“Collegetown Dryden” Project Proposed

28 07 2014

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The Manhattanization of Collegetown continues. I’ve been waiting to post this one because the city was taking its time with uploading the supporting documentation; given that they had about eleven different projects at the six-hour marathon Planning Board meeting last Tuesday, I’m not going to fault them for taking a breather.

Anyway, this project, called “Collegetown Dryden”, is yet another addition to the Collegetown Boom. Located primarily in an MU-2 zone (i.e. the densest Collegetown zone, where no parking spaces are required), this project seeks to redevelop the Palms Block, a collection of four run-down structures that includes the brick building on the corner, the old Palms building, and the old Collegetown Candy and Nuts building on the corner of Dryden and Linden (the Kraftee’s Building is not included in this count; it is being redeveloped separately). The Palms building was recommended for historic preservation several years ago, but never gained significant traction. In January 2012, the recently-closed Palms and its two eastern neighbors (213 and 215 Dryden) sold for $3.75 million to local real estate development firm Novarr-Mackesey, the company responsible for Collegetown Terrace on East State Street. The old Tompkins Trust Bank on the corner was sold to Novarr-Mackesey in July 2011 for $1.65 million. Lastly, an adjacent house on Linden (240) that was bought for $475k in 2010 will be torn down and replaced. In sum, the firm has been collecting properties on this block for years and has been biding its time, waiting for the Collegetown zoning issue to sort itself out.

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Onto the proposal itself. Speaking professionally, I’d say it’s something different and visually distinct from Jagat Sharma’s ubiquitous Collegetown designs. Speaking informally, someone referred to it as the “Tron Building“, and I’m inclined to agree. If they changed up the odd window setup, I might like it. The design is by the same firm that did Collegetown Terrace, ikon.5 out of Princeton.

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The design as proposed has three unique structures, referred to as buildings “A”, “B”, and “C”, totaling 107,302 sq ft. Building “A” is the six-story structure at the corner of College Avenue and Dryden Road, and will have 2,000 sq ft of retail on the first floor. “B” is the six-story building fronting Dryden with a 9,000 sq ft “cellar” and 7,800 sq ft of retail space, and “C” is a three story residential building built over a one-story, 11-space parking garage fronting Linden Avenue. Together, they provide 141 units, all studios. This is unusual, but it has merit. Studios are going to be less expensive than units with bedrooms, and will be more accessible to students with less affluent income levels. I’m not saying it’s going to be cheap, definitely not with the high land values here. But it will be cheaper to rent than some of the other properties in inner Collegetown.

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Compared to Jason Fane’s 330 College juggernaut, this one is right at the very edge of legal zoning. It totals six floors and 80′ in the MU zoning sections (Buildings “A” and “B”) and four floors in the CR-4 (Building “C”). It’s all legal, no ZBA required. I’d also say that in comparison to some other developers, John Novarr seems a little more neighborly, which certainly helps in the approvals process. This was the type of development envisioned when the form guidelines were passed, so it should be feasible, unlike the non-starter proposed across the street. Look for this one to go through revisions and discussion, with possible approval by the end of the year. A multi-phased 2015-2017 construction time frame is likely.

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The Elephant in the Room: 330 College Avenue

23 07 2014

Note: After Jeff Stein of the Ithaca Voice sent me a photo of the rendering last night, I quickly wrote up and published this entry. Shortly after that, he mentioned that he wished to have the “scoop“, and since it was his photo, I obliged and rescheduled this for noon today. This updated version has the uploaded render from the city website. So if you saw this last night, then saw it was gone, you’re not going crazy. -BC

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Let’s be clear: this will not happen. What Jason Fane was thinking in proposing a 12-story building for the Green Cafe site has everything to do with seeing what he can get away with. The calculating businessman as always, shocking the board and meeting attendees with a massive proposal…my only guess is that he is willing to negotiate down. The likely goal is to end up with something still above the 80′ 6-story limit for that site, and apparently the way to do that is shock and awe.

