News Tidbits 4/12/19

13 04 2019

1. Here’s a story of a clever use of space – Therm Inc. has recently expanded its facility on South Hill, and stopped leasing space from the nearby South Hill Business Campus as a result. That left an 18,870 square-foot hole to fill in Suite 30.

The site’s business manager, Linda Luciano, had had artists inquiring for a space, but never something that small enough to fit their needs. This vacancy was a chance to try something new, to build little studio spaces within the larger open floor plan of the warehouse space. It’s worked out well. Extremely well, as Ithaca Times editor Matt Butler reported this week as the Times feature article. Segment below:

” ‘A few studios’ turned out to be a severe underestimation of how many Ithaca artists desperately wanted their own studio space. With a calculated proposal for six studios in hand, she went to the building’s owners to lay out her vision, and they were receptive. Luciano then set about contacting artists who had previously reached out to her about renting space, meanwhile losing sleep over fears that she wouldn’t be able to find tenants for the studios and would have to start over with a new plan.

“I started calling people on my list, and we planned an open house,” Luciano said. “Before we could have the open house, they were all rented. That’s when I said ‘Oh my god.’”

It hasn’t slowed down since that initial wave, either. Seeing the success of the first push in October, Luciano and building owner Andy Sciarabba came up with a plan to add four more studios to the original six, deeming it Phase Two. Those four sold immediately in December, before they were even built. The same went for more units that were proposed in January. After the final phase, which is currently underway, Luciano plans for 27 more studios constructed in the former Therm space, with a much-requested gallery space included. Those are scheduled to be finished and opened in August; half of them are already leased…”

To put this in perspective, there are eighteen now plus a small kitchen and lounge space, and the addition will provide 27 more studios and a gallery space. The new build has so far taken over about a third of Therm’s old space, so the addition will likely the fill the rest of it out. The studios are a few hundred square feet each and rent for $275-$450/month depending on size (the price includes water/AC/electric/heat, with free parking), and leases are 12-month. I had not heard of anything trying this on a large scale, but it appears to be working out very well for the South Hill Business Campus, which hopes to spruce up the exterior to draw a little more attention to “Artist Alley”. It gives artists their own spaces outside of home, it offers collaboration between studios, and this seems to have tapped into a critically underserved market.

For those who want to call dibs on the last studios before they come onto the market next summer, the contact webpage is here. If you want to check them out in person, the address is 950 Danby Road.

2. Touching real quick on a pair of Dryden projects in the early stages. The “Mill Creek subdivision” is quite frankly a monstrosity in size. This is a 908-acre property on Caswell Road just west of the village of Freeville, and the plan would be to subdivide it into 39 home lots. No further subdivisions would be allowed, only single-family homes would be permitted, and it’s not clear if the developer is pursuing conservation zoning – per planning board minutes, it seems that the lots will be plated and the road laid out, and then sold parcel-to-parcel to custom builders.

If the owner did want to build, they have the expertise to do so – a deed check shows this property is owned by the Lucente family, who run Lifestyle Properties and have built out thousands of housing units in Tompkins County since the 1950s. The unimproved land is valued at $1,132,600, about $1,250/acre, and has been in their possession since 1954, so this doesn’t appear to be a rash decision.

Doing the math and removing a small amount for internal loop road still gives over 20 acres per lot, these properties would be very large and potentially expensive, because with improvements, that much acreage will be worth more and it will add up quickly. Maybe it’s a bit out of character for this blog, but this proposal actually seems rather worrying from an environmental and infrastructure perspective. Density in urban areas tends to draw the most attention, but these lots could potentially have much bigger impacts because of the amount of natural space that would be consumed by a sprawling high-end housing development.

As for the medical facility at 2141 Dryden Road, it sounds like it will be a two-story facility, and while they suggested parking in the front, the board requested to move it to the back (a couple handicap spaces in front are okay). There was some concern with its choice of locations (the board would much prefer the office be located in the village or a more built-up area) and curb-cuts/traffic impacts.

3. For the creative types: the Collegetown Small Business Alliance is sponsoring a contest to design streetlight banners for the neighborhood, like the ones on the Commons. The plan is to make up fifteen of them and have them hanging for two years. Here are the design criteria:

Designs that are timeless will be favored. Avoid using trendy colors, fonts that may fall out of taste.

