News Tidbits 1/30/2016: A Doozy of a Week For All the Wrong Reasons

30 01 2016

I’m not going to lie – this was a rough week. For those who like old buildings, the city tore down 404 West Green and 327 West State this week. For those who are consider themselves eco-activists, Black Oak wind farm is on life support. State Street Triangle is likely cancelled, the Printing Press Lounge is off the table, Cornell continues to pour most of its attention on its new New York City campus, and a grocery store and a downtown shop are closing their doors and putting people out of work. There have been better weeks for news round-ups.

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1. State Street Triangle isn’t dead per se, but it’s indefinitely stalled. I think the best headline goes to the Ithaca Times since they’re the most accurate. From chatting with planning consultant Scott Whitham, who’s involved with the project, it sounds like the impasse is the result of Campus Advantage wanting to pay less for the site since they can’t build as large of a project, which would decrease their revenue. The contract for the land purchase from Greenstate Properties/Trebloc Development (Rob Colbert) was up for re-negotiation after the December expiration, but neither side wants to budge on what they feel the price should be. So nothing can move forward without a deal between the two parties. I reached out to Colbert Wednesday, but the secretary paused for a minute and then said “he’s, uh, busy in a meeting, care to leave a message?” So he’s probably not going to say anything further.

Could it move forward? Possibly, it could be revived if a deal is made. But as things are, it’s stalled and it’s outside the control of any community group or government authority. It’s definitely a shame from the standpoint of Ithaca’s worsening housing crisis because it’s less that will be entering a market flooded with students, people moving here for work, and wealthy retirees who have apparently decided this is the Asheville of the north. And given the battles of “structural racist gentrification” and “uncivilized crime-producing trouble-making affordable housing“, where everything is accused of being one or the other, I’m not especially hopeful at the moment.

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2. Now for something that is definitely dead in the water – The Printing Press Lounge. Developer Ben Rosenblum had wanted to put a jazz lounge in a 7700 SF industrial warehouse at 416 East State Street, but neighbor objections to noise and traffic proved a little too much for the Board of Zoning Appeals, whose members appeared unlikely to support necessary variances for the vacant facility. So the developer pulled the lounge proposal, but the office space and apartment are still under consideration.

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3. Also from the same phone conversation as State Street and Printing Press – the Canopy revisions were approved, so at least there’s a good chance that will be breaking ground this Spring. The Chain Works review schedule was also approved, although given the couple emails from the Voice article, the public review period is going to be groan-inducing. One of the letters commanded that nothing should be done there and it should be kept as is because it encourages traffic and “its density is ruining Ithaca”. They might have meant size, but density is a buzzword at the moment. Apparently, they also overlooked the fact that it’s already built and won’t be fully cleaned of toxic chemicals until a reuse plan is in place. The development team will have to respond to all of these comments, perceptive or not.

4. In real estate sales, an LLC in suburban Corning picked up the former Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone Creamery space on Elmira Road. 0.74 acre 407 Elmira sold for $640,000 on January 22nd. A little research into the rather exotically-named “Armiri LLC” shows that they were previously registered at an address home to an Econo Lodge, and that the owners have about 70 or so other LLCs related to hotels and the hospitality industry. A little more digging, and the owner turns out to be Corning-based Visions Hotels, a developer of suburban chain hotels with location from Albany to Buffalo. So if I were to make a guess, the five-year old Tim Ho’s building won’t be long for this world, and a suburban hotel is likely to rise in its place in a couple years. But we’ll see what happens.

5. Meanwhile, just up the road, Maines will be shutting down their store at 100 Commercial Avenue. The 26,146 SF building was built for the Binghamton-based grocery chain in 2010. February 7th will be the last day. Although there don’t seem to be any figures online, the move will likely put at least a couple dozen people out of work. A phone call and email to Maine’s asking for employee totals and reasons for closure were not returned.

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6. Let’s talk about money. The construction loan docs for Collegetown Terrace Phase III were filed with the county this week. The price? A cool $39.25 million, from PNC Bank. That’s just for 247-unit, 344-bed Building 7. Previously Valentine Vision Associates LLC (John Novarr/Philip Proujansky) received $50 million on 8/22/13, $50 million on 7/1/2014, and $50 million on 11/20/14. Do the math out, and $189.25 million in loans is a lot of money. Then again, this is also a 1,200+ bed project.

The latest loan docs require an opening by fall 2018, but expect it to be about a year sooner than that, August 2017.