A copy of sketch plan can be found here. Mostly site photos, but we can see the first floor layout (6,000 sq ft in three retail units, and some apartment space; the building also shares a rear corridor with Fane’s Collegetown Center next door) and a render from the angle of the third floor of the Ciaschi Block, but set too far back from the street to actually exist.

I mean just look at it, it overwhelms the large 312 College and Collegetown Center buildings next to it. This thing is a goddamned behemoth of a building, as Ithaca standards go. It’s a lovely design, I think, I’d love to see this downtown on the old Tetra Tech/Rothschild’s property. Of course, that’s like saying a Mercedes SLS is the car you’d like to buy, but you make only 30K/yr. It’s not reasonable.

For the record, the never-to-be-built design is by Fane’s preferred architect, Jagat Sharma of local firm Sharma Architecture. The current site is that of the vacant Green Cafe, and before that short stint as a restaurant in 2009/2010, the one-story structure was used for meetings and storage by Bank of America. Built in 1998 and occupying 0.97 acres (including the apartment building attached), it has an assessed land value of $2.5 million, as it sits on what is probably the most expensive corner in the city. Everyone expected a redevelopment, just not this large.

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I can hardly believe I’m even writing about this. It’s so spectacularly overboard that it defies all common sense and logic.

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News Tidbits 7/17/14: It’s All About the Materials

17 07 2014

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Given the rate of development exposition and modification, this is becoming a sort of weekly digest. I’m perfectly okay with that.

1. First up, the omnipresent Carey Building addition by Travis-Hyde Properties. This one has been tweaked at least twice already (not counting the initial massing model), and here we have another update, though it looks to be mostly in the materials that the addition would be composed with. revised plans here. Depending on your definition of structural height, the addition would bring the Carey Building to 77’10” to the penthouse roof, 82’10” to the parapet, or 87’10” to the mechanical rooftop. To highlight some of the other changes, the roof-lines were tweaked, as were the windows on the east face. The west face is still blank, though the lighter color does make it seem a little less overbearing in the renders.

Also, contrary to the recent Times article, not all five additional floors are residential. The first floor of the addition (third floor from street level) is additional office space for the business incubator.

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2. Next up is 327 Eddy, owned by Stephen Fontana and designed by local firm Sharma Architecture. Cover letter here, application here, and drawings here. I remember thinking the sketch render looked a little weird with the brick above the courtyard, and the design has been tweaked as this proposal materializes out of the aether. We now have some dates and figures. This one would be starting in May 2015 and completed in August 2016. The estimated cost of construction is $5 million (like the other two Sharma applications for 205 Dryden and 307 College…they may just be making up a nice, round, semi-believable number). It will build up 68′ from the sidewalk of Eddy Street, and 60′ from the rear portion (the building steps up as it extends back into its steep lot). Still 28 units and 64 bedrooms, and it has 1,800 sq ft of ground-floor retail space.

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3. Greenways, the INHS affordable townhouse development off of Honness Lane (site shown in the lead photo), has been approved. Good.

4. Cayuga Ridge, the Biggs Property proposal out on West Hill, is not so lucky. This one has been tied up for a while due to neighbors’ opposition to the site’s development – it’s also turned into a veritable sh*tshow, with those against the development using the standard traffic and sprawl arguments (the latter being a little weird since it’s right next to the hospital and across the street from the Overlook complex), while some of those for the project have played the race card. A neighbors group sued to have the county’s land sale stopped for not following SEQR environmental regulations, and the ruling was upheld. While not dead, the sale of the property to developer NRP/Better Housing for Tompkins County is on hold while the town of Ithaca reviews the project and the SEQR is conducted, with the county as an involved party. It’s not the best location, but on the other hand, the affordable housing issue is rearing its ugly head. On a side note, unlike its city counterpart (INHS), Better Housing has some of the worst luck of any non-profit developer in the county. The Lansing Preserve failure from a few years back comes to mind.

