Village Solars Construction Update, 12/2019

22 12 2019

Over at the Village Solars site off of Warren Road in Lansing, phase five of apartment construction is underway. 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios), which replaces an older 12,000 SF 10-unit structure, is fully framed, sheathed with ZIP Panels, shingled and fitted with doors and windows. The installation of exterior fiber cement trim boards is just getting underway. The sets of wires dangling from below the eaves are utility lines for the air-source electric heat pumps, as construction continues they’ll be bundled together and boxed up into the exterior siding (the heat pumps themselves will be boxed in with a decorative screen in a bump-out).

Building M is a new build on previously vacant land. It is an 18-unit building with 12 studios and 6 two-bedroom units. It is undergoing framing now and has yet to top out with roof trusses. If I had to take a guess, I’d say 36 Village Circle North will be ready by the end of April, and Building M will be ready by the end of July.

So, avoiding the political question of whether the town supervisor should have voted on approving the PDA amendment on the community center because that’s not this blog’s wheelhouse, it was granted, but the outcome for the community center is still murky. As previously discussed back in September, it could either be built at its original location in its original ground-floor community/commercial with 20 one-bedrooms above, or with a different design in a location further east, more central to the property next door for sale by Rocco Lucente Sr.’s estate.

A few weeks ago, an ad showed up on commercial real estate website Loopnet advertising Lucente Sr.’s holdings, listing the property for $10 million. For that price one gets 96.44 acres and 42 existing units in four buildings, as well as plenty of development potential. Now, my gut is that the negotiations between Steve Lucente and his father’s estate were either not going well or had fallen through completely, but no one in the family is talking, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that big merger of the two sites will happen. If it doesn’t, Steve Lucente will start work on the originally-planned community center building next year, as the modified Planned Development Area states.

I did not realize TCAT Bus Route 37 now passes through here (it appears to have started to make stops here earlier this year) but it makes sense given the population growth. At the start of the decade there were about 56 bedrooms here and about 30 on the elder Lucente’s property next door. When the latest building open next year, it will be 420 or so bedrooms on this site and 54 next door (the elder Lucente built a final 12-unit building with two-bedroom units in 2011-12). When all approved construction is complete in about 2022 (the three remaining rebuilds and the community center mixed-use), that will be up to 507 bedrooms in 333 units, not considering future growth on the property next door. It’s not quite the scale of Cornell’s dorm projects or Collegetown Terrace, but it’s probably the next largest single development site after those, it’s just no one notices because it’s rather out of the way and the build-out has been modest but steady.

According to a county deed filing just after this post went up, Northwest Bank, a regional bank mainly operating in Western Pennsylvania, is lending $4,935,000 for the construction of the two buildings.





Village Solars Construction Update 9/2019

13 09 2019

So there’s been some news regarding the Village Solars buildout. The community center is in flux. The original proposal was for a mixed-use building with ground-level commercial and community amenities, and 20 one-bedroom apartments on the upper levels. Now, it’s an unknown. Per the Lansing Star:

“(T)hey will relocate the community center site to a location more central what will become an enlarged, single development. The lower floor would have amenities like a restaurant, a work-out center, and other features, with apartments on the upper floors. If not, they would build the smaller community center as already accepted by the Town.”

That means that the community center is being moved to another location on the site, and potentially take a different physical form, though programmatically it remains the same (commercial/community use on the ground level, residential above).

When the article says a more central location, it refers to the 96.44 acres of land east of the complex. The Village Solars are owned by Steve Lucente, and the undeveloped land to the east by his father Rocco, who had purchased it in 1960 and was recently planning his own apartment complex (schematic in the early Village Solars site plan below). My understanding is that the two Lucentes didn’t get along at all – I was warned to never bring up Steve when interviewing Rocco. After Rocco passed away about 18 months ago, Steve saw an opportunity to purchase the vacant land to the east from Rocco’s estate, and build a bigger complex in future phases (as yet unapproved). The purchase offer, at least check, is still being reviewed by Rocco’s Executors.

However, this created a problem. Local Law #6 of 2017, the Planned Development Area (PDA, like Ithaca’s PUD it’s D-I-Y zoning) with the town, stipulated that the community center had to be built and open by the end of 2020, and only one more apartment building could be built before it was done. So Steve Lucente and his project team had to make the case to the town of Lansing Planning Board and Town Board give them time to purchase the land and design the new community center, and let them do three more apartment buildings in the meanwhile to keep on pace with their construction plans. If the offer feel through, he’d build the community center starting next summer and finishing in 2021, a year later than initially planned. Generally, of all the communities to have to make such a request, Lansing would be one of the most accommodating.

Officially, only the Town Board really decides PDA amendments. But here, the Town Board was uncomfortable with the request at first, referred it to the Planning Board for guidance, and then after the Planning Board weighed in, it returned to the town board with a recommendation to consider during voting.

