Maplewood Redevelopment Construction Update, 6/2018

15 06 2018

There was an interesting story going around that Maplewood was in serious trouble due to water pressure issues, to the point where its ability to legally house its residents was at risk (no water pressure would have made for a hazardous fire risk). That would have been a huge story had it panned out, but a little bit of checking with the town of Ithaca codes department and the development team turned up no dire situations unfolding, all is going as planned (a welcome change given all the weather and contractor issues that have plagued the project’s tight work schedule so far). There was some worry about water pressure back when the project was first proposed, which is why a new 600,000 gallon water tower is going up on Hungerford Hill Road.

It’s a little sad to see the French Lavender florist and gift shop is closing down after eleven years. It’s not clear if it’s related to construction, or if the timing was coincidental. Coal Yard Cafe was doing a brisk mid-day business at the opposite end of the Maplewood site. With 872 new residents expected by the end of the summer, the site will have appeal to retailers and service providers.

For project background and planning, click here.

For a site plan breakdown, click here.

For a construction timeline, click here.

Webcam link 1 here (updated ~15 minutes).

Webcam link 2 here (updated ~15 minutes).





News Tidbits 6/9/2018

9 06 2018

1. Let’s start off with some eye candy. Behold, the latest and probably last major revisions to Modern Living Rental’s planned apartment complex at 802 Dryden Road. We also have a name for the 42-unit apartment complex to be built there – “Ivy Ridge“. This latest design received a little bit of STREAM’s touch to complement the work previously undertaken by John Snyder Architects. The six building are generally but not exactly the same – the gables are mirrored, some additional trim piece are used on the gables for the Dryden Road pair, and they alternate between a dark blue vertical fiber cement panel (probably HardieBoard), and a dark green panel (it’s a little sad they reworked the profiles and did away with the visually interesting mix of hipped and gabled roofs). Units were downsized about 35 square-feet per unit per floor, and overall the town planner thought the buildings looked “a lot more friendly”. Some more renders can be found here. Units are a mix of 24 2-bedrooms, 12 3-bedrooms and six 4-bedrooms, for a total of 108 bedrooms.

There’s a little bit of pre-building infrastructure work that needs to take place, because this is a sort of no man’s land between the settled parts of the town of Ithaca and the town of Dryden where no municipal water service was available. The public water main will be extended to service the project, and the main will be deeded over to the town. This will go under Dryden Road, so the DOT is in the loop. The planned buildout is August 2018 – August 2019.

2. Staying in Dryden for the moment, a bit eastward to Varna – I have not spoken to a single person who thought highly of Trinitas first swing at the Lucente property on Dryden and Mount Pleasant Roads. The building scale seems okay for Varna’s core, and the Varna Plan actually okays this kind of layout and says the community was comfortable with it on arguably a smaller overall project scale, something that caught me by surprise when I did my writeup for the Voice. The issue is that it’s a lot to see at once, and it makes me wonder if Trinitas really had its eyes open and ears listening and just went forward anyway, or if they were caught off guard. After swings and misses in Ann Arbor and Ames, I’d hope Trinitas would be a little more cautious.

This is asking a lot of Dryden, 224 units with 663 beds at the moment. However, I’m doubtful a moratorium is the answer. I think there is potential to have more conversations if both sides are willing to talk, and Trinitas should be firmly aware that this plan is not likely to go through as currently proposed. I don’t know what the financial statement looks like here, but elsewhere Trinitas has tried (if unsuccessfully) with incorporating affordable housing with its market-rate units, and they also do have projects that seem more like the Varna Plan’s thoughts for that parcel, like their Pullman project, which is a combination of townhouse strings and duplex buildings. The town of Ithaca and EdR agreed to have EdR fund local road improvements as part of the Maplewood project, so that’s another idea.

One of the reasons cited for a potential moratorium in Dryden is the need to balance the rental development with for-sale housing. It is very tough to effectively encourage owner-occupied housing at a price range affordable to middle-income households. For one, no tax breaks – state law says it is illegal for the IDA to give tax abatements to owner-occupied developments (for-sale homes, condos). Building codes and complicated condo rules drive up housing costs and make existing state subsidies for affordable for-sale ineffective, and for-sale housing is seen with greater uncertainty by lenders (there are more people able and willing to rent than to buy, especially in a college-centric community). It’s difficult! That’s why the county’s Housing Committee is keenly focused on trying to come up with solutions. There’s a fantastic senior research project by newly-minted Cornell graduate Adam Bronfin that looks at the condo problem in excellent detail, and a PDF of that study can be found here.

