Six Years Later

18 06 2014

7-26-2013 057

Birthday number six. As blogs go, Ithacating is an old-timer. Many blogs stop within weeks, months, sometimes they limp into a year or two. Going into its seventh year of writing is something of an accomplishment. As with each birthday, here’s the statistical summary:

yr_6_stats

In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216 and 182 hits daily. At this time last year, I was actually pretty concerned about the drop in traffic, thinking that the blog’s best days were behind it, and it would just be a slow decline until I finally gave up the ghost.

Before taking that drastic step, I figured I’d change up tactics first. For one, the twitter account was started on February 2nd; I try to keep many of the twitter posts unique, so that followers aren’t just getting rehash of the blog. About 500 hits have been from twitter (the vast majority from the Ithacating account), which accounts for about 2% of the blog visits over that Feb-Jun period – not enormous, but notable. After search engines and facebook, it’s the third largest source of visitors. I also started to leave links to other entries in posts, a practice I had shunned for years as a form of shameless self-promotion. I came to realize that, for easy info access, convenience outweighed modesty. However, I firmly maintain no one will ever see links to this blog on my personal Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

Second, I decided to borrow methods from Ithaca Builds; in some ways, Jason was the kick in the rear this blog needed to get back on its game. A daily check of city document uploads allow this blog to be among the first, if not the first, to report on new proposals and developments, and when I get around to a photo tour every few months, I break them up into individual projects – much less photo lag, and a steadier flow of entries. The old maps I did for a couple older entries were also “retired”, seeing as the HTML version on IB is much more useful. Jason has his strengths, and I have mine; I like to think we’ve both found respectively niches that complement the other writer’s work.

Another small detail is seen here – many blog posts are now written in advance and scheduled. I wrote this two days ago, leaving out the actual numbers until today.

Over the years, the content of this blog has also evolved quite a bit. At the start, it was largely Cornell, Cornell facilities and Cornell history. However, I eventually started to work my way through most of those topics, and ideas became fewer and further between. The Ithaca development entries, which were a small portion in the beginning, began to take up a larger proportion of the topic matter. I don’t regret this move, but it definitely changed up traffic patterns and what visitors come to this blog for. If anything, it makes me feel a little self-conscious when I get emails or comments give me far more credit than I feel is due. If I became an expert on Ithaca development and urban planning, it wasn’t my intention. I just prefer to not look like an idiot when I write something up.

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Anyway, the numbers: as of 3 PM today (note that the blog time is GMT), there have been 56,700 hits, a daily average of 155 hits over the past year. But, looking year to year by month since the big drop after January 2013,  numbers are up 20-50%, a pattern that looks to continue this month. It took some work, but this blog is bouncing back.

Looking over the past years, there have some Cornell-related posts, a topic near and dear to my fingers, if not my heart. Buildings named for “friends” of Cornell, Cornellians in the Olympics, and the “Fast Facts” entries.

I sill do construction updates once in a while, though mostly I’ve left those to Jason’s domain. About the only ones I visit more often are the Belle Sherman Cottages and the Boiceville Cottages; I actually feel a little bad about the Boiceville updates, because I have the remarkable ability to make the place look unattractive every time I take photos, due to  it always being grey or cold when I pass through. In the past year, Seneca Way finished up, the Argos Inn opened (and I hit up its bar), Collegetown Terrace continued construction, and Breckenridge welcomed its first renters. Harold’s Square received approval, the Marriott and Hotel Ithaca dragged along (but at least one has started and one is about to start). Many projects were announced, including hotels at 339 Elmira and 371 Elmira, a new apartment building for Collegetown, 323 Taughannock, the Chain Works District, and everyone and their grandmother wants to redevelop the old library. It’s been busy, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, which I consider a good thing. History has taught me that not everything proposed will be built, but I’m optimistic much of it will, to the benefit of the city’s bottom line.

Over at Cornell, the Gannett addition was formally announced, the Statler planned yet another makeover, Gates Hall opened and the Dairy Bar reopened. Klarman Hall is underway and a new “Sesquicentennial Grove” is planned for Libe Slope. Lastly, I had my random topics, usually on the weather, the keyword bar, or my borderline obsession with 115 the Knoll.