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7. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council has approved the Chapter House plans. All that’s needed at this point are the Building Department permits, which are technical and just require that everything will be built up to code. Things are looking good for that February construction start.

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8. Something to look forward to at next month’s Planning Board meeting – further discussion of Cornell’s renovations to Hughes Hall. Planning Board Presentation here, drawings here, Site Plan Review application here. KSS Architects, with offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, will be in charge of design. KSS has been to Cornell’s campus before, having designed some of the Hotel School additions and part of the previous phase of law school renovations. Local firm TG Miller is handling the engineering work. The project is expected to cost $10.2 million and construction would go from June 2016 to July 2017.

Quick refresher, the plan is to renovate 4 floors of what were previously student dorms into academic office, admin and student organization space. Cornell anticipates about 200 construction jobs will be created, but nor more than 80 at any one time, and 20-40 on-site most days. No new permanent jobs, limited visibility, and minimal transportation/ground impacts will limit much of the customary Planning Board debate.

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9. Meanwhile, New York City outlets are reporting on the progress of Cornell’s massive new tech campus in New York City. The Real Deal is reporting Snøhetta, an Oslo/NYC architectural firm, will design the Verizon Executive Education Building. The other three buildings underway are the Bloomberg Center, The Bridge, and CornellTECH Residential, which are the work of Morphosis Architecture, Weiss/Manfredi Architecture, and Handel Architects respectively.  300 students and 200 faculty/staff  will move into the new 26-story dorm by August 2017. Verizon paid $50 million for their naming rights, and billionaire former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg paid $100 million, making up a sizable portion of the $590.6 million donated to Cornell over the past year. Once the initial wave of construction is complete, it’ll be worth seeing how donations break down – years ago, MetaEzra noted that Weill Medical received an outsized proportion of charitable giving.

Not to go all conspiracy theorist, but there are times when Living in Dryden blogger Simon St. Laurent’s thought piece seems uncomfortably relevant.

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10. At the county’s PEDEEQ Committee meeting Friday (PEDEEQ being the acronym for the unnecessarily long Planning, Economic Development, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee; agenda here), the county did two things worth mentioning here. One, they awarded the $35,000 airport industrial park feasibility study to the team of Clark Patterson Lee of suburban Albany, and Saratoga Springs-based Camoin Associates. Two, they passed a resolution calling for “the Timely Development of the Black Oak Wind Farm” project in Enfield.

The Black Oak opposition really seems to have picked up momentum after one the major landowners involved with the project pulled out. Neighbors in the area are actively attacking the project by calling it a danger to human health and a destructive environmental menace financed by wealthy out-of-towners (a shot at Ithaca), and the wind farm’s executive board is struggling to address these accusations in the revised environmental review due to be completed in April. For the local eco-activist crowd, this is an unwelcome and unusual position to be in because more often than not, they’re the ones opposed to development. The county legislature, which has several green activists, is doing what they can by giving verbal support, and a subtle sort of wrist-slap to the opposition. Dunno if it will work, but we’ll see what happens this spring.

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11. Here’s the sketch drawing for Elmira Savings Bank’s new West End Branch at 602 West State Street. It would appear the plans call for a modern addition to the north side of the building, and renovation of the rest of the two-story restaurant into office/service space. Local companies TWMLA and HOLT Architects are handling the design.

According to the Twitter feed of the IJ’s Nick Reynolds, the building plan was received well enough at the Planning Board meeting, but the rest of the plans call for demo of the other buildings, including the affordable housing that had some folks up in arms, for a parking lot. That didn’t go over very well. Demolition of low-cost housing for parking is going to be about as welcome as a Hitler costume at a bar mitzvah. Expect another trip to the board with some revised plans.

12. The Dewitt Park Inn is for sale for $950,000. Owners Tom Seaney and Nancy Medsker are selling the property they purchased for $320k in January 2012 and renovated into a high-end bed and breakfast. The two were vocal advocates for the popular though foregone Franklin/STREAM condo proposal for the Old Library site, although Medsker didn’t do the debate any favors when she decided to trash her rear neighbor, senior services non-profit and Travis Hyde project partner Lifelong in a letter to the Ithaca Journal. The county has the Dewitt Park Inn assessed at $575,000.

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13. Nothing too exciting for the town of Ithaca planning board agenda next week. The town’s planning board will choose whether or not to sign off on the review schedule for Chain Works, and they have to re-approved plans for a smaller parish center at St. Catherine of Siena in Northeast Ithaca. According to the provided docs, the parish center has been reduced from 10,811 SF to 8,878 SF due to rapidly rising construction costs (seems to be a common refrain these days).

