two-thirds of the total. With the increasing requests, the chances for funding have gone down this year.

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.

1. The big new proposal coming out this year appears to be Lakeview Health Service’s plan for the corner of North Meadow and West Court Streets on the city’s West End. I expanded on the basics in a Voice article here, but for the blog’s sake, we’ll take a look at the finances.

In terms of leverage, it’s a pretty big project – a request of $250,000 towards a $20,081,186 project. However, keep in mind this project is only eligible for HOME funds and not CDBG (Federal Community Development Block Grants), and the city only has $295,245 in HOME funds to work with after overhead is taken into account – this is a pretty substantial request for something still in the conceptual stages.

The project fills a substantial by providing 50 units of affordable rental housing, all 1-bedroom units, in a 5-story building. Not only that, but half of those units would be set aside for those living with psychiatric disabilities. Ten of the general housing units would be available to those making 50-60% of area median income (AMI, about $27-$32k), with the other 40 going for less than or equal to 50% AMI. Those units will be interspersed with the general affordable housing. The special needs residents will be considered case-by-case; it’s for those who are generally independent, but may need assistance in stressful or difficult times. Lakeview will maintain an office on the first floor that will be staffed 24/7.

Some retail space will also be available on the first floor, which helps to cover the operational expenses, and meets the city’s goal of a more dense and vibrant West End. 17 parking spaces will be provided, so it’s expected the residents will utilize bikes and mass transit. The design will be slab-on-grade, with a deep foundation – soil in this part of the city is poor due to the high water table, so projects either have to be one or two floors with slab foundations, or they have to build enough floors to accommodate the costs of driving piles into the ground, in this case 80 feet down. This is something to keep in mind with the waterfront rezoning, as the soils are pretty similar.

The pro-forma assumes $730,300 in income in the first year after vacancies are noted, and about $313,500 in expenses, leaving a little over $416,800 for debt service. Everything goes up a little bit each subsequent year for inflation. The debt service is scheduled to last for 50 years.

Rochester’s PLAN Architectural Studios is the architect, so expect a modern design not unlike the cancelled concept plan for the Elmira Savings Bank site on West State and Meadow. The preliminary floor plan suggests the retail will face West Court Street rather than the Meadow/13 corridor.

As with many affordable projects, this one has a rather extended schedule due to the need to compete for public grants in tandem with private loans – funding applications are being submitted this year with loan awards during 2018, including the IURA’s. Construction would be from October 2018 to April 2020, with rent-up shortly thereafter. It’s odd to think this likely won’t even show up in the 2020 census, but we’re starting to get that far into the decade.

2. Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity is continuing to move forward with their 4-unit townhouse plan at 402 South Cayuga. The non-profit has agreed to purchase the land from the city for $32,000, a below-market price that the city is fine with accepting, given Habitat’s plans for 4 owner-occupied affordable townhomes for those making 30-60% area median income (AMI). They are requesting $80,000 towards the $270,000 cost. It appears that Habitat’s splitting it into two phases, two units in each – given the small size of their organization, it’s a sensible approach. $540,000 for ~5200 SF of units is also quite a deal, at about $104/SF, about half the cost of an INHS project. Habitat does have volunteer labor that it can utilize.

Habitat is hoping to parlay the Morris Avenue two-family they’re doing later this year into sustained interest and funding for Cayuga Street – attracting donors with one city project, who might be interested in donating time and dollars to the next one. Like with Lakeview, construction is likely on a 2018-2020 timeframe. They’re also only eligible for HOME funds, so either Lakeview or Habitat will not be getting their full request, possibly both.

3. On the economic development side, TCAction is requesting $84,200 towards their $8.25 million childcare center at 661-665 Spencer Road. The project is part of the Amici House plan and was approved by the city concurrently, but technically separate from the 23 units of vulnerable youth housing being provided next door.

