News Tidbits 6/27/15: A Bad week for YIMBYs

27 06 2015

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1. Starting this off with least controversial news-maker this week – John Novarr’s 209-215 Dryden Road project, which I wrote about for the Voice here and with site plan details and SPR/render links here. The first article’s a little helter-skelter as a write-up because there was a lot of frantic 11:30 PM fact-checking going on in an effort to get the news out.

The $12 million, 12,000 sq ft proposal is smaller than Collegetown Dryden, but more importantly, the project isn’t residential; it’s classroom and office space for Cornell’s MBA program, three floors for each of those uses. That definitely brings something different to Collegetown and its mostly residential focus. With assurances given that the property will be kept on the tax rolls, the initial opposition appears to mostly be related to the design, which to be honest, is rather avant-garde and an acquired taste (not one I’ve acquired, to be honest). However, bringing 200 staff and a few hundred professional students into Collegetown would be a real asset for businesses struggling to stay open amid the neighborhood’s 32/36-week profit window.

209-215 Dryden Road is within the MU-2 zoning from the looks of it, so a trip to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) seems unlikely at the moment. We’ll see what happens moving forward, this one could be a fairly smooth approvals process.

2. For a smaller developer, Ithaca-based Modern Living Rentals has been pretty busy this year. Along with 707 East Seneca Street and 902 Dryden, they have a modular duplex (3 bedrooms each, 6 total) currently under construction at 605 South Aurora Street in Ithaca city. A construction permit was issued back in 2014, according to the city planning report. The orientation is a little odd in that the new duplex is being built in front of the old home on the property, since the house is longitudinally centered but set back on its lot. Taking a guess, the intended market is likely IC students. The new units look like they’ll be ready for occupancy in time for the fall semester.

3. Here’s an interesting piece of news, courtesy of the Tompkins County Government Operations Committee – plans to sell a vacant lot to non-profit housing developer INHS. In its May minutes, the committee announced intent to sell a vacant, foreclosed parcel in Freeville for affordable housing. The property is described as a 1.72 acre parcel on Cook Street in the village, which through a little deductive searching, turns up the lot in the map above, just north of the Lehigh Crossing Senior Apartments. The minutes state that INHS is in the process of drafting up an acquisition offer for the county attorney.

Freeville is outside of INHS’s usual realm of Ithaca city and town, but INHS expanded its reach when it merged with its county equivalent, Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) last December.  This might be the first new rural project post-merger. The Lehigh Crossing Apartments have 24 units on 2.3 acres, so if INHS were to build at the same density, this site would be looking at something around 18 units. Not big, but not inconsequential, especially for a 520-person village.

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4. A decision to decrease sewer hookup costs in Lansing village also shares some details about a senior housing project in the works. The news comes from the Lansing Star, where the village voted to decrease its sewer hookup fee from $2,350 per unit to $1,000 for the first unit and $500 for each additional unit. Apparently the high fee was the result of the lack of a permitting process in the 1990s.

The article notes that the developer of a mixed-use request had requested a fee waiver because it would have cost $138,650 for their “59 units of senior housing”. Now it will be $30,000. Not as good as a waiver, but still pretty good. Lansing village only has one project that meets the description provided, the 87,500 sq ft Cinema Drive project covered here previously. The semi-educated guess back in May was 51 units, so the ballpark estimate wasn’t too shabby.

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5. It’s official, 327 Eddy is under construction. Asbestos removal has been completed and the Club Sudz building is coming down. The Fontanas hope to have the building completed and ready for occupancy by next August. In replacement of Club Sudz’ and Pixel’s 7 units and 2,500 sq ft of commercial space, the new 5-story building will bring 1,800 of retail space and 22 new units with 53 bedrooms to the market.

Eagle-eyed readers might recall the building was originally going to be six floors, but a floor was lopped off since it was approved.