 

 





Gannett Health Center Construction Update, 1/2016

14 01 2016

Maybe it’s just the grey January skies, but the multi-colored glazing on the outside of the new Gannett Health Center is more subtle than the renders would suggest. Work is continuing on Phase I of the $55 million project, which is planning to open this summer. Once it does, Gannett’s services will shift over into the new structure, so that phase II, renovations to the original 1956 building and the 1979 addition can take place. The building project is expected to wrap up in August 2017, and a phase III focusing on the Ho Plaza entrance and landscaping will be underway from June to October of 2017, after which the project will finally be completed. The project will increase Gannett’s size from 35,000 SF to 96,000 SF.

Most of the windows have been installed, although some yellow DensGlass gypsum sheathing and metal exterior wall studs can still be seen from many angles. According to the Site Plan Review docs, the curtain wall “suggests an abstracted quilt pattern” meant to conjure up images of care-giving and recovery. Other exterior cladding materials, including a native bluestone veneer and limestone panels, have yet to be installed.

Organizations working on the design include local architecture firm Chiang | O’Brien Architects, TG Miller P.C.Engineers and Surveyors, and Ryan Briggs Structural Engineers. The Pike Company is serving as the general contractor.
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Upson Hall Construction Update, 1/2016

13 01 2016

Upson Hall’s bright turquoise walls stand out among the winter greys. Students and staff can thank (or curse) the spray-on moisture barrier for the splash of color. To see what the sheathing looks like without the barrier, photo #9 below shows a little bit of the white gypsum board in the upper left, near the southwest corner of Upson.

The unsheathed, unsprayed section on the northeast corner remains uncovered so that the new structural steel for the bump-out can be erected, while the steel for the northwest bump-out has already been assembled and installed. The plastic is still up over the exterior walls, keeping the winter winds at bay.

According to the project website, general contractor The Pike Company (Rochester office) is cutting/coring shafts through the first floor to the fifth floor, and demolition activities are underway in the basement. The shafts not only serve as ingress/egress, they’re designed to serve as social spaces and integrate the floors of the building. Utilities rough-ins, framing and drywall installation are underway on the upper three floors where interior work is further along, while work on the first and second floors won’t begin major work until August 2016. Part of the basement will be finished in the first year of construction, and the rest of the basement in the second year. Basically, half the building is still occupied at any given time during construction.

The $74.5 million dollar project is part of a larger series of renovations to the Engineering Quad that will result in $300 million in improvements over a decade. While the project will only add about 4,000 SF to the 156,000 SF building, the renovation are expected to help the engineering school adapt to changing academic space needs and technology, and make the building much more energy efficient. The college is paying for the project with a mix of philanthropy and operating funds. A full FAQ is available on Cornell Engineering’s website here.

Along with Cornell’s internal project management team, the project is designed by New York City firms LTL Architects, Perkins+Will, and Thornton Tomasetti.

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Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 1/2016

12 01 2016

Over at the Vet School, it looks like the expansion project is now at surface level. With the foundation completed, the only direction for the project to go is up, which the Manitowoc Potain self-erecting crane should help with. Phase I interior renovations should be completed by this time, and the Phase II new construction will be moving ahead to a June 2017 completion. Like Klarman Hall, Welliver is the general contractor of this $74.1 million construction project.

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Klarman Hall Interior Photos

11 01 2016

Otherwise known as what $61 million gets you. Wrapping up the Klarman Hall updates with some interior shots of the nearly-finished building. Some staff and classroom spaces have already been occupied, as is the new Temple of Zeus cafe. While inside, I struck up a conversation with the one other person present, an employee of sub-contractor Cook Painting doing touch-ups, and he told me all about how he’s worked on multiple Cornell buildings and Klarman was his favorite so far, and that although he was disappointed the roof had an opaque cover, he’d seen the sun come through the sides in the morning and “the whole place just lights up like a Christmas tree”.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy a little after noon when these photos were taken, so no such effect here.

In Klarman’s 33,250 SF of usable space, Cornell will host spaces and meeting rooms for approximately 200 faculty and staff, a 350-seat auditorium, and the 7,700 SF glass atrium, which is arguably the centerpiece of the new structure. Accordingly to the friendly painter, Cornell will do a formal event to celebrate Klarman Hall’s completion later this year. No doubt its namesake, billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman ’79, will be in attendance. The Groos family, multi-generational Cornellians, were also significant donors to the project.

