Design Competition Announced for Collegetown Apartment Building

19 02 2015

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Back in August, I wrote a story about how a student competition was held in the early 1980s to design the mixed-use building currently standing at 409 College Avenue. It appears that someone liked the idea and decided to launch a competition of their own.

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the competition is to design a replacement for 313-317 College Avenue, a property owned by local developer/landlord Lambrou Real Estate since the late 1970s. Cornellians of my late 2000s vintage will remember this building for housing Dino’s Bar and Grill. In previous years, it’s also held a grocer (1920s), a furniture store (1950s), a record store (1970s), and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant (1990s). Finding the original construction date of the building has been difficult (I’d guess ca. 1910, since it’s missing from this 1906 photo but it’s definitely an older style), and it appears substantial renovations occurred in the mid 1970s, likely the porthole windows on the fourth floor. Because of the heavy alterations borne by the storefronts and top floor over the years, the building has lost much of its historic value.

From a zoning standpoint, the building is in the densest Collegetown zone, MU-2. That entails a mandatory mixed-use component (usually interpreted as commercial space on the first floor), the building can occupy almost all the lot except for a rear setback of 10 feet, and no required parking. The building must be between 4 and 6 floors, and 45′-80′ tall, with a flat roof. 313-317 College already occupies most of its lot footprint, so the area of the new building wouldn’t be a big change, but the addition of a few more floors would make for a greater visual impact. More likely than not, there will be student apartments from floors 2-(4 or 5 or 6).

Speaking specifically about the competition, it’s open to any member of the Cornell community, student, faculty or staff, and has been underway for a couple weeks. Sketch plans were due Wednesday the 18th, final plans/schematics April 7th, and the winner will be announced May 17th. The call for proposals asks for sustainability as a design theme, so an emphasis on “green” features is expected in the submissions. The judges panel will consist of Lambrou Real Estate, AAP professors yet to be chosen, and Ithaca Student Housing, which is also staffed by the Lambrou Family (different branch maybe?). No word yet if there’s a cash prize for the winner.

Just like 409 College over 30 years ago, this is a win-win for everyone involved. The winner gets exposure and a pretty big project to claim on their resume. The Lambrous get a project at a fraction of the design cost of an architectural firm. I hope to see and share some of the proposals as they become available.





News Tidbits 2/7/15: It Snows In Ithaca, But Verizon Makes It Rain In NYC

7 02 2015

1. As relayed by several outlets, Cornell just received a very generous $50 million donation from telecommuncations giant Verizon. I might make more news about this, but this donation is strictly for the shiny new tech campus down in New York City. The “Verizon Executive Education Center”, in the left of the above render, will be part of the first phase of the campus, set to open in 2017. This goes along with a 6-story, 236,000 sq ft building design by Weiss/Manfredi, and a 4-story, 188,600 sq ft building by Morphosis Architects, both of which are already underway. The skyscraper on the right of the render is a 26-story, 500-room dormitory for students and staff designed by Handel Architects; while not yet underway, it is also slated for a 2017 opening. A design for the tall building on the far left has not been released.

I’d like to see a breakdown of what proportion each campus received from Cornell’s $546.1 million in donations.

2. Looks like some Sun writers decided to do some digging regarding the potential Fine Arts library relocation and expansion. There’s not a whole lot more to add since the Ithaca Voice article; just that the timeline and final design haven’t been set, although the renovation is a “key academic priority”. Students of the AAP school also have mixed opinions about the growth of the library and the possible loss of studio space. But don’t fret dear readers, if a render comes out, it and any pertinent info will be shared here.

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3. A subdivision filed with the city of Ithaca indicates plans for a new two-family, 6-bedroom home at the intersection of Oak Avenue and Oneida Place. The house would be built on land that currently serves as a rear parking lot for 424 Dryden Road. Application here, drawings here. The site falls into the CR-2 Zone of the Collegetown Form District, meaning 2-3 floors, and pitched roofs and porches are required. The architect is Daniel Hirtler of Ithaca, and the developers are William and Angie Chen, also of Ithaca. While not particularly notable, it’s an example of how the form-based zoning applied to Collegetown helps maintain the character of the less-dense outer neighborhood, while still allowing for new construction.

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4. As with virtually every other sizable project in downtown Ithaca, the canopy Hotel by Hilton is filing an application requesting a tax abatement through the CIITAP program, making it the sixth applicant since the revised program was put into affect in 2013. Application here, and the notice of  public meeting, set for 5 PM February 9th at City Hall, is here. A refresher/review of CIITAP can be found here.

