When Things Don’t Work Out

17 01 2013

Frequent readers of this blog are aware that I cover two things – Cornell (its history and physical plant) and new projects and real estate development in the Ithaca area. Now, I’m not going to say I’m beating a dead horse with the former, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it hasn’t been easy coming up with new topics to write about, that aren’t widely available already (ex. the Willard Straight Takeover of 1969), or previous written in this blog.

Fortunately, Ithaca has been undergoing a veritable boom in construction. Just today, I checked the town of Ithaca planning board notes to find yet another multi-unit housing project proposed – “Hawk’s Nest at Springwood”, a 3-story, 50-unit building to be built at the Springwood Townhomes area just east of the intersection of 96B and King Road. The project will be marketed to the 55+ crowd.

hawks nest

This area has seen a cluster of (mostly suburban-style) development in the past few years, with the Holly Creek Townhomes, College Crossings, the Namgyal Monestery, The Country Inn and Suites, The College Circle Apartments (IC) expansion, and a number of private homes. Which, counting that all of the top of my head, gives 184 more beds at IC, and 74+ other housing units. Quite the little burst of activity south of IC.

So, considering the question in a previous entry about historical construction trends, this latest development pushes the private residential units number from 2011-2016 over the 1,000 mark, nothing to sneeze at when the total number of units in the entire metro is just under 42,000. In considering the planned developments north of Ithaca, and single-family homes, the number of units planned in those five years could very well be in the 2000+ range, a proportion highly unusual for upstate New York, and probably only comparable to the Albany metro, where a massive computer chip factory has been underway.

Now, time for the Debbie Downer – I have no expectation all these projects will come to fruition.

In the past, several projects have been downsized, modified, or cancelled. Take Ithaca Gun, a project constantly being re-evaluated due to rapidly increasing costs associated with the site cleanup. The project started off with 160 units, but neighbors complained. It was decreased to 80, then 33, than upped to 45. The final result seems to be a shot in the dark. Because of the uncertainty, I did not include it in the unit count.

Other projects, both current and old, were modified in the planning. The Trebloc Building downtown was originally supposed to be two floors (and I will personally donate a very nice bottle of Finger Lake wine to any developer who proposes to knock that abomination down and replace it with something more fitting). Cayuga Green, covered previously, has been redesigned four times. Collegetown Terrace has undergone at least one major revision and a couple minor ones.

Some projects never see the light of day. The McGraw House, an assisted living facility downtown, considered an expansion in 2009/2010. Then they shelved it. A 400-unit development was planned for West Hill (Carrowmoor), but this also appears to have gone stale.  Cornell’s West Campus was slated to be bedecked in Collegiate Gothic – killed by the Great Depression (among other Cornell proposals and plans that can be found using the search bar). Wal-Mart was once slated for Lansing. The most outlandish serious proposal goes toward a city-sponsored urban renewal plan proposed for Collegetown in 1968. The project would have tore down the heart of Collegetown, and in its place put up an eleven story office building, and 6 to 8 high-rise apartment towers (total 375 units), the tallest being 18 to 21 stories. It also would have included a 600-space parking garage and retail venues.

It’s sort of like “survival of the fittest”. The projects with the most stable funding, and the strongest proposals, tend to win out. Some projects are clearly underway, some go through revisions, some will remain pie-in-the-sky. I do, however, look forward to as many of these projects coming to fruition as possible.

The Keyword Bar XVII

26 07 2012

…because the planning board discussed projects I’ve covered ad nauseum and Cornell hasn’t caught my attention in the past week.

1. “how many students from cornell have jump to there deaths” (7-25-2012)

Death of grammar aside, this would not be an easy number to calculate, since a number of cases over the years have been questionable as to whether the fall was accidental or intentional, and whether an individual would be considered a student (ex. a case of a former student). That being said, it seemed from casual queries back during the 2010 suicides that for CU students who were believed to have committed suicides via gorge jumping, it is likely in the mid double-digits. This number does not reflect the number of suicides in the gorges (which is much higher, as they tend to be a magnet for those who want to go out in dramatic fashion), the number of gorge deaths (including accidental falls, the number is almost certainly in the few hundreds since Cornell opened) nor suicides that occur by other methods. From 2006 to 2010, there were three student gorge deaths by suicide, but a variety of other events (note – the hyperlink has one inaccuracy – William Jacobson was an IC student who drowned in a retention pond).

