News Tidbits 4/30/16: Sticking to the Plan

30 04 2016

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1. So, let’s start off with the bad news. Chapter House might not be happening. Josh Brokaw at the Ithaca Times had the scoop, though not for a lack of trying on the Voice’s part – rumors had arrived in the inbox well before the Collegetown construction roundup article. I’ve reached out to Jerry Dietz, the building manager for the Chapter House project, four times over the past couple of weeks, without response. One of those was an in-person visit that went un-received. My Voice editor and colleague Jolene Almendarez has also been trying to do her share of contacting relevant parties, to no avail.

Anyway, personal discontent aside, The co-proprietor of the Chapter House (and the only one willing to say anything on record) says that he believes a sale of the 400-404 Stewart Avenue property is imminent, with the potential buyer being the next door neighbor of the also-destroyed 406 College Avenue. The claim is that a more cost-efficient plan would be forth, which could eliminate the Chapter House from its plans.

One thing to keep in mind is that the property is on the edge of the East Hill historic district – the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission can control just about every aspect of the exterior, but they don’t have say over use any more than zoning permits. They can stipulate the extra expense of appropriate material and image, but they can’t stipulate a bar (and a lot of commission members would be uncomfortable with that anyway). Dunno how much the insurance money was, but the finances just may not work. It would be unfortunate, but as they do in golf, they’ll play the ball where it lies.

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2. Noting, briefly. Evan Monkemeyer, the developer behind the cancelled College Crossing project, might be partnering with another developer to create and put forward a plan for the corner of Route 96 and East King Road. This is according to the town of Ithaca’s planning staff. Monkemeyer has not hidden his discontent after his suburban-style mixed-use project became the subject of heavy debate because the site plan, originally approved in 2007, no longer meshed with the town’s interests, which had evolved to more New Urbanist formats put forth by the 2014 Comprehensive Plan and the Form Ithaca charrettes. Monkemeyer owns about 64 acres on the northeast side of the intersection, and more than 15 acres as part of Springwood on the southeast side of the corner. In other words, virtually all the divvied up land and conceptual buildings on the lower right side of the charrette image. This could be something to keep in eye on over the coming months.

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3. Here’s the latest iteration of the Maplewood Park site plan. A lot of changes from the previous version. To sum up the changes, the apartment buildings, 3-4 stories, have been pulled back from existing homes, the townhouses and stacked flats have are more centralized and closely clustered, and mixed-use retail/apartment planned for the city is now in the town, all the city has in its portion is green space and perhaps a small service area/ bus shelter.

Also note the secondary road that terminates right at the edge of the Maple Hill property. Chances are very good that would feed into a phase II that redevelops the Maple Hill property.

The large parking lot in the southeast corner doesn’t seem to jive with the rest of the plan, previous versions had the parking more dispersed. Since Cornell has an idea of the number of residents it wants for the project to be feasible to build and affordable on grad student stipends (850-975, centering around 925 beds in 500 units), if housing is decreased in one part of the parcel, they’re going to have their development team make up for it somewhere else. One of the bigger points of contention seems to be Cornell trying to avoid drawing traffic in by keeping larger buildings further out, while neighbors from various angles try and push the units as far away from them as possible.

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Maplewood has a website up sharing meeting notes and presentation materials here. Future meeting information will also be posted to the Maplewood website. The project will be filling out an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) not unlike Chain Works, because of the project size and potential for adverse impacts (and therefore the need for proper mitigation before plans can be approved). The scoping document for the EIS, which is an outline that says what will be written about where, is on the town’s website here.

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Just for the record, the print version of a recent Maplewood write-up on the Times claimed to have a quote from me. It was not. The online version of the piece has the corrections. The quote wasn’t even something I would say, because I don’t think Cornell attempting to house a greater number of its graduate and professional students is an “unsustainable development goal”. Quite the opposite, it’s crucial they do that to relieve some of the pressure on the rest of the local housing market.

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4. Looks like some of the IURA’s recommended funding Action Plan is out. Habitat for Humanity gets the full $75,000 request, as does INHS with the $100,000 requested for their new single-family build at 304 Hector Street. Most of the 202 Hancock project, the seven for-sale townhouses, was recommended for funding – $530,000 of $567,000, ~93.5% of the request.

