Hotel Ithaca Construction Update, 8/2016

30 08 2016

In case you missed it, I did an interview with owner/developer David Hart of Hart Hotels, which can be found on the Voice here. Here’s some of the material that didn’t make the final cut.

Q: So, let’s start with a little about you. Hart Hotels is family operation, yes?

DH: My dad was the founder of our company, my sisters and I have followed him as principals. But we have non-family members who have been with us for a long time that have been a driving force. This is our 30th year in business.

Q: This is actually the second phase, right? There was a modernization and renovation already completed in the lobby and hotel area, if my notes are right.

DH: The 61 rooms in the hotel tower, we renovated down to the studs. The main building above the lobby has another 19 rooms, original 1970s guestrooms, we renovated to the studs as well, a little over a year ago. Now we’re into phase 2, which is new construction, and some more renovations.

Q: I believe plans filed with this plan have a third phase, right? One that considers the possibility of a three-story hotel addition on the wing going up now, and a conference center?

DH: Nothing planned or approved right now.

Q: Further on that topic, some folks have expressed concerns that [the hotel boom] is not economically sustainable. A sort of fear of a hotel bust to follow the hotel boom. What would you say to address those concerns?

DH: One of the things that we’re lacking is a large format meeting space, a type of conference center. It’s unusual for a city the size of Ithaca to not have its own meeting space, so part of our overall market preference is inhibited by not having that space. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for demand to outstrip supply on many weekends in Tompkins County or downtown Ithaca, so I don’t see the problem of oversupply on most Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year. So Sunday-Thursday business is where the boat needs to be lifted a little bit, especially with all the new rooms. Our meeting space will help that a little bit.

Q: As a major hotel operator, what would you say are the biggest advantages to being in Ithaca and specifically, downtown Ithaca, and what are the biggest challenges? What opportunities do you see over the next years? Where do see the Hotel Ithaca, in say, five years from now?

DH: Some of the hurdles are the seasonality, the winter vs. summer. The Finger Lakes are a popular destination, but the seasonality is harsher when the schools are out of session, we’re reliant on the interest the schools and colleges generate. Cornell and Ithaca College bring a lot of business to us. Sports, scholastic events, meetings, they drive a lot of demand from the routine list of activities in the school calendar. This is a strong region for hospitality, we’ve been in the Ithaca area for a while, the region continues to grow in popularity with the wineries, the cheesemakers, the distillers and craft beer-makers, those are all part of the things we have to sell and market and promote. And lake activity and recreation is also a part of our overall marketing and selling of the region. That translates to hotel room demand.

…In terms of expansions, sites in downtown are hard to come by and expensive, so I don’t know how much more new supply there will be downtown. If you look at 13, there have been new hotels, they’re fringe, limited-service, so we might see some growth out there, but there are a fair number of rooms and brands there so I don’t know how much more they can grow….

We want to be ready for graduation, have the building closed up by winter. The frame is being assembled offsite.

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409 College Avenue (Student Agencies eHub) Construction Update, 8/2016

26 08 2016

The Student Agencies Building at 409 College Avenue has received its new glass curtain wall. The glazing seems to have just arrived judging from the brackets. New windows have yet to be installed in the center column, and there’s still other work on the exterior to-do list, such as the etched glass railing for the second-floor balcony, the brise soleil, and minor trim work.

Note that the top (fourth) floor appears to have also been redone. This was not in any of the renders, although the Planning Board’s Design Review panel probably had to sign off on it. It’s likely that this is one of the reasons why the renovation work has gone on longer than anticipated.

STREAM Collaborative is the architect, and on their website are some interior renders of the new eHub co-working space. A couple shots are embedded below, but more can be found on STREAM’s website here. Morse Construction Management is the general contractor.

EDIT: I asked STREAM’s Noah Demarest if the fourth floor was a last minute change. “Yes. Last minute change due to the facade being in far worse condition than we thought. It is completely rebuilt. We have technical drawings we submitted to staff but never updated the renders.”

