News Tidbits 6/6/15: I Give This Week A Frowny Face

6 06 2015

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1. I’m thinking there is a genuine lull in the pipeline at the moment. The city’s projects memo, which is the document that city departments receive and comment on before the actual Planning Board meeting, doesn’t have much for consideration for this upcoming month. The one projects that is being “newly” considered is the 12-unit, 26-bedroom PPM Homes proposal at 215-221 W. Spencer Street. That project is expected to receive declaration of lead agency (in other words, the planning board formally agrees to review it) at the June meeting. Being carried over from the previous months are the two duplexes for 804 E. State Street, the Tompkins Financial HQ, INHS’s 210 Hancock project and the Maguire Fiat/Chrysler expansion. None of those are up for final approval.

Smaller projects and subdivisions will often first show up in the memo ahead of the meeting, but not this month. What will be, will be.

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2. On the other end of the scale, this looks to be a busy month for the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council. Most of their agenda focuses on window repairs and other minor details, but they will be reviewing the Tompkins Financial HQ and the new drive-thru across the street. Although neither is within a historic district, I suppose it’s being reviewed for the sake of feedback and the possibility of a visual impact on the skyline as seen from historic districts.

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3. In Old Library news, a decision was expected last Tuesday…but, the decision was postponed. After committee members started sharing their differences in opinion. Pardon my cynicism, but that’s a perfect microcosm of those whole process. Frequently delayed and bound to infuriate someone come decision time.

In a perfect world, all three of those would be built in the city, because they all address different housing needs in Ithaca, and they would all likely be successful. But of course, there can only be one. We’ll find out next Tuesday morning.

4. The Ithaca town Planning Committee is verifying two things already noted in previous news round-ups. One, the 68-unit Cayuga Meadows project hopes to begin construction in the very near future, and two, the Troy Road housing project is dead.

The committee also brought up the possibility of a moratorium for certain parts of town – two areas described as having significant student populations. One is almost certainly the area of South Hill next to IC, the other is not stated (but likely has to do with Cornell). This is part of a larger conversation to keep IC students from living off-campus in student rentals. Students aren’t a protected class, so whatever extra bureaucracy or laws the town wants to adopt are technically fair game. I would imagine, however, it would much easier to do that to IC’s undergrads than the professional and doctoral students attending Cornell. Looking at the numbers, one has been increasing much more than the other, and it’s not the undergrads. This, I suspect, is where potential laws become problematic.

Anyway, the moratorium is seen as a last-ditch effort. But the possibility of it should be enough to raise eyebrows.

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5. Time for some more unhappy – the city Board of Zoning Appeals isn’t touching the 815 South Aurora Street application.  To recapitulate the salient details, local developer Todd Fox would like to build apartments on the land but can’t because the vast majority of the property is within the “fall zone” of a cell tower, which the city defines as twice the height of the tower. At 815 South Aurora, a 170′ tower creates a 340′ radius of no-man’s land (outer circle above), making the parcel virtually undevelopable. Fox had two private engineering companies (TAITEM Engineering and Spec Consulting) analysis the case and they determined that an appropriate fall zone is the height of the tower plus 10 feet for a little wind/bounce – so 180′ total. With this info in hand, Fox is trying to get the city to refine the zoning to allow the decrease in fall zone and therefore permit the land to be open for development.

The BZA said it was acting on the city attorney’s advice that the committee can’t override a council-approved law. Which means that Noah Demarest, the architect appearing on behalf of Todd Fox, will either have to go to the Council to have the law amended, or he and Fox will have to go through a full sketch plan and review process, and apply for an area variance for whatever firm plans they have proposed. Meeting with the BZA was seen as way to avoid having to shell out all that time and money and risk still being rejected because of the cell tower issue. There’s a risk with moving forward at this point, and it’ll depend on just how much risk the developer is willing to take on this potential project.

6. We’ll wrap up with something positive – FormIthaca, the citizen group advocating for form-based zoning, is doing their design charettes this week. I’m writing this on Thursday night since I will be doing 5-year Cornell reunion stuff on Friday, but I do plan on being in attendance Friday afternoon meeting and am looking forward to seeing/hearing what ideas the presenters have to share.