– Collegetown is at the intersection of the Cornell campus, student life, and the Ithaca community, and as such, designs should be inclusive of all of the following groups: Cornell students, Collegetown businesses, and the City of Ithaca.

Consider these banners as creating a brand and identity of Collegetown as a whole.

Submissions must be a 24″ x 60″ image, 300dpi, with a legible “Collegetown” on the image. May include photographs, graphic designs, or scanned images. No inappropriate content. Submission are due by 11:59 PM on Tuesday April 16th, and are to be submitted here. First places get $125 and their design on the flags, second place $75, and third place $50.

4. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but there are some unusual LLC formation notices in the Journal classifieds. 628 West Seneca Street LLC, 625-27 West Buffalo Street LLC, 629-631 West Buffalo LLC, and 205 North Fulton LLC have all been created in the past couple of weeks. They are a parking lot, an apartment house, a one-story commercial building (Emmy’s Organicsm which they will vacate for larger digs in then ear future), and another one-story commercial building (Superior Glass) respectively. They are all owned by the same guy (Robert Bond).

The LLCs are all registered to the address of Alternatives Federal Credit Union across the street at 125 North Fulton, which is a little worrying because AFCU bought 634 West Seneca a few years ago and tore it down for a parking lot. It would be very unfortunate if they decided to take down more buildings for surface parking, given that this is an area the city’s trying to build up. It’s also not clear what might happen to the Rhine House in such a situation. Anyway, it’s something to keep an eye on.





News Tidbits 3/31/19

31 03 2019

1. A couple items of note from the latest Dryden Planning Board agenda – one is a new housing subdivision called Mill Creek, but the number of lots and location is not disclosed. The other appears to be plans for a new medical office building at 2141 Dryden Road, which is currently a vacant lot near near Willow Glen Cemetery. Google Maps seems to struggle with locating the 3.3 acre lot, so the screenshot is from the county’s map. The parcel is zoned “Mixed Use Commercial” and appears to be outside the sewer service areas. This still allows for a pretty substantial building – 40 foot setback from the front, 25 feet from the rear, 7.5 feet on either side, maximum 60% lot coverage and up to 35 feet in height, which for a medical office is typically two floors (13-14′ feet per floor). Put it this way, a building built to maximum dimensions would have a gross square footage of about 86,000 SF per floor, though whatever is planned here is likely to be much less than that. Anyway, it’s something to keep an eye on as plans develop.

2. A sign of the times. The property value of the Shoppes at Ithaca Mall plunged this year, from $31 million to $19.35 million, a 38% drop. This is the result of high vacancy rates and a deteriorating long-term outlook. Downtown boosters will note with some schadenfreude that’s quite a different picture than the state of business affairs a generation ago, when downtown was in the doldrums and the mall (always in my mind the Pyramid Mall) was the center of activity.

This poses a substantial problem for the village of Lansing, but luckily, other development around the village was more than enough to offset the loss of valuation in the mall. Overall property value in the village inched up from $476.3 million to $479.5 million. Borg-Warner’s property value jumped a million dollars, and projects such as the East Pointe Apartments and Cayuga View Senior Living have also contributed to the growing property tax base.

There’s been a persistent rumor that Maguire or Guthrie are buying the mall. The short answer is some outreach was done, and no, they’re not. It’s not even possible for them to do that because Namdar’s mode of operation is to sell off the mall in sections. The long answer, with quotes, will be an article in the Voice next week.

3. When the state wants something, it can move very fast – the request for contractor bids is already out for the new proposed NYS DOT facility off of Warren Road in the town of Lansing. The bids on the $13.8 million project close April 24th. Here are the specs in brief:

“This project includes new building construction of the NYSDOT Tompkins County Sub‐Residency Building as well as site development and construction that includes asphalt concrete pavement, drainage, water & sanitary sewer work. The new NYSDOT facility will consist of office space, workshop space, truck parking and salt storage. The approximate square footage of the various structures are as follows: subresidency
maintenance building (30,000 SF), cold storage (5,000 SF), salt barn (8,200 SF), hopper building/covered lean-to (2,500 SF).

The proposed maintenance building will have vehicle storage for 10 trucks, a loader and tow plow, with one additional double depth mechanical bay and single depth, drive-thru truck washing bay. It also includes an office area (three rooms), lunch/break room (30 people), toilet/shower/locker rooms, storage rooms and mechanical/electrical rooms.

