News Tidbits 10/18/2014: Disturbia in Suburbia

18 10 2014

1. The town of Lansing finds itself in a conundrum. The dilemma deals with a property known as Kingdom Farm, a 500-acre property owned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the business branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to the Lansing Star, The land is being put up for sale with an asking price of $3 million, or $6,000/acre . That’s a little too rich for most of the farmers in the region (the average sale price in recent year is about $2,850/acre), especially since the property’s soils are marginal. There have been rumors or developers looking at the land, and some of the more activist locals are calling for the town to step in to help local farmers buy the land to keep it as an agricultural use. There’s no rush, the church group pays no taxes on the land, and their plan to build a massive development on the site faded away when the town sewer plan was cancelled. As one town official noted, Lansing only has a few dozen homes built per year, so the property would likely see some residential build-out near the road, but otherwise be unused if turned over to development. The debate is whether or not the town should step in, which has local politicians taking sides for and against, and I imagine that telling townspeople that their tax dollars are going to preserve farm land will be rather contentious.

2. Another news piece from Lansing/suburbia, this time dealing with the parcel of land next to the BJ’s Wholesale Club off of Triphammer.  Some readers might recall that senior housing was to be included with the project; in fact, it was a stipulation for approval of the BJ’s back when it was approved in 2011.

According to the Ithaca Times, that is still underway, but the developer (Arrowhead Ventures) wants to make the parcel denser. The current plan is for four buildings facing Oakcrest Road with three units each, so 12 total. I’m not sure if it’s just a repositioning of structures (the parcel has wetlands in the vicinity and is waiting on the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to build) or more units. The site is part of a PDA (Planned Developed Area, just like PDZ and PUD…heaven forbid we stick with one county-wide acronym), so it’s pretty flexible.

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3. Apparently, this is Lansing’s week of news in the Times. Bill Chaisson did some excellent research for his article analyzing development in the town of Lansing. Not only does it reveal the scope of development in the area, it also reveals the dysfunction of Lansing’s town government when it comes to discussing growth and development.

I do have one qualm with the piece – the city-data building permits say they are for the village of Lansing, not the town. According to the HUD’s SOCDS building permit database, In 2013, the town issued permits for 19 single-family homes and 10 multi-family units, and the village issued 4 single-family home building permits. The number was 25 in 2012, all in the town. There were 25 units built in the town (21 homes/4 multi-unit) in 2012, and 22 in 2011, with six more in the village. City-data.com’s data is from the town for 2012, and from the village for 2010 and 2011. Although SOCDS is more reliable, their numbers are often low biased because some numbers are “imputed”, which means they were assigned by inference. The town itself estimates 30-35 units per year, which given the population growth of about 500 from 2000-2010, is probably more accurate. Truly reliable building permit data for the Ithaca area is still rather hard to find.

Aside: Ithaca city had two single-family home permits issued in 2013, and 69 multi-family units (for 71 total); Ithaca town 2013 had 45 units issued permits in 2013 and 45 more in 2012, with 21 single-family homes in 2012 as reported by Bill’s piece.

Anyway, the piece notes hundreds of units in various stages; some are still proposed, some are approved, and a few of which are underway. The Woodland Park townhomes now number 16 (it was 6 a year ago), and the Lucentes have 12 units underway as part of their Village Solars expansion. On a matter of personal opinion, I despise the gated entry to Woodland Park, which to me is antithetical to the inclusive nature of the Ithaca area, and outright silly in an affluent town like Lansing.

More interesting is the sniping between town officials apparent in the article. Lansing was looking for a full-time town planner before the town board turned a little more to the political right. Now it’s part-time, and one of the councilmen “knew of interested parties” who will do the job. Looking at the Kingdom Farm issue, and the planner issue, and the recent stormwater problems reported in the town…Lansing has all the attributes of terrible planning at work.

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4. Now turning our attention to the city again: the city’s project review meeting, one of the necessary steps for projects going through the approvals process.  The Wegman’s retail building will begin the formal review process and get environmental review as well, 114 Catherine and the Patel Hotel (Hampton Inn Boutique Hotel thing) take the plunge with the board’s “Declaration of Lead Agency” to formally review those projects, Chain Works’s first phase gets lead agency and environmental review (which also needs to be orchestrated with the town planning board as well), and 128 W. Falls Street’s 5-unit infill project seeks final approval.