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5. At the Common Council meeting next Wednesday, the city is set to vote on reducing the fall-zone radius for cell phone towers, from double the tower’s height (200% of tower height), to 120% of the tower’s height. The move will potentially allow an iteration of Modern Living Rentals’s 815 South Aurora project to move forward with further planning and review. The 87-unit project was planned on the assumption of 100% tower height plus ten feet, so in the case of the 170-foot South Hill cell tower in question, the law would call for a 204 ft. radius, not 180 ft. as the developer hoped. But still, it’s a lot less than the 340 ft. it currently is. The developer may seek a smaller project, build taller, a greatly-revised footprint, or other options. We’ll see how it plays out.

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5. House of the week. Back in March, it wasn’t certain whether 201 West Clinton’s “sawn-and-batten wood” would be left unpainted, or painted yellow. Looks like the former is correct, based on the east face of the 1-bedroom carriage house. The ZIP panels were still exposed on the other faces when I shot these photos, but based off what could be seen through the windows, interior work is progressing nicely, and the garage door has been attached. Local architect Zac Boggs and partner Isabel Fernández are building the 520 SF addition atop an existing 1960s garage.

 





409 College Avenue (Student Agencies eHub) Construction Update, 4/2016

26 04 2016

Not a new construction, but a major renovation. scaffolding is up as the Student Agencies Building at 409 College Avenue undergoes major interior and exterior renovations to its second and third floors. As previously reported on the Voice, 9.660 SF is being renovated to make way for eHub, a co-working and business incubator space for startups founded by Cornell affiliates – students, faculty and staff. The project is part of a collaboration with the Entrepreneurship at Cornell program (eShip), and for its part, Cornell renovated about 5,000 SF of space in the Ag Quad’s Kennedy Hall to complement Student Agencies’ plans.

As part of the renovations, 409, which was built in 1985, gets a major facadectomy – out with the brick and its punch-out windows, in with the glass curtain walls of fixed-frame window units with metal and granite detailing. The renovations will also add a rooftop patio space to the second floor. The project had to go through Design Review since it’s a major exterior change to an MU-2 building in Collegetown, and it ended up being one of the rare cases where the planning board encouraged a more bold design. The original design can be found here. The posters on the netting are the only copies of seen of the approved final design.

The Bike Rack, 7-Eleven, and Student Agencies will remain option while the renovations are underway.

STREAM Collaborative and Taitem Engineering designed the renovations (project design and energy efficiency improvements), and Morse Construction Management is the general contractor. All three firms are based out of Ithaca. The total cost for 409’s renovation is about $2.8 million.

Plans call for a May opening.

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307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing) Construction Update, 4/2016

25 04 2016

Collegetown Crossing is starting to show its face. Windows are being installed, and the CMU walls are on display. The mostly glass front facade has yet to go on, and brickwork will eventually go over the Tyvek housewrap on the 4-story, CR-4 portion of the portion. As mentioned in the Voice piece, a construction worker on-site said that interior work is focused on interior wall framing, sheet-rock hanging, and electric rough-ins at the moment.

According to building developer Josh Lower of Urban Ithaca, the project is being included as a part of a city grant application related to public transit, though it’s not something I’ve heard much about. It definitely fits the bill – designated internal bus shelter and pull-off space for up to two buses, a pedestrian through-fare and pocket park that connects College Avenue and Linden Avenue, ample bike racks (12 spaces required, 24 being provided), 3,200 SF grocery store on the first floor and Ithaca Carshare is but a couple hundred feet away.

There are a couple smaller retail spaces included as part of the project, but there hasn’t been any indication as to whether they have tenants lines up.

Like Dryden South and the Dryden Eddy Apartments, Collegetown Crossing plans to open in time for the fall semester. Ithaca’s Jagat Sharma is the architect, and Hayner Hoyt Corporation out of Syracuse is in charge of the build-out.

