Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 5/2016

25 05 2016

From Tower Road, it doesn’t appear a whole lot has changed since the last construction update in March. Work has shifted away from new construction somewhat, and towards the demolition of underused academic space to make way for the rest of the Vet School reconfiguration and expansion. The reinforced concrete frame of the new library and dean’s wing has advanced a bit, and new curtain wall glazing appears to be going in on the Vert Research Tower. The project is a bit disjointed because of the needs of academic space and surging at various times of the year.

Thanks to the kindness of a woman in blue scrubs, I was able to enter the building. While trying to find a good angle of the new demolition (couldn’t, but there’s a photo on the Vet School website here), I stumbled upon a model and timeline of the project, pictures below. According to the timeline here, the project completion is January 2018, not June 2017 as reported on the website. Dunno which one is more accurate. The model does a great job illustrating the full breadth of the project in relation to the rest of the vet school complex.

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Looking east from Tower Avenue. Rendering property of Cornell.

Looking east from Tower Avenue. Rendering property of Cornell.

Looking west from new courtyard. Rendering property of Cornell.

Looking west from new courtyard. Rendering property of Cornell.





Holiday Inn Express Construction Update, 5/2016

25 05 2016

The new Holiday Inn Express at 371 Elmira Road seems to be coming along fairly quickly. Framing was completed a few weeks ago, and at this point most of the windows have been fitted. For those concerned that this is going to be a battleship grey eyesore, fear not. The plywood will be covered with varying colors of an Exterior Insulated Finishing System (EIFS, a synthetic stucco) and stone veneer. The grey is most likely a moisture barrier. Drainage cavities are then built over the barrier to allow water that has penetrated the surface to exit the wall without wrecking it (a big problem with early EIFS systems).

When finished, the hotel should look a lot like this one, with some minor design differences and an updated color scheme:

The project is being financed with a $5.98 million loan from S&T Bank, a regional bank in Western Pennsylvania, and Eastern Hospitality Advisors, a Buffalo contractor specializing in hotel construction, is managing the build-out.

The 4-story, 79-room hotel is expected to open late this summer.

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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 5/2016

24 05 2016

The Boiceville Cottages are nearly complete. All of the cottages have been framed and sheathed. A set of teal-trimmed cottages are being stucco’d and are having their roofs shingled, but most of the other cottages, including a set of canary yellow-trimmed homes that had only just been sheathed in March, are nearly done (with interior finishing being the only major work left) or are already occupied.

Check out the “easter eggs” – drawings in between some of the decorative half-timbers, and builder Bruno Schickel’s personalized sidewalk slab.

The 140-unit project will finish up this summer, and after that Schickel will be turning his attentions to building out the late Jack Jensen’s Farm Pond Circle project in Lansing. For those who want to visit, the cottages are on Boiceville Road just west of Slaterville Springs.

Searching “Boiceville” in the search box on the right will give you about three years of construction updates (April 2013 looks like the first). It has been a long build-out, but there’s no other project quite like it.

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DiBella’s Construction Update, 5/2016

24 05 2016

One restaurant opens, another is just getting underway. NYC-based Marx Realty, operating as Ithaca Joint Ventures LLC, is finally starting work on the DiBella’s pad building long-planned for the Ithaca Shopping Plaza off Old Elmira Road.

DiBella’s first started planning for an Ithaca location back in November 2014. After a few design iterations, the project was approved by the Planning Board and BZA late last summer. The restaurant replaces what was previously part of the shopping center’s parking lot.

The exterior will be similar to DiBella’s other recent stand-alone restaurant locations – CMU faced with brick and stone veneer, decorative sconces (light fixtures), and a “patina green” patio roof. The size of the building will be about 3,400 square feet, which is typical for the Rochester-based sandwich chain. The interior will be designed with a 1930s/1940s era theme, also standard for the DiBella’s chain. Along with the building comes a revised parking arrangement for 35 cars, bike racks, signage, landscaping and a modest patio area. Early Site Plan Review documents estimate the project cost at $600,000.

As for the construction images, it looks like the foundation’s sub-base is being prepared for the foundation slab. This is going to be concrete slab-on-grade, no basement. The sub-base will give a uniform base from which to build upon, and helps to compact the soil, making it less likely to undergo excessive settling. The soils down in the flats are notoriously difficult to build on, because they are very soft and compressible – the shopping plaza, which was originally built in the 1950s, has had some mild settling issues. I don’t see anything to confirm it, and someone knowledgeable feel free to chime in, but it would seem removal and replacement of existing fill is likely to approach used here, similar to the Texas Roadhouse project. The drum roller in the last photo supports that idea. The turquoise pipes are water-sewer pipes.