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6. Updated renders for 215-221 West Spencer Street, coming right up. A little more detail on the facades, some window updates from the last version, and…well, honest personal opinion…it’s a very attractive design. Materials could underwhelm it, but as presented, it appears to be a lovely addition to South Hill. Good work STREAM Collaborative.

The 12-unit, 26-bed project plans to start construction next year. The project replaces an informal (dirt) parking lot.

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7. Touching on the Old Library decision briefly, a public meeting on the two proposals will be held Monday June 29th at 6:308:30pm at Greenstar’s “The Space” (700 West Buffalo Street). Douglas Sutherland will represent Franklin Properties (first image) and Frost Travis will be presenting for Travis Hyde. Should the County Legislature decide to take another vote to see if the stalemate will be broken, the next chance will be at their July 7th meeting.

EDIT: The public meeting scheduled for the 29th has been cancelled .

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8. Onto the thornier topics – Not sure what was worse this week, the reaction to the State Street Triangle project, or the INHS Hancock Street opposition. The objective, non-partisan write-up about the State Street project is on the Voice here. This and news piece #9 are opinion pieces, feel free to ignore them.

At least the State Street objections (latest renders here), I can understand the initial shock and recoil; there’s this perception that Ithaca is a small town, and this doesn’t jive with that. Regardless, by Ithaca standards it is massive, 11 stories with 289,000 sq ft of space and 620 bedrooms; if this was, say, a four-story building with an 11-story tower on the closest third to the Commons, the reaction would probably be less vitriolic (people would still hate it, but let’s entertain this thought exercise).

But that probably won’t happen. Not with this developer, or with any developer that purchases the Trebloc site. Here’s my theory why, and it goes a little more in-depth than “they want maximum profit”.

In December, Jason Fane’s 130 East Clinton project was rejected for tax abatements, and one of the reasons cited was that market-rate housing wasn’t enough of a community benefit. State Street Triangle is mostly apartments – it contains only a modest amount of retail space, with less than 13,000 sq ft it’s not even 5% of its usable space. If it were to apply for an abatement, it would likely be rejected for the same reason.

Arguably, they could try commercial office or even industrial “maker spaces”. But the market demand for office space doesn’t seem to be growing much, and industrial uses don’t tend to be a good fit in heavily populated areas. A developer could even try condos, but if developers knowledgeable with the area are hesitating, than a bank won’t hesitate to hold off on financing (aside on that – if the Old Library goes condo, other developers and financiers will view it as an experiment, or more positively, a pioneer; until it’s clear that the project is successful, don’t expect more condos in Ithaca).

However, nothing changes the fact that building downtown is quite expensive. So, being a for-profit company, if you want to build in an expensive area, you have two options to ensure return on your $40 million investment and get the construction loans you need – build as much as possible, and/or make your units as expensive as possible. If you’re a company that specializes in student housing, you’re not going to push the latter because there’s a lower ceiling on what students can afford. That would be my guess on how State Street Triangle came to be.

There are a few possibilities that might make the project more palatable to community members, such as free bus passes for tenants or a 10% affordable housing requirement within the tower (if the INHS project oppositions are any clue, this is going to be the only way to go from here on), but given the costs, those ideas just might kill the project completely. Which is exactly what some folks are looking for.

At the very least, let’s let the Planning Board do their work. If they can help change this:
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to this:

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Let’s see what they and the developer can negotiate here.

9. Now for 210 Hancock. Here is a project that’s been transparent, incredibly transparent, throughout their whole planning process. At first, there was little opposition. Now, it threatens the proposal, apartments, townhomes and all.

A wise man once told me in when I was preparing a piece, “There’s no point in talking about this with you, the public’s going to have issues with it either way”. At this point, I’m inclined to believe him.

I’ve read the petition, and I’ve read the facebook comments. It’s regrettable, to say the least.

A lot of the comments just seem to be misinformed. People saw the petition, thought that INHS was only building the apartments, and signed it. The petition was worded with charged and selective language. I’d like to take a few minutes out to refute and argue some of the commentary.

