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 14 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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Boiceville Cottages Update, 4/2014

14 04 2014

I had an alumni event in Ithaca, and my drive in always take me in via 79. The Boiceville Cottages are about a mile out of the way, so I had just enough time before dinner to stop by and shoot a few photos.

Unfortunately, spring is also mud season in upstate, and that became all too clear when I stepped out of my car on the edge of the parking lot, and the mud went halfway up my dress shoes. Luckily, I had a second, not-as-dressy pair on hand, but this is definitely not the time of the year to be walking around in nice shoes.

Compared to my last time through Boiceville in December, all the foundations laid at that time are now occupied by homes that are largely complete, with exterior finishes and detail work underway on the newest cottages. No more foundations have been laid, so I’m unsure if more are planned for this year; some areas had been cleared, but it looked to be used for the staging of construction equipment.

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College Towns As Retirement Communities

5 04 2014

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Growing up in upstate New York, retiring and moving to south Florida was considered a rite of passage. You worked for forty years, you retired with your company or government pension, you moved to a gated condo community in Florida, and then you complained about how much worse everything is these days and how terrible drivers are in Florida for the rest of your days.

I imagine that still tends to be a big draw (considering the New York to Florida population pipeline is the largest in interstate migration), but an increasingly-popular alternative in recent years has been to retire to college towns, enough that mainstream publications like USA Today and the New York Times have devoted articles to the topic.  it’s usually ascribed to some combination of a modest cost of living with expansive cultural and recreational amenities. Without having any numbers directly in front of me, I imagine Ithaca in a sort of second-tier in this category, if only because of the climate, which is a little cooler and snowier than the most popular college town retirement destinations. Still, I’ve been thinking about this topic a little bit because a number of the projects in the Ithaca area are targeted towards the retirement crowd. The individual trigger for this article was a Lansing Star article discussing review of a ~$17 million, 110-unit senior apartment building proposed for the forever-discussed Lansing Town Center development. The more I think about it, the more I realized a number of local projects, both recently built and proposed, are explicitly geared towards the 55+ age group:
- Hawk’s Nest at Springwood (50 units)

-Cayuga Meadows (62 units)

-Longview Patio Homes (22 units)

-Conifer Village at Ithaca (72 units)

-The Kendal at Ithaca expansion (24 apartments and 13 “skilled care” units)

-The Old Tompkins County library site (likely)

Some of the news stories focus on collegiate affinity (i.e. living near the old alma mater) and offerings at the universities as a draw for retirees. To that end, Cornell offers summer courses for seniors and the local community college allows residents over 60 to audit courses (I don’t see anything described for IC). Those offerings along with the open lectures and Ithaca’s fairly active community engagement seem to provide some draw for those in their later years. I find college students and retirees an odd mix (even if they live in different neighborhoods for the most part), but if it works, I have nothing against it.





ATO and Campus Living Are Awkward Partners

13 03 2014

When this blog started, I think Alpha Tau Omega (henceforth ATO) was the first renovation in progress that I had ever taken note of, in mid-summer 2008. Here was a before pic, which dates from July 3rd, 2008.

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Here’s an after pic, which dates from August 15th, 2008.
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The house had had structural issues that were fixed before this blog started, and the external renovations were finishing up when the first photo was taken. I assume the repaint was all that was left to do.

ATO was one of two fraternities that closed in the summer of 2013, the other being Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT). In both cases, the closing was called for by their nationals, who were displeased with the quality and conduct of their Cornell chapters. This article notes that ATO’s alumni group hoped to rent the house to graduate students while they wait for the chapter’s return (generally, that means that all the once-current members have graduated). ZBT is targeting a return in 2014/2015. The process isn’t new, Kappa Sigma did the same thing from 2010 to 2012. I’ll even go as far as to suggest that someday, another couple years from now, Sigma Alpha Epsilon will make a return to Cornell, though Hillcrest is being used as a dorm in the meanwhile (I dunno if they’ll ever be back in 122 McGraw, which is owned by Cornell; I tried checking Kappa Sig’s house for reference, and couldn’t find anything. But I do see that they liked my photo so much it’s on the front page of their website, guy standing on the roof and all).