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Then we have the Purity project, which has drawn the city’s ire. The agenda succinctly says they are seeking to modify the site plan. From the looks of the version of the agenda with attachments, there’s a pretty substantial change to the exterior facade (note the dark shading in the new version is brick texture, which doesn’t show up well at low resolution), though the massing is roughly the same. The other part of it might have something to do with a parking issue that arose that may have violated the approval terms of the Purity project…the planning board has been none too enthused since the midrise apartment tower was cancelled, but additional parking was still in the proposal. In order words, the Purity owners may have broken the rules of a city board that is already angry with them. No one’s going to enjoy this meeting.





Boiceville Cottages Update, 9/2014

8 09 2014

Out in Caroline, local company Schickel Construction’s Boiceville Cottages development continues to expand. Since the last pass through in late June, the two 5-unit gatehouses were completed and occupied, and construction has begun on at least four more units. The parchment exterior and blue trim make for an attractive pairing. The foundation being poured southeast of the gatehouses (fourth photo from too) seems too large to be a cottage unit and isn’t their usual triangular layout, and I’m not sure what else it could be offhand (the project design no longer matches the 2012 site plan from the town website). The more typical three-unit cottage pairing seems to be underway with the poured foundations on the other side of the street.

Boiceville has been built in phases – the initial 24 houses in 1996/1997, and another 36 in the late 2000s. The current ongoing phase allows for another 75 units, for a total of 135 on the properties. Arguably, that would make it the densest large parcel in the 3,300-person town.

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News Tidbits 8/30/14: There Never Seems To Be Enough Housing

30 08 2014

1. In a glance at the economy, some good news: over in Lansing, a new research building is under construction, and expected to add jobs. the new “Northeast Dairy and Food Testing Center” is a 50-50 collaboration between local firm Dairy one Cooperative Inc., and Chestnut Labs of Springfield, Missouri. The new 17,000 sq ft building at 720 Warren Road is a $3.5 million investment and will add 11 jobs at the outset, 3 through Dairy One and 8 through Chestnut Labs. 4 more jobs would be added over the following two years if all goes to plan.

According to the TCIDA report, Chestnut opted for Ithaca as its first satellite office because of a desire to expand into the Northeast and its proximity to Cornell. Although construction was supposed to begin last fall, it looks like we can expect construction to be completed this spring. I have yet to see a rendering, but the design is supposed to be by Syracuse-based Dalpos Architects.

2. Revised renders for 327 Eddy. The 28-unit, 64-bedroom Collegetown project looks nearly the same, except for one crucial detail – the east courtyard and stairwell have been transposed (mirrored), with the east courtyard on the south face and the stairwell on the north face. A few more windows were placed in the west courtyard as well. This is a smart suggestion, whoever’s it was; the 100 Block of Dryden obscures the blank faces of the side wall and stairwell, making it less prominent. The side with more windows faces down the hill, and given the relatively historic building next door, the views are likely to be more protected, and it’s more aesthetically pleasing from most vantage points.

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3. As reported by the IJ last Wednesday, the much-anticipated Harold’s Square project will be getting another revision. The building was originally supposed to be one floor of retail, three floors of office space, and six floors of apartments, with a penthouse level consisting of conference, mechanical and exercise rooms. Now, the top two floors of office space will be apartments instead. Currently, the building has 46 apartments approved, and any changes will likely need to be approved by the planning board. The article also notes that high construction costs in the growing economy are forcing businesses to rethink their development strategies, although the exact same thing happened during the recession due to the tight bank loan market. There’s always a reason.

I really can’t say this change-up in use really surprises me. Ithaca’s office market is not that great. The biggest employers here are colleges (who house offices on or very near campus), research/labs (who need specialized spaces), and tourism (hotels). It’s extremely tough to build office space in the Ithaca market because there’s so little demand for it. Seneca Place downtown was able to be built in 2004-05 partially because they secured Cornell as a tenant. But I’ve heard through the rumor mill that Cornell doesn’t fully use their space post-recession, and the university keeps renting it out as flex space and as a gesture to the community. On the other hand, apartments go like hotcakes, since the residential supply is much less than demand, and the success of recent projects indicates apartments are a safe investment in downtown.

Here’s what I expect – the building will be a little shorter, since residential floors have lower floor-to-ceiling ratios than office spaces. The exterior will be revised, mostly the low-rise section facing the Commons. The massing may change up, but given that there were 46 apartments on six floors initially, at a minimum I think another 20 apartments to be proposed.