“there must be a safe place for children to play…”

“People need access to green space, yards and the ability to get outside directly from their living space.”

“I want my 3 year old to grow up in a neighborhood where he can safely ride a bike, play sports and walk his dog.”

You’re right. That’s why the project, as proposed by INHS and tweaked by the city Planning Board, builds a playground that blends into Conley Park without the threat of vehicular traffic (shown in the plan below). Adams Street and Lake Avenue would be removed, allowing kids living in the apartments and townhomes to go the playground without crossing any street.

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“I’m a lifelong resident, and I’m frankly getting tired of seeing all these areas getting bulldozed and developed…especially when we have dozens of empty/condemned houses and buildings just sitting around!”

The rental vacancy rate is 0.5%. A healthy market is 3-5%. Further to that, if there are dozens of homes, even if they were for sale, it’s still not enough to handle the demand, which is in the few thousands.

“inadequate parking planned.”

“The parking issue is already a problem. This will only make it worse.”

“I am a Fall Creek resident and do not want this area in our neighborhood to resemble Collegetown in density or difficulty in parking.”

84 parking spaces are required by zoning, 64 are proposed. However, only 22 spaces are expected to be used by the 53 apartments. In the parking study of INHS tenants, 41% of apartment tenants have 1 car, 12% of those have two. One of the reasons why INHS’s parking utilization is so low is that many of its apartments are rented by seniors – for example, Breckenridge Place is 60% seniors on fixed incomes. With limited mobility and/or income, many don’t maintain personal cars.

In a sense, although the Cornerstone project for affordable senior housing wasn’t selected by the Old Library site, the INHS project on Hancock Street may serve in some ways as a reasonable alternative.

“We don’t owe any developer a profit on their development.”

INHS is a non-profit community developer. The townhouses sold at Holly Creek over the past year were in the $105-$120k range. For comparison’s sake, the townhomes in the Belle Sherman Cottages sold for double that, and those aren’t even considered high-end (high-end would be the $410,000 townhomes in Lansing’s Woodland Park).

The reason why construction won’t start until Fall 2016/Fall 2017, with the apartments finishing up in Fall 2017/Fall 2018, is that they are completely reliant on government grants and donations from community supporters. The townhouses won’t start for a couple of years (their time frame is 2018-2020) because funding for purchasable units is more difficult to get. Just like with the condominium debate, the government is more likely to disburse a grant if it knows there are buyers waiting in the wings. And for low and moderate-income households, far more are capable of renting versus buying. As for the rent-to-own option suggested by the petition writer, it’s speculative, complicated, and NYS/federal HUD will not provide grants for that type of property acquisition. INHS couldn’t do it if they wanted to.

“[need]assurance mixed income will be there”

It will. As I wrote in March:

“210 Hancock will have 53 apartments – the 3 bedrooms have been eliminated and split into 1 and 2 bedroom units, so the number of units has gone up but the total number of bedrooms remains the same (64). The units are targeted towards renters making 48-80% of annual median income (AMI). The AMI given is $59,150 for a one-bedroom and $71,000 for a two-bedroom. The one-bedroom units will be rent for $700-1,000/month to those making $29,600-$41,600, and the two-bedroom units will rent for $835-$1300/month to individuals making $34,720-$53,720. Three of the units will be fully handicap adapted.”

“A 54 apartment high-rise is not the appropriate place for children to grow up, low income or not.”

“It is too dense and not suited to Fall Creek or Northside.”

“I moved to Ithaca and settled in Fall Creek to live in a small town.”

For starters, it’s harder to make housing affordable if there are fewer units on the a plot of land. Secondly, because the INHS project takes lead on the city’s right-of-way (ROW) on Lake Avenue and Adams Street, the calculated density per acre is 23.6 units per acre. Cascadilla Green, one block to the north, is 20 units per acre. Also note that units are 1 and 2 bedrooms per unit; most of the houses on blocks in Northside and Fall Creek are 3 bedrooms per unit.