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205 Dryden (Dryden South) Construction Update, 8/2016

25 08 2016

There will probably be one last follow-up group of photos. The exterior masonry work is ongoing, but according to owner/developer Patrick Kraft, the development team (Kraft, general contractor LeChase Construction, architect Jagat Sharma, etc.) is shooting for a Labor Day weekend completion. The ruminations and before/after photos can wait until that time. Meanwhile, the apartment units are occupied and the safety systems (fire alarm/sprinkler) are online.

The Cornell Daily Sun is reporting that the suites are occupied although there’s still some last-minute finishing work like painting, trim and custom window dressings. Common spaces such as the gym also have yet to be finished, according to 14850.com.

A quick glance shows that precast panels and AC units are being installed on the front of the building, while the back side appears to be completed. The steel rails between the rows of windows serve as heavy-duty anchors for the panels. The glass entryway for the first-floor retail space is still covered with plywood for the moment. No tenant has been announced for the 2,400 SF space, although Kraft hopes to land someone that will complement the Johnson School building going up next door.

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209-215 Dryden Road Construction Update, 08/2016

23 08 2016

Structural steel is rising at 209-215 Dryden Road, the site of the new Breazzano Family Center for Executive Education. In the past month, the steel frame has been built out to street-level and decking is being attached to what will be the ground floor. A 90-seat tiered classroom will be in the basement below the decking, and a second 90-seat tiered classroom will be built on top of the decking. In the third-to-last photo, you can see a large open space between the steel columns, which is where the building’s four-story atrium will be. Those steel columns next to Dryden South (205 Dryden) really are as close as they look – the finished walls of the buildings will be separated by just two inches.

Like much of Collegetown, the project hasn’t been without its problems. A construction worker was injured last month when his leg was pinned against a concrete form. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound like the injury was too serious.

The six-story, 76,200 SF building is expected to open in summer 2017. Given the issues surrounding and delaying 201 College Avenue, this might be the only major building opening in inner Collegetown next year. About 200 Cornell staff will occupy the fourth through sixth floors at opening, and 350-400 Executive MBA students will attend week-long instruction sessions in the building during off-season academic periods (summer intercession and winter break).

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Village Solars Construction Update, 8/2016

23 08 2016

Continuing to take photos during a pouring rain is not one of my wiser choices.

The Village Solars project in the town of Lansing continues its forward march. Phase II, which consisted of three buildings (D, E, G/H) and 41 units, has been completed and has welcomed its first tenants. Skipping over Phase IIA’s mixed-use building (F), construction is underway on Phase III and its two 18-unit buildings. Building “I” is the one further along, the foundation poured and the first floor framed out and sheathed in Croft Lumber housewrap. Building “J” is a little farther behind, with excavation and concrete forms still being used to hold the pours in place. Once the foundation walls are complete, the slab will be poured, left to cure, and if the cured concrete is satisfactory, then wood frame construction can begin. Construction of “I” began after “D” was completed in May, and “J” looks to have started work as “E” and “G/H” wrapped up more recently in June and July.

The Village Solars project appears to have inspired a similar project in the Albany suburb of Latham, consisting of an office building and two buildings with 21 apartment units. According to the Lucentes (the family that runs Lifestyle Properties and the developers of the Village Solars), the president of Sunrise Management is an old family friend, so the inspiration isn’t as unusual as it looks at first glance.

Expect buildings “I” and “J” to be ready late next spring or summer. Phase IIA is an unknown, and Phase IV and its 3 buildings/51 units will probably be on a 2017-18 construction timeframe. Long-term plans call for a second set of phases that would result in another 140 or so units, for a total of over 300.

According to Lifestyle Properties’ facebook page, there a few units left in the current build-out: a one-bedroom at $1105/month, some two-bedroom units starting at $1275/month, and three-bedroom units starting at $1580/month.

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News Tidbits 8/20/16: Another Campus Coming?

20 08 2016

Fairly quiet week, but still a few things going on-

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1. The Journal’s Nick Reynolds followed up on the pile-driving underway at the 210 Hancock site in Ithaca’s North Side neighborhood. Admittedly, no one wants to live next to a site while hearing and feeling the bang of the pile-driver against the piles being inserted into the ground. Thankfully, this phase of the affordable housing project should be wrapped up by the end of the month. Lecesse Construction’s subcontractor, Ferraro Piling and Shoring of rural Erie County, is inserting 10-15 piles per day between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM, and about 170 piles will be used in the project. Not fun for the neighbors, but this too shall pass.