The site will also contain stockpile areas for pipe, stone and millings, and ancillary site features including a fueling station, parking for 40 vehicles, and storm water management facilities. The project will require construction of an access drive from Warren Road and the extension of utilities.”

I have not seen an updated site plan for the project. The image in last week’s Tompkins Weekly is from the SEQR Review, which is outdated. In February, a $1.5 million grant was awarded to build a refueling station closer to the airport, which has resulted in significant site plan changes to the DOT site (I’m not able to find the document offhand, but the written description stated a rotation of the main building and movement of other structures away from the residential properties to the north).

4. Word, or rather warning, to the wise. Local businessman Andrew LaVigne defrauded investors in his “Cascadilla Landing” project, to the tune of $4.6 million. Now he’ll be going to jail for 20 years, which at 66 years old, is most likely the rest of his life. So comes to an ingnomoius end to one of Ithaca’s first major projects of the decade. The 183-unit mixed-use project was proposed in the summer of 2012,  received preliminary approval that September, and did not move any further than that. Plans by local architect John Snyder included a small amount of neighborhood retail space, and covered ground-floor and outdoor surface parking. The land, owned by the Cleveland family, was sold in November 2017 and is now the site of the City Harbor development. There hasn’t been much news about City Harbor recently, but the rumor mill says that a new architect is revising the project design and site plan.

5. I accidentally dropped the ball on the Fall Creek County Office Building study. During the March PEDC meeting in which the concept was being presented, I tuned in online and had taken screenshots for my own reference, and my Voice colleague Devon Magliozzi wasin the meeting doing the official writeup. However, I never checked to see what she was covering and had assumed a big roundup. Her focus, though, was on the Lime Scooters, and it was an excellent piece, but the county office building didn’t make the news.

Anyway, the county presented about eight separate plans, seven of which had the same interpretation for the office building – a 10,500 SF that would be built to include the historic structure at 408 North Tioga in its footprint. Most of the plans differed in the amount of housing and parking, from one single family homes to three single family homes to two duplexes (two two-family units, total of four) to five townhouses. This also impacts the total amount of parking ,which ranged from 27 to 48 spaces depending on the housing footprint and whether tandem parking was used. The last plan was a proposal with no housing on-site, and selling off 408 North Tioga for an office building with an 8,400 SF footprint. All plans assumed a three-story office building plus basement, and housing designs compatible with Sears Street (1.5-2.5 floors). The mix of county occupants is still being determined, and any housing plan would likely involve an affordable housing developer like Conifer or INHS.

The county legislature is expected to get an update on the plans at their meeting on the 2nd, and make a decision on whether or not to buy the Fall Creek property at their April 16th meeting.





News Tidbits 7/21/18

21 07 2018

1.. I rarely check in on Groton, but here’s an interesting little rehabilitation. Back in August 2017, I noted that a historic village church at 113 Church Street was for sale. The buyers last February were David and Delsy DeMatteo, who own and rent out a number of Groton-area properties. The DeMatteos appear to have submitted and received approval for a plan to renovate the structure into a 12-unit apartment building, replacing the religious-turned-commercial space with ten apartment units (two units already exist). From the look of it, the ten new units would consist of eight one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. The plan was approved in late fall when the DeMatteo likely had a purchase option on the property, and the sale closed on February 8th. Always nice to see new life breathed into a place that played a role in the lives of many.

2. Over in Dryden village, the second phase of the new Rite Aid-turned-Walgreens development site is being marketed. Great Dane Properties is touting 5,700 SF of space for lease, with a drive-thru option should one desire it. The spec site plan can be seen here – the render above is likely the north elevation. Early conversations stated a 3,800 SF restaurant space (typical for a fast food /chain coffee shop), 1,900 SF of other retail space, and 33 parking spaces, but the plan is vanilla box, meaning minimally finished interior – it’s a shell with the exterior complete and all the utilities are good to go, but the build-out of fixtures, finishes and partitions is up to the tenant. A second commercial real estate posting suggests a 2019 build-out, though it’s more likely based on the ability to secure a primary tenant.  That listing also floats a hotel as another possible use of the location.

The first post came from Craigslist, which as a matter of personal opinion, that seems a bit unbecoming for high-value commercial listings, and may not effectively reach the target market of business owners and RE corporate development teams. You’re trying to fill 5,700 SF of new retail space, not sell Grandma’s old couch.