What probably bothers me the most are some of the comments in the online petition for INHS.

“Shame on you “Ithaca Neighborhood Housing” for even thinking of creating something that will breed trouble…”

“This is an uncivilized proposal…”

“if all on welfare, this will invite crime…”

One of the reasons I harp on affordable housing is that I grew up in affordable housing. This 147-unit mixed-income complex in suburban Syracuse. Apartment 28E. I shared a bed with one of my brothers until I was 10, and even after my mother was finally able to buy a small ranch house, we shared a bedroom until he graduated and went to college two years before I did (by that point, we had moved on up to bunk beds). My mother did what she could. We were never more than working class, but she worked hard (still does) and made sure her kids worked hard.

At least some of the comments are kind enough to be “I want affordable housing but”. Others really make it sound like that those in need of affordable housing are a contamination of the community. Those statements aren’t worth debating. They’re just hurtful.

Anyway, this might be the longest news update I’ve done, so I’m going to wrap this up and detach from the computer for a while. There may or may not be a photo update Monday night, we’ll see.





News Tidbits 6/13/15: Things that make you go Hmm

13 06 2015

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1. We’ll start this week’s round-up with the 800-pound gorilla in the room – the Old Library decision. The general, non-partisan rundown can be found in the article I did for the Voice. Rather than rehash that, I’ll give my own thoughts and opinions here.
In what should be no surprise to anyone, there’s a lot of acrimony flying around. The unavoidable problem here is that everyone has a different expectation for the site. To be honest, I was a little surprised that the Travis Hyde proposal was the winner. The Cornerstone and Franklin proposals were running about even when it came to public sentiment – many of the Voice commenters were stressing the need for affordable senior housing, just like the county did in the RFEI. Others used online petitions to push for the condos and saving the old library, but I personally felt that that was always going to be a stretch simply because the condos are a double-edged sword; they’re a needed commodity, but that “air of elitism” associated with the sale of a public asset for high-end homes would hound the legislators all the way to the voting booth.

The truth is, the RFP was designed to be unattainable, and I called it out for that last fall. There was no way a project was going to incorporate all the things it requested. Franklin couldn’t renovate the building and make their units at the affordable level. Cornerstone was able to make their units affordable but wasn’t as environmentally friendly as the others (it also requested a large PILOT). And I guess Travis Hyde was in the middle. Which on that 0-5 scale they used to score the projects, gives a simplified sort of 5-0 (2.5), 0-5 (2.5), 3-3 (3). With unrealistic expectations, of course the legislators were going to be disappointed, and they set up everyone else to be disappointed too. But the thought of holding onto a vacant building with its mechanical systems at the end of their useful lives, ready to put the county on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs, is probably the worst option out there.

TL;DR: There was going to a large contingent angry with the legislature’s decision, whatever it was. It’s times like this I wonder if the county should’ve just sold the site to the highest bidder.

Just for the record, because the three proposals were so different, and I thought all of three of them were good community assets, I honestly didn’t have a favorite. I had a slight preference towards DPI early on, but when they dropped out I became neutral about the whole process. But it’s only the Franklin supporters that are accusing me of subversively undermining them in the Voice write-ups, and it’s making me really cold to their cause.

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2. From the Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) agenda, more talk this week about removing the setbacks from Nate’s Floral Estates (more on that in a moment), and a Memorandum of Understanding that both the city and Cornell will be chipping in $100k from their affordable housing funds to help finance INHS’s 210 Hancock affordable housing project (specifically, the 53 apartments – the 12 for-sale townhomes are being financed separately).