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205 Dryden Road (Dryden South) Construction Update, 4/2016

25 04 2016

Another project in the mad dash for a summer completion (7/7/2016) is Pat Kraft’s mixed-use building at 205 Dryden Road, the “Dryden South” apartments. Workers under the direction of Rochester’s LeChase Construction are building up the reinforced concrete frame, and you can see steel rebar poking out of the fourth floor, which will be wrapped in wood forms and encased in concrete, with enough rebar poking out at the top to tie-in to future sections. The construction crane comes from C.P. Ward, a construction contractor in suburban Rochester. On the outside, the CMU walls are being assembled; not a whole lot of aesthetic effort is being put into the appearance of the east wall because it will be hidden by the 209-215 Dryden project within months of completion, although the renders show slit-windows on the building’s east face.

Kraftee’s was slated to occupy the first floor retail space, but the space is now being retooled. The project is in MU-2 zoning, and is legally obligated to have “active use” commercial on the 2,400 SF first floor: hotel, bank, theater, retail, and/or food service.

It looks Dryden South’s website has been overhauled. Apparently, if the building isn’t ready by August 1st, Kraft will refund renters twice the daily rent until the building is issued a certificate of occupancy. Rents range from $1190-$1350 per month, per bedroom, which is quite expensive, but this is also Inner Collegetown, which has the highest real estate values in the city.

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327 Eddy Street (Dryden Eddy Apts) Construction Update, 4/2016

25 04 2016

Here are the latest photos for Steve Fontana’s mixed-use project at 327 Eddy Street. Work is up to the fourth floor in the front, and it looks like interior wall framing is underway on the lower floors, along with utilities rough-ins on the lowest levels. The rear section is further behind, steel is rising but workers have yet to move beyond the first floor. Progress should be happening fairly quickly from here on out, as the building needs to be ready for occupancy by the start of the fall semester. According to Fontana’s website (conveniently linked with the shoe store), unit prices range from $930 to $1250 per bedroom. The website doesn’t give any indication on how many units have been reserved.

There seems to be a slight discrepancy as to whether the project has 53 or 56 bedrooms in its 22 units. Counting on the webpage didn’t help, and the floor plans on the city’s website date from the 6-story, 64-bedroom version. A quick check shows my source was a Cornell Sun article from February 2015, no longer online. If anyone knows which number is accurate, please chime in.

A little more info can be found in last week’s Voice round-up here.

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209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 04/2016

25 04 2016

The overview came as part of the Ithaca Voice roundup last week, but the number of photos that can be included is rather limited for two reasons. One, the labyrinthine picture portfolio in the Voice’s storage eats up space, and two, the general readers of the Voice mostly only care to see a couple of photos per location.

Work is well into the excavation phase of construction. The building’s basement (“lower level”) will hold a 90-space large group instruction classroom, a commons area for dining and mingling, some business offices, utilities and storage space. The large atrium area is meant to give some feeling of connectivity and openness with the upper six floors.

Side note, looks like Collegetown’s graffiti artists have had a field day with the fencing.

Because of the tight situation, construction staging is taking place on land that used to be a boarding house at 238 Linden, and into the public right of way on Linden Avenue and Dryden Road. After the building is completed in 2017, don’t be surprised if 238 receives a housing replacement consistent with CR-4 zoning.

Local businessmen John Novarr and Philip Proujansky are spearheading the project, with Cornell as sold tenant. Syracuse’s Hayner Hoyt is the general contractor.

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News Tidbits 4/2/16: The Walls Come Tumbling Down

2 04 2016

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1. Demolition and site prep work has begun for the Hotel Ithaca’s new 5-story addition. The work appears to be right on schedule, since a March construction start had been planned. The $9.5 million, 90-room project replaces a two-story wing of rooms built in the early 1970s. Hart Hotels of Buffalo hopes to have the new wing open for guests this fall. NH Architecture of Rochester is the firm designing the project, which received some “sweet burns” when it was first presented with cross-hatched panels and “LEED-certified stucco”. Eventually, the planning board and developer settled on a design after review, and the project was approved late last year.

For those who like to see walls a-tumblin’, the Journal’s Nick Reynolds has a short video of the demolition on his Twitter feed here.

2. Looks like there’s a little more information about the 16-unit “small house” subdivision planned in Varna. A Dryden town board document refers to the document as “Tiny Timbers”. Which is a name that has come up before – in STREAM Collaborative’s twitter feed.