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2. The town of Ithaca’s planning board had their close look at the Sleep Inn proposal for Elmira Road. They were not impressed. The primary complaints were that it was a one-sided design (meaning the front received significantly more cosmetic attention than the rear and sides), that it was big and that it was ugly.

The architect of the 70-room hotel, Joe Turnowchyk of HEX 9 Architects, responded with “all corporate hotels are basically ugly”, which isn’t the kind of response that will be well-received. It was followed with “[He thinks] that if they’re going to put more money into the front of the building, they shouldn’t need to address the rear”, which isn’t a good response either, because the rear faces the Black Diamond Trail.

Outsider looking in, one interpretation of the board’s commentary is that the stone and brick is fine, but they want less of a slab and more articulation – the recently-opened 64-room Best Western Plus in Cortlandville comes to mind. The massing is broken up, and architectural details and brickwork add visual interest, giving it aesthetic appeal even though the road is 40 or 45 MPH over there. The minutes note a comparison to an Arizona Sleep Inn to show what can be done with Choice Hotels brands. Anyway, the decision was tabled, with a revised design presentation planned for a September meeting.

3. New to the market this week – a duplex and five-unit mobile home park in Varna being marketed for “development potential”. The site is a one acre parcel at 10 Freese Road in Varna, touted as “perfect for townhouses or apartments”. Since the late 1980s, the “Wayside Mobile Home Park” has been the property of Ithaca attorney Ray Schlather, who was an ardent opponent of West End density and waterfront rezoning a few years back.

Zoning is Varna Hamlet Traditional District (VHTD), and it gets a little weird density-wise – per the guidelines, and being one acre, a developer could do four single-family homes, six townhouses, six condos, or three rental apartments, max 30% lot coverage. If LEED Certified, add 2 S-F homes, 2 townhouses, 1 condo, or 4 apartment units respectively. Lastly, there’s a redevelopment bonus, which honestly appears to be at the town’s discretion. If awarded, add another home, 2 townhouses, condo or 4 apartments. So in theory, max build-out for a green redevelopment is either 7 single-family houses, 10 townhouses, eight condos or eleven rental apartments on that acre of land. No idea what happens if they’re combos thereof.

Anyway, the property is being offered at $219,000, just a little over the $192,500 tax assessment.

4. So this is intriguing – the city of Ithaca Common Council will be taking a vote next Wednesday to take $150,000 from the $500,000 Capital Project fund to relocate and build a new Fire station #9, and fund two consolidation studies. One would consolidate the city hall, the Central Fire Station, Station No. 9, and Police HQ into a government campus at the site of the Central Fire Station at 310 West Green Street; the second is to study a centralized facility shared by water/sewer and streets/facilities. There’s a lot that need to be considered as part of the government campus study, which would likely involve buying neighboring properties, or building skyward. Also worth noting, the fire station parking lot is part of the Downtown West historic district. Anyway, look for a lot more discussion if the money is awarded and the study gets underway.

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5. This week’s eye candy. Folks on Orchard Place asked for more detailed renders of the proposed two-family home at 123 Eddy Street, and here they are. Medium yellow Hardie board with white trim was the original plan. It appears that after the original drawing was submitted, the roof was realigned and one of the west-facing (front) second-floor windows was removed.

Note that this is just the planning board lot subdivision approval – although a single two-family home is typically too small to trigger planning board’s site plan review qualifications, the design still has to be approved by the ILPC and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

6. Case in point – If you live in Fall Creek, you might notice a new two-family house in the coming months. The Stavropoulos family, owners of the State Street Diner, just purchased the house for sale at 1001 North Aurora Street (above asking price, which is, for better or worse, quite common in Fall Creek) and plans to replace it with a duplex. Tompkins Trust gave them a $400,000 construction loan on the 18th. It’s a little different from the Stavropoulos’ typical M.O., which is to buy an existing house and do major renovations, as they did at 318-320 Pleasant Street and 514 Linn Street. This one looks like it will be a completely new build. No BZA, ILPC or Planning Board approval is required here, just staff level approval from the city.

