Amici House Construction Update, 3/2018

24 03 2018

Ithaca’s housing woes are fairly well-documented at this point. As in any broad situation, some have fared worse than others. If you’re fairly well off, the rapidly increasing housing prices are a nuisance, a vague political “issue” or perhaps even an opportunity if one thinks they know the market. For those will meager or no means, it’s more dire than that.

Take for instance those who are housing insecure or homeless. With a scarcity of options in Ithaca, many of Ithaca’s most vulnerable are at risk of living on the streets, with many ending up in “the Jungle” encampment behind Wal-Mart. Local shelters and supportive housing facilities are at full capacity, with dozens more turned away. This can perpetuate unemployment by reducing life stability, and it contributes to substance abuse and mental health issues. The high cost of housing has contributed to a much higher homeless rate in Tompkins County – up to five times the rate of Onondaga County (Syracuse), according to a 2016 Ithaca Voice study.

Tompkins Community Action, T.C.Action/TCAction for short, is well-aware of the issues faced by the less well-off in the Ithaca community. The non-profit started as the local unit of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” programs in the 1960s. It administers early childhood education programs (Head Start), GED assistance, energy service programs (home weatherization), food pantries, family reunification services, housing vouchers, a fiscal literacy program, employment help – basically, social support services for thousands of low-income individuals in Tompkins County and adjacent communities, helping them succeed in their educational, professional and family endeavors.

In the past few years, Tompkins Community Action has made significant efforts to try and create more housing for those vulnerable, so that they’re less likely to end up in the Jungle or a back alley. In safe, secure housing, they are more likely to get clean, they are more likely to earn and keep steady employment, and they are more likely to take advantage of TCAction’s other supportive services, hopefully continuing on to better, more productive lives.

One of these efforts is a partnership with Finger Lakes ReUse – the pair, with consultation from affordable housing provider INHS, are entering the grant-writing phase for 22 studio units for those transitioning out of jail as well as the formerly homeless at FLR’s property at 214 Old Elmira Road. The other major project is Amici House.

Going through my archived notes, the first reference to what would become Amici House shows up all the way back in September 2014 as a 14 or 15-unit townhouse proposal, but it wasn’t until June 2016 that the first plans were presented, after a feasibility study was completed. Site plan review began in October 2016, and the project was approved in January 2017.

The plans, drawn up by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, call for a narrow five-story, 20,785 SF (later 20,712 SF) building for housing, and an adjacent one-story, 7,010 SF building that will host classrooms and daycare facilities. The facilities would be a part of TCAction’s campus at 661-701 Spencer Road on the south end of the city. Two small houses would be deconstructed to make room for the classroom building, while the residential building, planned to house homeless or vulnerable youth aged 18-25, would be an addition onto the non-profit group’s existing office building.

On the first floor of the new residential building would be a children’s playroom (for homeless youth with children), case conferencing rooms, training rooms and kitchen space. 23 efficiency (studio) apartments would be built on the second through fifth floors.

The childcare building, later called the Harriet Giannelis Childcare Center in honor of a late staff member of TCAction, will provide five classrooms for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, as well as support space and staff training space. The building will host a playground, which is the blue space in the site plan above. The facility would have space for 42 children, and create about 21 living-wage jobs. The numbers were more recently revised to 48 children and 24 jobs. TCAction, which employs 104 people, is a certified living-wage employer.

During the review process, not much changed. On the residential building, the planning board thought a glass-encased stairwell was thought to produce too much light, so the next iteration had it completely bricked in, which the Planning Board also disliked, as was a plan with small windows. Eventually, a “happy” medium was reached for medium-sized windows in the stairwell.

The project required a couple of zoning variances. The first one was for parking spaces (72 required, 65 planned). TCAction suggested that from a practical standpoint, they wouldn’t need a parking space for every housing unit, but the classrooms and office space will meet their parking requirements. Another variance was for operation of a child care facility is a residential zone, and there were three area variances related to building size and the driveway/drop-off area.

The initial estimated construction costs are $8.25 million. Per city building permit docs, The Harriet Giannellis Childcare Center’s hard costs are estimated at $1,267,479, while the 23-unit residential portion’s hard costs are estimated at $3,627,333. However, city IURA statements sat the HGCC will cost $1,774,470 to build, with $153,450 in soft costs, and a total of about $2,103,000. The residential portion comprises $6,115,000 in hard/soft costs and land acquisition (total for both $8,218,000). Welliver of Montour Falls is the general contractor.

As one might tell from above, financially it’s a bit confusing. This isn’t a traditionally-financed project with concerns about a lender’s Return On Investment. To make it become a reality, it uses a fair amount of subsidy layering – different funding grants from the city, county, NYS and the Federal HUD.