Making an educated guess here, STREAM is working with landowner and businessman Nick Bellisario to develop the parcel. It would also explain the huge mounds of material that had been on the site as of late – compressing the very poor soil so that something could be build onto it, even if they’re merely “tiny timbers”. It doesn’t look like these are more than one or two rooms, with an open floor plan on the first floor and either a room or loft space above.

At first impression, these are a great idea – relatively modest sizes tend to be more environmentally sensitive, and with the subdivision, it’s likely they would be for-sale units with a comparatively modest price tag. On the other hand, tiny houses are something that a lot of local zoning laws don’t accommodate well (minimum lot size, minimum house size, septic), so that would be something to be mindful of as the project is fleshed out more and starts heading through the town’s approval processes.

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3. Here’s some good news – the initial reception to Visum’s 201 College Avenue project was favorable. Josh Brokaw at the Times is reporting that apart from debates over a more distinctive roofline and setbacks from the street (which is more ZBA than Planning Board), the board was supportive of the project.

Meanwhile, as for something they were not in support of, the possibility of removing the aesthetic parts of site plan review as a benefit to affordable housing incentive zoning was not something that sat well with them. One thing that does get missed in the article, though, is that that benefit would only be in areas with form zoning guidelines for building appearance and siting (right now, that’s only Collegetown).

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4. Never a fan of being scooped, but the Journal’s Nick Reynolds broke the news of a 3-story, 39,500 SF outpatient medical facility planned for Community Corners in Cayuga Heights. Owner/developer Tim Ciaschi (who also did the Lehigh Valley Condos on Inlet Island) will build-to-suit for Cayuga Medical Associates, with design work by HOLT Architects.

In most towns, this would be fairly cut and dry. But this is Cayuga Heights, which probably has the most stringent board in the county. The village routinely says no to anything that could draw students in (mostly housing, but historically it also included taverns and restaurants), and people prepare multi-page tirades against two-lot subdivisions, let alone what happens when a sorority tries to move in. In the project’s favor are its distance from homes and its modest densification of Community Corners, which the village has been slowly migrating towards in the past few years. The board’s raised concerns with not enough parking, so a traffic study was included with the March materials. We’ll see how this all plays out, a medical office building might work well with Cayuga Heights’ older population.

5. The city decided to take action on the owner of the Dennis-Newton House by fining him $5,000 for building code violations. Steven Centeno, who picked up the property from the Newtons in 1982, was initially charged with over 11,000 violations, and pleaded guilty to 35 counts. According to the city, Centeno was ordered to make repairs in 2012, and got the building permits, but never commenced with repair work. If he fails to bring the property up to compliance within six months, a further fine of $42,000 will be levied. This is not unlike the case last April where the city fined lawyer Aaron Pichel $5,000 for code violations on 102 East Court Street, the “Judd House”. Work on that property is underway.

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6. Likely to be some bureaucratic progress on the Maplewood Park redevelopment next week. The town of Ithaca will be looking at declaring itself Lead Agency for environmental review of the 500-600 unit project. designs and exact plans are still in the formative phases, so no new news on those quite yet. In order to build the new urbanist, form-based project as intended, Cornell will be seeking a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which will give them flexibility in how they can lay out the site. The portion in the city of Ithaca, the two buildings towards the northwest corner (boundary line goes down Vine Street), will be built as-of-right, and it looks like a sketch plan will be presented for the city’s portion during their April Planning Board meeting.

A FEAF is included in the meeting agenda, but since the project will have to undergo a Environmental Impact Statement (much more detailed than a FEAF), it’s not very descriptive.

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7. Ugh. I give credit to the town of Ithaca’s planning board for trying to accommodate a solution where the 170-year old house could at least be moved to a different site. I’m disappointed in both the town of Ithaca’s Planning Committee (members of the town board) and the Iacovellis, neither of which seem to be devoting much thought to an amenable solution. The town’s planning committee chair is hell-bent on keeping students out, and the Iacovellis are now trying to rush the demo permit since they feel their livelihood is threatened. This is an unnecessary loss due to intransigence.








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