7. Somewhat interesting Planning Board meeting next Tuesday. Here’s what in the bullpen:

1. Agenda Review 6:00
2. Privilege of the Floor 6:01
3. Subdivision Review 6:20

A. 123 & 125 Eddy St. (shown above)
Applicant: Nick Lambrou
Actions: Declaration of Lead Agency PUBLIC HEARING Determination of Environmental Significance Recommendation to BZA

4. Site Plan Review 6:40
A. Project: Mixed-Use Building (Harold’s Square)
Location: 123-139 E. State St. (The Commons)
Applicant: David Lubin for L Enterprises, LLC
Actions: Consideration of Project Changes

So I wrote about these changes for the Voice. The Planning Board resolution calls for modifications to the new design. The board mandates glass block for the elevator shaft on the north and lower west facades, restoration of the terra cotta cap and vertical bands on the Commons-facing facade, and restoring a deleted window from the East facade above the Sage Building. Could really used some updated renders right about now.

B. Project: Mixed-Use Building — Collegetown Crossing 6:55
Location: 307 College Ave.
Applicant: Scott Whitham for
Actions: Consideration of Project Changes (Landscape)

Project Description: Some slight tweaks here to the pedestrian walkway, mostly changes “simplifying and altering materials for the landscape”. The curvy benches are now straight, and the trees were eliminated in favor of shrubs because of concerns of branches extending onto the fire station’s property.

C. Project: Apartment Building 7:05
Location: 201 College Ave.
Applicant: Noah Demarest, STREAM Collaborative, for Visum Development Group
Actions: Consideration of Amended Negative Declaration of Environmental Significance, Request for Zoning Interpretation & Appeal Consideration of Final Site Plan Approval

Dunno what to say about this one at this point, since this is unfamiliar territory for everyone involved. We’ll see what happens.

D. SKETCH PLAN: 607 S. Aurora St. 7:35

The new project of the month is for 607 South Aurora Street on South Hill. It’s a single-family home on a 0.7 acre lot owned by Lou Cassaniti, the hot dog vendor on the Commons, but rumor mill says the applicant is Charlie O’Connor of Modern Living Rentals. Zoning is R-2a, which is detached single-family and duplex. Semi-educated guess, given lot size, zoning and rumored developer, the plans are small-scale infill, maybe subdividing the existing lot to build a duplex or two.

4. Zoning Appeals 7:50

5. Old/New Business 7:55

A. Chain Works District Redevelopment Project DGEIS: Special Planning Board Meeting, August 30, 2016, 6:00 p.m. to Review Comments/Responses
B. Maguire/Carpenter Business Park Temp. Mandatory Planned Unit Development (PUD): Public Information Session, Wednesday, August 31, 2016, 6:00 p.m., Common Council Chambers





Upson Hall Construction Update, 7/2016

1 08 2016

There are two different facade installations going on here – the terracotta, and the aluminum. For the terracotta, the process goes like this. First, we have the gypsum sheathing, coated with a turquoise-colored water-resistive barrier. The ends of the aluminum clips are installed onto the sheathing, and then mineral wool insulation is attached between the clip. Then, the rest of the aluminum clip is attached over the mineral wool. From there, terracotta panels are hung up and secured to the clips. The aluminum window surrounds don’t need this type of work, so the panels are just hung as-is over the sheathing.

According to Cornell’s Upson Hall webpage, Phase I is nearing completion at this point. That means that floors 3, 4 and 5 are nearly finished inside and out, and work will shift towards the basement, the first and second floor. Some work has already been done in the basement with utility and infrastructure upgrades. It’s really quite a feat that the building is continues to be occupied while all the construction is going on, the work split between the top half and bottom half. Also, kudos to the faculty, staff and students who have to put up with the noise and multiple moves while the work takes place. The fully-renovated Upson Hall should be ready by next August.

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