It’s occurred to me that I have never written a “birthday” entry in the same place. Last year, about a week after that post, I did an interview for an air quality scientist job in Albany; after having an attack of conscience and turning down a job in California in December 2012 (the pay was great, but if I was going to hate the work, it wasn’t worth the move), I had felt that I was stuck in a rut. A few days after that June 27th interview, I received a phone call at 1:55 PM on July 1st, extending to me a job offer. It was great, because I was working night shift as a ship router, and had been woken from my nap; the excitement was tempered by drowsiness. I put in my notice, moved up here in late July, and here I am. I don’t want to “settle” in one tier of one job for too long, but it’s not a bad place to be for the time being. In a way, these anniversary entries are a timestamp of my life, one of many things I’ve enjoyed in these years of writing. I hope to make more timestamps in years ahead.





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.





Five Years Later

18 06 2013

4-8-2013 226

Well, as promised earlier, today’s the big day, where Ithacating celebrates birthday #5. I’m pretty sure this falls into the realm of “old” blogs by this point, especially if I believe the kids over at Ezrahub. Thankfully, unlike them and Eliiott Back’s old Cornell Blog, even if Cornell disliked my use of their name, I refer to a place instead of the school itself. In keeping with tradition, here’s a rundown of this blog’s statistics:

total_5th_birfday

Since launch, which was about 7 PM on June 18, 2008, this blog has garnered 308,481 hits, as of 2:30 PM today. In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199 and 216 hits daily. This year, it plateaued in the fall and effectively plunged in the spring. The blog only averaged 182 hits per day in the past year. I have a couple of theories – as old posts become “outdated”, they disappear from the radar; as folks have switched to twitter and other platforms, the audience may not quite be there like it used to. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me concerned, but the summer numbers will help figure out part of the problem – if they’re comparable to last year, than I’m just not familiar to the Cornell crowd anymore.

In contrast to previous years, the highest month was January, with 8,019 hits. One of the things I didn’t see quite so much was the summer plunge, since Ithaca traffic tends to be less seasonal than Cornell traffic. Why things decreased so much in February, I still don’t know.

Looking at the year in review:

~In planning and development, Collegetown Terrace and the Vine Street Cottages are well underway. 107 Cook was completed, and Collegetown Crossing was postponed because the BZA did not work out that whole parking requirement issue, and it falls to the city to actually change the parking space requirement. The southern suburbia got Ithaca Beer’s new brewery, the Fairfield Inn is nearly complete, and a proposal for eco-friendly housing, while Ecovillage started its next expansion over on West Hill. Cornell proposed some new townhomes near Eastern Heights, and Cayuga Heights decided it wanted to have a walkable town center.

In pleasant contrast to last year, the city was brimming with construction, ongoing and proposed. Seneca Way is under construction, Breckenridge Place is marching towards completion, and new proposals abound, such as Harold’s Square, the new Hampton Inn, and 130 East Clinton. Even some traditionally less developed areas are getting in on the act, with the Purity Ice Cream proposal near West End. Planned Parenthood is underway, the Iacovelli project and Magnolia House are nearly complete, and the Hotel Ithaca and Holiday Inn sites are in hold-over, but with construction begin dates on paper. Even the Cayuga Place project seems to making an attempt at true site prep. Finally breaking down the numbers, it became clear Ithaca is in a residential building boom.

Looking at our colleges, IC has some renovations underway, and Cornell plods on with Gates Hall, the Big Red Bandhouse, and the Stocking Hall rebuild and renovation. Prep is just starting on the new humanities building, Klarman Hall, a long ways off from its 2015 completion. Perhaps most importantly to students, the bridge fences finally came down, and with it, the last strong reminders of a dark semester in Cornell’s history.

Thankfully for my gas tank, a website arose that focuses closely on Ithaca construction and development – the succinctly named Ithaca Builds.

-Looking at Cornelliana, this blog compared and contrasted Far Above Cayuga to our friends on University Hill, took a look at Ezra’s progeny, and a favorite Cornell hobby, comparing it against its peers, in this case for Nobel Prize recipients. In a goodbye to another college memory, Dear Uncle Ezra went on indefinite hiatus. In Greek life, Kappa Sigma and Pi Kappa Alpha reopened, while a bunch of chapters were suspended or shut down (just looking at the Ezrahub site for this writeup, it appears ATO is the latest case). The Greek system looks to have had a rough year. In more general topics, there was a discussion on that time Ithaca almost had a commercial nuclear power plant, a look at Carl Sagan, the Collegetown Creeper, census estimates, and some other things in between.

In my personal life, this past year will go down as the year of uncertainty. Gainfully employed in my field, but still trying to advance my career and clear hurdles as they come up. I’m hoping to fulfill that goal in the next few weeks with some ongoing opportunities.

