A Protest in Cayuga Heights

26 08 2014

100_1966

About as close as I have to a picture of the townhouses (left, brown roofs).

I’m going to take a break from my Collegetown writeups to write an apropos history piece. A couple weeks ago, the project for 7 Ridgewood went on indefinite pause. I’m a little disappointed, sure, though not nearly as much as I would be if the city hadn’t lifted the parking requirements on Collegetown. With several of the parcels south of Cornell Campus being primed for redevelopment and at least a few hundred more bedrooms, some of the edge will be taken off the housing cost and supply problems that plague Ithaca and Cornell.

The debate with 7 Ridgewood has a historical predecessor. I’m going to spin the clock back in time, to the era of Ford Pintosbell bottoms and when everybody was kung fu fighting: 1974.

Cornell’s campus proper spans three communities – the city of Ithaca, the town of Ithaca, and the village of Cayuga Heights. The line for Cayuga Heights doesn’t quite line up with campus roads, but it could be treated as the portion of Cornell north of Jessup Road and west of Pleasant Grove Road. Today, that would be Jessup Field, the “A” parking lot, the Daycare Center, and the freshmen townhouses.

Cornell was, not surprisingly, facing another housing crisis in the 1970s. The enrollment was climbing hundreds per year. The lack of dorms, even for freshmen, was acute. Collegetown was still seen as a drug-ridden hellhole. The university was cash-strapped, having difficulties with the build-out of its new north campus community (the low-rise and high-rises; the university would eventually give up on trying to build low-rises 2, 3, and 4 due to tight finances). Even with the difficult finances, Cornell was still trying hard to find a way to accommodate its burgeoning student population.

Enter the Richard Meier proposal. Launched in Fall 1973, the design by the class of 1956 (B.A. Arch 1957) alum called for two four-story buildings, “serpentine” in shape, to be completed by late 1975. They were to be at least 60 percent glass, with a yellow “stucco-like” exterior. The two buildings as designed would accommodate 542, and then 547 students at a cost of $4.4 million (about $21.3 million today). Most of the dorms consisted of 105 units of 4-6 bedroom suite-style (then called  “townhouse” and “duplex-style”) units, each with its own kitchen, living room and bathroom. It was to be built north of Jessup Road, between the athletic fields and “A” lot. I have only found one dark photo of a model of the project, included below.

marcham_1974

Well, the prospect of hundreds of students in Cayuga Heights put many a pair of panties in a bunch in the wealthy suburban enclave. More than 175 turned out at a village meeting to speak out on the proposal, saying that their children often played there, and that the traffic would overwhelm the town. The breakdown of against vs. for the project was about 9 to 1. The Sun quotes one woman as saying that she hears that “students listen to their rock music morning, noon and night” and that it was sometimes impossible to sleep on summer nights due to noise from the North Campus Union (now RPU). In the summer. When students are, and were, away from campus. Another speaker, a Cornell professor, apologized for his neighbors speaking as if the students were inferior beings. But some students weren’t fans of the project either, calling it too cramped, too expensive, and bothered by the lack of dining or dorm-wide commons areas. The Cornell Op-Ed of March 20, 1974 accused both Cornell and the villagers of Cayuga Heights of high-handed arrogance unbecoming of both parties.

Legally, the project had to get a zoning variance – Cayuga Heights only permitted buildings in that area that were less than 30′, 60 feet from Triphammer Road. The project called for 33’9″ (the dorm ceilings were only 7’6″), but the university felt that because it was 230 feet away from Triphammer, it was acceptable. The number of occupants was eventually whittled down to 497 units, with a construction start planned for the summer. But it ended up being delayed. Cayuga Heights demanded detailed plans for all future development projections of Cornell property within its boundaries, but the university wasn’t game. Eventually, faced with ballooning construction costs well north of $5 million, Cornell found itself unable to break even if the proposal went forward and was built. The project was quietly mothballed, swept into the dusty files of campus history.