The other suggestion, making rental housing more difficult to do, comes with its own perils – namely, by cutting off the supply while demand continues to grow, you force out lower-income households in an attempt of trying to limit the student rentals. There is conceptual discussion of affordable for-sale and rental mixes (similar to Trumansburg’s Hamilton Square) being talked about east of Varna, and it would be really unfortunate if a town law gets drafted up that inadvertently but effectively prevents those kind of projects from happening.

Another risk is that strictly limiting development in Varna only encourages it on rural parcels to the east, or even in Cortland County, promoting sprawl and its detrimental environmental impacts (tax burden of new infrastructure, traffic, additional commuter burden on the Freese Road Bridge, loss of farms and natural space to low-density housing, etc). One can push laws that prohibit students either through zoning, but smaller mom-and-pop landlords may feel the pain and it might get argued in court as an illegal attempt at “spot zoning”.

The TL;DR is that there is no easy answer, but the county is trying. Since it’s so difficult on the brand new side, the county is looking at incentives to encourage renovation of existing rental housing into for-sale units, which would need state approval.

Lastly, I don’t really understand the argument that tacitly advocates for capping Varna’s population. The sewer is a limit, but more capacity could be negotiated if necessary or prudent. The argument over Varna should be focused on quality of new additions, not an argument that the Sierra Club rejected because of its association with racial and income-based eugenics.

3. Surprise, surprise. An infill project in Fall Creek has been revived three and a half years after it was approved. The project calls for five rental buildings, three single-family homes and a duplex. The developer is Heritage Homes, led by Ron Ronsvalle; Ronsvalle was badly injured in an accident, and the injuries left him paralyzed and unable to use his limbs; he is reliant on assistance and voice commands. It was a shame as the project been heralded as a successful example of meeting with neighbors and redesigning a plan to address their concerns; didn’t win over everyone, but a lot of them were satisfied with the approved February 2015 plan. As the letter from project architect/engineer Larry Fabbroni states, “certain life events prevented the owner from resuming full business activities until a support system was running smoothly.”

With a support system in place, Ronsvalle intends to move forward with the approved plan. The project does have to go back before the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Approvals because approvals expire after two years (i.e. February 2017). With nothing changed, the project is likely to sail through re-approval.

The revised SPR states $665,000 in hard costs with a construction period of August 2018 to August 2020 – basically, a couple homes in year one, and a couple in year two.

4. This is rather odd, but in Northside, there seems to be a push for a moratorium because they’re unhappy with the possibility of multiple primary structures on a single lot, which is what local developer David Barken is proposing with the lot consolidation and addition of a two-family home at the rear of 207 and 209 First Street. The concerns cited are similar to South Hill’s, loss of character and increases in density, and came up during the marathon public comment period at the last Common Council meeting.

This seems…baffling? South Hill’s made sense because of the high number of student rentals being built, which was leading to major quality of life issues. Northside doesn’t have that issue, it’s too far from the Cornell and Ithaca College campuses. For evidence, here’s the Cornell map of where students live, taken from their 2016 housing study. A handful of grad students live near the creek, but otherwise not much, and undergrads are virtually non-existent. It and West End and West Hill just tend to be too far away for students’ convenience.

To be honest, 207-209 First Street actually seems like a thoughtful project – similar to the Aurora Street pocket neighborhood by New Earth Living. The infill is scaled appropriately, it has features like the raised beds that enhance residents’ quality of life, and it doesn’t tear down existing housing. To my knowledge, there isn’t anything on the radar for Northside unless one counts Immaculate Conception in adjacent Washington Park being converted to housing at some point. It’s not clear what a moratorium or a South Hill-like overlay would achieve here. If anything, students aren’t the risk for Northside – the risk is gentrification spilling over from Fall Creek. This would encourage that, so…this is counterproductive.