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Anyway, reading the Cornell is leasing the house for the upcoming year is no big surprise. In fact, it brings back memories of my friends in 112 Edgemoor. Edgemoor was a fraternity house until 1985, when Triangle closed. Being purchased by Cornell some time earlier, it became a small dorm. The fact that most of my meteo friends even ended up in Edgemoor is kinda my fault. A bunch of my meteorology classmates wanted to go in together on a suite on West Campus. When I found out I would have to be on a Cornell meal plan, I balked; I wanted to be on my fraternity’s meal plan for dinners and manage my own (cheaper) lunches. When I caused that suite plan to fall through, a lot of them went into Edgemoor, and a couple others gravitated towards that group and moved in as well. I think meteorologists and their friends made up about half of Edgemoor’s residents, and there were about 21 at the time. I spent more time there than my own dorm (and Cascadilla and Edgemoor were close to each other at least). It was a nice house, but from my own observation, almost everyone else in Edgemoor saw it as just a place to sleep.  For the student in the article that hopes for more intimate social connections, I would set the expectations low but hope for the best. For the record, I don’t have high opinions of ATO either. Some years back, ATO thought it was a good idea to take my freshman roommate to Kuma Charmers as a rush activity. He came back with bruises on his legs from what he described as the worst lap dance ever. My roommate ended up joining a different house. Furthermore, I went there once to meet him after one of their events, and the inside of the house was in shambles, with a giant pile of wood furniture tossed helter-skelter in a corner, and broken glass everywhere. So someone describing the house as a health hazard is no surprise either.

I think that unless people already have connections to their housemates, that the intimacy of non-specialized small group housing is overrated; upperclassmen have generally built their social networks and have their coteries. I don’t imagine Cornell’s thrilled to have to clean house, nor ATO to have it occupied by someone that’s not an active membership. But this is better than an empty house, the cleanup is appreciated, and I suppose that at least a couple dozen fewer people won’t have to do the manic search for off-campus housing.





Making Room(s) at Collegetown Terrace

21 02 2014

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Here’s an interesting concept coming out of Collegetown Terrace: A proposal to exchange some of the interior parking for more housing. This info comes courtesy of the city of Ithaca, which will have to grant a zoning variance in order to let such a change proceed.

The last phase of Collegetown Terrace (phase III)  is slated to begin later this year, with construction complete by summer 2015. Phase III is supposed to focus on the construction on the last building, #7 (formally known as 120 Valentine Place), a long, curving building very similar to  the currently underway #5. The whole complex as-is provides 1177 bedrooms and 699 parking spaces (5 more than legally required). However, the developer (Novarr-Mackesey) has noted that only about 50% of tenants utilize parking, which means about 100 will go unused (guest parking tends to only make up a very small % of lot use). They have put forth a rather unusual proposal where the second floor of parking for building 7 would instead be 80 units of dorm-style housing: all tenants get their own bed and bath, but share kitchens and community spaces. After reconfiguring some two-bedrooms to three-bedrooms, the net gain of units is 69 (from 178 to 247 in Bldg. 7).  The current buildings, #5 (112 Valentine, 167 units) and #6 (113 Valentine, 71 units) would be unchanged. Zoning calls for 703 parking spaces in the new setup, the develop wants to put in only 652, which they claim it would still result in 50 underused spaces. So here we are. I know even the regulated 9 additional spaces for 80 more units seems a little unbalanced, but the unit reconfiguration and the small square footage of those “dorms” allow it to be so. Changes to the exterior are expected to be minimal.

At a glance, this is a nifty idea – the dorm units are expected to rent for about 50-67% the cost of a typical studio or one-bedroom in the complex (which looks to be around $1000, so $500-$670 for these). Since Collegetown Terrace mostly appeals to wealthier echelons, this sort-of mixed-income aspect is appealing, and it gives a different group of landlords increased competition for tenants; also, it makes for a denser parcel, and does a favor to those seeking to buoy business in Collegetown, and avoid more home-to-rental conversions. However, I doubt the neighbors will be amused (some are not fans of having so many college students gathered in one complex), and the parking discussion (which so far is based only off “experience”) will be reviewed with a figurative magnifying glass. I feel like this project could be a major test-bed of the city’s evolving views on parking requirements.





It Pays To Read: The INHS Pipeline

15 02 2014

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I think the biggest thing I learned from Ithaca Builds is the importance of searching for and reading city documents. Since they’re rapidly digitized and made available for public knowledge, it’s not a necessity to stop in city hall anymore. Even better, it has an option to check out the most recent docs, so it’s like one-stop shopping for news. All the extra knowledge is a curse and a blessing. For instance, the latest Common Council agenda, which proposes additional restrictions on an intended rezoning of Cornell Heights, all of which is geared towards keeping the 1 Ridgewood apartment project from happening (I wonder what legal grounds the developer would have in such an event). This isn’t the first time something like this has happened – the vacant lot at 121 Oak Avenue in Collegetown was slated for a 3-story, 6 unit (20 bedroom) building in the late 2000s, but Josh Lower put the kibosh on that project once the city started the endless discussion with the Collegetown rezoning, and the planning board wouldn’t support his project because of the debate. On another note, Josh Lower might have the worst luck of any developer in Tompkins County.