Klarman was due to be complete in December 2015 when the project first began construction in summer 2013, so all in all Cornell and the contractors did a pretty good job staying close to schedule, even with the last couple cold and stormy winters. Hats off to the construction workers and for making that happen.

Boston-based Koetter | Kim and Associates is the building architect (they also did the recently-built Physical Sciences Building), and Welliver served as general contractor. Klarman Hall is seeking LEED Platinum certification, which is the highest level possible.

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Cornell Plans Renovation for Hughes Hall

27 11 2015

There is almost never a period without construction at Cornell. Don’t expect that to end anytime soon.

Cornell’s latest construction plans were presented as a sketch proposal at last Tuesday’s Planning and Development Board meeting. The sketch plan is the first step in the process, where an applicant solicits input and first reactions from the board. A copy of the powerpoint presentation can be found on the city’s website here.

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The renovation of Hughes Hall is the second phase of a three-phase expansion and renovation of the Cornell Law School. The first phase, which consisted of 40,000 SF of new, partially-subterranean classrooms and a 170-space auditorium, began in Summer 2012 and was completed in Fall 2014 at a cost of $23.8 million. Ann Beha Architects of Boston, and Welliver Construction of Elmira worked on the first phase of the renovation and expansion program. Ithaca Builds offers plenty of interior and exterior images of the first phase here, and a copy of the original Ste Plan Review from 2012 is on the city’s website here.

The first phase was Certified LEED Platinum (the highest LEED designation), which was possible in part because as an underground structure, it was easier to design and pay for maximum energy efficiency. The Hughes Hall renovation will pursue LEED Silver at a minimum.

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Initially, Hughes Hall was to be the third phase, with a renovation of Myron Taylor Hall planned as Phase II. However, since the plan was initially conceived several years ago, the second and third phases were switched around.  The total cost of all three phases is pegged at $60 million (2012 estimate).

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Externally, the changes to Hughes Hall will be subtle – the current open-air loggia will be enclosed and a new entryway will be built on the east side of Hughes. A glass-enclosed staircase will be built onto into the West facade, and the dining room terrace will be repaired. Although some parts of the Law School are historic (Myron Taylor Hall, which dates from 1932), 62,000 SF Hughes Hall is a later addition, built in 1963/64, that lacks the historical detailing of the older structures.

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Internally, administrative and other non-faculty offices will be located on the ground floor, with a dining room, event room and other office/flex space on the floor below (note that the building is built into a hillside, so the Fork & Gavel Cafe, although one level below the ground floor, exits near surface level on the southern side of the building). Although the upper floors aren’t discussed in the sketch plan, the general upper-level plan is for new offices for law school functions and faculty that replace dorm rooms for first-year J.D. students.

With this mostly-interior renovation, the focus of review will probably be on staging and general harmony with surrounding physical environment (buildings and landscape). At first glance, this project doesn’t appear to be stirring any major issues (overlooking the loss of student housing, which is worth criticism but nowhere close to illegal), but will probably create the standard blitz of documents and PDFs that Cornell sends to the city to preemptively answer any questions committee members may have.

Given the timing, Cornell is likely shooting for a Spring construction start, with completion in 2017.

 

 





News Tidbits 11/21/15: Building and Rebuilding

21 11 2015

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1. Starting off this week with some eye candy, here are some updates renders of the townhouses proposed for INHS’s 210 Hancock project in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Details and project status here. 210 Hancock has been approved by the Planning Board, and Cornell, the city and county do have dedicated funds ($200,000 total) going towards the affordable housing units, but still needs to be seventeen conditions prior to receiving a construction permit, one of which required revised townhouses to better reflect the neighborhood. The Common Council also need to vote to discontinue using the sections of Lake Avenue and Adams Street on which the new greenways and playground will be constructed, which apart from the time needed and paperwork generated, isn’t expected to encounter any obstacles, with formal conveyance to INHS anticipated by March 2016. INHS is shooting for a May construction start.

The Planning Board will be voting on “satisfaction of site plan approval” at its meeting next Tuesday, which should be a fairly smooth procedure, if the paperwork’s all correct.

Personal opinion, the townhouses, with more color and variation in style, appear to be an improvement over the previous version. These five will be rentals, while the other seven will be for-sale units, and built in a later phase (government funding for affordable rentals is easier to obtain than it is for affordable owner-occupied units, so it could take a year or two for those seven to get the necessary funding). The apartments have not had any substantial design changes since approval.