5. With the contentious 309 College Avenue / No. 9 fire station debate having met its dramatic conclusion, this render of a proposed redevelopment has been released by its owners. It would appear that the plaza and newer west (front) wing has its exterior walls retained while the rest of the structure is removed, a facadectomy. One could argue this is better than Visum’s plans because it saves large portions of the original structure, vs. the complete removal in Visum’s first version, and emulation of elements in the second. This iteration has decorative roof elements, arched windows in the shape of the fire engine bay doors, and a dumbbell shape characteristic of New York City “Old Law Tenement” buildings built in the late 1800s. The armchair architecture critic typing here would ask for elements of visual interest in the blank walls of the addition, but overall this looks like a good first swing. This is probably intended as first-floor commercial restaurant/retail with apartments above. No architect is listed with the sketch.





118 College Avenue Construction Update, 4/2018

13 05 2018

Finally, clearing out the last of that late April photo stash. Not many here, but a new, small Collegetown project is underway at 118 College Avenue.

This is a Visum project, and probably their lowest profile plan. In fact, this one never even went through the sketch plan part of the city review process, the project team went straight to asking for the city planning to declare itself lead agency for environmental review in March 2017. Approval was a short time later as Ithaca goes, in May 2017. Building permits were issued this past winter.

It wasn’t a rash decision by any means – the project is largely similar to a previously-approved plan a few houses up at 126 College Avenue, and there is very little difference between the two properties in terms of context. They are both CR-4 zones allowing 4 floors and 45′ heights. The original 118 College Avenue was a two-story, early 20th century rental house with six bedrooms and marginal historic value, though I imagine the house was rather pretty before some unfortunate additions threw off its symmetry. The property was purchased by Red Door Rentals (Greg Mezey and Ryan Mitchell) in April 2014, transferred to another Mezey/Mitchell company, “MPB Capital LLC” in October 2017, and then to an LLC associated with Visum on the same day as the MPB Capital transfer. It seems plausible Ryan and Mitchell are project investors, with Visum as developer.

Plans call for a new 4-story, 45′ building on the sloped lot. With that slope, the basement is exposed on the west face, so it has the appearance of five floors from the rear and sides. A back of the envelope calculation says this building is about 9,000 SF. The roof hosts a 6′ architecturally-integrated mechanical screen; hides the mechanicals, but gives the apartment building an Italianate aesthetic. The building uses electric heat pumps and is designed to be net-zero energy compatible. The hard construction cost rings in $1.415 million, according to the SPR filing – it would be assessed at a substantially higher amount. Unabated taxes her, so while people may dislike Collegetown, projects like this help fill the city coffers.

There will be 5 apartment units with 28 bedrooms – 4 six-bedroom units, 1 four-bedroom unit on the basement level. The project comes with five new trees, lush landscaping for its small lot, an outdoor bike rack, screened trash area, and bike storage and mechanical rooms in the basement. Tenants with valid licenses will be given membership in Ithaca Carshare, to try and dissuade them from bringing personal vehicles. Not a surprise here, but college students are the intended market.

Only a couple minor changes occurred from start to finish – the window on the northeast face was replaced with a patterned trimboard to keep visual interest. The rooflines ware adjusted in the render below, but not the building plan, so we’ll see which is correct.

For materials, the basement-level will use stucco mixed with Sherwin-Williams “Sawdust” paint, the first level is a combination of Belden face brick (Belcrest) and S-W “Truepenny” fiber cement clapboards, more fiber cement clapboard on the mid-section in S-W “Overjoy“, trimboards, balcony trim and window casing colored S-W “Svelte Sage”, black window frames, stucco (in S-W “Favorite Tan”) with more fiber cement trim and frieze boards on the top level, and the pyramidal roof caps will be standing seam metal, Pac-Clad “Aged Copper”. Mix of materials, mix of colors – should stand out nicely.

Expect buildout to look similar to 210 Linden and The Lux – Amvic insulated concrete forms at the basement level, double-stud Huber ZIP panel plywood sheathing, scratch coats on the portion to be covered in stucco, perhaps wood furring to raise the exterior clapboard and prevent dampness, and probably Anderson windows. The project is expected to be complete by August – units are going for $950/bedroom, plus utilities. Pricey, but at least they allow large dogs.

Along with Visum and Red Door Rentals for this ride through the development process is STREAM Collaborative as the building and landscape architect. Since they’re GC at 210 Linden Avenue, Romig General Contractors may be the manager of the construction crew here as well.