The FEAF estimates a seven month construction period, so a late fall opening isn’t out of the question. DiBella’s expect to employ about 25.

A&E Construction of suburban Philadelphia is the project contractor, and the building was designed by Ithaca architect Jason K. Demarest.

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Texas Roadhouse Construction Update, 5/2016

23 05 2016

Just a few other photos from this past Sunday. As of 4 PM today, Texas Roadhouse is open. The landscaping is complete, the parking lot is paved and striped. If you love the food, fantastic. If you don’t, well, at least it’s bringing tax money into municipal coffers.

For me personally, it’s been kinda cool to watch this from start to finish – I broke the story on the Voice in March of 2015, and have been keeping tabs on it since. I didn’t realize it was due to open today until taking photos this past weekend, so once again, it became a popular article for the Voice’s website.

The $1.35 million project at 719 South Meadow Street was formerly home to Cellular One, a 1990s one-story masonry building that was demolished in 2013. The restaurant was originally slated to open in Q1 2016, but construction started a little later than anticipated last fall.

Texas Roadhouse corporate developed the site, leasing the land from plaza owner DDR Corp. of Ohio. GreenbergFarrow of suburban Chicago is serving as an architectural consultant for the project. Edger Enterprises of Elmira served as general contractor.

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News Tidbits 5/21/16: Building Bridges, or Burning Bridges

21 05 2016

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1. 209-215 Dryden Road has a name: the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education. Let’s just call it the Breazzano Center for short. The name comes as part of a $25 million donation from Cornell MBA alum David Brezzano ’80, and is named in honor of him and his three sons, all recent Johnson School graduates. According to the Cornell Chronicle, the donation will “substantially support” the building’s construction, which construction loans on file with the county have pegged at $15.9 million. Breazzano is the president of money management and investment firm DDJ Capital Management, and did his undergrad at Union College in Schenectady, where he serves as trustee.

John Novarr is the developer for the 6-story, 76,200 sq ft building, and Cornell will occupy 100% of the structure on a 50-year lease.

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2. So, something weird is going on. The city BPW is set to discuss an encroachment for the Chapter House reconstruction at their meeting on the 23rd. However, all the paperwork included in the agenda dates from before the sale and refers to the previous owner. So either the new owner is pursuing the encroachment and the information hasn’t been updated, or this is outdated/no longer being pursued and no one’s updated the BPW paperwork. I tried calling the project architect (Jason Demarest) but he’s out of town until Saturday, and this publishes Friday night, so…dunno. Hopefully someone can provide some insight. For the record, the encroachment is for the first-floor roof overhang over the sidewalk, and will cost the developer $33,812.28.

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Open question, would a brick-for-brick rebuild had to have paid for this encroachment as well? It existed with the original structure, this was designed with heavy ILPC input, and given that project costs seem to be why this is in jeopardy…it just seems like an unnecessary obstacle. I know it’s a new build, but it’s replicating a previous encroachment for the sake of character. It seems like the project is being financially punished for that.

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3. For this week’s eye candy, the above image appears to be the city’s proposed redesign for the Brindley Street Bridge over on the West End. Pretty similar to existing newer or renovated bridges in the city (Clinton Street, South Aurora Street), with older-style lamp posts and stylized concrete railings.

Alternative 2 calls for a pedestrian bridge to replace the existing Brindley Street Bridge, which was last renovated in 1952. A new bridge for vehicle traffic would be built south from the intersection of Taughannock and West State Streets, over the inlet, and intersecting with Taber Street. The project is expected to go out to bid next year, and completed in 2018.

4. Per the Ithaca Times, the Taughannock Farms Inn out in Ulysses has some expansions and renovations planned since new ownership purchased the property back in February. Along with a bistro for lighter fare, an electric car charging station and a dock, the Times introduced plans for a 2-story, 200-person event center that would be built on the Inn’s property. The purpose of the event center is to provide additional space for events like weddings and formals, and to capture a bit of the mid-week business meeting and convention crowd. The inn itself has 22 guest rooms in five buildings.

The original inn building dates from 1873, when it was a “summer cottage” for John and Molly Jones of Philadelphia. The Joneses also owned Taughannock Falls at the time, though they would eventually deed it over to the state in the mid 1930s to create the park. The current owners are only the fourth in the 143-year history of the property.