With the gift of 40 years, it would appear neither side won. Cornell never built its serpentine dorms, but the townhouses, with heights under 30′, would be built on part of the same site in 1988-1989, with occupancy for 310 students. Originally housing grad students, it was opened to undergrads in the mid-1990s, and then became freshman housing after 2000-01. Cayuga Heights still had to deal with hundreds of students and the loss of the coveted green space, and Cornell couldn’t cram as many students on that swath of land as they initially hoped. Do we have any victors? Maybe Richard Meier and serpentine buildings in Ithaca, both of which have left their mark on the city of today.





An Ever-Expanding Ithaca Apartment Hunt

4 01 2013

11-24-2012 167

So, this post relies on a question originally posed by “Steve” on the welcome page:

I wonder if you can comment on the number of new apartments being built in Ithaca from a historical perspective? It seems like there are many coming online but I don’t have a long enough perspective.

As a matter of fact, I had obtained this info several months ago for reference, from a report given to the DIA by the Danter Company regarding the Ithaca housing market’s trends, needs and projections. But I had never made much use of that data until now. Even to the casual observer, there has been an uptick in construction around and about the Ithaca area as of late. As the metro has expanded a little over 5% (~5,500 people) in the past decade, some growth is to be expected. The Ithaca market (mostly defined as Ithaca city/town with some parts of Lansing) is believed to be capable of absorbing about 1,350 units over the next five years, 25% owner-occupied (most likely condos) and 75% rental units.

As of April 2011, there were 4,793 units in 75 developments (5 others with 270 units of subsidized housing are excluded from analysis). 49% of all those units are occupied by, no surprise, students at IC or Cornell. Borrowing a table from the report itself shows the number of multi-unit projects built within Ithaca proper, broken down into separate time periods.

danter1

So, adding up the 2000s gives 654 units 14 projects. This is a substantial increase from the 454 units built in the 1990s, but somewhat less than the 824 units in the 1980s, and less than half of the 1,604 units built in the 1970s. For the curious, the project built in 2009 was INHS’s Cedar Creek on the west side of the city. West Hill accounts for over half of the new multi-unit housing built in the 2000s, with Overlook at West Hill (128 units, 2006), Linderman Creek (128 units in 2 phases, 2000/2004) Cayuga View (24 units, 2005) and Conifer Village (70 units, 2008). Collegetown also makes up a small portion, with projects like 407 College (25 units, 2006) and Coal Yard Apartments Phase I (10 units, 2007).

Now, starting around the time this left off, there have been a number of major projects. Within the 2011-2016 time frame, here’s a sample of what’s completed/under construction/planned (I’m not going to link to each one for this entry, but the curious can make use of the search bar to pull up more info from other entries):

Collegetown Terrace (U/C; usually defined with “beds”; but in terms of units, the construction company in charge suggests 246 units, but that may just be one phase). EDIT – 610 units. That’s…a lot.

309 Eddy (completed, 24 units)

Coal Yard Apartment Phase II (completed, 25 units)

107 Cook (U/C, 4 units)

Breckinridge Place (U/C, 50 units)

Collegetown Crossing (in review, 60 units).

Thurston/Highland (in review, 36 units)

Seneca Way (U/C, 38 units)

619 West Seneca (U/C, 24 units)

Cayuga Green (approved, 39 units)

Fane Properties/ 100 E. Clinton (proposed, 36 units)

Harold Square (proposed, 60-70 units)

Cascadilla Landing (in review, 134 units)

Stone Quarry Apartments (in review, 35 units)

Conifer Phase II (72 units, senior housing, site prep)

Purity Ice Cream Redevelopment (proposed, 13-26 units)

Hawk’s Nest at Springwood (proposed, 50 units)

Cinema Drive (proposed, Lansing village south of 13, 39 units)

Lansing Reserve (proposed, on the north edge of what the Danter study calls “Ithaca” proper; 65 units)

College Crossings (U/C, 2 units)

So in the Ithaca area proper, in a span from 2011-2016, I’m estimating at least 1,415 units in 20 projects. This assumes the townhomes with the Vine Street Cottages and Holochuck Homes projects are not rentals (and not included in this tally), excludes the several hundred units of housing planned in the town of Lansing (town center, Village Solars, etc.). Also, Ithaca Gun and its 45 units are not being included until that project leaves limbo.

