Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 6/2017

20 06 2017

Over to the Tompkins Financial HQ. The rear face is a bit strange-looking at first glance because there’s a set of steel beams projecting right next to the first layers of gypsum sheathing, so it’s not clear where the back of the building is. A look at the plans indicates that the rear steel extension outlines a future stairwell, which projects a little further back from the main body of the building. The eastern segment of the skeleton has yet to be built past the elevator core, and consequently the rest of the rear/north wall projection has yet to be erected. As the rest of the structural steel is bolted into place, that will be boxed up, decked and sheathed.

The lower floors have been sprayed with an undercoat of fireproofing, and are starting interior build-out with steel stud walls and concrete masonry units (cinder blocks). Under the safety cover, the fire-proof gypsum panels extend the full height of the building, with rough openings for future windows. Note that the top floor is set back a little bit from the lower floors, which can seen a little better in April’s update; this will be faced with a black brick veneer, while the projecting wall of the lower floors will be faced with a lighter stone. This feature was designed to make the building’s bulk a bit more subtle, and to respect the size and fenestration (window arrangement) of the DeWitt Mall next door.

Still a ways out from its March 2018 delivery date, but it looks like LeChase has things on track.





Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 4/2017

25 04 2017

I could see the clouds to the north and west, I knew the rain was coming. I even glanced at a radar still on my phone and assumed that, as most fronts tend to do, it was moving west to east in a diagonal SW-NE band – by that logic, I had about fifteen minutes to take photos, run to my car and get my umbrella. As it turns out, the front was pushing north to south. So I did not have fifteen minutes. I had five. Oops.

Anyway, TFC’s new HQ is topped out and decked with corrugated steel (a bit sooner than anticipated), though it’s not built out – the rear (north) flank and the east flank are missing. Those are the portions that will be built over the surface parking. You can make out a couple of the support piles in the pics below, and those will tie into the structural columns in the garage area, and into the structural steel of the upper levels. As noted with 201 College, it’s a bit unexpected that the structure would top out before even a single floor is built out, but it is what it is. The building’s height is there, but in terms of breadth, it’s less than half of the final product. The elevator core is at full height, and the steel stud wall and gypsum sheathing on the back separate the future ground-floor bank branch from the rear parking, which will be reserved for customers and clients. Pipe scaffolding has been erected as workers begin work on the interior (sprinkler system, utilities rough-ins).

Occupancy is intended by March 2018. JPW Erectors, a division of the JPW Companies of Syracuse, is in charge of the framing, while LeChase Construction is the general contractor. HOLT Architects penned the 110,000 SF building’s design.





Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 3/2017

25 03 2017

Apparently I forgot to to an update on the Tompkins Financial project last month? It must have slipped off the radar after the Voice received its spark notes version. Funny how it was about 60 F when the February photos were taken, and about 30 F when the March photos were snapped.

Anyway, structural steel framing is underway, giving an idea of the bulk of Tompkins Financial Corporation’s new 110,000 headquarters at 118 East Seneca Street. Framing has started for the first five floors of the seven story building, and mor beams will be built upward and outward – note the indents in the elevator core on the side facing Seneca Place, intended for future steel beams. The lowest floors have also received corrugated steel decking. There are still a couple of floors to go, as evidenced by the wood forms on the elevator shaft. The concrete will extend another two floors before it’s topped out. The building’s ground to rooftop height will be exactly 100 feet.

A May or early June topping out seems plausible. Occupancy is intended by March 2018. JPW Erectors, a division of the JPW Companies of Syracuse, is in charge of the framing, while LeChase Construction is the general contractor.

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Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 12/2016

18 12 2016

The future headquarters of Tompkins Financial Corporation is starting to rise from the ground at 118 East Seneca Street. The elevator core and south stairwell are being poured section by section. Forms are being put into place to build the next level of the core. It looks like structural steel surrounded by concrete fortified with steel rods (rebar). The small holes within the elevator core are where the structual steel of the superstructure will tie in. The basement appears to be fully excavated with all the wood lagging in place. The four H-shaped steel bars next to the elevator core are piles, which will carry the building load. More on those in a minute.