5. A couple of big sales in Tompkins County this week. The first one was 308 Eddy Street, a 12-bedroom apartment house in Collegetown. The Lambrou family, one of Collegetown’s medium-sized landlords at ~400 beds, sold the property to the O’Connor family (a smaller landlord family) for $1,225,000 on the 18th. The O’Connor don’t tend to develop their own properties, and 308 Eddy was receently re-roofed anyway, so don’t expect any changes here, but take it as a demonstration of what a captive rental market, high land values and high taxes will do.

The other big sale was outside of Ithaca, at 1038-40 Comfort Road in Danby. A purchaser bought several land and cabin properties being touted as a high end B&B for $1,300,000. The purchases are a couple from Florida, one of which founded the Finger Lakes School of Massage in the 1990s and now heads an aromatherapy institute.

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6. According to a report from the Dryden town board liaison to their planning board, the Varna Community Association’s reception to “Tiny Timbers” at the corner of Freese and Dryden Roads has been mostly positive, apart from minor traffic concerns to the 16-house project. More lukewarm was the reception to the 36-unit Evergreen Townhouses proposal at 1061 Dryden, where concerns were raised about having enough green space, and whether it was too far outside Varna to be an appropriate location.

The neighbor two doors down has already started to fight the project, and this is probably going to play out like 902 Dryden did over the past several months. Here’s a pro tip when you’re writing up that angry screed – please stop arguing that renters are second class citizens. Just stop.

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7. Therm Incorporated will be presented plans for a stand-alone 20,000 SF manufacturing facility to the town board next week. The addition will be located at their property at 1000 Hudson Street Extension, between its main building and the quonset huts. In a rarity, the industrial-zoned property won’t need to heard to a zoning board – no variances required. The new building will replaces a 3,434 SF ceramics studio. As previously reported on the Voice, Therm expects to create 10 jobs with the expansion. Therm, located at its current facility since its founding in 1935, specializes in custom machining, primarily for the aerospace and industrial turbine industries.

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8. Not a very exciting agenda for the Ithaca city planning board this month.

1. Agenda review
2. Floor Privilege
3. Special Order of Business: Incentive Zoning & Site Plan Review Discussion (Lynn Truame)

4. Subdivision Review
A. Minor Subdivision, 312-314 Spencer Road, Charlie O’Connor (MLR)

5. Site Plan Review
A. Sketch Plan, Two Duplexes at 312-314 Spencer Road

This came up back in March – Charlie O’Connor plans on re-configuring vacant street-facing property behind two houses to build two duplexes near Lucatelli’s. STREAM Collaborative is the architect.

Originally, this was at the end of the agenda as sketch plans usually are, but the agenda was revised so that the sketch plan would be allowed to go first.

B. 201 College Avenue – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Determination of Environmental Significance, recommendation to the BZA

C. Elmira Savings Bank, 602 West State Street – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Potential Determination of Environmental Significance, recommendation to the BZA

D. Brindley Street Bridge, seen above – revised FEAF review (parts 2 and 3), recommendations to lead agency (BPW).

6. Umpteen million zoning appeals, none especially contentious
7. Chain Works DGEIS Review, Update Schedule and Special Meeting Schedule.





The Chain Works District DGEIS, Part Two: Form Codes and Phase One

17 05 2016

For part one, click on this link.

One of the challenges facing the Chain Works District is that it’s a little tough to plan out specifics when the construction timeline goes out over a decade. The renders of new buildings conceptualized as part of the redevelopment project may not look exactly as shown – in a lot of ways, they would best be described as placeholders. But, the zoning code proposed within the project’s PUD gives a pretty good idea of what a potential building would look like. The design standards can be found in Appendix C here.

The goal of the design standards is to establish a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood setting that builds on the existing industrial buildings and surrounding neighborhoods – growing without overwhelming. The design standards handle height, width, setbacks, buffer plantings, blank walls, building projections, the amount and spacing of doors and windows, porches and stoops, sidewalk width, the types of light poles allows, the “design speed” of streets – compared to Euclidean/use-based zoning, the emphasis isn’t on what’s taking place inside, but how it looks on the outside. Some might argue that it allows less creativity for architects, but it offers a lot more predictability for a multi-year development like Chain Works.

Even with the design standards, the project won’t be skipping the approvals process. New buildings and renovations that don’t conform to the initial proposed uses still have to go through Site Plan Review/Approval. Interior renovations not visible from public roads do not have to go through SPR, which is consistent with most of the city’s neighborhoods. But one step that may potentially be avoided by the PUD/PDZ are frequent trips to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Chantreuil | Jensen | Stark Architects, STREAM Collaborative and Randall + West all played a role in site planning and developing the zoning.

