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.





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.





Collegetown Terrace Update 7/2013

27 07 2013

Taking a page out of Ithaca Builds’ format – breaking these up to reduce wordpress photo drag. I had exactly 90 minutes to try and hit as much of Ithaca as possible before getting back on the road; I didn’t see everything I wanted, but I hit a lot, and I’ll be sharing those photos over the next few days.

Phase 2 for Collegetown Terrace is nearing completion (units will have their first tenants next month), and phase 3 is underway with a targeted completion date of August 2014. Phase 2 consists of buildings 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4. Phase 3 will have buildings 5, 6 and 7, and these buildings will be similar in appearance to phase 2.

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The large glassy entry pavilion (where the fitness center will be, if I remember right) is largely complete, Any work left at this stage would likely be cosmetic details such as finishes.

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Since I’m not the biggest fan of modern architecture, I was a little nervous about the facade treatment when it was first proposed. The metal tiles don’t look half bad, as the landscaping grows in they’ll blend into the environment more nicely.

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The George C. Williams house has been sympathetically renovated, although the addition to the back is rather incongruous.

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Building 3.4 is quite massive, although the north facade attempts to make the structure seem a little less mammoth. The south side, deeper into the gorge, makes less of an effort. Building 5 can be under construction in the above image.

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This guy totally struggled to turn into the street. On that note, I struggled just trying to cross the street. I will be quite relieved when the reworked intersection of State and Mitchell is in place.

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The buildings from Phase 1 are growing out their landscaping and appear to be faring all this construction rather well.

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Not quite sure what the red-and-white checkered flag means, it could be a warning symbol or a company symbol, like the topping pine tree seen with some construction projects.

 

 

 





Collegetown Construction Photos, Spring 2013

9 04 2013

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The last time I rolled through around Thanksgiving, the Vine Street Cottages projects had two homes complete and a third underway. 4.5 months later, and the third home is complete, but the project has shown no further development. 3 homes of 29 is not a particularly auspicious sign, especially when all of the for sale signs nearby had no “sold” stickers slapped on. They’re nice homes, but it’s not easy justifying paying $300k+ when older homes of similar design are going for 100k less five minutes away.

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I still cannot get over how massive the Collegetown Terrace project is. It just dominates the terminating views along the State Street corridor. The work underway at the moment is for Phase II, set to be complete this summer. Phase III will not be as visible, as those buildings will be built closer to the gorge. One thing I did realize in taking photos was that it was extremely difficult to cross East State Street, a sentiment shared by a couple of residents who were cursing loudly while trying to cross the busy road. Thankfully, improvements to the road will be made to make it more pedestrian-friendly, including reworking the traffic lanes/island and adding crosswalks. The entire project will be complete in Summer 2014.

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Which by that time, I would not be surprised to see Novarr-Mackesey initiate plans for the former Palms property and its neighbors, all of which are owned by the development company.

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107 Cook looks to be complete.

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Maybe someday? Hopefully.

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604 East Buffalo Street. Not long ago, it was home to the Crossroads Life Center, a Christian Fellowship organization. Crossroads sold the property in December 2012, anticipating a move to a newly-constructed property that appears to be in substantial need of donations in order to actually happen. Meanwhile, WVBR bought the building for its new studio, moving out of its current digs near East Hill Plaza. In the same vein, the station is in the middle of a capital campaign to renovate the structure for their needs, to the tune of $935,000. The naming rights have been bought in full by left-wing gadfly Keith Olbermann’ 79, whose donation was partly in honor of deceased classmate Glenn Corneliess.  Hence, Olbermann-Corneliess Studios. the station expects to move in by the end of fall 2013.

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Apparently, Pontiac 1000s still exist in the Northeast. Growing up in a family with multiple mechanics, I knew as a child that owning this car, or more commonly its Chevette sibling, pretty much meant you gave up on life. Bravo to the person who’s kept one going this long, well after repairs would be worth more than the car itself.





Beating a Photo Limit

30 11 2012

So apparently, wordpress limits the number of images included in a post now; swell.

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This wooded plot of land at Thurston and Highland is slated to become another apartment complex, this one housing 36 units.

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First covered in one of my very first entries, and then again when Warren Real estate earned the (in my opinion, unenviable) task of selling it. A former Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house, the building was more recently home to Phi Delt’s annex and Theta Xi’s failed colony. The structure has been renovated and appears to be a large apartment house at this point. Not too shabby.

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Collegetown Terrace. Perhaps the biggest visual change from the street was the stripping down of the historic Williams House, which is being renovated to its original dimensions and revitalized as part of the project. Further in, the foundation and parking garage facilities are being laid for the larger, more adventurous apartment buildings of Phase II. This section will be completed by next August, with phase III, with more shiny and overly modern apartments, completed  the following year.