As covered by Jeff in the Voice, concerns have been raised that the site is unfit for new development due to the possibility of environmental contamination. Nate’s is partially on the site of the old city landfill, and has been for 40 years. But concerns raised by Ithaca city councilwoman Cynthia Brock, Ithaca town board member Rich DePaolo, and environmental activist Walter Hang have tabled the zoning change for now until the Department of Health can re-review their previous correspondence on the park’s expansion and determine if the extra 30 feet is safe to build on. The expansion may still happen, and we’ll just have to wait on the DOH’s decision before any zoning changes move forward.

On a separate note, there’s this line from the March minutes, which are rolled into the agenda for approval:

Alderperson Brock would like to see an increase in owner-occupied housing in the City. She does agree that affordable housing is needed, but the need is for “for sale” housing.

The last I checked, Ithaca is the 11th most expensive city in the country for rents as a proportion of income. The city needs affordable housing, for-sale housing, and affordable for-sale housing.

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3. Fresh renders of the Tompkins Financial HQ. This one’s had some pretty substantial revisions from the initial bland brick box. A little more character and a more varied use of materials. More drawings here, cover letter here. This project’s just scooting right along, the applicants hope to have preliminary site approval granted at the June 23rd Planning and Development Board meeting. Construction is now expected to start in August and wrap up in February 2017.

A traffic study conducted by SRF Associates of Rochester determined that with only 20 employees moving from the suburbs into downtown, that the impact to the vehicular traffic on East Seneca (thousands of cars per day) will be negligible. A long-term increase in traffic is likely if other entities move into the rented space TFC vacates, but that’s well outside the scope of a traffic study.

The initial work calls for site clearing, demo of the existing drive-thru branch on site, then excavation down to the first sub-floor, thenceforth pile driving shall commence. It’s anticipated the sandy soils will make the pile-driving move along faster, but the other buildings nearby will necessitate temporary support installations during the excavation process.

On a related note, Tompkins Financial has filed an application with the IDA for a 10-year tax abatement. The application for the $35 million project (of which $28 million is for construction of the new building) states that the requested abatement would save the project $4.06 million in property taxes, and $2.112 million in sales taxes. New taxes generated and paid over the same time period would equal $3.782 million.

In the application, TFC states that it would be a few million dollars cheaper to build at “a generic rural site”, and in order to make downtown headquarters more financially acceptable, they decided to apply for tax breaks.

The application only suggests 6 new jobs over the next three years, paying $37k-$84k annually. Given previous estimates of 77 new jobs over 10 years, this lack of major job growth early on forces the later years to pick up the slack.

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Of course, we also have a render of the new drive-thru across the street, which is nice but not nearly as exciting.

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4. Sometimes I feel like I should do a random house of the week feature. Here we have a modular home being built on the 200 Block of Eastern Heights Drive in the town of Ithaca. It looks nearly finished at this point; permits for the home were filed back in March, so this one seems to have followed a normal building schedule with no major hangups.

Some modular homes are done on the cheap and look the part; others, like the Belle Sherman Cottages, do a great job with the finishes. This one may not look as great the Belle Sherman project, but it looks like a decent infill home for the Eastern Heights neighborhood. And it has great views to boot.

5. According to the town of Ithaca’s May 11th minutes, a developer has expressed interest in buying fire Station No. 9 at 309 College Avenue in Collegetown. An appraisal has been done and the City has hired a consultant to look into it. Fire Station No. 9 was built in 1968 to replace the original station, which is now The Nines. It sits in Collegetown’s densest zone, MU-2, so a potential replacement could be six floors with no parking requirement. There’s a lot to be looked at here, especially with the potential public safety impacts. But it’s something worth paying attention to over the next several months.

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6. It’s unusual in Ithaca to see real estate advertisements posted with speculative commercial build-out plans. The above computer drawing is from the online posting for the sale of 120-140 Brindley Street in the West End. The three smaller buildings already exist – the “Aeroplane Factory” on the right and the other two properties comprise ~18,000 sq ft of flex office space. The drawing also shows an unbuilt 3-story office building; I don’t know how serious plans were for it, but it’s probably just conceptual. The real estate ad itself notes that a live/work building is possible, as well as a 6-story building of 25,000 sq ft.  The 2.38 acre site’s for sale for $2.79 million.