4. Residential tax assessments are up 6.17% (about $1.27 million) in the county year-over-year, about triple the usual 2% rate. The cost of housing is rising much faster than anticipated, which is contributing to the area’s affordability issues. Construction projects such as Collegetown Terrace also help; for instance, that project’s value went up from $19.1 to $26.64 million, which results in an additional $275,000 in tax revenue (the tax revenue at $19.1 million was about $700,000). Don’t expect taxes on existing homes to go down with the increased revenue though, because rising healthcare costs eat away most of the gains.

 

 





Belle Sherman Cottages Update, June 2014

1 07 2014

Work continues on the Belle Sherman Cottages on the east end of the city (technically, just over the city line in the town of Ithaca). Homes have sold at a rapid pace this year, going from just six lots/homes in the first two years, to at least eleven more lots/homes sold in the past six months (this count includes at least one townhome that was sold). Only 3 of the 19 single-family home lots are still for sale – lots 9, 11 and 12, on the southwest side of the parcel. Lot 9 will be used to showcase a new “cottage” design that has not yet been built. I don’t know why there’s been a sudden uptick, but at this point, I would not be surprised if the last lots sell before the end of the year (along with several more homes completed before winter arrives).

Since I last came through in late April, lot 13 was completed, and two more are under construction – lot 6, a “craftsman farmhouse”, is the first home built in that style. Lot 4, also underway, is a “classic farmhouse”, recently assembled from its modular pieces. There was no indication of site prep or construction for the townhomes.

 

 

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News Tidbits 6/26: The Carey Building’s Addition, Revealed

26 06 2014

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Okay, so technically, the previous renders shown on this blog were massing studies for the addition proposed for the Carey Building. The newly-released design is here. The design comes courtesy of local firm John Snyder Architects, working with local development firm Travis Hyde Properties.

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Based off the attached floor plans, it looks like there will be 18 apartments, 16 studios (most in the 250-350 SF range), and 2 2-bedrooms. Floors 4 and 5 will have 7 studios each, and 6 and 7 will have one studio and one 2-bedroom each. The “micro-apartments” are definitely small but will allow for more modest rents, tapping into some of the need for affordable housing in the city.

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More Housing for Collegetown: 327 Eddy

25 06 2014

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Cover letter with brief description here, renders and site photos here. The site is currently home to the “Fontana Apartments”, although Cornell students might better recognize it as the home of Club Sudz and Pixel in the rear. The Fontanas are famous for their 107-year old shoe store, they’ve been long-time landlords on Eddy street and developed the apartment buildings north of the site in 1985/86. The project would tear Club Sudz and Pixel down and replace them with a 28-unit, 64-bedroom building, designed by local firm Jagat Sharma (which I have no problems with, but seeing as Sharma Architecture has designed almost every large building in Collegetown, including the two on the left in the rendering, I would love to see something different). Retail space will be on the first floor, which is required in the Collegetown MU-2 zone. MU-2 also has no parking requirements – we’re following a theme here with the MU properties; now that the parking requirement is gone, it’s been nothing short a development bonanza.

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The building is six floors – things look a little weird because it’s built on a hill, and it steps back. I wouldn’t begrudge a passerby on Eddy for thinking it’s nine floors.

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It’s just a sketch plan, but given the size, it would not be off to suggest that the developers want this building to welcome its first tenants in August 2015, assuming approvals are granted this summer. If approved, that would mean 5 projects would be underway in Collegetown next spring, with 223 bedrooms. I’m certain there will be more proposals for inner Collegetown in the meanwhile.





News tidbits 6/16/14: Modifications, Design Tweaks, Same Thing

16 06 2014

I figured I’d just bundle these projects together, since they all have minor tweaks or new details that should be noted, but wouldn’t need their own entries. 400 Spencer Street (Stone Quarry Apartments), 307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing) and 205 Dryden Road (Dryden South).