 

 





The Lux (232-236 Dryden Road) Construction Update, 4/2018

3 05 2018

At the site of The Lux at 232-236 Dryden Road, framing continues on the new apartment buildings. I’m under the impression that, like the Ithaka Terraces project also designed by STREAM, these are thick double-stud exterior walls. Double-stud walls are built using two sets of wood stud walls used in the exterior frame, parallel to each other but spaced apart by about 5 inches. That space is then filled (if like STREAM’s other projects) with R39 densely-packed cellulose insulation. The result has its pros and cons. The cons are that it’s more expensive to build, and it reduces the interior space a little bit. The pro is that it’s very energy efficient, which comes in handy for a project trying to achieve net-zero energy use.

On top of that appears to be wood furring strips for the cladding. I think the white panels on the north side might be boards with some kind of waterproofing? The roof on 232 Dryden appears to have had underlayment applied, but no EPDM (synthetic rubber) or similar finish yet.

The Amvic ICF will be faced with grey stucco and a black brick veneer, while the upper levels will use LP SmartSide white and marigold yellow fiber cement lap siding. The reflective material is likely insulation that’s also intended to keep out the moisture from the exterior brick.

The top floor will be finished with fiber cement panels with LP SmartTrim laid out patterned to give some visual interest to the top of the structures. The windows are Anderson 100 series units with black frames, and what will be white casings. Still rough openings in some of the walls, and the balconies are just starting to get built on the west face. 236 Dryden has yet to be fully framed, but the roof trusses are underway.

In its March email blast, the developer, local firm Visum Development group, announced that the contest to design lounge, gym and study rooms was won by two graduate architecture students from Cornell – for that, they win $2500 and will have a lounge named after them. The winning designs are here. As of February, about half of the 207 bedrooms were leased.

The project did pay a quick visit to the planning board recently to ask if they would could have permission to not screen some of the rooftop utilities – though less attractive and meant as a cost efficiency, these are less visible parts of the roof per the diagrams provided to the city. I didn’t hear any issues with it, so I assume it was deemed acceptable by the board.





210 Linden Avenue Construction Update 4/2018

1 05 2018

Looks like the first stud walls are going up on the third floor of the four-story 210 Linden apartment project (note the basement is partially exposed). Quite a bit of progress from the excavated hole and foundation pad back in February. This is a wood-frame structure with Huber ZIP System plywood panel sheathing and, presumably if like the other Visum projects, Amvic insulated concrete forms at the basement level. ICFs are thermally insulated plastic blocks filled with concrete – they tend to be a more expensive approach, but they also tend to have a higher grade of insulation (higher R-value), making for a more energy-efficient structure, and Visum and its project architect (STREAM Collaborative) have an eye towards net-zero energy capability, meaning all energy consumed by this building comes from renewable sources. ZIP panels are an increasingly popular to the traditional plywood and housewrap method (and since the integrated water-resistive barrier on the ZIP panels is a vivid green, they’re hard to miss). The choice of ZIP panels vs. housewrap really boils down to a matter of preference by the project team; ZIP panels tend to be easier to install (lower labor cost), but more expensive as a product.

Although my October notes show that William H. Lane Inc. was the general contractor on file, it appears that Romig General Contractor is the firm on-site. Romig of Horseheads is not known locally for involvement with multi-family projects, but as partners in Jepsen Romig Development (now Jepsen Holdings Inc.), they’ve been involved with several luxury homes built around the county (Southwoods, South Pointe, etc.) and they state on their website that they’ve provided commercial services to the ScienCenter and the Cayuga Ridge supervised care facility.

Also notable is that it appears the asking price for rent on the four-bedroom units has come down a fair amount since their first advertisements in the fall, from $1250/bedroom to $950/bedroom. This may be anecdotal evidence of some slack in the Collegetown market, as Maplewood’s 872 beds enter and steadily get absorbed into the rental market mix.

Background information on the project and more renders can be found here.