Five years is a long time to be around. It’s clear this blog has had some stumbles. But I’m not ready to quit just yet. I still have too much interest in writing about Cornell and Ithaca to stop. We’ll see where things go from here.





Ithaca Builds

2 05 2013

4-8-2013 182

When I first started following Ithaca construction projects (~2006), the only sources for project details came from news sources (which, with rapidly outdated URLs, were shoddy at best), and a thread on the urban development website/forum Skyscraperpage.com. Other than that, some of the local towns would regularly update their online agendas and minutes; most wouldn’t, and attached renderings were unheard of.

Over the past several years, things have changed for the better. For one, this blog. For two, it seems like certain news outlets like the Journal and Times now recognize there’s some worth to keep in track of these projects, especially as growth in Ithaca has accelerated within the past couple of years.

I was looking something up recently and stumbled upon a fully-dedicated Ithaca development website, calling itself “Ithaca Builds“. At the time, they had just started putting together their interactive map. Now, the first blurbs are written, and the map has been fleshed out a little more.

From my personal standpoint, there was that brief concern of “uh oh, now I have competition.” For one, their HTML skills are way beyond my own, and their maps are much easier to use. For two, the Ithaca side of this blog is really the bread-and-butter these days, as I’ve already covered much of my preferred Cornelliana, and new history write-ups have become fewer.  So there’s always the worry that if someone who “does it better” comes along, I’m not going to have the time to keep up, and this blog will fall off the map completely.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s kinda a silly way to look at things. I don’t make any money from this, and given Ithaca’s market size, a “Curbed” style Ithaca site would struggle to be commercially viable. If someone has the personal interest and motivation to do a great website, that’s wonderful. I like to think that in the nearly five years of this blog, that it’s offered quite a compilation of Ithaca-related projects, so even if this fades, I’ve had a good run. In the meanwhile, since their writing has yet to come up to speed, Ithaca Builds and Ithacating in Cornell Heights actually compliment each other quite well. I’ll keep updates coming on my end because that’s how I am. But I’ll be interested to see how their work grows and evolves.





Ithaca’s Economic Mystery

25 06 2012

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One of the sections I tend to read in online news are local/state job reports, since they tend to be a bellwether for economic growth, and by extension new development projects that get featured in this blog. One of the things that has been of some curiosity to me in the past couple months is how poorly Ithaca’s economy appear to be doing. According to the NYS Labor Department, the state has seen about 2% in private sector jobs over the past 12 months – about 134,000. Not great, but not bad for a state that has been bogged down in economic doldrums since Gerald Ford was in office. As one would expect, some metros do better (Kingston, Utica-Rome) and two show remarkable decreases of -3.6% and -5.6%. These would be Elmira and Ithaca respectively.

Now, perhaps its just me, but if the economic shrank 6%in one year in a county of Tompkin’s size, you’d hear about it (and no, I don’t think there’s some vast political conspiracy by some partisan group to hide the figures). 3,200 jobs lost is something that can’t seem to occur unless there was very large company closing, something that would’ve been alluded to in the Ithaca Journal. As far as I know, Borg-Warner is still operating, and Cornell laid off at most a small fraction of 3,200 in the past year. There haven’t been huge decreases in sales of “essential” goods, not has help wanted advertising changed dramatically (assuming the monthly reports of Elias Kacapyr are correct, anyway). So for the longest time, I had been wondering what the heck was going on in Tompkins County.

Well, it would seem that I wasn’t the only one wondering about this. The local county development agency accuses the Board of Labor Statistics of undercounting jobs, a problem they state has been an issue in the recent past. As much as the cynic within me is tempted to see as someone just trying to downplay the number, I’m inclined to believe that they’re right, because the rest of the numbers don’t show the drastic changes such a sharp drop would entail. One would expect a large drop in help wanted advertising, a reduction in building permits, and a decrease in sales, especially luxury goods. While these all have had ups and downs, none of these have changed to a degree that would support such a steep job loss. So, it doesn’t pass the logic test (unless one argues there much more commuting to the 4,400 jobs added in Binghamton and Syracuse).

Of course, any job loss is a bad thing. But I wonder where in the world the Bureau of Labor Statistics is getting these numbers.





Four Years Later

18 06 2012

My oh my. This blog turns four years ago today. I wanted to celebrate this port by comparing this blog to the average age of blogs, or the average number of posts for an active blog. Turns out neither piece of data is readily available. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this blog has reached maturity, though I won’t go as far to say “old age”.  In keeping in tune with three previous three “birthday” updates, here’s some fun facts.