The applicant, “Ithaca Downtown Associates LLC”, a.k.a. the Patel Family of the Baywood Hotels Inc., notes that the 7-story, 123-room hotel project has an estimate cost of $20.15 million. Although the value of the tax abatement is not recorded in the city’s application (it will be written out, when reviewed by the county IDA), it looks like they’re seeking the standard 7-year abatement, which will save them something in the ballpark of a couple million dollars over those 7 years.

As with the previous Marriott and Hotel Ithaca applications, the applicant will only pay one-third to one-half of its projected employees a living wage, which is probably going to earn them the scorn and opposition of the Tompkins County Worker’s Center. But the city and Downtown Ithaca Alliance have been supporters of the project. Neighboring businesses seem to be have mixed opinions about the project, with some seeing a potential business source, and others mourning the loss of a convenient parking lot.

The 74,475 sq ft project is expecting to start construction during the spring, with completion in Spring 2016. Local firm Whitham Planning and Design is the architect.

For those already planning a stay, expect room rates of $160+/night, according to the Journal.

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5. It’s PSA time again – INHS is planning meeting #4 for its proposed Neighborhood Pride redevelopment at 4:30 PM Wednesday the 11th, inside the vacant Neighborhood Pride grocery store. The one and only final design concept, shaped by community feedback, will be presented at this meeting. Keep an eye on the Voice for an article (and maybe a rerun here) next Thursday or Friday.

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6. Looking at the city’s project memo going out to its departments, it doesn’t look like a whole lot needs to be reviewed this month. Cornell’s Upson hall renovation, the 6-unit building at 707 E. Seneca, and the 4 for-sale townhomes INHS wants to build at 402 S. Cayuga Street are ready for final approval this month. The 3-building, 6-unit project for 804 E. State (112 Blair) still needs to be reviewed by the zoning board, and will be completing environmental review (SEQR determination of significance).

The only new projects of note are the new house at 424 Dryden, and renovations to the Lake Street Bridge. The bridge project consists of rebuilding the current deteriorated bridge with a new deck and refurbished abutments (base supports), as well as scour reinforcements (to protect from creek erosion), a bumpout for viewing Ithaca Falls, some cute light-posts, and a bridge span that isn’t so degraded that it’s liable to collapse into the creek. That project has a $1,000,000 price tag, and is expected to run from June to November of this year.

For those that use this bridge, start prepping for a detour route – the bridge will be closed during construction, to both vehicles and pedestrians. The city estimates the detour will be an extra 1.7 miles for cars, and 0.7 miles for bikes and walkers.





News Tidbits 1/10/15: Where Will All the Students Go?

10 01 2015

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1. I’ll lead off with this supplement to the Voice opinion article I wrote. Here’s the work sheet I used for the bedroom tally for student-centric housing. I chose to leave it out of the submitted article because 95% of readers checking the Voice would find it obscure or just wouldn’t be interested. If you’re coming here, then you’re probably in the other 5%. Question marks are present because the county’s online records provide total number of units in mixed-use buildings, but not bedrooms (yet residential-only structures have bedroom numbers, go figure). Anyway, there is the off-chance that enough new projects will be proposed in the next 12-18 months that we could still meet the projected need by 2018, since it’s about 500 rooms short at the moment…but I’m not optimistic. There are few large sites left in Collegetown, and even fewer sites in other adjacent neighborhoods. If Fane comes back down to Earth with a project that fits zoning for 330 College Avenue, and Travis Hyde’s Ithaca Gun apartment project ends up being student-centric, then perhaps there will be another 200 or 250 bedrooms to the total. The rest of the balance will need to come from small or medium-sized projects. Anyway, that’s all speculation. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I wasn’t being totally facetious with the suggestion of Cornell building more dorms though. A few hundred rooms could take some of the edge of the housing problem, and it’s less Cornell has to pay out in rent stipends to financial aid recipients. But even if Cornell was mulling it over, it would take years to go through planning and construction.

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2. If this were in Ithaca, I’d have splurged pages of writing over it. But it’s not. Construction permits have been filed for Cornell’s second academic building at its new tech campus on Roosevelt Island in NYC – a 189,000 sq ft structure designed by some of Cornell’s favorite alumni architects, NYC firm Weiss/Manfredi. They’re the same ones who are handling the Vet School renovation, and who designed the Sesquicentennial Commemorative Grove that opened last fall. The building is the one on the right in the above image, the one that looks like an ice cube breaking apart. Building number one, the design in the left foreground, is already underway.

For the record, I’m still not a fan of the tech campus.