This caused some debate, with some of the planning board feeling like their credibility was taking a hint with this latest delay (the community center was delayed at least once, hence why it was explicitly stated in the 2017 PDA revision), and at least one member of the town board feeling as if they were purposely misled since banks would have received the notice of intent to modify the plans several months ago, but Steve Lucente countered that it was not a firm plan and only became firm later in the year when the offer looked like it had a good chance of being accepted. On a 3-1 vote, the town is permitting three more apartment buildings and only two more, and expects a community center to start next year in either the old or the new location.

At this point, the last of the originally permitted buildings, 24-unit 36 Village Circle North (3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios) has had its foundation footers poured and is awaiting the concrete slab pour. The tarp and mesh are in place for stability and added strength respectively, and you can see the below-ground utilities poking out, capped for the time being. A surveyor was on site during this visit to make sure everything was level and in good order before the wood frame starts to rise. The three newly permitted buildings are all reconstruction of existing 8-10 unit buildings, into two 18-unit buildings (2 Village Place, 22 Village Place) and one 24-unit building (117 Village Circle North).

Apparently, occupancy rates have been strong. Building “L” (113 Village Circle North) opened in June, and 22 of its 24 units were spoken for, with the other two rented shortly after.

As for the future, it’s not clear. Something will be proposed that may very well require more PDA amendments, but we’ll see. The elder Lucente’s complementary apartment complex was supposed to be around 300 units in size (built over several years), and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Village Solars plan expands by a similar amount.

 





Village Solars Construction Update 5/2019

25 05 2019

From the Voice, with light editing:

“Quietly plodding along off the 1000 Block of Warren Road, Lifestyle Properties’ Village Solars Apartments continues its steady buildout. This is one of the largest projects in Tompkins County, with 277 apartments approved, with potentially more in the works on the adjacent property to the east. So why doesn’t it get much attention? They build a couple of apartment buildings each year, they don’t have tax abatements or any high-profile review process because they were approved by the town as a Planned Development Area (flexible “D-I-Y” zoning), and they’re in a less-trafficked part of the county north of the airport. They’re low profile, physically and programmatically.

Under construction right now are Buildings “K” (113 Village Circle) and “L” (40 Village Place), which make the 11th and 12th buildings to have been built in the past five years. The 24-unit Building “K” is mostly complete from the outside, and likely to open for occupancy later this spring, adding another 3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios to the market. 24-unit Building “L”, just to its east, isn’t as far along. It’s framed, sheathed and has had its windows and doors fitted, but the fiber cement siding is only partially finished, and exposed interior stud walls are visible through the windows. If you’re wondering what the rat’s nest of white cables are, those are connections for the air-source electric heat pumps – the units are installed towards the bottom, and the cables are framed in by a bump-out for aesthetic purposes.

The latest two buildings are being funded courtesy of a $5.6 million construction loan extended by Elmira Savings Bank. According to the loan filing, both buildings are expected to be completed and ready for their first tenants by the end of September. But more realistically, given that the local rental market revolves around the academic cycle and that some graduate and professional students make their homes here, expect the new apartments to be ready for occupancy no later than mid-August.”

***

I must have missed the part when “Equinox Way”, the new through road was named. Still waiting a construction start on Building “F”, as seen below the site is just grass at the moment. Offhand, Lifestyle Properties can start one more building before they have to build the mixed-use community building, and regardless, the community center must be complete by the end of 2020.

The timeline and plans for each phase is out of whack because the redevelopment of the existing apartment 1970s buildings was expected before new sites were to get underway. I’d venture a guess the 2019-2020 phase would be 18-unit Building “M” and the Community Center, for an August 2020 completion.

Giving credit where credit is due – the in-house construction crew is moving fast with these. Building “L” hardly had its site cleared and wood foundation forms in back in February. Years of practice pays off, perhaps. Interior walls and insulation is in, but drywall has yet to be hung, so completion is still a couple of months away.





News Tidbits 4/26/19

27 04 2019

1. Here’s a little more information on the proposes medical office building at 2141 Dryden Road. Site Plan here, planning department memo here. A local doctor operating as “Slaterville Springs Real Estate Company, LLC” is planning a 3,676 SF pre-fabricated building on the site. The building would be built using a Superior Wall precast concrete foundation (Superior Walls are commonly seen with modular builds), and built into the hillside – one story from the front, two from the back. The doctor’s office would occupy the upper level, and the lower level is spec space. The plans include a roof-mounted solar system, electric heat pumps, and an electric vehicle charging station in one of the three proposed parking areas. 48 parking spaces are indicated, four of which are ADA compliant. A covered bicycle rack and dumpster enclosure are also provided.