One grant, awarded in June 2016, was for $118,000 from the county that would purchase the small house next door to their headquarters – 661 Spencer, built in 1950 by the Amici family – thus allowing them to procure the land needed for developmentA later “grant” forgave the remaining $75,000 loan balance on their headquarters, and $225,000 was awarded to the project by the Tompkins-Ithaca-Cornell Community Housing Development Fund (CHDF).  TCAction first acquired their HQ with the help of the county back in 2001, and the cost of the purchase was being paid back to the county in the form of a 20-year lease. $84,200 was awarded to the Childcare Center by the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency in 2017.

New York State awarded the project $3.732 million in April 2017, and the state’s HUD equivalent, NYS HCR, supplied another $3.26 million in two other grants, the Community Investment Fund (CIF) for the childcare center, and the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for the housing. M&T Bank is providing a $501,883 construction loan, and another $300,000 came from a Federal Home Loan Bank.

More recently, the numbers were revised to $603,000 for M&T Bank and the NYS HCR CIF was reduced from $1.499 to $1.325 million – probably a case where the state decided not to award the full request, and TCAction had to make it up elsewhere. Funding for the Head Start operation comes from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, and other funding comes from state and local allocations. The facilities are tax-exempt. A look at the finances, which practically break even (slight profit actually) can be found here.

Initially, construction was supposed to be from August 2017 to October 2018, but the time frames were shifted back a few months due to financial and bureaucratic snags. TCAction also discovered they couldn’t stay in their headquarters as construction went on, so they needed an emergency $90,690 loan from the IURA to rent temporary offices at 609 West Clinton Street.

Along with Schickel Architecture and Welliver, the project team includes Taitem Engineering for structural engineering work, Foor & Associates of Elmira assisting in the design work, T. G. Miller P.C. for civil engineering and surveying, Saratoga Associates Landscape Architects, Seeler Engineering of suburban Rochester, and INHS as a consultant.

In the photos below, construction has been well underway, and has been since at least the tail end of January. The childcare center’s slab foundation and footers have been excavated, poured and insulated with rigid foam boards (the soil will be backfilled later to cover the base). The wood-frame is well underway, and it appears most if not all of the roof trusses are in place, as are many of the walls – I suppose these guys are going with housewrap instead of ZIP sheets. Although the size seems correct, the design does not look like what I have on file from , much to my chagrin. Foundation work seems to be underway for the residential portion.

 

 





Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 3/2017

22 03 2017

From the outside, Collegetown Terrace’s third and final phase is nearly complete. Some cement panels and clapboards are still being attached at the ends and the south face, and the entry areas need to be finished out, but otherwise it looks like the exterior is mostly finished.

Peering through the windows as the lights clicked on, it looks like drywall has been hung in most of the units, and closet doors and cabinetry are or are being installed, meaning they’re pretty far along and that finishing work is all that’s left for some units (there are 344 units, so it could take a while to do them all). All in all, things look on track for the expected summer completion. Kudos to Welliver for keeping such a massive building on schedule.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 1/2017

8 01 2017

And to think that a year ago about this time, Collegetown Terrace’s Building 7 was just an excavated trench.

On the outside, facade installation continues. It looks like that, along with the fish scales and aluminum panels, there might be a dark blue fiber cement siding not unlike that seen on the smaller buildings lining East State Street. The east cinder block stairwell seen in November’s photos has been wrapped in waterproofing and is now receiving its exterior finishes. Most of the windows have been fitted at this point. The AC units have yet to be installed, and from what could be seen through the windows and openings, the inside has had drywall hung in some locations, but is still down to the stud walls in other sections. There are a couple of architectural quirks that give the building a little bit of visual interest – for instance, the reverse-pitch on the roof where Valentine Place terminates, probably indicating a stairwell or landing area, breaks up the monotony of the wall. I really like the curtain-wall glass used for the amenities/common area at the southwest corner of the structure.

A pine tree on the roof is a traditional way to celebrate the “topping out” of the building.

By the way, I have been wrong – the fish scales are in fact metal, their finish coat just makes them feel like vinyl. According to a trade industry website, they are “0.032-aluminum (0.032” thickness), diamond-shaped, flat metal CastleTop Shingles from ATAS International Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania. ikon.5 architects selected three standard colors-Hartford Green, Patina Green and Hemlock Green-and four designer colors-Adobe Dust, Metallic Gold, Acorn Yellow and Louisburg Green.” It looks like the shingles are more commonly advertised for roofing, although their interlocking tabs allow them to be used for walls as well. The three shades of green on Building 7 are the three standard colors, logic being that designer color shingles likely cost more and were used more sparingly. The other four show up on Building 3 where it approaches East State Street.