Maplewood Redevelopment Construction Update, 4/2018

30 04 2018

Maplewood has not had the best of luck during the construction. A wet fall, and an unusually wet and cold spring have really dampened efforts to move the project along at a clip that the development team would have liked. Supply issues (framing walls) and concerns from subcontractors about steady, non-weather interrupted work have also made things more complicated. The developer (EdR Trust, with local project representative Scott Whitham of Whitham Consulting) approached the town of Ithaca with a request to extend the working hours again from 7 AM to 10:30 PM for interior work, on top of the four-hour extension (from 9 AM – 5 PM to 7 AM – 7 PM) and the Saturday 8 AM – 4 PM hours previously granted.

It did not go over well. After getting a tongue lashing from members of the board about incompetence, the planning board did offer a partial concession to 9 PM on a 4-3 vote. As a result, barring no further major issues, most of the units are expected to be delivered in July, though some of the later-scheduled townhouse strings will likely not be complete before August. Ostensibly, there’s a fear that the units won’t be ready in time for incoming Cornell graduate and professional students, in which case EdR will incur the substantial cost of putting them up in a hotel, as some of the Collegetown developers had to do a couple of years ago (325 Eddy’s opening was especially rough). The current plan is three phases of move in, on July 1st, July 31st and August 20th.

From what I’ve heard, at least half the units are spoken for in the 441-unit, 872-bed development. Advertisements have been showing up pretty regularly on websites like Craigslist, as well as their own website.

Walking around the site, construction is in just about every stage imaginable, from framing to sheathing to fit-outs to exterior siding and even trim work on the units facing Mitchell Avenue. There have been some changes in the plans, and I’d argue for the better – more color variations in the apartment buildings and the townhouse strings. The southwest corner building on Mitchell was initially supposed to be shaded of blue, but is finished with red fiber cement panels, and the panels on one of the gabled “Ht” strings next to the Belle Sherman Cottages. The apartments also show varying brick and panel ensembles, from navy panels and red brick, light grey panels and maroon brick, dark grey panels with tan brick….it makes for a more colorful and arguably more attractive site.

Quick aside, a second project webcame has been installed. This one looks over the three apartment blocks on the northern (Maple Avenue) end of the site. Link below, along with the southward camera.

For project background and planning, click here.

For a site plan breakdown, click here.

For a construction timeline, click here.

Webcam link 1 here (updated ~15 minutes).

Webcam link 2 here (New! updated ~15 minutes).





News Tidbits 3/31/18: A Bit of a Lull

31 03 2018

1. In Lansing, a local developer seems to have gotten the message when it comes to a small senior housing project. As reported by Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star, the latest version of Eric Goetzmann’s Lansing Meadows calls for 20 2-bedroom units ~1500 SF (square feet) each in ten buildings along a loop road, “Lansing Meadows Drive”. The project uses the entire parcel, with the eastern end set aside for a small (less than 2500 SF) neighborhood retail component.

Goetzmann is less than happy with the latest version, saying that financially it doesn’t work, but he needs to get something built to fulfill the requirements of the BJ’s tax abatement in 2011 – the senior housing component of the project has been delayed so long, the county has prepared legal action to recuperate abated taxes if Goetzmann doesn’t get the senior housing started ASAP. The answer at the last pair of meetings went from “I just want to get this done” to “We’re looking to build 12 units and if we’re successful we’re looking to build some more, which really didn’t bode well for negotiation – at this point, a low or breakeven ROI is a price Goetzmann is willing to pay over paying the county and village millions. The Planning Board is satisfied with the newest design, and a vote to approve a special permit to start construction could be as soon as April 9th. The actual construction docs would take ten weeks and the project has to go out to bid contractors, but Goetzmann is optimistic the units will be built this year.

It’s a quiet month otherwise for the village, with a cell tower and a parking lot expansion the only other things on the latest agenda.

2. Let’s take a quick look at some noteworthy sales from the past month:

The Belleayre Apartments at 702 Stewart Avenue sold for $5,434,500 on the 22nd. The seller was Sebastian Mascaro, who some readers might remember because he previously owned the Chapter House before it burnt down. The buyer was Kimball Real Estate. The 44-unit building, which retains classic Collegiate Gothic details popular when it opened in 1933, is assessed at $3.85 million. Mascaro had paid $4.25 million for the building in November 2011. Don’t expect any big changes here, but it’s evidence of the strength of the local multi-family market.