3. Also in Dryden, plans for a new veterinary office building at 1650 Hanshaw Road. Existing site plan here, proposed site plan here, elevations here. It’s not a particularly large project – a one-story metal building 4,800 SF in size, with revised landscaping 14 new parking spaces. The new building would go in front of the existing building on the property, so not much in the way of site prep required. The plans are being drawn up and led through review by local architect George Breuhaus.

4. It looks like the gut renovation and expansion of 1020 Craft Road is complete. The $1.88 million project involved taking the existing 10,500 SF car dealership-turned-industrial building, tearing out everything except the support beams, and fully rebuilding the interior along with constructing an additional 4,400 SF of space. Three commercial office spaces were completed, and it appears Cayuga Medical has leased two of the spaces for medical offices. The project was developed and built by Marchuska Brothers Construction of Binghamton.

 

5. Speaking of renovations, it looks like someone is interested in the former Tau Epsilon Phi house at 306 Highland Road in Cayuga Heights. The plans show 15 “units” and potentially up to 48 beds, which sounds like a group living situation, but the plans do not identify the developer. The first phase would involve exterior and interior renovations for 36 beds in the 3,400 SF building, enclosing the side porch and constructing a small addition on the southeast face to create a new entrance. A second phase is shown in the documents that would seek a 1134 SF, 12-bed addition at what is currently the front entrance of the early 1960s building, the east facade. It was previously noted that 306 Highland was for sale for $1.385 million, which was steadily reduced to $1.025 million before being taken off the market at the start of June. The village will begin site plan review of the project at its Planning Board meeting on July 23rd.

6. On to Lansing. Here’s a little more about the Hillcrest Tiny House project -memo here, application here, drawings by architectural firm SPEC Consulting here,  . The five homes would be built on 16 Hillcrest Road, a parcel split by Hillcrest Road where it intersects with Warren Drive – the developer is the home owner who lives on the other half of the parcel, south of the intersection. The triangular northern piece would host the rather traditional-looking cottages, which would be one-bedroom units, about 450 SF each, and have two parking spaces apiece. The land is zoned industrial/research, which allows commercial and industrial uses – the owners argue that its location on the west side of Warren Road near other residential development along Hillcrest means that a commercial or industrial use would be out of character.

One could make an argument that this is desirable in that their small size would help address the  middle-market for housing demand, which has been lacking in new options, resulting in existing options being pressured upward in price. The project would cost about $200,000 to build and the owner/developer estimates two months to build each cottage, though it’s not clear if construction of each cottage would be concurrent, or one at a time.

Quick side note, Milton Meadows has submitted a construction plan for the new access road in tandem with the town’s realignment of the Woodsedge Drive/Route 34 intersection. Taylor the Builder, the general contractor for the project, is planning for November 2018 – September 2019 for the 72-unit affordable apartment complex.

7. Urban Core LLC has started exterior demolition and reconstruction work for the Press Bay Court project. I’ve been waiting to officially move this into the construction column for a while, could never quite be sure when walking past – the full rundown and description of the project can be found in the October introduction here. To quote part of it:

“What Urban Core’s latest plans would do is expand that “experiential” micro-retail mix eastward towards the corner of Green and Cayuga Streets, the Commons and the downtown core. The parking lot in front of D. P. Dough would be converted into a plaza much like Press Bay Alley’s, and the first floor of 108-110 West Green would be renovated into 5-8 micro-retail units facing the new plaza (the Green Street entrances would be retained), with 320-2200 SF per unit. The second floor would be renovated into four below-market rate one-bedroom apartments with 510-660 SF of living space, and the exterior masonry would be cleaned and repaired. The hawk mural will be preserved. New signage, bike infrastructure, curbing, sidewalks and a parklet are included in the plans. The total square footage in phase two is about 9,000 SF.”

8. 105 Dearborn has received a construction loan to move forward. The 10,930 SF, 12-bedroom, 16-person high-end skilled care facility will cost $4.2 million to build according to the loan filed this Friday the 20th, and over the next year it’ll slowly take form on what is now a vacant corner in leafy Cornell Heights. Bridges Cornell Heights will run the facility, and add a handful of news jobs as a result of the new addition. Tompkins Trust Company is the lender, and the historically-inspired design was penned by Rochester-based Bero Architecture.