On the other hand, readers get an idea of projects in the pipeline. It’s what allowed me to beat the Daily Sun to the punch on the Gannett Health Center plans. Then there’s all sorts of little projects, like a lot subdivision on Auburn Street that shows the design of the new house, or the proposal for three more houses on West Falls Street. On a larger scale, it also shares big outlines, like what INHS plans to do over the next couple of years, which I’ll discuss here.

The INHS pipeline comes courtesy of this Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency agenda. Most of the stuff is, for the purpose of this blog, “babble”; filings needed to designate INHS with some special privileges. But among this babble is a recently completed and underway projects list, on page 47. In the past year, the 72-unit Poets Landing project in Dryden (a Conifer LLC project they assisted with), Breckenridge Place, and a house purchase/remodel on Hawthorne Place were completed. Go back a little further and you see Holly Creek Phase I and a few small developments, like the duplex on East Falls Street in the lead image. In the future list, for 2014 there are only 14 units – two houses (one a duplex), and Phase II of Holly Creek. A few months ago, I googled the architect of Holly Creek to see her other work, and instead found out her back-story is traumatizing. Congrats to her for surviving it and being able to move on with her life. Anyway, in 2015, INHS has 148 units planned for completion – four townhomes and a house, the Stone Quarry apartments and its 35 units, 62 units in Cayuga Meadows (I guess it dropped from the 68 Jason first reported on IB), and the irksome Greenways project, which has dropped from 67 to 46 units. I have no idea what to make of it anymore. The big projects should all be completed by October 2015, but make of that what you will; Breckenridge came in behind schedule, and non-profit/government building projects are well known for building delays.





A Revised, Resized Plan For Ridgewood

13 02 2014

Things are getting a little complex with the development planned at 1 Ridgewood, a Cornell Heights parcel squished between Ridgewood and Highland Avenues. First, the revised plans for the smaller project. While the original plan had 64 units in one large building, this proposal has shrunk it down to 45 in three buildings. Notably, even with the size change, the overall design is not all too different, materials and massing look to be the same as before. One floor has been removed, giving three floors over an underground parking garage (a small surface lot would also be built on the property).

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The focus is now more on the western side of the property facing Ridgewood, with less attention given to the Highland Avenue side of the property in this updated plan. Since the tendency with student-focused projects is to count the bedrooms, the 45 units contain 114 bedrooms for occupancy.

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One of the complicating factors in this project is the zoning change proposed for the property. Currently, it’s R-U, which is less restrictive than the R-3aa they are proposing to rezone the parcel to. At its best, it’s an attempt to mitigate increasing developer interest in the historic district; at its worst, its a heavy-handed attempt to stunt development. For the record, this and the Thurston Avenue Apartments project seem to be (have been?) the only two underutilized parcels in the affected area. The revised 1 Ridgewood project PDF goes out of its way to note that this project just barely meets the R-3aa requirements, so even with the zoning change, no variance would be required. This is important, because some neighbors are fiercely opposed to any development of the parcel whatsoever. They would be able to shut the project down much easier if it were seeking a variance, but since it doesn’t, it gets a lot harder. We’ll see what happens as this makes it through the bureaucratic rounds.

EDIT: Ha ha, silly me to think they might let this one go. The Common Council is voting on additional restrictions to the R-3aa zone that would effectively kill this project. The proposed language adds a special amendment for historic districts such as Cornell Heights that says that any new building can’t have a footprint more than 120% of the average footprint of the historic structures on a block. Cornell Heights historic structures are mostly mansions in the 1,500-2,000 sq ft footprint range, which these exceed. This amendment seems to be explicitly targeted to keep this project from happening.





News Tidbits 2/10/14: A Big Project Scouts Out South Hill

10 02 2014

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Well, I suppose if there’s demand, and a lack of easily developable to the north, west and east, suburban developers would have targeted South Hill for big projects sooner or later. Fresh from the press comes news of a proposed 216-unit development for the town of Ithaca, on two lots  just east of Troy Road, a little north from its intersection with King Road. The PDF of the plan is here, in the town agenda.