End-of-Summer Construction Update, Part I

22 08 2012

I had the fortune this past weekend of being near Ithaca to attend a wedding. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I figured it was also a good opportunity to take photos of Ithaca’s ongoing construction. So I made the drive over and tackled as much as I could in three hours, all the while avoiding students, as if my aging is a contagious disease (mentally, this involved my brain screaming “Don’t look at me! I’m old! I was once like you, now I do quaint 20-something-year-old person things!”). Awkwardness aside, I was fairly successful in my photo tour.

The Belle Sherman Cottages project continues its prep work on the east side of on the edge of the city. The model house is complete and the roads have been laid. Despite the rather high prices, a casual inspection shows that at least two of the lots have been sold. In keeping with the theme of traditional streets, the street has been named “Walnut Street”, which is an interesting choice, since walnut trees can only grow in the moderated climate of the lake shore in these parts (same goes for peaches).

Phase II of the Coal Yard Apartments is complete. This phase brings to market 25 units, and ~40 beds.

Josh Lower’s Project (Collegetown Crossing) is tied up in red tape as it seeks a very generous parking variance. Meanwhile, the current building sits underutilized, and somewhat barren. Rather disturbingly, this was a trend around much of Collegetown, with many old storefronts, such as Mama T’s and CTP, having closed their doors. It gave the entire area a derelict, ghetto quality. Not to mention some of the houses and their treatment, which I’ll cover in a future entry.

The townhouses at 107 Cook have had their framework completed. As you might recall, 107 Cook was the site of a deadly house fire in May of 2011.

On a brighter note, 309 Eddy is complete. The building replaces a 3-story apartment house, and has 24 units with 41 beds. The building is tall enough to make an impact on the Collegetown skyline as seen from other parts of the city.

…and this image is a clue that Ithaca and the electrical authorities that be should consider burying the power lines under the street. Seriously.

The massive Collegetown Terrace project by Novarr-Mackesey. In Phase I, which was just completed, eight buildings were built (seven on East State, one on N. Quarry). This amounts to about 1/5th of the projects intended 1250 or so bedrooms. Parking is generally under the building on concrete stilts, which is bad in earthquake regions, but I suppose it works for seismically-inactive Ithaca. Some of the current buildings, such as the Delano House and the Valentine Apartments, are still standing and rented, waiting to be torn down in a later phase (III, I imagine). The Williams House is not yet renovated, serving as the site office while building continues. By my guess, building “3″ from the development plans is Phase II, and is one of the long wavy buildings, specifically the one that sits closest to East State. Phase II is underway for a completion next summer, with phase III (the final phase) being completed in the summer of 2014. I suspect at that time, we’ll be hearing significant news about whatever N-M has proposed for all the properties they bought on the Palms block of Dryden Avenue – I expect something substantial, a la Collegetown Plaza.

Redevelopment of this mostly derelict and empty block would be a blessing at this point.

So, trying to break up my update into manageable chunks here (since the tech format here isn’t keen on photo-laden posts), I’ll post the rest of Ithaca and Cornell’s Campus later in the week.





News Tidbits 8/17/2012: The Tax Argument

17 08 2012

I held off on this entry for a few days. Not because I was particularly low on time, but because I was waiting for the latest planning board project review minutes to come out, to see if there was anything newsworthy (and pretty much everything on there was minor, or I’ve already covered it, so…nope, nothing newsworthy). So I’m going to take a closer look at an article recently posted by the Ithaca Journal.

It was noted that the Collegetown Terrace (aka the giant hard hat-bedecked property south of State Street between Quarry and Valentine) is quite the tax revenue generator for the county. Now, here’s some of their numbers: The initial properties on the land, small apartment buildings and single-family homes (~29 total), were valued at $19,143,000, which would (by my calculation) generate taxes of around $700,000 per year. Just under half of that would go to the school district, with a little more than one-third (~35%) going to the city coffers, and the rest to the county. The partially-built property, as it was assessed in March, was assessed at $526,800, according to the IJ, with a property value of $14,430,000.

Now let’s keep in mind two things. The property wasn’t even finished, and finished properties garner much more in taxes; and the property is being developed in three phases, with the currently assessed phase counting for just 18 percent of that.

It would be hard for me to say what the value of the finished property is, so let’s conservatively go for 20% greater than the current value, for the sake of this exercise. That gives $17.32 million. Now let’s apply that to the developed project, 100% complete: ([100/18] * 17.316=) $96.2 million. Five times its former value before the property was sold. If taxes are kept the same, that would be a tax bill of about $3.5 million. And for the city, an extra $1 million in cash would go a long way, since the annual revenue is about $61.5 million. An extra million is equivalent to the amount Cornell pays annually in its PILOT agreement with the city.