Named for a late, long-time TCAction employee Harriet Giannelis, the project helps fund the site acquisition – one of the land parcels is owned by the county, and TCAction has a $184,000 purchase lease-back agreement (the county bought the land from a private owner, and they’re currently leasing it to TCAction), which will be paid off partly with the IURA funds. The new 7,010 SF childcare center will provide daycare and early-education programs (Head Start) to 40 low-income children. Although promising three new jobs in the application, TCAction expects 21 Full-time equivalent positions to be created. It’s easier to provide an employee’s lifetime income documentation for 3 staff vs. 21. Welliver will be the project contractor, so expect local union labor.

Most of the other funds come from county, state and federal grants – another $500,000 comes from a loan with M&T Bank.

4. Also on the economic side is Finger Lakes Re-Use’s expansion plan at 214 Old Elmira Road. the non-profit has refined their plans for a new mixed-use expansion, and plans to start the city’s formal project review process later this month. Some of the numbers have been tweaked a little bit, but the basic components are the same – Finger Lakes ReUse would work with Tompkins Community Action (TCAction) to bring a new 4-story, 26,100 square-foot (SF) building to FLR’s property at 214 Old Elmira Road. The first floor would expand FLR’s retail operation, while the upper floors would provide office space for FLR, and 22 units of transitional housing for formerly homeless individuals. Plans also call for an 8,100 SF warehouse for salvaged lumber/wood, and a 600 SF pavilion. 79 parking spaces are included in the project.

As with TCAction’s Giannelis Center, 9 FTE jobs are expected to be created by the $10 million project, but FLR promises to provide previous income documentation for 3. The monetary request from the CDBG funds is $100,000, and they will also be using Welliver. Welliver seems to be the safe choice when a developer wants subcontracted or direct local union labor.

The application states the $100k is going towards site acquisition, which I’m not fully following since they own the property and it doesn’t appear any new property is to be acquired. Perhaps the site has legal stipulations that have to be bought away? It’s not totally clear.

If I can be an architecture critic for a moment, I like the warm colors, but that largely blank east stairwell is kinda bleak. Maybe use those orange panels on that as well? Or another warm color?

Anyway, we’ll find what the IURA thinks; funding will be determined by the end of April, and formally awarded in June after the city’s Planning Committee signs off on the disbursement.

 

 

 





News Tidbits 9/10/16: Situations To Be Avoided

10 09 2016

Pardon the week hiatus. Sometimes, by the time there’s enough news to share, it’s already the weekend, so it just makes more sense to fun a longer feature the following week.

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1. The Maguire dealership proposal for Carpenter Business Park had a lukewarm reception at its public info session a week and a half ago. A copy of the application can be found here, and Second Ward Councilman Ducson Nguyen was kind enough to upload a 90-minute video of the meeting on his facebook page, and a transcript of the meeting can be found here. A second public info meeting will be held on the 14th.

You might recall news of the project broke last winter, followed shortly thereafter by a vote of the city Common Council to subject waterfront and waterfront-vicinity properties to a “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development” (TM-PUD), meaning that any building proposal would be subject to a vote of the Common Council as a stipulation of approval (typically, projects only need the Planning Board’s consent, plus the BZA and/or ILPC if needed). One other project has gone through the TM-PUD process since then, the Cherry Artspace performing arts building. The small experimental theater held its public info meetings at the end of March and mid-April. It enjoyed fairly broad  public support, but two of the eight voting councilmen still voted against its construction at the May meeting. If a a project with widespread support has some trouble getting passage, you can already guess what will happen with the Maguire proposal.

There’s only about a year left in that TM-PUD. But for the Maguires, it was too late as soon as the TM-PUD was passed. Perhaps more concerning, this is creating one of those cases where everybody’s opinion is coming out of the woodwork – some demand it be a park, some say industrial space only, Form Ithaca advocates walkable mixed-uses, and then there was that verbal brawl on the Ithaca West list-serve about the evils of the Ithaca Community Garden. A lot of folks think their idea is the only reasonable option, so if this plays out like the old library site, there’s going to be a lot of acrimony in the long run. Hopefully when the TM-PUD expires, the city will have the new urban mixed-use zoning ready for implementation, so situations like this can be avoided in the future.