The basement for the TFC HQ is a bit of an unusual setup. The excavated portion (12-13 feet deep) only encompasses the floor plate for the basement and ground floor. The second to seventh floors will have larger floor plates. The elevator core actually sits at the northeast corner of the ground floor’s floor plate – the area between it and the Hilton Garden Inn will be the driveway, and behind it, the customer parking lot. Stairwells to the upper levels will also rise on the northeastern boundary of the property, and the northwest corner of the first floor, close to the parcel’s lot line with the DeWitt Mall. The upper floors will have the support of additional load-bearing columns along the perimeter of the property (they will tie into the end-bearing steel foundation piles seen here in August, which seem to be capped and at ground level now).

Along with the perimeter piles and the piles within the ground floor plate, four support columns will rise from through the parking area to the floors above. Those appear to be pile caps for two of those support columns in the second to last photo. The four H-shaped steel bars are capped with a thick block of concrete from which the support columns will tie into, and use as their base. The weight of the building will be transferred through the steel structure, through the pile cap and evenly distribute the weight into those piles, which will transfer the load down into very firm soil 65-70 feet below ground level. This is what will give the building its stability.

Anyway, seems like I forgot to take photos of the drive-thru bank branch under construction across the street – which is probably close to completion at this point, if not already. The $31.3 million office building will open in March 2018. LeChase Construction is the general contractor, and HOLT Architects is responsible for the design.

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Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 10/2016

13 10 2016

Normally, the phrase “wow, what a hole” isn’t a good thing. Here, it’s fine. Since this is a large, heavy building, and the soil near the surface is liable to settle and risk upsetting the building foundation, a deep foundation is required. According to the geotechnical report by Elwyn & Palmer, the end bearing piles will penetrate 65-70 feet into the ground. At this depth, the material is stable enough to allow each pile to handle the required heavy weight. The basement floor slab will be about 12 or 13 feet below street-level.

Across the street, the new 965 SF drive-thru building is moving right along. The much smaller building sits on a much easier, quicker and cheaper concrete slab-on-grade foundation. The metal clips on the west wall are for the limestone veneer, just like the panels on the corners. The wall will have metal screens with which vine-spreading plants will grow up and through, creating a green screen intended to make the otherwise blank wall more attractive to neighbors and passerby. The area by the front will have a glass-encased entryway and dark metal panels overhead.

More information about the project can be found here.

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Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ Construction Update, 8/2016

31 08 2016

Tompkins Financial Corporation’s decision to build in downtown Ithaca is seen as something of a major victory by civic groups and local leaders. For one, it’s a major economic investment, and for two, it’s taken by many as a sign that downtown Ithaca has “turned the corner”.

Tompkins Financial Corporation is the parent company of Tompkins Trust Bank, as well as some other financial units. The company can trace its roots back to Tompkins County Bank’s formation in 1836. Along with Tompkins, TFC also manages several smaller banks throughout New York and Pennsylvania, totaling 67 branches and about 1,100 employees. About 280 of those work in downtown Ithaca at the current headquarters.

Currently, the office space is decentralized, scattered throughout multiple downtown sites and one suburban site, some of which are owned and others of which are rented. The bank began studies several years ago to examine a new headquarters, and looked at an urban location downtown, and a suburban location. Throughout the last 50 years, most large private companies have opted for the latter, and not without good reason. The logistics are simpler, the land is cheaper, the parking is easier – a study commissioned by TFC showed they could have saved over three million dollars by choosing a suburban site. But, as downtowns like Ithaca’s have made a resurgence in popularity, and given the bank’s long-time presence in downtown, they decided to pursue the urban option.

The new headquarters, first proposed in March 2015, will keep 282 employees in downtown (making an average annual wage of about $81k), add 18 more from the consolidation of the Craft Road office in Lansing, and potentially add a number of new jobs as the bank continues to grow. The IDA application gives 6 new positions over 3 years, all well over living wage; paperwork submitted to the city says 77 jobs over ten years. The project applied for and received a ten-year tax abatement from the Tompkins County IDA, saving about $4.06 million in property taxes and $2.112 million in one-time sales taxes. The community hearing was generally supportive for an abatement, and even with the reduced short-term tax bill, a net positive of $3.78 million will still be paid in taxes over the next decade.