3. The Ithaca Times has done an interview with Bill Manos that’s worth a read. It has your standard anti-regulation rant (the same one you get from your retired Fox News-watching uncle), and he calls the sale an “opportunity from Heaven” that he didn’t see coming. He says the sudden closure was so the new lessees could renovate the diner and have their new restaurant (called “Old Mexico“) ready for the Spring. I don’t think that exonerates the “bad manners” of giving his employees only eight days’ notice, but hopefully they’ve all been able to move on like he claims in he interview.

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4. Looks like the 6-unit, 18-bedroom project for 707 E. Seneca has seen some slight revisions as it goes to the ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council) for further review (agenda here). About the only notable change I can find from the previous render is in the spacing of the dormer windows. Although the lot is undeveloped, it’s in a historic district, hence the extra step of ILPC approval. A lot of the major details have already been hashed out, so I imagine the council will only have minor suggestions, but we’ll see what happens. The ILPC is also set to review the Old Library proposals, and given their exacting approach, my inner cynic tells me it will be less about which project they like the most, but rather which one they dislike the least.

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5. On another note, the two duplexes proposed for 804 E. State Street (formerly 112 Blair) has been upped to three. Details and drawings here. All are two units each with three bedrooms in each unit, so 18 total. They also look about as utilitarian as one can get away with; the easternmost house (building “D”) has a chamfered corner, and that’s about the only interesting architectural detail I see. Parking will now be shoehorned into the basement level  of all three buildings (12 spaces total; it’s a hilly site). The construction cost has been upped to about $600,000, but the construction timeframe of late Spring/summer 2015 is still the same. Although the lot is being cobbled together from slices of adjoining properties, it will still require an area variance from the zoning board because of how close the houses are to each other. Looking on the bright side, this development will replace a parking lot and works as appropriate infill for lower Collegetown.

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6. I finally received an email response from the Zaharises regarding what’s underway at their old furniture store at 206 Taughannock Boulevard. Unfortunately, it’s not very descriptive:

We’re renovating the building into apartments. It looks quite different doesn’t it?!

Yes. Yes it does.

 





News Tidbits 12/6/14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

6 12 2014

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1. Not exactly a development, but this will make things interesting: As reported by the Ithaca Journal, INHS and Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) are merging. Both of them have the same purpose, which is to provide low-to-middle income housing and structural rehab services, but INHS has traditionally focused in Ithaca city, and Better Housing in the rural towns. INHS also holds far greater assets, $24 million including 241 rental units , vs. BHTC’s $3 million and 121 rental units.

Over the past few years, INHS has put a lot of feathers in their cap. $2.13 million in grants has been awarded to the non-profit in just the past few months. Breckenridge Place and Holly Creek are complete and nearly complete respectively (total 74 units), while Stone Quarry and Greenways are prepping for site clearing and construction (total 81 units). Along with Cedar Creek and several single-family and duplex units, INHS has had a hand in over 120 units of housing in the past five years alone. With the Neighborhood Pride site undergoing concept design and the recently-awarded grant money, that number will almost certainly be greater in these next five years.

The story for BHTC has been quite the opposite. The 65-unit Lansing Reserve proposal failed due to neighbor opposition, and the 58-unit Cayuga Trails project for West Hill failed due to wetlands on site being greater than anticipated (and the neighborhood opposition didn’t help). BHTC has five older facilities in Trumansburg, Newfield and Slaterville Springs.  With any hope, the merged non-profit will qualify for larger grants, and BHTC can finally get some shovels in the ground in the hamlets and villages outside Ithaca.

On a separate note, it looks like INHS did its annual website update, formally announcing plans for a single-family home at 304 Hector Street on West Hill. The lot was purchased in late October after a plan to buy and renovate a home in Northside fell through. Stone Quarry will begin occupancy next September, and Greenways hopes to start in 2015.

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2. Here’s the site plan for 112 Blair Street. I’d include renders, if the sketch plan had any. Two buildings with two units each and three bedrooms per unit -> 2 x 2 x 3 = 12 bedrooms. Nothing large, just an infill project tucked away from the street. The design will be created by local firm Schickel Architecture, the same ones doing the Maguire project in Ithaca town. As noted by Planning Board member John Schroeder in a recent Sun article, projects like these won’t alleviate the housing crunch by themselves, but every little bit helps, and all the better if it recaptures living space from an underused parking lot.

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3. Final design for the proposed Canopy Hotel? Possibly. In comparison to the last design, this latest incarnation adds more windows to the east face. I’m not going to lie, after six or so sets of designs (include three complete re-dos), I’m starting to lose track of the changes. On the upside, the latest project plan from the city’s documents includes some neat context views, renders of what the building would look like from various vantage points in the city.

