Belle Sherman Cottages Update, 4/2014

16 04 2014

My last stop, on my out of town. In short order, I mentally debated stopping for photos, missed the turn due to the debating, circled back around, ended up ditching my car in a reserved parking spot at the Coal Yard Apartments complex. Then I ran down the hill, to the development, back up to the hill, and back into my car in the span of five minutes. I’m sure some of the neighbors that were outside Sunday afternoon were a little confused by my behavior.

Since my last time through, work was completed on the bungalow on lot 19 (someone gave it red porch trim; I’m guessing the owner), and the “Victorian farmhouse” on lot 13 is well underway, the modular pieces are assembled and it looks like siding swatches are being tested and installed. I expect this house will be done in just a few weeks. According to their facebook page, Q1 2013 was a stellar three months; five lots were sold: lots 4, 6 and 18 (elevations here), the spec house on lot 1, and one of the planned townhouses. That means 10 of the 19 houses planned have been sold. Considering they sold only six houses in the past two years, this is quite an uptick. Looks like Carina Construction will be busy this spring and summer.

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13 responses

17 04 2014
Cornell PhD

I like this development a lot; it seems to be one of the few dedicating to expanding Ithaca’s traditional built form rather than perpetrate more sprawl. The City of Ithaca should make it the model for any street extensions within its boundaries…of course, it would be nice (though probably not to be expected) if the Town (or County) would, too.

The only unfortunate thing about it is that, while advertised as a “walking” neighborhood, there’s not much to walk to other than Collegetown with its maddening undergrad party scene, which I imagine isn’t really what the demographic buying here wants to experience in a neighborhood commercial area – or even the many grads who will soon be living in Collegetown Terrace. Collegetown either needs to sober up a little bit for the adults that live around here (I wonder if, with the rezoning and expected development to follow, there’s any chance?) or some kind of walkable commerce needs to develop to serve Belle Sherman – whether resulting from redevelopment at East Hill Plaza or somewhere else.

18 04 2014
Prince of Dorkness

Belle Sherman Cottages is in the Town of Ithaca, not the City.

Also, from http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/Comp-Plan :

Goal LU-4: Require that new development in designated areas on the Future Land Use map take the form of traditional neighborhood development (TND).

LU-4-A Scale new neighborhoods to be within a 5- to 10-minute walk (¼ to ½ mile) from a common destination. Define the edges of neighborhoods, but also provide for easy access to open space.

LU-4-B Promote a wide cross-section of uses, densities, and building types in new neighborhoods. Site more intensive uses closer to a common destination; intensity and density generally should decrease with distance from the common destination.

LU-4-C Require new neighborhoods to contain a mix of uses and recreation spaces that support the daily needs of residents. Locate mixed uses in the appropriate areas and in suitable building types.

LU-4-D Ensure that a variety of housing types and prices are provided that support a broad range of household types, sizes, lifestyles, life stages, and household incomes in new neighborhoods.

LU-4-E In new neighborhoods, require that civic uses be located in areas of high public visibility, prominence, and accessibility.

LU-4-F Scale blocks to accommodate a variety of building types and to encourage walking.

LU-4-G Site building types of like scale, massing, and uses to face one another on a given street. Face primary building entrances towards streets, open courtyards, or public spaces such as parks or plazas.

LU-4-H Incorporate suitable sustainable development practices such as light imprint development, low impact development, and alternative energy production in the design and construction of new neighborhoods.

And:

TR-2-G Require roads in new development to follow principles of traditional neighborhood design, with a grid of streets that provides a high level of connectivity rather than looping streets, permanent cul-de-sacs, pods, and other elements that make interconnectivity difficult. Where appropriate, require alleys to provide access to garages and loading areas, and a convenient location for utilities and trash collection.

TR-6-A Design streets in accordance with Complete Streets principles, built, and maintained in a way that accommodates not only motor vehicles, but also pedestrians of all ages, bicyclists, and public transportation vehicles.

TR-6-B Design neighborhoods to reduce automobile dependence and to encourage modal shifts to walking, cycling, and public transportation.

21 04 2014
Cornell PhD

Thanks for this – I had just assumed this was city land. These design guidelines, though, don’t seem followed very often in practice. The town is still approving garden townhouse type developments and sprawling subdivisions, particularly south of South Hill, that don’t seem to conform. Maybe it has something to do with the vagueness of the language. Is mixed use defined? “Common destination”?

21 04 2014
Prince of Dorkness

PhD: Can’t reply to your followup, for some reason.

The town’s plan is a draft, and hasn’t been formally adopted.

Cluster-style development still holds a lot of appeal in Ithaca, even though in the end it might be as sprawly as anything in outer suburban Syracuse and Rochester, if not more. Why? In my opinion, it’s cultural; cluster development is perceived as more “natural” and “greener” than new urbanism, and thus preferable.