So to answer Steve’s question- Ithaca is running well above average, and is on a pace not seen since the 1970s. Quite the uptick indeed.





That Time Ithaca Almost Had A Nuclear Power Plant

1 12 2012

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Let’s play a word association game. Think of a stereotypical resident of Ithaca. Now think of five words or behaviors that you would use to describe them.

I’m suspecting that most readers may have used “hippie”, “eco-friendly”, “green”, “environmentalist” for at least one of their five.

Back in the early 1970s, when the environmental movement was really taking off post-Rachel Carson, the state of New York, along with certain large power companies, was looking to build a few power plants, technologically-advanced nuclear facilities. A few of these plants were commissioned – Fitzgerald and Nine Mile Point, for instance.  I bring up these two facilities because I grew up in their geographic shadow. Certainly, the locals are glad for the hundreds of job provided; but there’s also the implicit acceptance that if something really major gets fouled up, you and all of your neighbors are screwed, and you’re reminded of this when the postings for iodine pill distribution are sent out. For anyone living in the span from Oswego down to Syracuse, you know they are there, you know they are dangerous, but you shrug it off and accept them for the economic benefits. Maybe not the best attitude, but that is what it is.

Well, the attitude was more cavalier in the swinging ’60s. The state was considering sites, and thought it would be great to place one near Ithaca – in Lansing, to be exact. In 1968, NYSEG announced their intention to build the “Bell Station Nuclear Power Plant” on the shores of Cayuga Lake, in the northwest corner of Lansing, about twenty minutes’ drive north of Cornell. The facility would have been just to the north of the Milliken Station coal plant. The Tompkins County Board of Supervisors approved the project.

Well, the public reaction was not as effusive. A grassroots group, “Trumansburg United to Save Cayuga Lake”, was formed, with the express purpose of derailing the project (it was claimed that thermal pollution from the plant would destroy the ecological habitat of the lake). Dozens of professors and environmental scientists at Cornell and IC spoke out against the project. The sour public opinion caused the proposal/approval to drag on for years (yet, the negativity was not as widespread as the local editorials made it seem). The Trumansburg folks probably would not have stopped the Ward Center Nuclear Reactor at Cornell, which was smaller and built several years earlier, because initially the concern was the lakeside location, not nuclear power. But by 1973, as the dangers of nuclear activity moved into the scrutiny of the public eye, the negative attention turned towards plants themselves.

On June 15, 1973, NYSEG decided to give up on the Lansing location, the public sentiment against the project being a major factor in their decision. As a result, they pursued a location in the town of Somerset, in Niagara County. In the early stages of construction, it was discovered that a fault line lay 40 miles away, which would have made retrofitting necessary, and the nuclear plant infeasible. So the facility was changed to a coal power plant, and this opened as the Kintigh Generating Station in 1984.

As for the land the plant was to be built on in Lansing, the state leased some of it out to neighboring farms, and the other half remained underused (and underutilized, as it became an unofficial drinking hideaway and dump for locals). Recently, as the town took over management of the site and cleaned it up/patrol it, the 490 acres have been proposed to become a lakeside wildlife and recreational area. One surmises this is probably more acceptable to the local residents than a nuclear power plant.





News Tidbits 6/13/12: “Cascadilla Landing” Makes Its Debut

13 06 2012

For those who pay any attention to Ithaca’s physical plant, news has been floated around for a while of a proposed waterfront project next to the city golf course, which in reference, was referred to as the “Johnson Boatyard Development”, after the boatyard located on the current property.

Well, in the fee-to-see Ithaca Journal this morning, renderings were shown for the proposed “Cascadilla Landing” project, which is the official name of the development. More renderings are included within a PDF from John Snyder Architects hosted on the IJ website.

I would love to share some of the images, but now that content is pay-to-play, that puts me in a much more difficult position. It was one thing to share an image up from a free online paper. But now that content is not free, the legal waters have become a bit dicier. I will say this much: click the links, visitors have a limited number of article hits before content is no longer displayed. After that, there are several other ways to get around the content wall (or you can pay). If I see them hosted (i.e. not linked) on a “free” content website, I’ll include them here. But until then…yeah. It’s unfortunate.