140 College Avenue Construction Update, 6/2015

11 06 2015

Just up the street from 114 Catherine and a couple blocks from 202 Eddy is 140 College Avenue, also known as the John Snaith House. Since last fall, work has been underway on a 3,800 sq ft, 12-bedroom addition to the 1874 structure.

John Snaith was an English builder, stone cutter and architect who came to Ithaca in 1869 to do work on Ezra Cornell’s Llenroc mansion (under construction at the time) and other buildings for the nascent university. Snaith lived in Ithaca for over a decade. He built the original Ithaca High School (destroyed by fire in 1912) and did work on the Sage Mansion, where he was fired by the ever-impatient Henry Sage.

After Snaith moved to Albany, the house was used as a boarding house, a B&B in the 1980s, and a private single-family home. The house was rented out to a landlady and her boarders when it was partially destroyed by fire in 1894. Snaith rebuilt the home shortly before his passing in 1896, but redesigned the top floor with mansard trusses and added dormer windows. Today, it’s student-oriented housing.

The addition is a sympathetic design approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (the house was designated a historic structure in 2011), separated from the original house by a glass “hyphen” connector. In the photos below, the exterior work is virtually complete, with the lap siding fully installed, as are all the windows and doors. Interior finishing is seemingly all that is left. This one should be ready for its first 12 occupants shortly. As someone who had reservations about the addition, I will admit that it came out nice.

The project is designed by local architect Jason Demarest and developed by Po Family Realty, a smaller Collegetown landlord.

None of the larger projects in Collegetown are underway just yet. Hopefully in the next few months we’ll see work start at 307 College (96 beds), 327 Eddy (64 beds) and 205 Dryden (40 beds), and Collegetown Terrace is expected to start construction of its 300+ bed phase III this year. A quick check of the neighborhood showed that construction has not yet started on a 6-bedroom duplex planned behind 424 Dryden.

Then of course, we have Novarr’s demolition work on the 200 Block of Dryden Avenue. Once demolition is complete, the site will remain empty until whatever he proposes is approved and financed.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update, 6/2015

10 06 2015

Workers have been busy at the site of 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. On Friday, a flatbed truck was parked just off-site, delivering the roof gables for the 3-story, 17-bedroom apartment building. Framing for the structure is actively underway, with recently-created rough openings showing the position of the windows and doors in the new 3-unit structure.

The architect behind this project is local architectural firm Jagat Sharma, and he building is being developed by Ithacan Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for the replacement of a parking lot with a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. Building loan documents filed with the county establish the construction costs to be $1.3 million.

If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed in time for Cornell’s fall semester.

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202 Eddy Street Construction Update, 6/2015

9 06 2015

Work is progressing at 202 Eddy Street in Collegetown, where a reconstruction is underway to replace a historic building destroyed by fire in March 2014. Owner/developer Nick Lambrou announced plans to rebuild on the site shortly after the fire, with every intent of capturing the original home’s character. Being a part of the East Hill Historic District, the design of the replacement structure had to be approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC). After thorough review, the ILPC approved plans for a new 12-bedroom apartment building that completely replaces the fire-damaged building.

The new structure is a faithful interpretation of the original building, though it’s not an exact copy. An entrance door was repositioned, exterior emergency stairs will be internalized, and a chimney will not be rebuilt, but otherwise, its a close approximation of the original 19th century home. The architect is Ithaca-based Jagat Sharma, who has previous experience from the reconstruction of Sigma Pi’s house when it burnt down in 1995.