First, the Stone Quarry Apartments. Letter documenting updates here, exterior materials and playground design here, revised drawings here. With six different siding colors planned, this 35-unit complex is going to be very colorful. Since the renders last month, the 19-unit apartment building shows only minor changes, and the townhouses (2 sets of 8) have been reoriented to avoid that awkward break in the middle of the units that looked like a broken eave.

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As for Collegetown Crossing, the number of units and rooms has been tweaked again, to 46 units (from 43) and 96 bedrooms (from 98). Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) here, Site Plan Review (SPR) cover letter here, application here, drawings here.  The cost of construction will be $5 million, and go from February 2015 to August 2016. The drawings look nearly the same, some slight changes in the massing and more windows on the second floor’s northwest face.

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Lastly, 205 Dryden. The prison slit windows are gone from the west face, replaced with a cutout for windows on each floor. The slit windows remain on the east face. FEAF here, SPR cover letter here, application here, drawings here. Oddly enough, this one is also budgeting $5 million, and a Feb 2015 to August 2016 construction period. Being that they’re both by the same architect, I wonder if that’s correct, or if someone was just a little too liberal with the copy-and-paste. The building will be 65’0″, and have retail on the first floor and 10 4-bedroom units on the upper five floors.

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News Tidbits 6/12/14: Predisposed to Being Opposed

13 06 2014

Some things are worth mentioning, but not necessarily worth their own post. So here we go…

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1. The rather suburban Troy Road development has begun the long road to obtaining construction approval, prodding the town of Ithaca to grant a planned development zone, or PDZ, so they can have leeway on the layout and variety of housing on the property. The proposed development has whittled itself down from 216 to 166 units, and gone are the 26 lots for the single-family homes (leaving 90 apartments, 60 town homes, and 16 patio homes; the developer indicates the apartments will be 1 and 2-bedroom and shooting for the middle-income bracket ($1,000/month), and the patio homes will be geared towards seniors). As with virtually every other project proposed in recent memory, this one has its share of opposition, for which the town board has some sharp words (the current zoning is actually worse, it allows for a sprawl-tastic 154 units spread out over the entire property). The 166 units would be clustered on 22 acres, just under one-third of the space. The developer (Rural Housing Preservation Associates) submitted a detailed market and traffic study to the town, and seems to be trying its darnedest to gain that PDZ. However, that requires 6 town board members to say yes, and only 4 felt so inclined at the June 9th meeting. Look for this one to continue to evolve over the summer.

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2. Normally, I could care less about a single house. Looking at the map above, it seems the surveyor of this East Ithaca lot had a liquid lunch. The owners of 209 Tudor, who own the inaccessible lot, want to adjust the lot line so that both have a similar amount of road frontage, with the intent of selling off the extra lot for the construction of a new home.

As things would have it, the neighbors were vociferously opposed. It was claimed that it would negatively impact the character of the neighborhood. The lot is surrounded by houses on adjacent lots. Sigh. Since the complaints were more building issues than zoning issues, the ZBA approved the lot revision. The new lot is for sale for $55k.

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3. Some readers might recall a house burning in Collegetown back in March. 202 Eddy’s destruction left 12 students homeless, and a historic structure in ruins. The developer vowed to rebuild, and according to these documents filed with the city’s ILPC, he looks to make good on his vow. An entrance door will be repositioned, the emergency stairs will be gone, and a chimney will not be rebuilt, but otherwise, its a near-replica to the original. The architect-of-record is Jagat Sharma, who has previous experience from the reconstruction of Sigma Pi’s house when it burnt down in 1995. The ILPC has to approve this, so there could be some tweaks; but I doubt they’ll be significant.

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4. There are 13 different PDFs detailing the Gannett expansion and the construction phases on the city’s website. I don’t even want to go through it all. In a nutshell – 22,400 sq ft of renovated current space, and 73,600 sq ft of new space. 175 construction jobs, and Gannett expects to add 40 new permanent jobs, mostly physicians, counselors, and related personnel. Projected construction cost will be $25.5 million, and go from March 2015 to October 2017.