Following the PDF, the project has 185 units – 6 in duplexs, 11 townhomes, 168 apartments. The mid-rise apartment buildings are furthest east, with the townhomes in the middle, and three three-story duplex buildings built around the traffic circle that completes the west end of the project. Phase 1 has two buildings of 82 and 44 units respectively, in three 5-story apartment buildings, two of which are connected by a skybridge. Construction would start on Phase I in Spring 2013. The main street appears to double as an internal promenade.

As for the design, John Snyder Architects opted for angular and ultramodern. The duplexs have gable roofs and wood trim, and bear superficial similarities to the buildings going up at the 900 block portion of Collegetown Terrace. The apartment buildings are an angular pastiche of windows of all shapes and sizes and random balconies and overhangs closer to the waterfront, and a bit more orderly further into the property. The colors as shown are rather muted whites and greys. No one will ever call it pretty, but it certainly stands out from the traditional built environment. The townhome designs are not really shown, they’re likely still in the initial design process.

Ithaca’s economy hasn’t been something to be too excited about lately, but this project shows there must still be some demand to live in the City of Gorges.

EDIT 7/18/12: The city has published the images. As a result, I’m including them below:





The Meaning of Means Restriction

28 03 2012

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Sometime in the fairly near future, Cornell will begin to install the safety precautions on the campus bridges. For the most part, I have avoided discussion about the proposed “means restrictions”. While technically an addition to the physical plant, they didn’t stand out enough for me to really discuss them in great detail. Which isn’t to say the reasoning behind their construction isn’t very important. Or that the process involved in their design went smoothly, since the architecture firm designing the add-ons became embroiled in internal conflicts.

But anyways, as they have run the planning board gauntlet at this point and their construction is imminent, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share some of the proposed designs:

Image

Some of the bridges, like the Stewart Avenue and Thurston Avenue bridges over Fall Creek, have means restrictions that basically consist of some metal bars extending out from the supporting arches with some nets rigged on top. Others, such as the Suspension Bridge shown above, are a bit more creative. I used to walk over this bridge virtually every day, so seeing it cocooned doesn’t appeal to my aesthetic senses.

Image

For the most part, bridges that are considered iconic or to have iconic views are left with few visual obstructions above level. For instance, the Stewart Avenue bridge over Cascadilla Gorge. For those who enjoyed looking through the slats into the churning waters 100 feet below, it looks like those views will be only partially obstructed. I for one discovered the best way to find out if someone has a previously unmentioned bridge phobia is to attempt to have them walk over this bridge, and then when they freeze up halfway, walk them through as they clench their eyes shut and shuffle forward while you hold their hand. That was only time my mother ever visited Cornell outside of my graduation.

Looking through the full set of documents, it would appear the cost of the “means restrictions” comes out to just under $4.9 million, and all construction projects are expected to last two months. Will it bring an end to the gorge jumpings? If the distraught individual has to work harder to do it, perhaps. Falling 15 feet into a stainless steel mesh net probably isn’t going to do any favors to ones health, but at least it won’t kill them. Will it bring down the suicide rate? Debatable. Studies have shown it can decrease or go unchanged. But given the all the bad press that Cornell has received, and the ongoing $180 million lawsuit from a parent of one of the deceased, I suppose Cornell can’t afford to sit on its hands.





The Keyword Bar XV

11 02 2012

The news has been slow lately (I’m not about to devote an entire entry to another new senior housing complex in Ithaca, and Cornell hasn’t done anything lately that I would write about on the blog) and life as a grad student in another city leaves me unprepared to write Cornell history articles. So now comes that special time to cherry pick search queries that brought people to this blog, and write blurbs about those.

“who is responsible for tep frat house maintenance at cornell” (2-11-2012)

If I was being a wiseass I’d say no one, considering its appearance. The house is private-owned, so it’s not the university. Many houses have contracts with local cleaning and maintenance companies; some have their members do minor routine cleaning (usually led by a brother elected or appointed as house manager), and may even have live-in “staff” for managing the more involved maintenance of the facility. However, it varies from chapter to chapter, and something as banal as maintenance usually isn’t publicized, so I don’t think you’ll find your answer online.