Having all these green features at a semi-rural site with gobs of parking (the Institute for Traffic Engineers’ parking standards for medical offices is about 3.5 per 1,000 SF, or 13 in this case) is liking having a diet coke with your Big Mac. A project can be “green”, but much of its green impacts are mitigated if it encourages fossil fuel use with increased vehicle traffic. It would benefit the town to plan and zone for developments like this closer to villages and hamlets.

The site also includes landscaping, some limited signage, lighting and stormwater features. The town planning department’s opinion is that the project is not substantial enough to merit full site plan review. Spec Consulting of Groton is doing the project design.

2. The Black Diamond Trail will receive a major addition after New York State announced funding for a bridge over the Cayuga Lake flood control channel earlier this week. The $1.2 million award from the state will pay for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge for the trail, which will span the inlet from the current trail segment along Floral Avenue, to the intersection of Cherry Street and Cecil Malone Drive. This would provide greater connectivity for West Hill residents to the businesses along the waterfront and the big box corridor, giving them to option to walk/bike through here instead of going up to West State Street. In an interview with the Journal’s Tom Pudney, city transportation engineer Tim Logue notes that design work, public hearings and municipal approvals for the bridge will take another 18 months, so construction won’t be until 2021.

3. Now for a look at Dryden’s Mill Creek subdivision. Site plan application here, proposed covenants here, site plans here. This is the 908-acre subdivision of land west of Freeville into forty home lots. It looks like the Lucente family (as RPL Properties, for the late Rocco P. Lucente) is working with surveyor Alan Lord to plat the lots. The 40 lots range in size from just over 5 acres, to 60 acres. 23 acres on the eastern edge of the parcel would be deeded over to the town for land conservation.

Even as subdivisions go, this is a very questionable design because it’s not really following state guidelines for conservation subdivisions, which cluster houses near roads on smaller lots so as to preserve natural space. These lots aren’t designed for that, which really opens up the possibility of large-scale natural space degradation or destruction. Given that the zoning here is a conservation district, it meets the word of the law, but not the sentiment.

4. Courtesy of the County Clerk’s office, we now know what the amount of the construction loan was for the latest phase of the Village Solars. 24-unit Building “K” (113 Village Circle) and 24-unit Building “L” (40 Village Place) received a $5.6 million loan from Elmira Savings Bank, which is mildly interesting in that the previous building loans were from Tompkins Trust. Note that the buildings are switched around from the site plan above, so that middle building is “K” and the building to the east is “L”.¬†Both buildings are expected to be completed by the end of September 2019. I

n February, my last visit, Building “K” was substantially finished from the outside, while Building “L” was just a foundation pad. However, the Lucentes in-house construction team have been building these for years and have the process down pat, so if they’re framing by now, they could certainly have “L” finished by the end of September.

5. The recent article regarding the U.S. Census Bureau estimates created quite a stir and a number of strong and/or concerned emails. Before anyone gets hung up on the numbers,realize that the census is all about estimating from an annual survey of about 2.1 million households nationwide, out of a little over 126 million. They’re reasonably comfortable with national figures, a little less so with states, and generally, they just hope to be close with counties, especially medium-sized one like Tompkins who are hard to sample but can still vary by several hundreds of people from year to year.

Now consider the statistics mentioned in the article. From 2010 to 2017, the area added 2,412 housing units, and from 2010 to 2018 it added about 6,000 jobs (1.4% annual growth). The colleges add 800 or so students in total. All signs point to steady, modest growth.

Here’s an exercise. Let’s take those 2,412 housing units. 964 single-family homes, and 1,448 multi-family units. The average household size is 2.5 persons/home, and 2.2/persons per multifamily unit. So a gross estimate for the number of occupants in new housing is (964 * 2.5) + (1,448 * 2.2), or 5,596 people.

Now for a couple of adjustments. Household sizes are known to be getting smaller. Nationally, from 2010 to 2018, the change was 2.59 to 2.53, so applying that same percent decrease to the single-family figure and the multi-family figure reduces the gross gain to 5,466 people. Also, let’s assume that not every housing unit permitted was built. The vast majority are, but not all. Let’s say 98% were. That reduces the figure to 5,356.

Secondly, some new housing replaces older housing. Those stats aren’t so readily available. But I track them here. In this case, the number I have on file is that of projects recently completed or proposed, net gain is 90.6% of the gross gain. That number is going to be a bit low because I don’t track single-family home construction, which typically happens on vacant lots. Still, assuming it’s otherwise an acceptable estimation, then (5,356 * .906) = 4,853 people.