It would not be out of place to think, “oh, but with the slow rate of growth, this is just cannibalizing other local properties”. To some extent, yes. But these are properties that have a very captive market, namely, 20,000+ Cornell students. The landlords that will be hurting the most will be those with properties furthest from campus, of which a good chunk of that hinterland lies outside city limits, in the neighboring town of Ithaca, or Lansing. In my mind, the biggest concern will be if this project pulls grad and professional students away from downtown and Fall Creek, but I imagine the effect will be minor, all things considered (most notably, because if apartments in this place are going for $1,000+ per month, then that $600 one bedroom in Fall Creek is still going to appeal to a lot of folks with tighter purse strings).

In conclusion, I think that if a developer approaches the city regarding new student housing in the Collegetown area, they’ll have a powerful card in there hand – the tax argument. I’ll be curious to see if Novarr-Mackesey mentions it when they release their proposal for the Palms property and its neighbors along the 200 block of Dryden Road.





Spring 2012 Construction Update

2 05 2012

I’m disappointed, and I’m not disappointed. I can’t be at Slope Day itself because of a morning meeting (and to seal my fate that day, I’m having new tires put on my car). On the bright side, I did get a chance last weekend to go to a Cornell alumni reception for my major, and the traffic, one could assume, was a lot better than it would be with thousands of young alumni driving back to the area. I took the downtime between alumni events as an opportunity to do some construction photo updating.

As nice as it would’ve been to report on some downtown construction, all the sites approved or of buildings “underway” appeared to be dormant from the outside – if they’ve started anything, it might be interior demolition, but there wasn’t any demolition equipment at Seneca Way or Breckinridge Place (which, as I have now discovered, is scheduled for May 15th); the latter had a tarp poster, shown above, but that was about it. As kinda expected, significant work has yet to start at the Holiday Inn, Hotel Ithaca and Cayuga Green II.

That being said, it’s not like there was no progress at all in the area. The Argos Inn is nearing completion of its renovation.

Comparably, construction in Collegetown has been rapid. Here, 309 Eddy is undergoing facade installation, and looks on track for an August completion date.

The progress at Collegetown Terrace has been nothing short of astounding. The following photos try to convey a sense of the size and scope of the construction, but I feel they fail to do so. By Ithaca standards, this project is enormous.

Definitely not a fan of the giant concrete pedestal.Here’s to hoping it gets landscaped into obscurity.

The Ithaca College Boathouse nears completion on Inlet Island.

So, this one I only came around by chance, as I was going out with old friends for dinner. Apart from them thinking I’m nuts for taking photo of a building under construction, I’d say this was a pleasant surprise. The building is Magnolia House, a 14-person women’s homeless shelter.

The Coal Yard Apartments Phase II is virtually complete. The 4-story building holds 25 apartments.

The Vine Street Cottages development continues, with the model unit currently the only building under construction. The project includes 19 houses and 10 townhomes.

Seeing as my computer is lagging substantially with the uploading of all these photos, I think I’ll cut myself some slack and upload the Cornell project photos in a later entry next week.





A Snowy Ithaca Update

30 12 2011

It’s a running joke that Ithaca is “centrally isolated”. Luckily for me, however, I grew up not too far north of Syracuse, so visiting my family for the holidays can also have “pay a visit to Ithaca to update my photo collection” somewhere on the itinerary.

Unfortunately, although I had the date planned well in-advance (I even wrote a list of places to visit so I wouldn’t miss any of my intended targets), it also happened to be one of the coldest and snowiest days yet of the upstate winter. The lake effect had set itself up in a large and fairly strong band south of Syracuse, enveloping a wide swath of land from about Ithaca up through Lafayette. With the passage of a cold front the night before, a brisk northwest wind kicked up, turning a snow day into a windy and snowy day, with near-whiteouts on the interstate.  Combine that with puddles from the heavy rain of the previous evening freezing over, and the driving was a bit of a harrowing experience. At least the old days of practicing controlled skids in a parking lot came in handy. Anyways, the weather slacked off after lunch and I was able to get some photos.

The BJ’s in Lansing (just north of the mall) is near completion. I did not notice any senior homes being built when I visited.

One of the housing projects nearby, Ivar Jonson’s Heights of Lansing. 6 more units of the 80 unit project are under construction in the background. I took photos of some of the Lansing suburban sprawl, but I figured no one would know the difference between a cul-de-sac of McMansions here vs. any other city. I’ll save the photo for another entry that could better use it.

Not much happening with the Ithaca Gun site. The site is cleared, but no construction has taken place. According to an article in the Ithaca Journal, the project is supposed to finish clean-up this year, and the developer plans to finish clean before starting any redevelopment. So probably no construction until 2013.