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4. The Stone Quarry Apartment project by INHS has been approved. It wasn’t a pretty process, but it’s been greenlighted for construction, which is expected to begin this fall with an intended completion in October 2015.

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5. On the topic of affordable housing, another protested project is coming up for review, the 58-unit Biggs parcel project near Cayuga Medical Center. The project needs an approved SEQR from the town of Ithaca before it can move forward; the sketch plan is to be discussed at the September 2nd meeting, there will be no vote at that time. The working name of the project has gone from Cayuga Ridge to Cayuga Trails; I’m just going to keep calling it the Biggs parcel. There’s only a tenuous little overlap between the opposed parties here and those against Stone Quarry, but if the Ithaca West list-serve is any indication, the argument against the project is one part logic, one part bluster. There have already been allegations thrown around from both sides with this project, which is co-sponsored by the rural equivalent of INHS, Better Housing of Tompkins County, in a partnership with project developer NRP Group of Cleveland. While this Jerry Springer-type showdown continues to unfold, here are some updated renders of the project, courtesy of RDL Architects of suburban Cleveland:

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Nothing to write home about, simple and colorful. But there’s a good chance these never leave the drawing board. If it does somehow get approved, construction will start in Spring 2015 and last 12-14 months.

6. In other West Hill developments, EcoVillage is building their 15-unit apartment building/common house in their third neighborhood, TREE. Article from the Ithaca Journal here, and photo gallery here. I only reach EcoVillage once in a blue moon because it’s so far out of the way from other developments; my last photos are from spring 2013. At that time, the first set of houses were going up for the 40-unit neighborhood. According to the EcoVillage website, the first TREE residents, with homes designed by Jerry Weisburd, moved in last December. When all is complete by next spring, EcoVillage will actually be a fairly sizable village, with virtually 100% occupancy and a population around 240. Unlike many West Hill developments, EcoVillage has had comparatively weak opposition from West Hill residents. Lest they change their mind, EcoVillage adds a neighborhood about once a decade, so they have probably have nothing to worry about until the 2020’s.

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News Tidbits 7/9/14: Look Into the Crystal Ball

9 07 2014

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News to peruse and keep you amused.

First, INHS’s Greenways, a project I spend way too much time writing about. The 46-unit affordable townhouse development went up for review with the town of Ithaca at the start of the month (along with a temporary classroom building, a new single-family building lot in Northeast Ithaca, and a YMCA pavilion). Due to a technicality, it was pushed back to the July 15th meeting. Along the agenda attachments are new renders and a simpler site plan drawing. The project will be built in three phases, and if Holly Creek is any guideline, each phase could take a year; so if I had to take a guess, from 2014- October 2015, we’ll see townhouse sections A-E built, a total of 16 units. The subsequent phases (F-K and L-N) would likely be built and sold over roughly 12-month periods.

One thing to note is that Cornell is selling INHS the land for below market-value, with the stipulation that Cornell employees get first dibs on units as they go up for sale. With 7,000 employees, I don’t imagine weak demand from Cornell staff. Cornell is fulfilling a goal it stated way back in June 2008, and one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog. The image in that entry is one of the very few stock images I’ve ever used, by the way.

As for the townhouse designs, no complaints here. They’re simple and colorful.

I’m going to expand on my old library site ruminations – I don’t see INHS winning the site because they are going to be stretched pretty thin over the next few years, with this and the expansive Neighborhood Pride site, along with smaller builds. While they have shown themselves capable of large projects in recent years, multiple multifamily projects will be a very large undertaking; it’s hard to imagine the county placing another egg in INHS’s already-full basket.

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Next on the whirlwind tour, revisions of the Travis-Hyde’s Carey Building addition in downtown Ithaca (another topic that’s had a lot of keys typed on its behalf). The details are still the same, 18 apartments, most of them tiny, with office space on floors 2 and 3 and retail on the bottom. Compared to the old design, more windows have been placed in the east facade, the top two floors were reworked, and the glass block details are gone, replaced by regular windows. It’s an improvement, though I don’t like the blank wall on the west face.

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Next item on the list, the NYS Dept. of Transportation parcel on the waterfront. Similar to the old library, this site has an RFP for a study and analysis of the relocation of the DOT facility, and a subsequent redevelopment of the parcel. Proposals were due June 26th. Granted, since this involves the state, this won’t move any faster than NYS wants to (i.e. slow and reluctant – they’ve been planning a move to a site in Dryden since 2006; the DOT blames the torpid pace on hang-ups with funding, which is why the RFP is asking someone else to come up with a plan). The feasibility study will be complete by May 2015, with the site re-development expected to begin in early 2017, assuming moving the DOT site is feasible. It’s a large parcel with strong potential for the mixed-use development that the city wants per the comprehensive plan. Who knows, there might actually be something to write about in five years.