“johnson boatyard ithaca, condos” (2-10-2012)

This has actually been a rather hot topic, as I’ve had an abnormally high number of incoming queries regarding this project. The project still calls for 22 townhomes (11 to start construction initally, along with some commercial space), about 130-150 units in 5 5-story buildings to be built later phases, as well as more retail space. The grand total for gross square footage is about 292,000 sq ft. The planning board minutes don’t provide a whole lot more detail; the parking will be facing the road, so effectively it’s road -> parking lot -> buildings -> waterfront. Sidewalks, plazas, waterfront promenades, a proposed roundabout on the end of Pier Road, and a new pier. Definitely a large development as Ithaca projects go.

“cornell widow magazine” (2-10-2012)

The Cornell Widow was a humor magazine published by students at Cornell from October 1894 until 1962, when financial issues forced its shutdown. Apparently, the term widow meant “the girl who bowled over class after class of freshmen without really landing one”, so fairly similar to the “cougar” of today. The magazine routinely made fun of the Sun (The “Cornell Daily Sin“), and although its humor is consider fairly dated and/or offensive, its cover illustrations are highly regarded. The Cornell Lunatic sort-of took over the role of campus humor magazine starting in the late 1970s. An anthology titled “Cornell Widow: Hundredth Anniversary Anthology 1894-1994) was published in 1981.

“cornell campus” construction news nyc

This is a bit of a tough decision for me, but I am making the conscious decision to limit my discussion of the construction new grad campus in NYC. I may mention it in passing, and maybe way, way down the line, there will be an entry about the physical plant. But the focus of this blog has been the physical plant in Ithaca, not New York City, and I plan on keeping it that way for the foreseeable future.

“google i want the ithaca journal and stop been stupid” (2-8-2012)

Am I being trolled?

“cornell balch hall homicide” (2-5-2012)

No homicide has occurred in Balch Hall. You might be looking for lowrise 7’s double murder back in 1983.

“ithaca construction state street quarry” (2-6-2012)

That would be the Collegetown Terrace project.

“cornell plantations welcome center cost” (1-31-2012)

About $5.8 million, for about 18,000 sq ft.





Ithaca is Hot

21 07 2011

According to NWS Binghamton, the high temperature in Ithaca tomorrow is expected to be right around 99 degrees Fahrenheit (~37.2 C). Earlier model outputs suggested a high right around 102 F. Regardless, the heat index (an indication of how it actually feels, thanks to the effects of high humidity) will be right around 110. It’s not often that Ithaca flirts with the century mark when it comes to temperatures (since most students know Ithaca as a frigid windswept land, any heatwave of this magnitude should be nothing short of shocking).

Being curious, I decided to glance at the NRCC climate records to determine the last time Ithaca hit 100 degrees (non-heat index). Well, a cursory check of the last twenty years turned up squat. So, I expanded the search, and pulled all days from 1900 onward that had temperatures recorded at 100 degrees or greater at the Ithaca station. Here’s the result:

07/03/1911 101

07/04/1911 102

07/05/1911 100

08/22/1916 101

07/02/1931 102

09/12/1931 100

06/29/1933 102

07/08/1936 101

07/09/1936 103

07/10/1936 102

An almighty ten occurrences in 110 years of records. The last of which was over 75 years ago.

Expanding the threshold a little bit, I checked out the dates where the temperature reached 95 F or higher. There were 129 occurrences in 110 years, a little more than one a year (but, since heat waves tend to be longer-term events, they typically occur in spurts of a few days at a time). the last day above 95 was August 15th, 2002, when the temperature hit 96 at the Ithaca Game Farm weather station. Looking more closely, the dates break down fairly clearly – once in 2002, once in 2001, twice in 1995, once in 1990, once in 1988 (a grand 98 degrees, the highest in the past 50 years), once in 1966, twice in 1965, and a record 5 times in 1955 (the highest of which was 98). So in the past 50 years, Ithaca has broken 95 degrees only 9 times.

So, it will be a hot day, maybe even one for the record books. I’m sweating in my AC-lacking apartment as I write this a few hours east of Ithaca, and I will be very glad when a cold front moves through later this week.








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