The site of the Breckenridge Place project. The Women’s Community Building’s days are numbered. According to a very recent Ithaca Times piece, demolition will occur starting in March.

Rendering Courtesy fo Hart Hotels

 

The Holiday Inn has begun the initial phases of proposal with the planning board. The plan calls for the low-rise portion, shown here, to be demolished, with a new conference area and a few more rooms attached to the mid-rise tower of 10 floors. The new hotel would be built at this street corner. I don’t have many faults with the design, except that the east wall looks cheap. Like 1960′s pre-fabricated cheap.

The Cayuga Green Condos site awaits construction. The project is currently unfunded (and therefore stalled), but with a reorganization and a ground floor tenant secured, the developers hope to secure funds and start construction by next summer.

It seems I’ll have a plentiful supply of “before” images. This is the Hotel Ithaca site. I’m willing to venture this project is much like the Cayuga Condos – tenant secured (Gemstone Hotels), but no funding yet in place as a result of the tight loan market for new projects. Hopefully, we’ll hear positive news in 2012.

Hm. I’m sure things will be much more interesting one year from now. Here’s the Seneca Way Apartments site. The renovation of the Argos Inn (turning a dilapidated house into a LEED-certified boutique hotel) continues in the background. The Seneca Way project will begin demolition of the old Challenge Industries building this spring, and be built on a (slow if steady) 18-24 month time frame.

Moving towards Collegetown, it was hard to fully capture the sheer size and scale of the Collegetown Terrace. Simply put, it’s massive. The house in the background to the left is the Williams House; the project extends further up the street beyond that. In contrast to Seneca Way, the time frame here is brisk – phase one, consisting of 12 of the 16 new buildings, is expected to be completed by August 2012. The other two phases are expected to be completed in 2013 through early 2014.

I did some mental math – the rental market will see Novarr’s 600 beds come online in the next couple of years, which might be around 5% of the total market. That’s quite an impact, most likely to be felt by the student-oriented apartment complexes furthest from campus.

The apartment building under construction at 309 Eddy. Look for a completion date around late summer 2012.

The site of the “Collegetown Crossings” project, formally known as 307 College Avenue. The project is back on the agenda as a sketch proposal, but I’m yet uncertain as to whether it keeps the form of a 6-story 60-unit building with a distinct lack of parking, or if the proposal has been modified.

EDIT 1/23/12: The above rendering (from the Sun, courtesy of the City of Ithaca) is the latest design of the project. The project, if granted approval, will be home to a Greenstar Co-Op Grocery branch. The building would be complete by 2014.

Phase II of the Coal Yard Apartments project off Maple Avenue. The 4-story, 25-unit project looks to be heading towards a spring 2012 completion date.

The site for the Vine Street Cottages project has been cleared. Construction of the model house should be complete by the spring. The 29-unit project (19 homes and 10  townhouses) effectively redevelops the eastern edge of the city (Belle Sherman).





Construction News Tidbits, 12/18/10

18 12 2010

A few articles have popped up lately that merit a brief writeup.

The BJ’s Wholesale Club and 12 senior apartments planned for the grass lot next to the Shops at Ithaca Mall (behind the YMCA) hit a snag when the county industrial authority voted down a tax break for the residential portion of the project in a 4-3 vote. While this makes the project less likely, it is not entirely dead, and the town of Lansing still supports the project. However, it’s the  village of Lansing that demanded the residential component as a buffer between houses and shopping areas. Some involved with the project contend that the votes against were by Ithaca-centric legislators who’d rather see the potential sales tax dollars go to the city (i.e. build the store on a site in Ithaca City). BJ’s has no interest in any local site except the one currently proposed, so in conclusion everyone’s getting their panties up in a bunch, and the project is at the very least on hold in its current form.

Out in Dryden, a 144-unit apartment complex is being proposed. Called “Poet’s Landing” (perhaps as a nod to John Dryden, the British poet for whom the village/town is named), the project consists of a 72-unit senior living apartment building, 7 other buildings containing a total of 72 units, and a community center. 48 of the 72 non-senior units are proposed low-income housing, which has managed to rile up the locals with fears of higher crime rates and drugs (the project is across the street from Dryden High School). the project is by Conifer Realty, who also own the Linderman Creek complex over on West Hill.

Lastly, a little closer to Cornell, the Collegetown Terrace Project is waiting on three things – site plan approvals, approval of a zoning variance, and a “certificate of appropriateness” from the Landmarks committee, who are not doubt still seething after the city okayed demolition of Delano House in exchange for the restoration of another house on the property and some public signage displays of the site’s history. If the project can clear those final hurdles, a late spring or summer start for site prep is likely.








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