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2. Can’t help but feel just a little sympathetic towards Steve Fontana – he tried to have this project open for move-in, and everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. The Journal’s Nick Reynolds reports that first it was a safety systems issue with the elevator holding up the certificate of occupancy, and then a water main burst. The latest planned opening date is September 9th, when the initial date was August 1st. Now it’s a financial issue, a public relations issue, and a mess for all involved. This could be used as an example of why Todd Fox put the 201 College site up for sale – it became clear that August 2017 opening wasn’t going to happen.

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3. On that note, I’m going touch on 201 College real quick. Given the amount of time that went into the Collegetown Form District – six years – this just looks bad all around. On the one hand, Todd Fox could benefit from more patience (granted, we don’t know what the financing situation was), and the character attack on Neil Golder in his supporting documentation turned some people off to his cause. But what John Schroeder did also deserves strong scrutiny. It’s odd to claim a zoning code issue when the MU-1 code is only three pages, and he helped write it. He was also aware that 201 College went through pre-site plan review with the city’s Planning Department, and they gave it the okay to proceed with review. This looks very suspiciously like Schroeder was explicitly looking for anything he could to help out his old colleague Neil, and that small ambiguity was the best he could do, which he was able to parlay with success.

This continues an uncomfortable pattern we’ve seen with other projects like the Old Library where one government body gives the OK, and another stops it after the consent is given. The whole point of these laborious review processes is to prevent controversy from arising. Who wants to take on the risk of proposing condos, mixed-use and affordable housing when, given that many projects require the approvals of multiple boards and committees, there’s a track record of mixed signals?

Rezoning has come up as an idea, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Spot rezoning (single-lot rezoning) would likely be deemed illegal because the current zoning is consistent with the recently-passed Comprehensive Plan, something the courts look for in zoning lawsuits. Thinking slightly broader, Collegetown’s MU-1 is nine parcels – Fox, Josh Lower and John Novarr, all major local developers, own seven of them. If 20% of those affected by a rezoning proposal file a protest petition, a super-majority of the Common Council – 75%, 8 of 10 in practice – is required for rezoning approval. That is what stopped the first Collegetown rezoning during the Peterson administration. If it couldn’t pass then, a similar super-majority event is unlikely to pass now.

4. On the edge of Ithaca’s South Side neighborhood, the CVS Pharmacy sold for a pretty penny – or rather, $4.09 million, on the 1st. The property is assessed at $1.8 million, but sold for $3.6 million in 2006. The buyer is an LLC traceable to a suburban Boston firm with a broad retail space portfolio, so whether they plan to keep things as they are, or propose something new, is anyone’s guess.

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5. Finally, a copy of the Site Plan Review application for Newman Development Group’s City Centre project at 301 East State Street in Downtown Ithaca. Keep in mind, this is from the June filing, so things are likely to have been updated or revised in response to the planning board. The 9 story building tops out at 96 feet. The approximate construction cost at the time of the filing was $32 million, with a proposed build-out from February 2017 to October 2019, which seems lengthy, and in another part of the document it says construction will last only 20 months. 400 construction jobs, 50 permanent jobs by tenants in the 10,600 SF of first floor retail, and building service staff. Overall square footage isn’t given, but given the retail and 7,225 SF of amenity space, 160,000 SF probably isn’t a bad first guess. For comparison, State Street Triangle was 288,000 SF, later reduced to the same height and similar dimensions as City Centre. In a sense, City Centre started off where SST required months to get to. Hopefully that bodes well for the proposal.

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6. Remember that airport business park study from a while back? There’s no strong demand for a business park. But the NYS DOT wants to move their waterfront office and storage facility to the site. So removing those salt sheds and replacing them with mixed-use waterfront property won’t happen until the state buys whatever it needs here, builds and moves in to a new facility. Not sure what they’ll do with the property on Ellis Drive in Dryden that they’ve owned for the past decade; presumably sell it as surplus, but who knows?