Since launching on the evening of June 18, 2008, this blog has received a grand total of 241,966 hits, as of 2:29 PM today. Breaking down the math, that’s about 166 hits/day. While the previous years averaged 82, 166 and 199 hits/day respectively, I’m happy to say that the blog came a little closer to the saturation point with an average total of just under 216 hits/day in the past year, and yes, I did remember it’s a leap year. Taking a cursory glance at the monthly statistics:

The highest month was once again March, with 8,247 hits, although the peak isn’t as pronounced as it was in previous years. Going year-to-year, the only month that was lower in 2011/12 versus 2010/11 was August, although June and July came fairly close. This is due to the Cornell-centric nature of the blog – once classes are out for the summer break, my hit tally plummets like a stone. Although, that’s been somewhat avoided this year, which I’ll guess is the result of the more Ithaca-area focus taken on in the past year, and is a bit more stable in terms of visitors to this site.

Looking at the past year in review:

~In planning and development,the biggest news is the construction of Collegetown Terrace the massive 1200-bed project south of Collegetown. Approvals were granted and phase one is underway, with an August opening for the first buildings. The Vine Street Cottages also began construction, replacement apartments were planned for 107 Cook, and 309 Eddy marched merrily towards completion, which should be in just a few short months.The Coal Yard apartments phase II was built, and Collegetown Crossing was proposed with the radical premise of no parking for residents, in a move that could make or break Collegetown. in suburbia, everyone got BJ’s in Lansing, and the holiest of holy casual dining restaurants came to big box land, a Chipotle.

Closer downtown, the Seneca Way project was approved and is now in site prep, and the new Fairfield Inn is under construction down in chain store country. The Argos Inn renovation moved towards completion and the Breckinridge Place project began construction, currently in the demo phase of the old Women’s Community building. Several smaller projects also began construction, such as the Iacovelli apartments on West Seneca and the Magnolia House women’s shelter. In the longer-term, the massive Cascadilla Landing project was proposed, and could potentially  redefine the city waterfront, and the new Holiday Inn tower/renovation will add a small conference center to the Gorge City.

Over at the colleges, Ithaca College built a boathouse and started its Circle Apartments expansion. Over on East Hill, Milstein Hall, MVR north, and the Johnson addition were completed, the food science building is well underway, Gates Hall is in foundation work, and the law school just launched their underground addition. The Big Red bandhouse is set to start shortly, and Kappa Delta renovated their home-away-from-home in what was probably the most significant Greek house renovation in more than a decade. Fundraising began for the new token glass box, also known as the Goldwin Smith Hall addition. More importantly, some bridge nets and barriers were approved, and their construction will hopefully bring to an end a dark chapter of Cornell’s history.

In the meanwhile, some projects still have yet to get off the ground. The Hotel Ithaca is still in some financing conundrum, as are the Cayuga Green Condos, which were given an extension on their cost-saving agreement with the city, given the poor lending climate. Ithaca Gun is undergoing yet more land remediation with no construction date in sight (honestly, it seems like the only way the land could have been more contaminated is if someone nuked it).

~Turning an eye towards Cornell matters, the least surprising lawsuit was launched when the mother of George Desdunes filed a wrongful death suit against SAE to the tune of $25 million. The bench trial wrapped up about a month ago, though I’ve yet to hear about a verdict. The number of bars near Cornell continued to shrink, but students can now drown their sorrows in frozen yogurt instead. When the Palms said they were closing up, a couple dozen of my fraternity’s young alumni offered to buy a table of some sentimental value to us if they were willing part with it. They asked for $1500 for a rotting wooden bench table. We laughed (we were thinking $500 max). They said they were serious and it was a starting bid. Needless to say, I have many happy memories of a table that hopefully no longer exists. Rumor has it a new apartment tower will rise where the Palms once drunkified multitudes of Cornellians.

~From a meteorological standpoint, the ITH toyed with 100-degree temps and had a collective anxiety attack about the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene, but was spared the brunt of the destructive tropical cyclone. However, this relief was short lived when the extratropical remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped 8.7″ in 24 hours at Binghamton, and flooded many local towns to the tune of $1 billion in damage, a number not seen since the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. It also resulted in one of the wettest years on record. Ithaca, while soaked and unnerved, was relatively unscathed.

Many things, many topics. In comparison to the past years, I now write this while firmly ensconced in alumnidom, my trips back further and further apart. At this point, I’m finishing grad school, and interviewing for positions in California and Texas. It was not exactly in my wishes to move as far out, as my northeastern blood may not be able to tolerate nice winters. But, that’s where the jobs are in my field at the moment. Ideally, I can make a triumphant return to the northeast someday.