In these photos from Friday, most of the windows at least one of the doors have been fitted, and the exterior plywood is sheathed in Tyvek. The third floor, with its distinctive cupola, gives us a preview of the trim and siding – HardiePlank lap siding and half-round shingle siding, both in shades of green reminiscent of the original house, and “Arctic White” trim boards. Looking through the third floor window, there might be some drywall hanging underway, and judging from the first floor rough door opening, the interior lower floors may still be rough-ins phase.

202 Eddy is on the agenda this month by the ILPC; the council will conduct an inspection of materials just to make sure all is in good order, and as a prerequisite for issuing a Certificate of Appropriateness in July.

County records indicate the cost of construction is estimated at $750,000. Plans call for the new building to be completed and ready for occupancy by August, in time for the fall 2015 semester.

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707 East Seneca Street Construction Update, 6/2015

8 06 2015

In and near the Collegetown neighborhood, several smaller construction projects are currently underway. One of those is 707 East Seneca, an urban infill project in the East Hill Historic District. Since the project was located in a historic district, the design had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board, and the zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals were granted.

The design of the 3-story building is intended to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the site. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) in summer 2014, and the vacant lot was sold for $130,000 last December. A building loan agreement filed with the county last Friday estimates the total “hard” construction cost for the building at $752,350. Hard construction costs leave out legal fees, permit fees, and other costs not directly related to construction.

When completed, the apartment building will have 6 units and 18 bedrooms. Four garage parking units will be located under the building and tucked into the hillside, in addition to five surface parking spaces. The building is expected to be completed before students return this August.

Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

In these photos taken last Friday, it appears that the building has been faced with plywood, topped out to its final storey and roofed. The exterior walls have been almost fully wrapped with Tyvek water barrier wrap. Some interior framing can be seen from the outside.

The design of the building is by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, and the developer is Ithacan Todd Fox.

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News Tidbits 5/23: Cast A Discerning Eye

23 05 2015

1. Starting off this week’s round-up, here are some new renders of PPM Homes’s apartment project proposed for 215-221 West Spencer Street just south of downtown.

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Note that C & D are the same design, but mirrored. The general forms are pretty much the same as the original sketch plan, but the porch and windows have been altered and the rooflines have been tweaked on A and B to give the Spencer Street facade a little more visual interest.

The 12-unit, 4-building project is being described as a “pocket neighborhood”. The two upper buildings closest to West Cayuga will have three two-bedroom units here, and the lower buildings facing West Spencer have a combined four two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units, for a total of 26 bedrooms in the project. 12 parking spaces are provided as required by zoning. The owner is looking into remote net-metering of an off-site solar panel installation to provide all of the project’s electricity needs. The site will launch into the formal planning board review process next month.

The steeply-sloped 0.47 acre parcel has been vacant for several years, and currently sees use as an informal 12-space parking lot. The property was originally marketed for affordable housing projects only, but received no purchase bids. Once the affordable stipulation was removed, the parcel was marketed once again, and Ed Cope bought the parcel for $110,000 on March 6th.

The building designs are the work of local architect Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative.

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Random aside, I just found out that PPM’s Ed Cope is a Cornell biologist. And here I thought writing this blog and being an air quality scientist was an interesting contrast.

2. There might have been a day in not-too-distant past where someone said, “You know what Ithaca needs? Mini-golf.” Apparently someone heard those wishes. the Town of Ithaca’s Planning Committee will be looking at a possible zoning modification down near the intersection of Elmira Road and Seven Mile Drive that would allow a mini-gold establishment to move forward.

Stretching my memory here a bit, I seem to recall a mini-golf place up by Trumansburg, but if my google search is any indication, it closed a couple of years ago. I suppose there’s a niche to be filled.

Now comes the question of, “Does this fit with the town’s new Comprehensive Plan?” Here’s the description the town proposes for the Inlet Valley Gateway, including the area in question:

The Inlet Valley Gateway district is intended to be a setting for a mix of office, small-scale retail, hospitality, and tourism and agritourism uses, with low-impact light industrial, artisanal industrial, and skilled trade uses.
The scale, architecture and landscaping of future development will need to be carefully designed and articulated.