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For what it’s worth, here’s the final site plan. The rental townhomes will be on the north corner of the parcel, furthest from Hancock.

2. Turning attention to the suburbs, someone’s put up some sizable chunks of land for sale in Lansing village. The properties consist of four parcels – 16.87 acres (the western parcel) for $500,000, right next to a previously-listed threesome of 28.07 acres (the eastern parcels) for $650,000. The eastern parcel also comes with a house, which the listing pretty much ignores. Lansing has it zoned as low-density residential, and given the prices (the western parcel is assessed at $397,600, the eastern parcels at $561,100 (1, 2, and 3)) and being surrounded by development on three sides, these seem likely to become suburban housing developments, possibly one big 30-lot development if the parcels are merged. For the suburbanites out there, it’s something to monitor.

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3. House of the week – or in this case, tiny house of the week. The 1-bedroom, 650 SF carriage house underway at 201 West Clinton Street draws inspiration from 19th century carriage houses, which makes sense given that it’s in Henry St. John Historic District. It and the main house are owned by former Planning Board member Isabel Fernández and her partner, TWMLA architect Zac Boggs. The two of them did a major and meticulous restoration of the main house, which used to house the local Red Cross chapter, a couple of years ago (more info on that here).

Anyway, the framing is underway and some ZIP System sheathing has been applied to the exterior plywood. No roof yet and probably not much in the way of interior rough-ins, but give it a couple of months and that 1960s garage will be given a new life as a tiny house.

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4. Time to take a look at the Planning and Development Board agenda for next Tuesday. For reference, here’s what a typical project guideline looks like:

PDB (Sketch Plan) -> PDB (Declaration of Lead Agency) -> PDB (Determination of Env’tal Signif., PDB BZA reccomendation if necessary) -> BZA (if necessary) -> PDB (prelim/final approval).

Here’s the meat of the agenda:

A. 210 Hancock – Satisfaction of Conditions of Site Plan Approval (see above)
B. 215-221 Spencer St. – Consideration of Prelim/Final Site Plan Approval  – this one was first presented as sketch plan in March, to give an idea of how long this has been in front of the boards
C. 416-418 East State Street – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – “The Printing Press” jazz bar is a proposed re-use for a former printshop and warehouse that has seen heavy neighbor opposition. The bar has changed its emphasis, redesigned the landscape and moved itself to a more internal location to mitigate concerns, but the opposition is still strong, mostly focusing on noise and traffic. The board has simply and succinctly recommended that the BZA grant a zoning variance.
D. 327 Elmira Road – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – The Herson Wagner Funeral Home project. This one’s had pretty smooth sailing so far, only a couple complaints that Elmira Road isn’t appropriate for a funeral home. The Planning Board, however, applauds the proposal, which replaces a construction equipment storage yard, for better interfacing with the residential neighbors at the back of its property. It has been recommended for BZA approval.
E. Simeon’s on the Commons Rebuild – Presentation & Design Review Meeting – Before anyone throws up their arms, this is only to talk about the materials and design of the reconstruction, and to get the planning board’s comment and recommendations.
F. The Chapter House Rebuild – Sketch Plan – The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) must have come to some kind of acceptance on the proposed rebuild if the Chapter House is finally at the sketch plan stage. the Planning Board will have their own recommendations, which will have to be coordinated to some degree with the ILPC (the ILPC is arguably the much stricter of the two). We’ll see how it looks next week.
G. Hughes Hall Renovations – Sketch Plan – more on that in a moment
H. DeWitt House (Old Library Site) – Sketch Plan – originally slated to be seen a couple months ago, but pulled from the agenda. The 60-unit project is not only subject to Planning Board review, but ILPC review since it’s in the DeWitt Park Historic District.

5. So, Hughes Hall. Hughes Hall, built in 1963, has dorm housing and dining facilities for Cornell students attending the law school, but those 47 students will need to find alternative housing once the hall closes in May 2016 (yes, with Maplewood closing as well, Cornell is putting 527 graduate and professional students out on the open market next year…it’s gonna be rough). However, this has kinda been known for a while. Cornell has intended to renovate Hughes Hall since at least 2011, as Phase III of its law school expansion and renovation. The building was used as swing space while Phase I was underway, and then the phases were flipped and Phase II became Hughes Hall’s renovation, while Phase III became Myron Taylor Hall’s renovation. According to Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, who designed the law school addition (Phase I), the Hughes Hall renovation will “house offices, administrative support spaces, academic programs and meeting spaces.” Well see how the renovated digs look at Tuesday’s meeting.








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