Now, a little about the site and the building. The project is really two separate projects, one much smaller than the other. The first, at 119 E. Seneca, will build a 965 SF drive-thru bank branch on what is current first floor parking underneath a 1970s office building owned by TFC. The surface lot will be reconfigured to support the drive-thru functions, and retain a small amount of parking space.

Across the street is where the real meat of the project is. Construction is currently underway on a 7-story, 110,000 SF commercial building at 118 East Seneca, with customer services and 20-25 parking spaces on the first floor and office space on floors 2-7, which will have larger floor-plates that will overhang over the first floor. The first through third floor offices will be geared towards consumer retail operations, and the top four floors will house general operations and senior leadership. The building will be 100 feet tall, just like the 10-story Marriott finishing up a few blocks away. Modern office buildings usually have 14′ floor-to-ceiling heights due to the size of heavy-duty commercial utility systems, better visibility and natural light penetration, and to provide ample accommodation for tenants’ computer equipment. A bit of a prestige factor also comes into play. Materials include a granite base, stone veneer on the front, light and dark brick veneer, and aluminum panels on the top floor’s sides and rear walls. TFC’s HQ will be built to LEED standards, but the company will not be seeking LEED certification due to the costs involved.

The new headquarters replaces a parking lot and drive-thru bank branch  built in 1990, and prior to that the site was home to the two-story Temple Theater, which despite described as “cramped”, “shabby” and “grungy”, brought to Ithaca the first showings of “The Godfather” and other big-budget films of the early 1970s. The Temple Theater operated from 1928 to 1976, when it closed not long after the mall opened in Lansing. The building was razed not long afterward.

Estimated costs have bounced around a little bit – initially reported as $26.5 million, they were up to $28 million by the time of the IDA application, and $31.3 million at the time of groundbreaking. The March sketch plan called for final approvals by June 2015, but they didn’t happen until December 2015. Not entirely the city’s fault, the timeline was very ambitious.

The site has been partially cleared and the existing drive-thru branch has been demolished. Currently, the project is undergoing foundation excavation and pile-driving. You can see the trenches being dug along the perimeter, and wood lagging and steel H beams have been laid along the outer edges to provide stability to the soil and buildings of adjacent properties. According to the report from Elwyn & Palmer, the project team will dig down about 12-13 feet for the sub-floor, thenceforth pile driving shall commence, 65-70 feet down. It’s anticipated the sandy soils will make the pile-driving move along faster, but the other buildings nearby will necessitate temporary support installations during the excavation process. Ithaca firms HOLT Architects and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects are responsible for the design of the project, and Rochester’s LeChase Construction is the general contractor.

When TFC’s new headquarters opens in March 2018, expect something of a glut in the local office market as a lot of space is emptied in a short time. TFC CEO Grag Hartz has said that 119 and 121 East Seneca would be held onto and rented out, with the bank retaking space in those buildings as it needs. However, their office and bank on the Commons (the historic 2 and 3-story buildings on Bank Alley just south of the M&T Building) would be sold. The project is indirectly spurring Bank Tower’s conversion to apartments, given the tepid office market but very hot residential market downtown. Token teaser if you’ve read this far – a second conversion project is in the early stages.

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News Tidbits 6/18/16: Wit Fails Me After Eight Years

18 06 2016

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1. Let’s start off with a brief update on 201 College Avenue. My colleague Mike Smith at the Voice did an encompassing article on the topic late last Friday, and there have been a couple more modest developments as of late. Apart from the multi-million dollar sale mentioned last week, the city’s Design Review Committee also gave their input on the project. They said they like the current form of thje building’s front (west) entrance, because it calls forth elements of Grandview House a few doors down. they also recommended darker or neutral grey colors to minimize the appearance of the fifth floor, more windows along College Avenue, warm accent colors, and tweaks to the window and cladding scheme. The resulting revisions were incorporated into the latest building design seen above, and for which additional images, material samples sheet and interior plans can be found here. The project will be discussed at the Project Review meeting next week, and the official Planning Board meeting Tuesday 6/28, at which the public hearing will be held, and consideration of preliminary approval.