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7. From the Ithaca Times: The Al-Huda Islamic Center hopes to start construction on their Graham Road mosque in 2017, and then obtain land for burials later this decade. In other news, new Times reporter Lori Sanken is reporting on the Chain Works progress, the Planning Board requesting color changes, careful consideration of heights, and debates about forest [preservation and Route 96B. Developer Dave Lubin of UnChained Properties wants to do renovations to existing buildings first, but seeing as they have yet to have the state sign off on a remediation place, they’re considering the construction of new buildings first, if NYS DEC approval for remediation gets delayed. And Catholic Charities and non-profit group Ithaca Welcomes Refugees are actively trying to procure affordable living space for 50 refugees who will be arriving in the Ithaca area after October 1st.

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8. It’s been incubating for a while, but it looks like former Lansing town supervisor A. Scott Pinney’s plan for 15 duplexes (30 units) is moving forward. A gravel road will be extended from 4 existing duplexes at 390 Peruville Road (NYS 34B), looping through the property from Scofield to Peruville. The “Developer’s Conference” to talk about the project will be a part of the Lansing town planning board’s meeting next Monday. Also up for discussion are slight revisions to the Village Solars PDA, related to the community center and first-floor commercial space in the proposed Building F.

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9. From the Ithaca city Projects Memo for September, it looks like there’s a couple of subdivisions planned. One is for 404 Wood Street in the South Side neighborhood, where the owner wants to subdivide a double-lot he has for sale, allowing the vacant lot to be developed for a house or small apartment building. Quoting the application, “Instead of an empty grassy lot, there would be a building on it”. Points for simplicity.

The other is a double lot at 1001 North Aurora Street in Fall Creek. This came up a couple of weeks ago in a weekly tidbits round-up, because the new owner, Stavros Stavropoulos, received a $400,000 loan to build a duplex. Turns out it’s actually two duplexes, which require a lot subdivision, and will trigger planning board review. The application notes that even with the density increase, it’s still less than the surrounding neighborhood. The two two-family homes with have 3 bedrooms and about 1200 SF per unit, and are designed by local architect Daniel R. Hirtler to fit in with the neighborhood. Unusually, the application includes documentation of the previous owner signing off on the redevelopment plan. Construction is estimated to run from this month through May 2017.





News Tidbits 7/23/16: Movers, Makers, Shakers, and Breakers

23 07 2016

1. Hitting the market late last week – a small office building with potential. 416 Elmira Road is located on the southern edge of the big box district, right next to the “bridge to nowhere” and a little before Buttermilk Falls. Built in 1988, it’s a one-story 4,000 SF building on 0.32 acres, inoffensive to the eye but fairly humdrum with a CMU exterior. The current owner is a spinal surgeon in Delaware who picked it up in 2009 for $500k. Previously, the building served as the local office for a state agency.

One could pick the building up if they wanted offices in a high-traffic area, although a few options present themselves. The zoning is SW-3 = SW (SouthWest Area) is a sort of catch-all for business types allowed under Ithaca zoning, with SW-3 geared towards smaller suburban box retail. That is a possibility here, although there wouldn’t be much parking on-site. Housing is an option here as well, although perhaps not appealing since the zoning is capped at two floors with 60% lot coverage. The list price is $585k, we’ll see what happens.

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2. …and item number two, hitting the market this past Wednesday, and probably the far more interesting of the two listings in this week’s update. Cornell has put their West End printing facility and warehouse up for sale. The Big Red seems to be trying to rid itself of excess properties in the past few weeks, having recently listed partially-developed land it has off Triphammer as well. The 37,422 SF Cornell U. Press facility at 750 Cascadilla Street was acquired by the university in 1993, and is valued at $1.6 million by the county. The other warehouse, 30,000 SF 770 Cascadilla Street, is leased by a storage company from Cornell, who purchased the building in 2000, and is valued at $1.2 million. The listing is $2.7 million, so these two properties and the 3.12 acres they sit on are being marketed below assessment.

This part of the city has attracted quite a bit of attention as of late. The Maguires are quietly working on their plans for a new set of dealerships to the north and east. Form Ithaca has envisioned keeping the warehouse properties intact, but reusing and renovating them into “maker spaces” as part of an “Innovation District” for food processors, technology firms and light manufacturing. The land itself is zoned industrial, but the city’s comprehensive plan calls for waterfront-focused mixed-use, so in practice the zoning is obsolete, due to be updated as the city continues with neighborhood-specific comprehensive plans over the next 12 months. That sort of creates a grey area where, if a potential buyer has a plan in mind, they’d probably be better off pitching it to City Hall and JoAnn Cornish first, and gauging reactions.