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There are four “sub areas” as part of the code – CW1 (Natural Sub Area), CW2 (Neighborhood General Sub Area), CW3 (Neighborhood Center Sub Area), and CW4 (Industrial Sub Area).

CW1, as the Natural Sub Area, is where land is planned to be left unaltered, or allowed to revert to “a natural state”. Some of this is due to technical issues like topography, as some of it is due to environmental features such as the presence of old-growth woods. CW1 is the most restrictive zone, allowing only passive recreational use, trails and stormwater management. New structures can only serve those purposes – sheds, park restrooms, pavilions, gazebos, and at most a visitor’s center, the sum of which may not cover more than 2% of the total area, with no single building over 2,000 SF, and nothing more than one floor / 15 feet.

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CW2 is the Neighborhood General Sub area, and one of the two zones slated to host the majority of new development. The intent here is detached single-family homes, row-houses and small apartment buildings. Total area coverage of more than 60% is prohibited, and height is limited to 4 floors, except when built on a hill, in which case there may be another 1-2 floors on the downhill side, as long as it’s consistent with CW3. Street trees have to be provided on at least 60% of the length of new and existing streets in CW2, at intervals no more than 40 feet.

Apart from general housing, the CW2 code would allow for senior housing, daycares, home-office, small-scale retail (less than 2,500 SF), nursery schools/day-cares and B&Bs.

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CW3 is higher-density mixed-use – larger-scale office space, larger-scale retail and the same residential uses allowed in CW2. Most commercial and assembly/factory uses are allowed (but no adult uses – in any zone, in fact). Plazas are allowed along with green space, and the maximum height allowed is 6 floors, with 1 more on the downhill if on a slope, and only 4 floors permitted with 2 floors on the downslope if within 100 feet of Route 96B. Total area coverage is permitted up to 80%, and a vegetation buffer of 30 feet is required if adjacent to residential properties bordering the CWD. The street trees rule in CW2 also applies here.

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CW4 consists of industrial uses and utilities/storage space, 2-4 floors. 90% area coverage is allowed, and there has to be one shade tree planted and kept healthy for every 10 parking spaces. There is no minimum parking requirement for CW4, or any of the zones.

One issue brought up in review is that the code specifies that any one floor can’t be more than a certain height, but it would be better if they specified a maximum height for the first floor, and then a max height for each subsequent floor. For instance, instead of a max of 18 feet, which could create a 72-foot, 4-story building in CW2, the draft could be improved by saying 18 feet on the first floor, 12 feet on each upper floor.

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Several types of “thoroughfare assemblies” are displayed in the document, specifying what’s permitted in each area. This is where the design speed, sidewalk and pavement widths, and parking and street-scaping details come into play. These include streets, alleys, industrial access roads and even a woonerf.

So that briefly sums up about 33 pages of code details. Most of those won’t come into play until new structures are proposed – the streetscape will be developed as phase one is under construction, and more when further build-out occurs. Speaking of phase one, let’s take a look at that.

Phase one consists only of renovations to existing buildings, four of them. Buildings 33 and 34 would be renovated for new industrial uses per the CW4 code, and Buildings 21 and 24 would be renovated into an office building, and a mixed-use office and apartment building per the CW3 code.

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Building 21 becomes a 43,340 SF office building – new glass and a paint job are the biggest exterior changes. Parking would be on adjacent surface lots (page 2-27, DGEIS).

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Building 24 is the only building that gets an addition in phase one – 18,520 SF of new space on the top floor, a “penthouse addition” to the existing 111,050 SF space. The addition and the existing second to fourth floors would house 70 to 80 residential units in approximately 96,300 SF, in a potential mix of configurations ranging from studio to 4-bedroom units, but mostly it’s intended to be 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units (page 2-25, DGEIS). The remaining 33,270 SF would be commercial office space. Parking would be on adjacent surface lots.

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The industrial space envisioned for Buildings 33 and 34 requires minimal renovation, according to the DGEIS (page 2-33). Combined, they offer about 170,600 SF of industrial space, for manufacturing, warehousing, or related uses. Most parking (110 spaces) will be on adjacent surface lots, with a little more (15 spaces) created by the removal of Building 6A, and another 95 overflow spaces shared with CW3 structures. Part of the logic is that since workers and residents use parking spaces at different times (working the 9 to 5, vs. those who do their 9 to 5 in other parts of the city), they can share parking spaces somewhat.

Part 3 will take a look at some of the project impacts.








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