7. Looks like a fairly interesting monthly meeting ahead for the Ithaca City Planning Board. Here’s the agenda:

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

3. Subdivision Review

A. Project: Minor Subdivision 6:15
Location: 508-512 Edgewood Place
Actions: Determination of Environmental Significance – Consideration of Preliminary and Final Approval

This subdivision at the end of a private street in the East Hill neighborhood would re-subdivide a double lot that had been consolidated after the original house burnt down in the late 1930s. Any news structure on the newly created .326 acre lot would be subject to Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission design review. No specific plans are on file.

4. Site Plan Review

A. Project: Stewart Park Inclusive Playground 6:30
Location: Stewart Park
Applicant: Rick Manning for the City of Ithaca
Actions: Consideration of Project Changes

Project Description: The project was approved by the Planning Board on March 27, 2018. The applicant is now requesting project changes, including relocation and redesign of the bathrooms and parking area, and layout and programming changes to the overall playground.

The bathroom building was to be combined with a pavilion, but that proved to be expensive and the playground architects had bad experiences with the original structural supplier, so local architecture firm STREAM Collaborative stepped in to design a separate 24′ x 24′ bathroom building with utility rooms and storage space. The pre-school playground and sand garden were moved, the splash pad tweaked, some swings were added and the adult wellness area was deleted for this initial buildout.

B. Project: Minor Subdivision & Construction of a Duplex 6:45
Location: 209 Hudson Street
Applicant: Jagat Sharma, architect, for Bia Stavropoulos, owner
Actions: Determination of Environmental Significance

Touched on this one a couple of weeks ago – the project was revised from two duplexes to just one, with three bedrooms per unit. Even development-averse councilwoman Cynthia Brock offered support for the plan (with minor aesthetic tweaks), which is about as good as one can hope for a green light to proceed. Note no approvals are planned because this has to go to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a lot size variance.

C. Project: Major Subdivision (3 Lots), Two Duplexes, One Single Family Home & Site Improvements 7:00
Location: 128 West Falls Street
Applicant: Ron Ronsvalle
Actions: Consideration of Preliminary and Final Subdivision Approval and Site Plan Approval

BZA gave Ronsvalle’s five-unit rental project in Fall Creek the all-clear. This project came up earlier this month in a previous news roundup – a five-unit infill project in Fall Creek, originally approved in February 2015, and revived now that the developer has found a way to continue working after a debilitating accident. Don’t foresee any issues here.

D. Project: North Campus Residential Initiative (NCRI)
Location: Cornell University Campus
Applicant: Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture on behalf of Cornell
Actions: Intent to Declare Lead Agency

This will be huge – 766,000 SF of space for 2,000 student dormitory beds and associated program space, including a 1,200 seat dining hall. I’ll have more coverage next week. John Novarr favorite ikon.5 is the project architect.

E. Hudson Street Townhomes – 117-119 Coddington Road –Sketch Plan 7:50

One of this week’s new shinies. This project appears to be slated for a parking between two apartment complexes and across the street from the Elks Lodge just north of Ithaca College’s campus. Depending on how they reconfigure the existing parking lot, they could do a high single-digit or low double-digit number of townhomes. Zoning here is R-3b. Up to four floors/40 feet, 40% lot coverage, one parking space per unit of per three bedrooms (two spaces for 4-5 bed units). Lot coverage may end up being based on a subdivision, since this falls into the South Hill Zoning Overlay and no additional primary structures are allowed on a lot. The property has been owned by the Dennis family since 1979, but the developer may be someone else with a purchase deal on the subdivided lot.

F. Falls Park Project – 121-125 Lake Street – Sketch Plan 8:05

This would be whatever Travis Hyde Properties is planning for the former Ithaca Gun site on Gun Hill. I have been told this is “substantially different” from the earlier Ithaca Falls Residences plan. Assume residential. This was rezoned R-3a not long back, up to four floors/40 feet, 35% lot coverage, one parking space per unit of per three bedrooms (two spaces for 4-5 bed units). I would expect a fair number of units for a 1.42 acre property; the IFR plan was 45 units.

5. Zoning Appeals 8:10
#3102, 209 Hudson St., Area Variance
#3103, 216 University Ave., Area Variance
#3104, 737 Willow Ave., Area Variance