“Collegetown Dryden” Project Proposed

28 07 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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The Elephant in the Room: 330 College Avenue

23 07 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 07 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 





The Collegetown Construction Boom

12 07 2014

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Building off of some of the work I’ve done with Jeff Stein over at the Ithaca Voice, this will be done in the form of an explainer.

1. What do you mean by “construction boom”?

Housing proposals have increased in the city of Ithaca in the past couple years, and in no place is it more apparent than Collegetown. The recent proposal for 327 Eddy Street brings the total of proposed developments to five – 327 Eddy, 205 Dryden Road (Dryden South), 307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing), 140 College Avenue (the John Snaith House addition), and 202 Eddy Street (a reconstruction of a house that burned down). As proposed, the projects would add 86 units and 223 bedrooms to Collegetown proper, a level of development not seen since before the October 2007 development moratorium.

2. Moratorium? What’s that, and why did Ithaca vote for one?

In its basic definition, a moratorium is a temporary ban on an activity. In Ithaca’s case, a moratorium on all new construction was voted into place by the Common Council for what was traditionally defined as the Collegetown neighborhood. Construction already approved could go forward, but no projects in the neighborhood could be reviewed and approved until the moratorium was lifted. The moratorium was originally for 12 months, then extended to 18 months, finally lifting in April 2009. One might have expected construction to take off at that point, but it didn’t, for the same reason the moratorium was put into place – design and implementation of a new zoning plan for Collegetown, sometimes called the Collegetown Vision, and later, the Collegetown Urban Plan and Conceptual Design Guidelines.

3. It took them seven years to update the Collegetown zoning?

Well, if you count from the time the initiative was announced, it was actually eight years. Initially came a public meeting period from 2006 to 2007 to design an implementation strategy (you could joke they had a meeting on how to set up meetings). Then they selected Goody Clancy, a Boston-based urban planning firm, to design the guidelines based off city and market needs, and public input. When the plan came out in late 2008, a number of local officials and public members were unhappy because they felt it made Collegetown too dense, so they counteracted and endorsed a plan in August 2009 that reduced the proposed zoning, placed emphasis on annual payments in lieu of parking, and instated community incentives to allow for taller structures. For instance, at the corner of College and Dryden, the Goody Clancy plan called for 90′, and the revised plan called for 60′, with 75′ if special incentives were met, like hotel rooms or community space. If you’re really interested, you can view a 239-page PDF that shows the two plans here.

At this point, many of the major property owners in Collegetown were incensed by the complicated zoning plan and balked at having to pay for parking that many of their tenants wouldn’t use. The landowners ran to their lawyers, and faced with an insurmountable legal challenge, the city was unable to affirm their endorsement. For $250,000 in fees and costs, there was nothing changed from when the vision statement was written, because no one could come up with a compromise.

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4. Then why are we seeing a building boom if there was no zoning change? Or did the city actually come up with a plan?

In fact they did. One of the biggest changes to the plan over the past few years was the exploration and adoption of form-based zoning. Traditional zoning focuses on use – residential, industrial, and so forth. Form-based zoning focuses on the design of the structure – how tall it can be, should it have street-level retail, porches, window size, setbacks, and so forth.  There have been many meetings to work out the details, but eventually, a form-based plan was developed. I’m not going to bore you with the zoning details, but if you’re interested, I did a write-up here, and you can find a copy of the new zoning plan here. Perhaps the key detail to developers was that for the most densely zoned parcels, parking would no longer be required. In an area of extremely high land values like Collegetown, that makes all the difference.

5. So you’re telling me this came down to parking?

That was a big part of it, yes. Also, because the zoning’s been in flux for so long, a lot of developers who wanted to build were holding off because they weren’t sure if they would end up spending money designing and planning something that would be prohibited by a change in zoning. Once the new zoning was adopted this past March, it created an attractive, stable structure for those inner Collegetown parcels, and developers have responded in earnest.

6. Whoa, hang on. I’ve seen that huge Collegetown Terrace project going up on East State Street. Why aren’t you counting that?

Because it falls just outside what’s considered to be Collegetown, and was never affected by any of the zoning debate. Not to say that the project wasn’t controversial, but that’s another story.

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Belle Sherman Cottages Update, June 2014

1 07 2014

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

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

 

 

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

26 06 2014

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

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

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

16 06 2014

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

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

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

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

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

13 06 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





The Carey Building Reaches Upwards

5 06 2014

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Another development piece to get everyone through the work week, although this is an update to a known project, rather than a totally new work. That doesn’t make it any less interesting though, because it’s quite a stretch, literally and technically.

The focus of this post is on the Carey Building, which was previously covered on this blog here, and in exhaustive, soup-to-nuts renovation details over at IB. For this port, drawings are here, FEAF (environmental assessment form) here,

Now we have some real meat to work with, it appears the details of the project are malleable, pending zoning. The Carey Building is in a zoning that allows a max 60′ – no doubt something that their neighbors in the parcel surrounding them, the proposed Hampton Inn downtown, are happy about (the Hampton’s max height in zoning is 100′) – note the boxes below are for illustrative purposes only.

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Well, the developer of the Carey Building, local firm Travis Hyde Properties, would like to appeal to the zoning board regarding that whole 60′ height limit. they would like to add on another two floors, to make for a 7-story, 85′ structure (78′ if not counting the stair tower). The render below is billed as a massing study, which I can only hope given the incredible dullness of those windowless flanks. To build floors 3-5 (12,600 sq ft total), the developer does not need a variance, and originally (as seen in the previous post), there was no plan to exceed the height limit and approach the city for a variance. Floor 3 will hold 3,600 sq ft of office space, and 4-5 will hold 14-16 micro-apartments. The extra 3,600 sq ft that would be built if the variance is approved for floors 6 and 7 would house 2 or 3 larger apartments.

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This kinda makes for an unusual situation given the large hotel proposed right next door. The logistics will almost certainly be a complicated affair if both of these proceed in overlapping time-frames. My inner realist expects that Lighthouse Hotels will not be amused by this vertical air-grab. We’ll see what happens as the current $1.6 million renovation of the second floor is completed this July.

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Infill on Inlet Island: 323 Taughannock Boulevard

4 06 2014

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

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

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

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

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