 

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 11/2016

24 11 2016

The last phase of Collegetown Terrace is fully framed up. Novarr-Mackesey‘s 344-bed project is mostly closed up, just in time it seems. The maroon waterproofing material covers nearly all of the structure, windows have been fitted in most of the openings, the vinyl “fish scales” are still being applied and the aluminum metal panels are slowly making their way from west to east. One critique I have about the grey panels is that they are not perfectly flat – bumps, dimples and seam pressure spots are visible in direct light (see second-to-last photo for reference). Getting the rest of the water-resistant wrap and exterior materials will progress more slowly now that winter’s set in, but the meat of the work at this point will be focused on the interior – getting the utilities installed, stud walls assembled, drywall hung, and fixtures in place. Work on the roof (EPDM synthetic rubber most likely) will have to wait for spring as well. Welliver is expected to have phase III ready for occupancy by August.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 9/2016

29 09 2016

Novarr-Mackesey‘s curvilinear Collegetown Terrace is one of those projects that’s so big, we can see multiple steps of the construction process at once. In general, the further west one goes, the further along the building is. On the east end, the stairwell and elevator shaft stand high above the framing underway. Steel exterior stud walls are being sheathed with plywood with rough openings for windows. Some of the interior steel stud wall framing can be seen as well. In the next section further west, the framing and sheathing are further along, but still a few floors short of the stairwell/shaft. Some structural steel, which separates groups of units, is present as well. The westernmost third is fully framed and mostly sheathed, enough that the maroon-colored waterproof barrier has been applied to the plywood in most places, and windows have been fitted into many of the rough openings.

Continuing west, we come across the “fish scales” – yes, for better or worse, they’re going on Building 7, likely topped by the aluminum metal walls previously seen in Phase II. The side facing thr gorge has the same linear earth-tone facade that is present on Building 5. The westernmost end of the building is not a little further behind, possibly for ease of materials transport, or because of different architectural details that they have yet to bring to the site (based on the rough openings and the sheathed steel, both are plausible). It looks like the southwest corner will host a glass curtain wall section setback from the primary walls, based off of the steel framing.  An early render suggests the common spaces will be clustered along the west end of Building 7. Note that parking will be on the lowermost two floors, with dorm style units on the third floor, and regular apartment units on the upper three floors. The wood forms next to the western stairwell/shaft look to be for a new concrete staircase that will run alongside the west wall.

Montour Falls-based Welliver is in charge of the build-out, and CTT7 should be complete and ready for occupancy by August 2017. Princeton’s ikon.5 Architects are the building designers, and Baltimore’s Floura Teeter the landscape architect. Big league commercial real estate financial lender Walter & Dunlop Inc. provided the $70 million bridge loan.

A quick google search turns up a surprising number of AirBnB hits.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 3/2016

26 03 2016

So there are really two sets of photos here. The first set contains photos that I’ve taken from outside the fence. The second set of photos are from inside the fence, and come courtesy of Nick Robertson and Jocelyn Garrison at Welliver, the general contractor in charge of the project. Their photos are much more visually telling than mine, and a big thanks goes out to them both.

Currently, work is focusing on drilling piles, and forming and pouring the foundation walls. In some sections, foundation walls are being formed. Concrete pours as liquid and dries into a hard solid; forms are a solid barrier (typically wood or durable plastic) that simply forces the concrete to dry in the shape it’s supposed to. After the concrete has been poured and dries into the desired shape, the forms are removed and moved down to the next section. Work on the foundation walls appears to be progressing from west to east along the excavated and pile-driven footprint for building 7.

If you look closely at the Welliver photos, you can see the steel wire mesh that will be embedded in the concrete and provide stability for the walls. The additional steps on the forms may have to do with stepping the foundation up along the slope of the site.

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Set two:

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Klarman Hall Interior Photos

11 01 2016

Otherwise known as what $61 million gets you. Wrapping up the Klarman Hall updates with some interior shots of the nearly-finished building. Some staff and classroom spaces have already been occupied, as is the new Temple of Zeus cafe. While inside, I struck up a conversation with the one other person present, an employee of sub-contractor Cook Painting doing touch-ups, and he told me all about how he’s worked on multiple Cornell buildings and Klarman was his favorite so far, and that although he was disappointed the roof had an opaque cover, he’d seen the sun come through the sides in the morning and “the whole place just lights up like a Christmas tree”.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy a little after noon when these photos were taken, so no such effect here.

In Klarman’s 33,250 SF of usable space, Cornell will host spaces and meeting rooms for approximately 200 faculty and staff, a 350-seat auditorium, and the 7,700 SF glass atrium, which is arguably the centerpiece of the new structure. Accordingly to the friendly painter, Cornell will do a formal event to celebrate Klarman Hall’s completion later this year. No doubt its namesake, billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman ’79, will be in attendance. The Groos family, multi-generational Cornellians, were also significant donors to the project.

Klarman was due to be complete in December 2015 when the project first began construction in summer 2013, so all in all Cornell and the contractors did a pretty good job staying close to schedule, even with the last couple cold and stormy winters. Hats off to the construction workers and for making that happen.

Boston-based Koetter | Kim and Associates is the building architect (they also did the recently-built Physical Sciences Building), and Welliver served as general contractor. Klarman Hall is seeking LEED Platinum certification, which is the highest level possible.

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