I write not out of obligation, but out of genuine interest, which I think has been one of the attributes that has made this blog a reasonable success. I see the emails of those who follow comments and posts – they include other alumni and current students of course, but also prominent companies in Ithaca and some local government officials. Flattering, if a little disquieting for fear of botching up my facts. More importantly, I think it serves as an indicator of the usefulness of this blog, that people honestly come here searching out information, and many of them leave feeling a bit knowledgeable about Ithaca projects and stories, or Cornell history and construction projects. Or at least, I hope as much. It makes for great motivation in the months and years ahead.





Two Years Later

18 06 2010

So, times change but this blog is still here. It has been almost exactly two years since this blog was launched (give or take an hour).  I’m not big on statistics for the site, but here’s some numbers:

Number of hits: 90,730 (about 124 hits/day; that’s up from an average of 82 hits/day for the first year alone; so roughly speaking, the second year averaged 166 hits/day)

Monthly stats:

 The highest month, with 10,659 hits, was March 2010. It’s trailed off since then, just as it did the previous year. The drop was so steep because March was when the news about the recent tragedies was most publicized. Which was my cue to take a step back and let things run their course, given the sensitive nature of the events.

Consider the following (and not nearly complete list of) events from the past year:

~The new Physical Sciences building continued its slow but steady construction, nearly complete at this point, while the Hotel School’s 12,000 sq ft addition was completed. The last half of construction also occurred for the Animal Health Diagnostic Center, nearly done as of this writing. Stocking Hall’s reconstruction and renovation was formally announced, and Milstein Hall began to take shape, next to the gaping hole where the mostly underground Johnson Museum addition is currently being constructed. MVR North added a glassy facade while interior work continues to take place, and Gates Hall still floats around in the approved planning phases. According to Cornell’s latest financial report, Gates Hall will be a 70.000 sq ft building, slightly smaller than the 100,000 suggested almost two years ago.

~Over at I.C., the Circle Apartments expansion has been proposed and the indoor athletic facility began to take shape, highly visible even from its collegiate neighbor on East Hill.

~In the city, the Cayuga Green condos still await construction. The ten-story Hotel Ithaca has been approved but has yet to start construction, while the debate over the 1200-bed Collegetown Terrace project off of State Street continues. The Ithaca Gun redevelopment stalled and had to have money reallocated for further remediation, with the hope that work will finally start progressing again in the near future. The Carrowmoor project continued to be trapped in red tape hell, but a Cornell-affiliated proposal for West Hill was announced. It would seem like most of the major private projects stalled this year in light of the recession. However, not all new is bad – a new 5-story apartment building was proposed for 309 Eddy Street and approvals were given for a 4-story 25 -unit expansion of the Coal Yard Apartments off of Maple Avenue. INHS finished its 39-unit Cedar Creek apartment complex and had begun plans for a new project on South Hill.

~In Greek Life, news was not good. Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Delta Phi became fodder for the Ivy League tabloid blog Ivygate, leading to embarassment, and in Alpha Delt’s case, social probation. Kappa Sigma was deactivated for pissing off its national organization, and Pi Kappa Alpha’s rush-gone-wrong brought about their suspension, and later, the university’s announcement that the chapter would be shut down. Let’s see, where there even high notes?…Seal and Serpent hosting Bob Saget is not exactly going to win people over on the Cornell Greek System.

A lot changes within a year. This years seems to be worse than the one prior. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for improvement.

I can remember when I started this blog, I was sitting in my shared bedroom in my apartment, it was pouring on-and-off outside, and feeling bored in Ithaca after settling into my summer jobs. Last year, I wrote the anniversary entry from the Harvey Library of Hampton University, and was rushing to finish because I knew the library would be closing shortly. Now here I am, writing in a cheap subletted apartment in Albany, doing research prior to starting my stint as a grad student at the SUNY for my master’s. Times change, and if anyone had told me this was where my path in life would take me, I would’ve called “bullshit” on that statement. I had general ideas what would happen and what my plans were, but I had no clue this is where I would be two years after starting this blog, and I have no clue where I’ll be one year or two years from now.

However, while the news has changed and a little more has been added to Cornell’s 140+ year history, the message of this blog stays the same. I hope that this blog has helped answer questions that people may have concerning Cornell U and its environs. If this blog makes someone a little more knowledgeable or at least serves as an interesting diversion, then it has done its job.








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