5. Has 7 Ridgewood really been through six different designs? Holy Christmas.





Infill on Inlet Island: 323 Taughannock Boulevard

4 06 2014

I will keep this short and sweet, because I’m serving on a trial jury this week, so that and staying on top of my normal work obligations is keeping me very tight with my time. The project is called 323 Taughannock Boulevard, application details here. The current 323 Taughannock is a nondescript one story dive bar, across the street from Island Fitness on Inlet Island.

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The project owner is “Rampart Real LLC”, and the architect of record is local firm STREAM Collaborative (Noah Demarest). Rampart Real LLC appears to have bought the property in May 2011. The man behind the LLC is local developer Steve Flash, who in 2007 sought to build a five-story condo/hotel on Inlet Island, and was shot down. Given that the purchase happened well after the hotel was mothballed, I assume this parcel is not the site of the proposed condo/hotel from seven years ago. There have been concerns in the past several years with preserving the waterfront while encouraging development, which led to a substantial debate on waterfront zoning. Revised zoning for a denser waterfront was passed in fall 2011, much to the chagrin of some local councilmembers. I believe this is the first substantial proposal on Inlet Island since that zoning revision.

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The project in question is a 4-story (50′ height), 23,000 sq ft, $3.5 million project that proposes ground floor office space and 20 units of housing (not sure if apt or condo) on the upper levels. There would be 18 covered parking spaces, and the developer proposed modifications to neighboring city-owned property to improve vehicle circulation and the waterfront promenade. From the looks of it, it’s hardly fair to call it mixed use, I see only a couple hundred sq ft of office space on the first floor, next to the ground-level parking lot underneath the residential units.

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The project will be going up for site plan review in the July/August time-frame, with construction anticipated to start in January 2015, and to be completed by August 2015.

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“Dryden South” Proposed for Collegetown

28 05 2014

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Being that is a completely new project, I decided that rather than include this as an update in the previous planning board entry, I’d give it’s own blog post.

The site in question is 205/207 Dryden – what my Cornell contemporaries know as the old Kraftee’s building, and what the newest graduates know as the new Kraftee’s building. Kraftee’s is one of the local private college department stores, and opened its second location in Ithaca in December 2002 (the first store opened in Herkimer in 1989, moved to Oswego in 1990, and is still open today). Owner Pat Kraft bought 205 Dryden in 2004, and in January 2008, moved its store to the old convenience store next door (325 College Avenue, now the home of PopShop). In fall 2011, Kraftee’s moved back into the Dryden Avenue space after 325 College was sold to John Novarr, and he decided to not renew Kraft’s lease.

This I find very interesting. There are 5 parcels on the south side of the 200 block of Dryden Road in Collegetown; 4 are owned by Novarr’s company. Kraftee’s was the fifth. According to the rumor mill, Novarr’s Dry-Lin LLC may have made an offer to buy the property from Kraft; had they succeeded, they would have had the opportunity to consolidate their parcels and control an entire block in the heart of Collegetown, and build a potentially massive project. But, for whatever reason, no deal was made.

Turning back to the building proposed, what we have is a mixed-use structure designed by local firm Sharma Architects, 6 stories tall. “Dryden South”, as the building is called, would have about 2400 sq ft of retail space on the first floor, and the upper five floors would have 10 units of student apartments with a total of 40 bedrooms. The sketch plan only consists of the page below, but the pdf is here.

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To be honest, the design is par for the course for Jagat Sharma et al., lots of brick with a little visual interest on the street-facing side. Not unlike any of the dozens of midrises they’ve thrown up in the NYC boroughs over the past few years. Personally, I despise the prison-slit windows proposed for the west facade, but it’s also an acknowledgement that the developer fully expects Novarr to propose something of his own for that corner in due course. We’ll see how this evolves as it moves forward to the planning board.








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