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The proposed project is virtually all residential, divided up into 26 single-family lots, 80-120 apartments, 60 garden homes, 30 patio homes, and a 5,000 sq ft clubhouse with your lease office and a few office spaces for rent. To me, it has the airs of a cut-and-paste suburban development. For the record, a garden home is a cute way of saying townhome,  and patio homes are (in this case) one-story duplexes. The architecture theme is “rural agricultural” style: the apartment buildings will look similar to barns, and the patio homes will resemble small farmhouses. The target markets are empty nesters, and twenty-and thirty somethings (grad students and young professionals).

As easy as it to poo-poo this, there is a worse alternative – that which is currently okay under the zoning, which is 70 to 90 lots of low-density residential sprawl. This project, if it gets to proceed as a Planned Development Zone (PDZ) a la Ecovillage, would only disturb about 22 of the 67 acres the two lots comprise.  The project is being developed by Rural Housing Preservation Associates, which looks to be an awkward corporate offspring of a few development companies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and has enlisted the help of local companies STREAM Collaborative, Whitham Planning & Design, and Hunt EAS. Honestly, the armchair architecture critic in me is okay with those choices.

Something like this will have a multi-year buildout, and there’s been considerable development on South Hill in the past several years. But not anything on this scale. It’ll be interesting to watch this project evolve as it moves through the bureaucratic process.

 

 





News Tidbits 1/23/2014: Cashing in One’s Chips

23 01 2014
Property of O'Connor Apartments

Property of O’Connor Apartments

About six weeks ago, I made a quick little news tidbit entry regarding 115 The Knoll, which had turned to Craigslist to try and fill its quarters starting this June. Now, we can also mention that the house is not only looking for renters, it’s also looking for buyers. From Warren Real Estate:

Gorgeous arts & crafts mansion steps from Cornell. Built circa 1915 with up-to-date sprinkler & fire alarm. Living room, chapter room, dining room, commercial kitchen. 13 rooms for up to 25 occupants. There is also [a] 1 bedroom cottage with a separate driveway. Approximately 18 parking spaces.

The real estate listing uses the same photo from the rentals website, so this is indeed the same house (the listing agent is Edelman Real Estate’s John O’Connor, who by my guess is likely associated with the family-run O’Connor Apartments). If interested, this house could also be yours for a cool $1.35 million (Ex-Ithacan take note). Taking a stab in the dark, my assumption is that the current owners have finally given up the ghost, and no longer want to be responsible for the property and its taxes.

Notably, this isn’t the first time the house has been on the market, but in summer 2009, it was only asking for $795,000. The house waited until January 2010 for a sale to be finalized. Whether it ends up a private home, home to another GLO, or yet another parcel owned by Cornell, remains to be seen. If 210 Thurston was any indicator, this one could be on the market for a while.

Around and around and around she goes, where she ends up, nobody knows.





Collegetown Terrace Progress Photos, 12/2013

6 01 2014

I always carry a second set of charged batteries on me when I do these little photo tours, because the last thing I want is to have my day cut prematurely short, or pay out the nose for a new pack of AAs (I rotate through two sets of rechargeables, for the record). It doesn’t help me much when I leave the extra set on the passenger’s seat of my car, which is parked way up on Pearl Street. I was cold and soaked to the bone by the time I finally finished getting all the shots I wanted. Here, there are not only construction photos, but also shots from some less familiar angles of the project.

It still astounds me when I think of the numbers associated with this project. Seven buildings over 12 acres. The net increase in bedrooms is 589 (1,226 total, in at least 610 units). The construction cost exceeds $70 million. Using the Danter study (which assumes a 98-99% occupancy rate), that would mean 580 more residents in this area (although given the intended market, it’s mostly re-appropriation of tenants from other parts of the county). That’s more than the population of nearby Freeville. Certainly, the project has been fraught with contentious debate since it was first proposed. As development goes, it’s the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.

Buildings 5 and 6 are well-underway, heading towards a completion/occupancy date of August 2014; building 7, which is very similar to building 5 but further south (i.e. deeper into) on the property, will be constructed in the 2014-2015 timeframe.

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Building 5 and the elevated walkway.

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Building 6, complete with winter-friendly plastic wrap.

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The rear addition of the George C. Williams House.

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The “Mithcell Plaza“, which incorporates elements from the locally-relevant Delano House that was demolished to make way for the project.

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Vinyl-tastic. I thought these were supposed to be metal panels…?

 

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No one mind me, I just needed a place to briefly dry off.








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