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2. Speaking of design review, 107 South Albany also went through the committee this week. Recommendations included projecting window sills, stucco all the way back to the rear balconies, and noting on docs that the large sign on the existing building would be removed during the renovation. Site Plan Review app here, drawings here, Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) here, planting plan here.

The renovation and addition seems like a good example of re-use in a corridor that the city is targeting for new investment. It preserves the century-old structure and adds housing in such a way that, by location and design, doesn’t have a significant visual impact. By zoning, Nick Stavropoulos could have sought five floors if he wanted. This plan will be going through the whole shebang at the June meeting – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Determination of environmental Significance, and Prelim and Final Approval.

Among other things to be discussed at Project Review and the Planning Board meetings – Prelim/Final Approval for 602 West State Street (the Elmira Savings Bank project), signage for Collegetown Crossing, and a few minor zoning variances. New sketch plans, if any, will be announced on the PB Agenda next week.

3. This week in big sales – someone plunked down $680,000 on a house at 107 Catherine Street in Collegetown. I say somebody because they conducted the purchase through an LLC (aptly named “105-107 Catherine Street LLC”) registered by a local law firm last summer. Just like the Maguire purchase of the Carpenter Circle land, this effectively hides the buyer from public view. The same purchase bought 105 Catherine for $780,000 last November. It looks like 105 has 10 bedrooms and 107 has 7 bedrooms, based off assessment docs.

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105 and 107 Catherine make up the edge of the CR-4 Form District. By zoning, an applicant could build up to four floors, no parking required. A development plan would likely consolidate lots. Something to keep an eye on. Collegetown is getting to be a very expensive place.

4. Meanwhile, here’s something that’s just hitting the market. For the budding landlords, 306 North Cayuga is up for sale. The “C. R. Williams House” was built in 1898 (interior/exterior photos from the early 1980s here). The current owner, Jeff Kalnitz, picked it up for $300k in 1997, had it on and off the market a couple of times, and then decided to do a thorough ILPC-approved renovation. The 12,500 SF property, which holds six high-end apartments and approvals for a seventh, is being offered at $1.45 million. It’s worth looking at the listing if only for the glamorous interior shots.

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5. On Tuesday, the Tompkins County Legislature will vote on whether or not to take $118,000 from the county’s general fund to indirectly help build head start classrooms and a living facility for homeless young adults.

The $118,000 would be use to purchase a house at 661 Spencer, whose land would be incorporated into plans for a 23-person facility for homeless young adults (some with children) aged 18-25, and five classrooms. The classrooms would be built as one building, while the housing looks to be an addition to the TCAction building. The one-story house at 661 Spencer, built in 1950 and formerly formerly owned by the Amici family, would be removed.

The plan is the latest incarnation of TCAction’s Amici House project, slated to share their headquarters property at 701 Spencer Road on the southern edge of the city of Ithaca. TCAction first acquired their property with the help of the county back in 2001; the cost of the purchase is paid back to the county in the form of a 20-year lease.

If the legislature approves, the lease would be extended by two years so TCAction can pay them back for the up-front cost of buying 661 Spencer. The Amici House project would be completed by 2018.

6. Poet’s Landing in Dryden will be moving forward with its 48-unit second phase. The rentals, which are targeted at individuals making 60% of county median income, are expected to begin construction in August with a late summer 2017 opening. Phase I, which consisted of 72 units, opened in early 2013. The state awarded the project $1,600,000 from its Housing Trust Fund, and $734,956 in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the apartments’ construction.

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7. Tompkins Trust held the official groundbreaking this Friday for it’s new 7-story headquarters. Plans were slightly delayed after some issues arose with NYSEG. The current plan is to have the 123,000 SF building ready for occupancy by March 2018. Costs have risen somewhat, from $26.5 million to $31.3 million.