9 Dart Drive, a 4.56-acre vacant parcel in the village of Lansing, sold for $52,500 to VPA Development on March 22nd. Yes, there is something planned here – the village Board of Trustees is aware. VPA Development’s mailing address is the same as local businessman Nick Bellisario, who is building warehouses on Hall Road in Dryden, and is a partner in the Varna Tiny Timbers (The Cottages at Fall Creek) project. Zoning here is the village’s Medium Density Residentialsingle-family and two-family homes, schools and religious facilities. Zoning is one unit per 20,000 SF for a single-family home, 25,000 SF for a duplex. So in theory, perhaps 8 or 9 home lots if single-family.

3. One of the questions that makes a fairly regular appearance in the inbox – will Maplewood finish on time in July 2018? It’s a good question, one that Cornell and EdR are damn determined to give a yes answer for. To make up for weather delays and other issues, the Maplewood construction team is requesting to do interior work to as late as 10:30 PM Monday-Friday. Keep in mind, this is on top of the Saturday hours and previous workday extension (four hours, two on both sides, to 7 AM – 7 PM). The town of Ithaca, which has to approve these changes, seems amenable to it so long as no generators are operating, doors and windows are closed, and supervisory staff is present – basically, don’t disturb the neighbors.

At last check, unseasonably cold and wet weather over the past several months had led the project to fall behind, and subcontractors to move to steadier jobs elsewhere. The project has fallen as much as 25 days behind schedule. The extensions, if approved, would create an 85.5 hour construction week, manned by different crews.

Side note, the town of Ithaca hasn’t had much else to review lately – the planning board has only had two meetings out of the scheduled six so far this year. The other projects were a single-family home lot subdivision on Trumansburg Road, and renewing the approvals for New Earth Living’s 31-unit Amabel single-family ecohousing development on Five Mile Drive. I have not seen anything underway when I’ve driven by, and the website has not been updated in a while, so it’s nice to know that something is still in the works.

4. For good housekeeping – things are slow in Dryden, so slow they cancelled their monthly planning board meeting. Things are also fairly slow in the town of Lansing, where the big controversy is a plan to relocate the shooting range for Lansing Rod & Gun. The issue is that environmentalists have criticized the gun shot’s proposal for lead shot remediation, as well as saying the range is too close to Salmon Creek. The town is still reviewing documents and has yet to make a decision.

5. Recently, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council floated a Business Improvement District (BID) similar to the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. The reception was lukewarm, according to the Times’ Matt Butler. It’s not that the concept is disliked, although some smaller property owners are a bit nervous about being outvoiced by bigger players. It’s more a concern that a BID would likely be financed by a property tax surcharge, something that the county’s (and arguably, one of upstate’s) most expensive neighborhoods would rather not have to deal with. A DIA-type group may engage in security, local beautification, event planning, or other needs as the business owners as we see fit; as of now, it’s still just a hazy idea, but we’ll see what happens with it.

6. The relative quiet in the project pipeline extends to Ithaca City. At the February planning board meeting, U-Haul corporate had submitted plans for a 5-story building that, in the words of Matt Butler, “they kicked that idea to the curb….just bludgeoned the dude.” Apparently it was too much – too big, too tall, no attractive. Also, the project for 207-209 First Street is not as bad as initially feared. Both existing two-families will be renovated, but not torn down, and a new duplex would be built at the rear of the property lots. The board says it could be similar to the Aurora Street Pocket Neighborhood, and was supportive of the plan overall.

This month was one of the quietest meeting agendas I’ve seen in years – the only project up for formal review and approval was the Stewart Park Inclusive Playground, as well as updates on the Chain Works District zoning, and the City Harbor plans. City Harbor was a late addition. There is plenty in the pipeline, some of which will come forward in the next few months; just seems there’s a bit of a lull at the moment.

7. Just a reminder – meetings for the East Hill Village neighborhood-scale proposal will be held at the The Space @ Greenstar on Monday 4/9 (an update of the past several months, 4/11 (workshops for concept designs), and 4/12 (presentation of preferred concept designs and alternatives). All meetings will be 6-8 PM, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Here’s a copy of the presentation from last May’s meeting – not anything groundbreaking, but it makes it clear that Cornell’s land holding are much more patchwork than folks might realize. I suppose the owner of the East Hill Car Wash stands to make a pretty penny at some point.