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I’ll wrap this up with another potential future development: 215-221 W. Spencer Street, the parcel shown below. The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (a city department) sold the 0.47 acre property for $110,000 in April. The buyer intends multi-family housing. 701 Cliff Street, a small parcel left vacant the demolition of a dilapidated house, received multiple offers and was sold for well above asking price. Its buyer intends one or more housing units.

Using the zoning map as a guide, 215-221 West Spencer is in an R-3a zone that allows for a 40′ structure with 35% lot coverage. That’s a max theoretical buildout of 28,662 sq ft (which if you give 20,000 sq ft for the housing units, and 1,000 sq ft per unit, we get a hypothetical 20 units), but whatever does get proposed will likely be somewhat smaller. The site is something to keep an eye on in the long-term.

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Boiceville Cottages Update, June 2014

30 06 2014

Decided to pay these a visit while on my way to a Sage Chapel wedding. Also, to prove to myself that I could take pleasant-looking photos of this complex.

Several buildings were underway, and two were a new style – five-unit gatehouse structures. They appear similar to the three-unit gatehouse structures already built, but the first hint that these were different comes from the dormers being positioned further out. My guess would be they they are one-bedroom units on the end and studios in the middle three units. A set of three houses, the ones with the orange trim below, appeared to be in the last stages of construction. The pink-trimmed and blue-trimmed homes next to them have only just received landscaping, and appear to have tenants.

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In the Long Run: The Chain Works District

8 06 2014

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This blog is due to celebrate its sixth anniversary in about a week (which will gets its own post, per tradition). This means that it’s seen, and written about a lot. When this blog, started, Emerson Power Transmission was still in business in Ithaca. But, it was already on its way out; in April 2007, the headquarters shifted from Ithaca to suburban Cincinnati, taking about 55 jobs with it. At the time, about 400 people were still employed at their South Hill facility.

That wasn’t to last long. I dunno, maybe it was bound to happen – Emerson ended up bleeding 25,000 jobs worldwide during the recession, nearly 20% of its workforce. But for the 228 employees who were at the Ithaca facility in August 2009, it was no less unpleasant when the closure was announced. The last folks closed up shop in 2011, but the facility’s polluted legacy lives on.

It was about 16 months ago when it was announced that the property, which has been for sale for $3.9 million, found a buyer. A lot of things were hush-hush, but it was seen as auspicious.

Fast forward a year – we have a name and a firm – David Lubin, the developer of the Harold’s Square mixed-use tower approved for downtown, and his LLC, the amusingly named “UnChained Properties”. A cadre of architecture, planning and environmental firms are also involved. Lubin et al. is currently asking the town to make the 95-acre parcel a PDZ, Planned Development Zone (likewise, they’re requesting the city make their portion its zoning equivalent, PUD, for Planned Urban Development), which is fairly generous in its uses and form (i.e. conveneient for mixed-use projects). Both city and town portions are zoned industrial. The development firm received money (forfeited by Emerson for failing to meet their IDA tax incentives) to conduct a feasibility study for reanalysis of the site.

The redeveloped property would be a mixed-use neighborhood called the “Chain Works District“. A lot of big numbers are being tossed around. 800,000 sq ft of redeveloped space. $100 million invested. 1,000 permanent jobs on site. 10 to 15 years for build-out. By any Ithaca-centric measurement, this is a huge undertaking. UnChained Properties hosted a public meeting in April (attended by Jason at IB), with a second planned during this summer. A copy of the April presentation can be found here.

10 to 15 years seems like a long time. It is. But the current Emerson site is a hodge-podge of decades of random additions.

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Not all of these additions will be making their way into the final product. Most of the post-war additions will be removed, save for a section on the southwest side that will be reserved as a future manufacturing facility.

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The site calls for office space, artists studios, workshops, a healthy dose of residential loft-style units, and a generous smattering of open-spaces in the form of courtyards and terraces, created by the removal of some of the newer factory additions. The Gateway Trail will run through the site, and it will host some amenities, like event/concert space and a cafe. According to the details submitted to the town, the developer is shooting for LEED certification as the phases are built-out.