This area should retain a semi-rural character, with deep setbacks from arterial streets, wide spacing between uses, landscaped front yards, and vehicle parking sited on the side and/or rear of structures. Shared curb cuts will reduce potential conflicts with highway traffic. Sidewalks should follow streets, with connections to adjacent areas planned for residential development. Architectural design, landscaping, and site planning regulations should apply to all uses in this area, including industrial uses. Agglomeration of mechanical commercial uses, and incremental expansion of commercial zoning resulting in strip commercial development, will be strongly discouraged.

It sounds like that if the site is designed right, it could be a good fit. Probably a better fit than the Maguire’s dealership/HQ plan that was shelved a few months ago.

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3. Here’s a couple of photos of the new duplex being built at 514 Linn Street. Each unit will be 3 bedrooms, and the apartments will be completed this summer. The building is being built on the foundation of the previous home that existed on the site, which dated from the late 1800s and was a near-copy of the peach-colored house next door. 514 Linn is being developed by the Stavropoulos family, who run the State Street Diner.

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4. In an effort to win over the city, Texas Roadhouse is tweaking their proposed restaurant off of S. Meadow/13. Latest render here. Members of the planning board have previously expressed concerns that the original design had the entrance facing northward into the parking lot rather than the street, and that not enough attention was being placed on the street-facing west side. If the render is any indicator, the modified proposal still has a primary entrance on the north side of the building, but the street-facing side has a handicapped entryway, and the landscaping has been spruced up. Dunno if it’s what the board quite wanted, but they’ll decide if it’s good enough during their meeting next week.

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5. Looks like Pat Kraft’s Dryden South project (205 Dryden) has a website up and running. The 10-unit, 40 bedroom project will start site clearing in a few weeks, with excavation/foundation work going through the summer (according to an interview conducted by the Sun, Kraft hopes to have structural steel rising by the time students get back in late August). The 6-story, 65′ building will house Kraftee’s on its first floor, with two units of four bedrooms each on each floor above. units will be available for rent starting next August.

Dryden_south_2009_sketch

A neat little detail from the site is this old conceptual sketch done by Jagat Sharma for the site. Note the April 2009 date at lower right; this project has been in the planning stages for years, even though it only hit the Planning Board last Spring. On a personal note, I’m glad this hulking box didn’t end up being the final design.

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6. For those interested in what’s going on with Simeon’s, here’s an updated sketch design of the rebuild, courtesy of the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC). The somewhat controversial side balcony/overhang is gone. About the only major difference between the original entrance and the rebuild is the location of the front door, which is now on the left (west) side instead of being in the center.

7.. Looks to be a quieter meeting for the planning board this month. No new sketch plans, and only one project, Texas Roadhouse, is being considered for approval. Here’s what’s up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting:

IA. A minor subdivision to create a new home lot a 212 Hook Place on West Hill.

IB. A minor subdivision to divide a property on Hector Street on West Hill. The sisters applying for the subdivision are splitting the land among themselves but intend to keep both lots “Forever Wild”.

IIA. 210 Hancock gets its public hearing and possibly its Determination of Environmental Significance (which if okayed means that the project can be considered for prelim approval in June). I’m hearing there might be opposition mobilizing against the project. Given how transparent the whole design process has been, and that this is affordable housing in an urban area that struggles with housing costs, I’m going to be very, very disappointed if this happens.

B. Texas Roadhouse is up for Determination of Env. Signif. and possible Prelim/Final Site Plan Approval

C. Tompkins Financial’s new HQ will be reviewing parts of its Environmental Assessment Forms; no decisions expected

D. Declaration of Lead Agency (Planning Board agrees to conduct review) for the Maguire Fiat addition.

The board will also be conducting a review of State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) forms used in determining environmental significance.








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