2. “eastman hall at ithaca named after” (7-25-2012)

Eastman Hall, an IC dorm, was built in 1962-1963. From what I can tell, many of these early buildings, built during IC’s rapid expansion on South Hill from 1959-1968, are named for older administrators or large donors (for instance,  Talcott Hall is likely tied to a student life administrator named “Mrs. Talcott” in news articles from the 1930s). Although there is no concrete evidence, Eastman Hall is likely named for George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak in Rochester, and a well-known philanthropist, especially of music schools. Although he passed away in the 1930s, it’s possible his company, or some foundation attached to his estate, made a donation; or it could be the manifestation of a donation from when Eastman was alive.

3. “chi gamma at cornell university sorority” (7-22-2012)

Their history seems rather unusual. Chi Gamma formed in 1956, after dissociating from its national (Sigma Kappa) because it did not wish to abide by the national’s racist membership policies. They lived at 150 Triphammer, and the sorority was active until at least 1963, when it merged with Chi Omega (both were small houses, so they decided to join forces as an attempt to hold their own in the increasingly meager sorority rushes of the ’60s). The house itself became home to the new and all-female Triphammer Co-op the following year, which became co-ed in the 1990s.

4. what is the address of the llenroc mansion (7-22-2012)

100 Cornell Avenue, Ithaca NY. There are only two houses on the street, the other I believe is a private residence.

5. ithaca “collegetown” fire 1998 (7-23-2012)

It might seem odd that in a stretch of century-old buildings, 407 College Avenue (the Apollo Chinese Restaurant building) was built in 2000 (as seen on its cornerstone). Well, the simple reason is that the old building, a wood-frame structure built in 1887, burnt down in October 1998, leaving 51 students homeless. The fire was believed to have started in the kitchen of a first-floor restaurant. Emergency housing and aid was provided by the Red Cross and Cornell. Since the site is prime Collegetown real estate, it was redeveloped into a six-story building and opened in August 2000.

An Exercise in Mapping, Part II

15 05 2011

Under Construction: The once-vacant Plantations Building on Ithaca Commons is being renovated into 8 apartments, a small amount of office space, and a large restaurant on the first floor of the 5-story building. The project is funded partially by community grant money and will be complete in about a month.

Approved: The 6-story, 52-unit apartment building proposed by INHS (1), the 7-story, 45-unit Cayuga Place condos (2), and the 10-story, 140-room Hotel Ithaca (3) are attempting to find financing in what is still a tight market for construction loans. The INHS building is dependent on state grant money that was not granted last year, and they are hoping to obtain financing in the next round of grants. The Cayuga Place condos has been looking for more unit sales and securing bank financing for almost four years at this point, and it might be time to move that to a stale proposal.

Proposed: The 6-story Challenge Industries redevelopment proposal, which has some office space and 32 units of housing. The project is currently trying to win over the neighbors and councils for zoning variances and approval down the line.

Stale/Dead: McGraw House, a senior living facility, was looking into a 25-50 unit expansion, and held several meetings to discuss proposals on the table, but this has all been tabled until a future time.

Examining the Ithaca College Area:

Note that I don’t use Bing Maps because I like them more, but because they are more up-to-date. For example, IC’s virtually complete Athletics Center is clearly visible on this aerial image.

Under Construction are Ithaca’s College’s Circle Apartments expansion (in the site prep stage; four current buildings (132 units) will be demo’d and nine more (280 units) will be added to the complex) and a 22-unit addition of senior housing (patio homes) to Longview.

Approved are the College Crossings retail center and INHS’s Holly Creek townhomes (11 units in first phase, I think 22 total). Off the map to the south and southwest are a couple of housing developments, Southwoods and Cleveland Estates, which are being developed lot-by-lot.

The proposed facility is the long-term expansion plans for the South Hill Business Campus, which would add 197,000 sq ft in three new buildings 3-4 stories in height. The campus currently has about 288,000 sq ft, of which about 84% is leased.

The stale proposal is an apartment building off of Bella Vista Drive that has been trying to market its units for the better part of five years. I am doubtful it will ever launch construction at this point.