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4. 114 Catherine has been approved, its Spring construction date looks good to go. When completed in August 2015, 17 more bedrooms will enter the Collegetown market – a drop in the bucket, but a valuable drop nevertheless.

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5. Towards South Hill, review of the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) continues for the massive Chain Works District proposal at the former Emerson Power/Morse Chain site. A scoping document of that DGEIS can be found here. In a nutshell, a DGEIS is part of the State Envrionmental Quality Review (SEQR), where the leading agency looks at a project, determines if any adverse project impacts are properly mitigated, and if so, issues a statement giving a negative declaration (approval). In this case, the NYS DEC also needs to be on board, approving the contaminated site for residential use. This is a pretty complicated project. There’s 800,000 sq ft of space to be removed or re-purposed, in an environmentally compromised site split between two political entities who are conducting joint meetings with their planning boards in an effort to try and move this project forward (the town of Ithaca board deferred to the city of Ithaca for lead agency; and both have been evaluating using their respective specialized mixed-use zones).

So far, there have been no nasty surprises on the polluted site. The site is mostly clean but still needed a little more for residential use, and Emerson will be flipping the bill for that. The comment period on the draft runs through the 10th, and the DGEIS will be finalized on the 16th. According to the project website, developer Unchained Properties LLC hopes to start Phase I, the renovation of four on-site buildings (21, 24, 33 and 34) into mixed-use and manufacturing space, during summer 2015. The mixed-use was initially proposed as office space only; but the developer behind the LLC (David Lubin) has struggled to fill the proposed office space in his Harold Square project, and seems to realize that having less office space would be a better plan for Chain Works as well.

6. The Cornell Daily Sun is reporting that the owner of CTB (Collegetown Bagels) is buying the Rulloff’s property and reopening the restaurant after it abruptly closed over the Labor Day weekend. The property was on the market for $395,000, and it’s fair to say the price was probably close to that figure. The murderous Edward Rulloff lives on.





Collegetown Construction Updates, 11/2014

3 12 2014

Next stop, Collegetown.

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Over at 140 College Avenue, framing is underway on a 3,800 sq ft, 12-bedroom addition to the historic John Snaith House. The project is designed by local architect Jason Demarest and developed by Po Family Realty, a smaller Collegetown landlord.

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This house at 205 College Avenue seems confused. Before the extremely vivid paint job and mix-and-match additions, it looked like this, and a photo from January 2014, with the paint but without the additions, is included below. I really don’t know what to make of it. I dunno how long the Lowers have been sitting on permits for this one, but I didn’t see anything go through the city boards.

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News Tidbits 11/8/14: Getting the Word Out

8 11 2014

1. Let me start by acting all civic-minded and promote the public meeting INHS is hosting for the Neighborhood Pride site in the Northside neighborhood of the city. November 12th, 4:30-7:30 PM, inside the former grocery at 210 Hancock Street. As Jason at Ithaca Builds noted a few months back, this will likely be the largest development on the north side since the 1950s.

Here’s why your opinion is important. The site has walking access to many local venues, affordable housing is in very high demand, and the site as it currently stands is underutilized and an easy target for vandalism. INHS is looking to avoid a repeat of the battle that happened with Stone Quarry, and is actively engaging with the community to see what will and won’t mesh with neighbors. In theory (under zoning and given some assumptions), the site could host nearly 200 units of housing.  The city has already expressed a strong preference for an owner-occupied housing component, and the city comprehensive plan supports some small-scale commercial uses at the site, with higher-density residential. There have even been reports that the Sciencenter is interested in playing a role. So that’s the sort of framework here; how much housing, what proportion of renters vs. owners, and what sort of mixed uses if any.

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2. Well, this isn’t good – according to the Ithaca Journal, recent findings by Unchained Properties, the developer for the Chain Works District (a.k.a. the Emerson redevelopment), suggest the site is even more contaminated than previously thought. While the developer has said it remains committed to the project, I dread an Ithaca Gun repeat, where continually-worse pollution causes the project to grind to a standstill. According to the purchase agreement that Unchained Properties has with Emerson (which although it closed up shop in 2010, still owns the site), Emerson pays for all the remediation, which I suppose they’re okay with if it means getting rid of the site from their asset lists. A draft environmental impact statement is due for submission sometime after Christmas, with several city/town/developer meetings and discussions in the meanwhile.