Ithacans as a whole tend to be very environmentally conscious. This is a good thing. However, many among the more vocal and influential Baby Boomer crowd tend to embrace a traditional form of environmentalism that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s; nature is sacred, urban is profane. Many consider “good development” as having a less urban form, where residents are closer to nature; EcoVillage, Commonland, White Hawk, back-to-the-land/homesteading/off-grid living in rural areas, and so on. Overcoming that mindset, promoting development of a more urban form, and demonstrating that it’s more sustainable, scalable, and better for the environment than “green sprawl”, will be a hard sell.

21 04 2014
Gotlieb R.

An interesting analysis. I would suggest however that much of what makes the sell so hard is not a misunderstanding what is best for environment in the abstract, but more about what people consider an acceptable balance between responsibility and quality of life. Clearly, the best thing for the environment is to not live at all, to go away. The next best thing is to live in small, close quarters, sharing everything. If we want people to choose urban life over what you deride as sprawl, maybe we should not assume that many people favor non-urban living simply because those people are old fashioned or ignorant. There are many genuine downsides to urban environments that must be acknowledged and addressed if we expect to convince more people to favor their development and elect to live in them.

17 04 2014
Flo

They are cute and at the edge of a nice area. But they are very expensive for a tiny lot, distant from city attractions, the porch mere feet off the sidewalk, a block crawlspace foundation/no basement, single car garage, outside-only access to the utility closet and modular build. It seemed to me that the developer went to far to maximize profit. But it is a seller’s market in the upscale urban niche near Cornell, so they are finding buyers anyway.

18 04 2014
Roger P

Flo, I’m not sure how its possible for the homes to be selling well and too expensive at the same time. Clearly they are finding a market. It’s been a while since I took Econ 101, but I seem to recall something about equilibrium: price = point where supply = demand. Good for the developer to charge what the market will bear.

18 04 2014
Flo

I don’t claim the result upends accepted economic truths. You missed the point on purpose.

19 04 2014
Roger P

I didn’t miss the point. Your argument is that from your perspective you wouldn’t pay the price for these homes because you don’t value what they offer. My argument is that clearly there are people who do value what they offer, because the houses are selling really well. Just because you would prefer a larger lot doesn’t mean that everyone is interested in paying for a larger lot. Some people like the idea of living in a more urban setting with front porches and I’m guessing that’s why people are buying these particular houses instead of McMansions in the suburbs. Like I said, its supply and demand.

30 05 2014
Flo

People are buying these houses before the neighborhood is fully built out and occupied and I don’t think they are grasping how it will perform at that point. The road is shockingly narrow, especially considering the curb-side parking spaces. Yet, because the location and climate makes cars necessary, cars is what occupants will be looking at from their ample porches and bay windows. Cars parked outside their single-car garages that are packed with things that would be in the basement if they had one. Cars being backed down long, narrow driveways and turned into the narrow, car-lined road with snow piles blocking their view. (Where will the snow go, anyhow?) I also don’t think it is a coincidence that, until the houses are sold, they are not building the townhouses or drawing attention to that attendant traffic.
This development is not half built and it already feels incredibly cramped. The street proximity is closer and the lot size is clearly smaller than in Fall Creek or Belle Sherman. The road is narrower as well.

If buyers had perfect knowledge and foresight and if supply wasn’t artificially limited, then perhaps one could validly claim that the fact of a purchase proves that what was purchased was exactly what was wanted and the price was truly fair. In Roger P’s world, criticism is only valid when buyers can’t be found. Yugos were ipso facto a perfect value as long as they were selling well.

11 06 2014
Roger P

Flo – seems to me that the houses started selling faster as more homes got built (and started feeling “cramped” – your words) and the prices are going up, not down. So, there goes that theory of yours. Once again, I must state the obvious: just because YOU, Flo, don’t want to live in a place like Belle Sherman Cottages, doesn’t mean that there are not people who do and are willing to pay a premium to do so. People bought Yugos not because they were tricked into thinking they were a fine automobile, but because they were cheap transportation. Given the price points at Belle Sherman Cottages, people are not buying because its cheap or somehow being tricked, but because they like the homes and the quality of life the neighborhood offers. I really wish you didn’t bring your obvious bias or transparent bitterness to the conversation. Thank you.

17 06 2014
Flo

I do not think they are worth the money that people are paying. That is precisely it. Not for their size, not for their build or features, and not for the lifestyle I suspect they can deliver. Trickery could be involved I guess, but there are lots of reasons why people might overpay, none of which have I claimed to know. Maybe their expertise is molecular biology.
This is my personal view (what else could it be?), informed by a pretty close observation of sales in the area market over recent years. At least my opinion is not governed by sales performance alone.

18 06 2014
Roger P

Under Flo’s theory of economics, the price of housing in Manhattan should be less than Ithaca housing because there are people who don’t like living in NYC. It’s just that simple. As long as there are people who think something is too expensive, then its clearly overpriced and the market is just, well, wrong. Based on sold signs, something like twenty houses sold at Belle Sherman Cottages. That’s an awful lot of molecular biologists in one place.

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