News Tidbits 4/18/11: Fraternity Seeks Recolonization in Turbulent Times

18 04 2011

Image property of Alpha Phi Delta

Seems a second fraternity is seeking to reestablish itself on Cornell’s campus this year.  According to the Daily Sun, an interest group has been preliminarily approved for recognition of the recolonization of the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity (in other words, the first step to recognition has been taken). Unlike Phi Kappa Sigma, this interest group has taken the route of forming a group first and then seeking the recognition of a national (which is the way it’s traditionally done with fraternities), rather than the national coming in and seeking to revive or start a chapter (more common for sororities, but an increasingly appealing option for large fraternal orgs).

Alpha Phi Delta has existed previously at Cornell’s campus. It was a historically Italian-American fraternity founded at Syracuse in 1911, and still draws most of its chapter membership from colleges in the Northeast. The Cornell chapter (Mu) was founded in 1922 and closed in 1968, three years after the fraternity opened itself up to membership for all men(and not just ones of Italian heritage). From old Cornellian yearbooks, it can be determined that they stayed with one house during their time at Cornell, but I’m having one hell of a time trying to determine its location – I can’t find it anywhere nearby on the 1928 and 1954 Cornell maps, which suggests to me it might have been far from campus.

Anyways, given the closure of Theta Xi and the recent fallout due to the SAE tragedy, I’m unsure as to how successful they will be. But, I wish them the best of luck. Oh, and if they’re still looking for a house, it would make my heart jump if they could move into an unused property that could use some revitalizing, like 722 University Avenue.

News Tidbits 8/5/10: Structural Coincidence?

5 08 2010

So, the Ithaca Journal is filled today with articles concerning Cornell’s South Hill neighbor, Ithaca College. Which is great, since they are a good school in their own right and they tend to be overshadowed by its ivy-cloaked neighbor. So, the one article was about how their enrollment is back on target this year after having too many incoming last year (by most regards, a fortunate problem to have). The other article, much more in line with the general themes of this blog, was a review of the $65.5 million, 130,000 sq ft Ithaca College Events Center that is under construction, and currently around halfway towards completion.

One of the big architectural features of the building is a a large, structually-incorporated cooling tower designed to be a focal point of the structure and to be visible from most of campus.

Image Property of Ithaca College

The height of the tower? 174 feet.

The height of McGraw Tower on Cornell’s campus? 173 feet.

So, McGraw Tower is no longer the tallest structure in the county (not including radio masts). After 119 years, it is losing its title to Ithaca College’s new activities center.

Although I never saw anything that indicated as much, I’m willing to wager that this was intentional, to draw more attention to the new “tallest building” in the county. Even though the tower is uninhabitable, the lower floor(s) of the building are, so it qualifies as a true building. McGraw doesn’t qualify since it’s only a clock tower. Bradfield, the tallest true building in the county, is only 167 feet.

In conclusion, I guess size does matter when it comes to bragging rights.

News Tidbits 4/14/10: South Hill Expands

15 04 2010

Two things, one dealing with IC and the other with the neighboring South Hill business campus. IC is looking to expand student housing (partially due to the record number of students they enrolled) by adding 280 units of apartment housing to its South Hill campus. Meanwhile, the South Hill Business Campus is seeking approval to construct three buildings totalling 190,000 square feet, which would be built as needed. The business campus was once the regional headquarters of the National Cash Register company (NCR) and was completed in 1957 with an addition in 1975. While it once housed over 1,000 employees, the building was sold to a French company (Axiohm) in 1991, and in a fine showing that they never really cared for local interests, outsourced most of the manufacturing work. By 2004, the factory was only 25% occupied, so a group of investors made an offer to buy the place and operate it as a sort of business incubator for company needing a varying amount of office and maufacturing space. Today, the facility is 84% occupied, so it looks like they did a good job marketing and updating the building. One building would be up by 96B, the second attached to the west end of the current building, and the last just south of the current building.


From the Ithaca Town Planning Board agenda:

Consideration of a sketch plan for the proposed South Hill Business Campus Master Plan located at 950 Danby Road (NYS Route 96B), Town of Ithaca Tax Parcel No.’s 39-1-1.2 and 39-1-1.1, Planned Development Zone No. 12 and Office Park Commercial Zone. The Master Plan includes the development of three new buildings (totaling +/- 197,000 GSF), a new loop road, additional storm water facilities, and new landscaping. The new buildings would contain a mix of office, manufacturing, and research and development uses, and would be phased in one at a time as needed. South Hill Business Campus LLC, Owner/Applicant; Miles G. Cigolle, A.I.A., HOLT Architects, P.C., Agent.