Now, let’s account for vacancy. Overall, Tompkins County is ticking upward, though still below a healthy market rate / too tight in the urban areas. It was higher in 2010, lower in the middle of decade, and creeping up now as new construction is completed and occupied. Let’s say (rather optimistically or pessimistically, depending your view) there’s a one percent increase since 2010,. Tompkins had 43.453 housing units as of 2017. So with a +1% vacancy since 2010, that’s 434.5, of which 52.7% are homes if we break it up perfectly, but since rentals have a slightly higher vacancy rate in general, let’s say 50-50. So ((217.25 * 2.5) + (217.25 * 2.2) ) * (2.53/2.59) = 997 people.

Let’s do the math. 4,853 people – 997 people = 3,856 people. Add that to 101,564 reported in 2010, and you get 105,420 residents in 2017. The Census’s 2017 estimate for Tompkins County was 104,871. Extrapolate it out a bit, and assuming Tompkins continues to add at about 551 people/year, and 2020 will clock in around 107,073 people. 5.4% growth. A hair below national average, but well above most of upstate New York and the Northeast.

So with that exercise in mind, don’t worry about the Census estimates. They will be what they will be, whether 2,000 people magically disappear or not. They’re not looking to be great, they just hope to be kinda accurate until the next census rolls out in 2020.

 





Village Solars Construction Update, 2/2019

3 03 2019

It was with some surprise that the latest trip to the never-ending Village Solars construction site yielded significant progress on only one apartment building, instead of the usual two or three. The 24-unit Building “L” is mostly complete from the outside, and likely to open for occupancy this spring, adding another 3 three-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms, 3 one-bedrooms and 12 studios to the market. 24-unit Building “K”, just to its east (right, in the photos), appears to have not made much progress; excavation was completed, and it looks like there are wood forms for the foundation on site, though with the snow and active work underway, it was hard to tell if the concrete slab had been poured – judging from the dirt piles, that’s a no.

Local Law #6 (2017) of the Village Solars PDA permitted three additional buildings to be built before Lifestyle Properties (the Lucente Property) was legally obligated to build the community center building (Building “F”), which is to contain a small amount of commercial space (restaurant), service space (gym, laundry, rental office) and up to twenty one-bedroom units. If “L” and “K” are completed this year, that will allow one more building to receive a building permit before the community center must be built and receive a certificate of occupancy (i.e. habitable and practically complete). Until then, no additional building permits are allowed. The law also stipulates that the community center has to be completed, regardless of the status of other apartment buildings, by the end of 2020.¬† Like other apartments, it won’t be subject to site plan review, bu any potential commercial applicant would have to undergo site plan review.





Village Solars Construction Update, 11/2018

21 11 2018

The Village Solars complex is a development project that never truly stops. Lifestyle Properties (the Lucente family) only builds two or three new apartment buildings each year, but after four years of construction, it has resulted in quite a large development. A visit to the site shows the next buildings are just getting underway – based off the latest site plan, it appears to be Building “L” and Building “K”, which is a little out-of-order in that these two were supposed to built in 2020-2021, after another phase that so far remains unbuilt. Building L’s foundation has been formed and poured, with all the utilities poking out of the concrete, to be routed into the framing as the building goes up; Building “K” looks like it’s still in the excavation stage. The crushed stone helps with drainage, site leveling and preventing cracks in the concrete due to settling. That water will be pumped out before the footers are poured.

Each of the two buildings, which have slightly different designs, is designed to host 24 units – 3 three-bedroom, 6 two-bedroom, 3 one-bedroom, and 12 of the one-bedroom “micro-units”, which are 400-500 square feet. Expect a mid-2019 opening for the pair. Next year’s phase likely involves one more apartment building in Phase “4”, as well as the construction on their mixed-use community center building (Building “F”), which will go in that empty space in the last photo. The town of Lansing’s Village Solars amended PDA law (#6 of 2016, to be technical) says the developers are only allowed one more building to be built before the community center must be constructed, and that the center must be built by the end of 2020.





Village Solars Construction Update, 6/2018

16 06 2018

It looks like there’s a lull in the construction at the moment. Both 102 Village Place and 116 Village Circle appear to be complete, though a quick guess would be that 102 Village Place is already occupied, and 116 Village Circle will be ready for its first tenants at the end of the month. The two have a total of 42 units, 24 in the former and 18 in the latter. TCAT is in discussions to add or modify a bus route to service the growing apartment complex, which has already added a couple hundred residents to the area since 2013, with plans for hundreds more over the next several years.

According to the phasing plan, the next phase is to replace 2 Village Circle and 22 Village Circle with a pair of 18-unit buildings. Those would be twelve studios and six two-bedrooms each, replacing two ten one-bedroom unit buildings (net gain of 28 residents, for those keeping in track). Demolition has not yet started on the existing structure, but the most likely plan is to start a little later in the early summer, and have the new pair of buildings ready for a spring 2019 occupancy.