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3. Now, I know everyone’s been complaining – we need more more suburban GeneriMerican chain restaurant boxes with ample parking. Your prayers have been answered! This time, the newcomer is DiBella’s, a chain sub sandwich restaurant based out of Rochester with about 43 locations scattered throughout six states in the Northeast and Midwest. Dibella’s “theme” is a vague 1930s/1940s look; the one near my office is just really dimly lit, reminiscent of my dead grandmother’s living room. Snark aside, the chain is looking to build a 3,400 sq ft building on an outparcel pad property at 222 Elmira Road – just north of Five Guys, and behind the Ithaca Shopping Plaza. Follows the “real estate guidelines” on Dibella’s website near-perfectly. Cover letter here, site plan review application here, more drawings and renders here, full environmental assessment form here. The application states that the construction cost will be about $600,000 and the time frame is from February to August 2015. They’ll need a BZA variance for lot coverage, which I don’t foresee being an issue. The plan is by NYC-based Marx Realty. It’s tax money, it’s “5+/-” jobs. Meh.

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4. Some minor revisions to 114 Catherine, new renders here. Compared to the previous iteration, it has a little more detailing on the concrete base, and they changed up the panes in those corner windows. here’s the traffic plan, which kinda just states that students have access to buses, bike racks, delivery space and a little parking in the rear, and their own two feet. This one’s pretty much good to go for approval.

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5. Friday the 7th, the county has another meeting to discuss the Old Library site, this one to finalize and release the actual RFP. For those interested in going tomorrow, it’s at 3 PM in the Heyman conference room at 125 East Court Street. I have a major concern here – the final choice on developer was supposed to be in March 2015. Now it’s January 2016. The county is putting an additional strain on all the proposals, because labor and material costs are increasing. This has the potential to remove desirable features from projects, or cause developers to simply walk away. The county was very fortunate to have six expressions of interest for the site; two have already walked away. If the county doesn’t get its act together or is perceived to be acting in bad faith, the potential is there for very few or no proposals when the due date comes in March 2015. It will be a very uncomfortable day for the legislature if that happens.

6. This could be interesting – according to the Times, the Maguire family (the ones with all the car dealerships) are proposing a new set of dealerships on the site of the current Rodeway Inn, south of the city on Rte. 13. The inn is looking to move to California (claiming the hotel boom is hurting his business) and the Maguires are proposing the following moves:

>Move sales of their Subaru-Hyundai, Fiat-Alfa Romeo, and Nissan dealerships — from Elmira Road out to the new site in the town. The site is currently vacant land, and the Economy and Rodeway Inns would be removed.

>relocate its Chevrolet Cadillac dealership from Lansing to southwest Ithaca city, where a new building would be built

>renovate its Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership in front of Wegmans.

It sounds like the only place losing business is Lansing. In a blend in all that is obnoxious and trendy in today’s planning, they’re calling it an “artisanal car dealership”. You sir, get a facepalm. Apparently, artisanal here means “modern architecture and a naturesque, university-style campus”. “Naturesque”. Another facepalm. Regardless of artisanal features, the project requires relocating the town’s proposed Saponi Meadows Park, and doesn’t fit with their comprehensive plan. Any movement on this will be slow (they tell the town they’re shooting for late 2015-2016 for a start date); but when those fancy artisanal renders come up, you’ll see copies of them here.





The Collegetown Boom Continues: The Plans for 302-306 College Avenue

30 10 2014

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I touched on this one in last week’s news updates, but now I have some images to go along with it. Plans brought forth by Avramis Real Estate and designed by Collegetown favorite Sharma Architecture show not one but two buildings, one 6 stories and one 4 stories. The sketch plan can be found here. The buildings are split up according to zoning – one occupies the 6-story MU-2 zone, the other the 4-story CR-4 zone. Neither requires parking, although a small amount is provided between the two structures.

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The buildings on the MU-2 portion consist of three older homes originally built around 1900-1920, and periodically updated to reflect a changing Collegetown, such as the bump-out in front of 306 College that houses Collegetown Liquor. Not exactly devoid of charm, but the alterations have been enough to compromise their historic value. These house 36 bedrooms.

The CR-4 portion has 4 homes, all late 1800s to early 1900s, and house 32 bedrooms. Once again, not without their charms, but pretty run down.

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The MU-2 building, called “304 College Avenue”, will house 64 apartments with 117 bedrooms. The CR-4 building will house 38 apartments with 85 bedrooms. So the site will see a net gain of 134 bedrooms (202-68).

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304 College almost doesn’t look like a Sharma to me.  The mosaic tiling is a feature that makes it stand out, although I personally am not the biggest fan. It’s boxy and bulky, but not offensive.

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Not much to say about the Catherine Street building, the design still has yet to be fully rendered. But it looks pretty standard for Jagat Sharma’s work, the Fontana Apartments or 211 Linden come to mind.








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