Consideration of a sketch plan for the proposed Circle Apartments Expansion located at 1033 Danby Road (NYS Route 96B), Town of Ithaca Tax Parcel No.’s 43-1-2.2, 43-1-2.3 and 41-1-30.2, Multiple Residence and Medium Density Residential Zones. The project includes the demolition of four existing apartment buildings (32 bedrooms) along with the removal of multiple existing parking spaces on the property to allow for the construction of 78 four bedroom apartment units in nine new buildings (net increase of 280 bedrooms), construction of an approximately 2,500 square foot expansion to the Community Building, and a net addition of 106 parking spaces on the property. The project will also include new storm water facilities, walkways, drives and landscaping. College Circle Associates, LLC and Ithaca College. Owners/Applicants; Herman Sieverding, Integrated Acquisition & Development Corp., Agent.

Random Ithacana

18 12 2009

So, pardon the extraordinarily long break. Finals and research brought much of my outside life to a screeching halt, so this blog had to take a backseat for a couple of weeks. Oddly enough, site statistics didn’t really go down a significant amount, which probably says something about the consistent use of the historical info on this blog.

Anyways, during my holiday shopping, I happened upon a new little book that I felt the need to add to my collection. The book, Surrounded by Reality: 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Ithaca, NY (But Are About to Find Out) by Michael Turback, is a nice little book detailing some of the history and sights of the area. Some of the book entries share the same information that has previously been shared on this blog, but there was some new information to be garnered from its pages.

A lot of the book focuses on Cornell. Things that a lot of Cornellians already knew about the founder and A.D. White, but also some more obscure details. For example, a real description of Zinck’s. Theodore Zinck ran the “Lager Beer Saloon and Restaurant” out of the Hotel Brunswick at 108-110 N. Aurora (just off the current-day Commons) starting in 1880. Contrary to modern day bar-hopping, Zincl, while described as being a fatherly and caring figure who treated his customers with “Prussian high-handedness”. Customers could be thrown out of his bar, however, for drunkenness, bawdy songs, or derogatory references to the German Kaiser. The first Zinck’s operated until about 1903. That year, a typhoid epidemic rages through the city and claimed 85 lives, including Theodore Zinck’s daughter. Despondent, he drowned himself, effectively shutting down Zinck’s first incarnation. The bar reopened under his name in 1906 (which would be incredibly tasteless if he wasn’t regarded so affectionately), and continued in operation in some form in different names and places up to about 1967. Although, with the coming of the new Hotel Ithaca, it appears we may continue the local tradition of naming revered watering holes after a suicidal barkeep.

Another detail that the book referenced was the freezing over of Cayuga Lake. Cayuga Lake is about 435 feet deep, so usually the massive heat storage of the water keeps the lake from completely freezing over during the winter. However, that isn’t to say it can’t happen. Since 1796, the lake has frozen over about ten times (1796, 1816, 1856, 1875, 1884, 1904, 1912, 1934, 1961 and 1979). Wells College, a small and formerly all-female school located further up the lakeshore in Aurora, has a school tradition where if the lake is discovered to be frozen over, classes are cancelled for the day (there is no such tradition for IC or Cornell). According to the book, during the 1875 freeze one athletic young woman at Wells decided to celebrate the day off by skating down the lake and back. Not too shabby, once you consider that the lake is just under 40 miles long.

One last one for the road; most Cornellians are well aware of the legend that if a virgin crosses the Arts Quad at midnight, Ezra and A.D. White will step off their pedestals and shake hands in the center of the quad. Wll, as it turns out, Ithaca College has their won virginity legend. Outside of Ithaca College’s Textor Hall stands a 10-foot high ball sculpture mounted over a small pool of water. Their campus legend states that if a virgin ever graduates from IC, the “Textor Ball” will fall off its pedestal and roll down South Hill. According to Wikipedia, Ithaca College has 49,570 alumni, and I’m willing to bet most of them are from after the school’s 1960s expansion and relocation.


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