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Perhaps just as interesting is that they aren’t solely seeking to build within the perimeter of the old factory spaces. The submission to the town shows multiple sites considered for new construction, with “T4″ and “T5″ PDZ zoning that would allow for 4-story and 6-story mixed use structures respectively.

Does seem all very pie-in-the-sky-ish? Perhaps. It’s a lot of big dreams and it’s going to take a lot of time, money and manpower to make it come to fruition. But I’ll be interested in watching it all evolve as it slowly moves towards reality.

Photo property of UnChained Properties LLC

Photo property of UnChained Properties LLC

 

 

 





2013 Census Estimates, Part II: Everybody Shares the Wealth

24 05 2014

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For the data geeks out there…the 2013 census estimates. A few highlights:

  • No city, village or town in Tompkins County is estimated to have lost population from 2012-2013, or 2010-2013.
  • Ithaca city had an estimated gain of +180 since 2012. The current estimated population is 30,515, 1.67% higher than the 2010 census value of 30,014.
  • Ithaca city is growing faster than Ithaca town, but the pace is uneven. Ithaca town was thought to have lost population from 2010-2011, but gained a greater percentage than Ithaca city this past year.
  • The village of Dryden exploded 8.7% in the past year alone, thanks to the opening of Poet’s Landing. For the decade so far, it’s increased 10.16% to 2,082.
  • More realistically, the second fastest grower is the town of Danby, from 3329 to 3462, or 4% in three years. Decadal extrapolation estimates 13.32% over the period (pop. ~3772 in 2020)
  • The slowest growing community is Freeville, with 0.77% growth from 2010-2013 (520 to 524). Second slowest is the town of Caroline at 0.94% (3282 to 3313). The county average is 2.02% for 2010-2013.

Entity 2010 REAL / 2010 EST / 2011 EST / 2012 EST / 2013 EST / GAIN, 2010-2013 /  DECADAL EXTRAP.

Tompkins County New York 101564 101588 101847 102713 103617 2053 2.02% 6.74%

Cayuga Heights village New York 3729 3729 3733 3756 3776 47 1.26% 4.20%

Dryden village New York 1890 1891 1897 1916 2082 192 10.16% 33.86%

Freeville village New York 520 520 520 523 524 4 0.77% 2.56%

Groton village New York 2363 2369 2371 2389 2408 45 1.90% 6.35%

Ithaca city New York 30014 30014 30167 30335 30515 501 1.67% 5.56%

Lansing village New York 3529 3529 3555 3597 3616 87 2.47% 8.22%

Trumansburg village New York 1797 1797 1809 1819 1832 35 1.95% 6.49%

Balance of Tompkins County New York 57722 57739 57795 58378 58864 1142 1.98% 6.59%

Caroline town New York 3282 3288 3280 3302 3313 31 0.94% 3.15%

Danby town New York 3329 3330 3364 3424 3462 133 4.00% 13.32%

Dryden town New York 14435 14436 14477 14617 14852 417 2.89% 9.63%

Dryden village New York 1890 1891 1897 1916 2082 192 10.16% 33.86%

Freeville village New York 520 520 520 523 524 4 0.77% 2.56%

Balance of Dryden town New York 12025 12025 12060 12178 12246 221 1.84% 6.13%

Enfield town New York 3512 3512 3534 3572 3586 74 2.11% 7.02%

Groton town New York 5950 5973 5985 6027 6091 141 2.37% 7.90%

Groton village New York 2363 2369 2371 2389 2408 45 1.90% 6.35%

Balance of Groton town New York 3587 3604 3614 3638 3683 96 2.68% 8.92%

Ithaca city New York 30014 30014 30167 30335 30515 501 1.67% 5.56%

Ithaca town New York 19930 19930 19836 19958 20132 202 1.01% 3.38%

Cayuga Heights village New York 3729 3729 3733 3756 3776 47 1.26% 4.20%

Balance of Ithaca town New York 16201 16201 16103 16202 16356 155 0.96% 3.19%

Lansing town New York 11033 11027 11082 11256 11362 329 2.98% 9.94%

Lansing village New York 3529 3529 3555 3597 3616 87 2.47% 8.22%

Balance of Lansing town New York 7504 7498 7527 7659 7746 242 3.22% 10.75%

Newfield town New York 5179 5178 5193 5235 5263 84 1.62% 5.41%

Ulysses town New York 4900 4900 4929 4987 5041 141 2.88% 9.59%

Trumansburg village New York 1797 1797 1809 1819 1832 35 1.95% 6.49%








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