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3. Well, this was pretty quick. Local developer Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals has secured funding for his 2-building, 4-unit project at 312-314 West Spencer Road, on vacant land subdivided from two existing houses. The two two-story duplexes received a $250,000 construction loan from Bryan Warren of Warren Real Estate on Friday the 15th. Noah Demarest designed the two stacked flat-type apartments, three bedrooms per units. SPR documents stated an August 2017 opening, but with this funding in hand, it might be sooner.

4. Also receiving a construction loan – $450,000 at 322-24 Smith Road in Groton town, the site of a “canine events center“. The Bank of Groton is the lender. The 17,320 SF facility was built last year, so either this is some other site improvement, or the filing is really late. Also, canine event centers are a thing. The more you know.

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5. This could be called a “scorched earth” approach. Neil Golder has a lawsuit against Todd Fox and the city of Ithaca Planning Board over the 44-unit, 74-bed 201 College project, saying the decision was capricious and that the project should require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The court’s ruling will be released August 8th.

I’ll be frank – while this project matters a lot to Neil, as proposals go it’s a fairly routine midsize ($5 million -$15 million) project, like any of the other Collegetown buildings underway, like Hancock and Stone Quarry, like the Old Library site, the Carey addition or the Hotel Ithaca addition. The board declares lead agency for SEQR/CEQR review, they identify issues, and it’s the applicants responsibility to resolve them to the board’s satisfaction. If that has been done, a negative declaration is issued, and approval can be considered, as is the case here. An EIS only comes into play for projects that pose truly significant detrimental impacts to a large population if the issues aren’t effectively mitigated – hence why Maplewood Park, Cornell’s 880-bed housing development, and the multi-million square-foot Chain Works District are the only two active projects required to complete an EIS. Past precedent suggests Neil doesn’t have much of a case.

We’ll file this with the Times’ write-up about the fight over the Old Library, and the fight over Maplewood. Short summary, everyone’s on the warpath this week.

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6. This week was focused on doing write-ups about the county housing study for the Voice, but that was before the county pulled nearly all the materials offline. Boo, Tompkins. Anyway – here’s a few details from the special needs interviews that I had planned sharing in this update – Catholic Charities has procured a 4-bedroom house, INHS’s Paul Mazzarella says his organization is looking at introducing a new project in 2017, and TCAction has early plans for a second, 15-bed facility, separate from their Amici House project.

7. The town of Ithaca is planning to put out a “request for qualifications for professional services” to conduct an economic feasibility study of the Elmira Road / Inlet Valley corridor southwest of the city.  The official vote to move forward will be at the Tuesday meeting, with bids due by some point in September. The $60,000 study (half town, half NYS ESD) will be an economic feasibility study and development plan designed “to enhance its distinct characteristics by fostering and building on the assets that currently exist, rather than enabling expansion of the city’s urban and regional development”. In other words, the town would like to expand on its idea from the Comprehensive Plan – artisanal and cottage industries, “maker spaces”, some lodging and light industrial. We’ll see what they come up with, which will have to relate to the new form-based code the town is planning to implement.

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8. Fairly light agenda for the city planning board next week – not a whole lot of decision making expected.

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

A. Rooftop telecommuncation facility on top of Island Fitness – Declaration of Lead Agency, public hearing, Determination of Environmental Significance, Consideration of Preliminary & Final Site Plan Approval
B. 201 College – “No Action — Applicant’s Response to Site Plan Review Issues”. Originally this was supposed to be final site plan approval, which may or may not be impacted by the whole lawsuit spiel.
C. City Centre (shown above) – “No Action — Applicant Response to Planning Board Comments”
D. SKETCH PLAN: Amici House — Tompkins Community Action Expansion at 661-711 Spencer Rd – I had heard this one might be four floors, and INHS has a hand in it. We’ve seen the site plan for a while now, so this isn’t going to make a big splash.