I can assure a certain town of Ithaca board member that I have a personal preference to small street setbacks, and it sure as hell isn’t because they’re “hipper”.

 

 





Fast Facts: Ithaca College Employee Headcounts

12 05 2015

All facts come from Ithaca College’s Office of Institutional Research. All enrollment values are for the fall semester of a given year, i.e. 2001 means fall 2001.

Since the blog has previously taken a look at Cornell’s faculty and staff headcounts, it seems only fair to take a look at Ithaca College’s as well.

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Over the past decade or so, Ithaca College’s employment has grown. Since 2002, headcount has increased by 302 people/20.1%, about 1.68% per year on average. During the recession, employment at the school actually increased at a faster pace than the average, a stark contrast to the hundreds of jobs that were cut at Cornell.

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Breaking the numbers down into faculty and admin/staff components, faculty employment has grown by 155/26.96% since 2002, somewhat faster than the 147 person/15.86% growth in staff employment.

For the sake of comparison, Cornell employed 7,075 non-academic staff in 2002 and 7,018 in 2014, a 57 person/0.8% decrease. The Big Red also employed 2,756 faculty/academic staff in 2002, and 2,763 profs and lecturers in 2014, a 7 person/0.3% increase. (note, Cornell numbers are for the Ithaca campus only).

In other words, we have over the past decade or so, one school that has seen only small enrollment growth but large employment growth, while the other has seen large enrollment growth and no employment growth. I can’t vouch for whether one school’s grasp of their situation is better than the other, but the differences between the two make for an engaging conversation piece.

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Here’s something more apropos to current events – the split between full-time and part-time faculty at IC. In 2002, 18.41% of male faculty and 26.92% of female faculty were part-time. In 2014, 28.42% of male faculty and 33.71% of female faculty were part-time. Although Ithaca College has added 155 faculty over 12 years, only 57 of those positions are full-time. Part of the the growth in part-time faculty can be attributed to the growth in graduate students, who are considered part-time faculty at IC if they are teaching. But regardless, it’s clear that Ithaca has become more reliant on part-time staff to meet its teaching needs.

Not to take an official stance on any union-organizing, but double-checking with some previous Voice write-ups, the graph above means that there were 226 Ithaca College faculty that were earning no more than about $16,000/year.

Cornell doesn’t have part-time faculty listed in their data, but I assume grad students with TA assignments fill that role. As of 2014, 6.6% of non-academic staff at Cornell (468 of 7047) are considered part time, while 25% of non-academic IC staff (268 of 1074) are part time. So maybe that’s another piece in the conversation comparing schools.





Fast Facts: Ithaca College Enrollment Figures

5 05 2015

All facts come from Ithaca College’s Office of Institutional Research. All enrollment values are for the fall semester of a given year, i.e. 2001 means fall 2001.

I give what’s probably an unfair amount of attention to Cornell. Part of it is because that’s the campus I know. But Ithaca College has its impacts and influences on the local community as well. Today will take a look at Ithaca College’s enrollment over the years.

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One thing that is clear looking at Ithaca College’s recent enrollment totals is that on the whole, there has only been a modest increase in enrollment in recent years. Enrollment was fairly flat during most of the 2000s, grew a few hundred students during the Great Recession, and has been dropping in recent years. You put a best fit line on this and you get a best-fit line of the equation (student population = 30.374(years out from 2001)+ 6368.5). But the best-fit line is by no means a good predictor in this case.

IC strives to be all residential college, and these fluxes have put a strain on its resources and ability to “run lean”. The college offered students $1500 incentives to live off-campus during fall 2005, as they were forced to convert lounges into dorms. The skyrocketing enrollment in 2009 forced the college to construct a temporary dorm at a cost of $2.5 million, and even offer a few incoming freshmen $10,000 to defer matriculation.

As a general observation of Ithaca’s housing issues, the spotlight can be shined directly on Cornell, whose enrollment has increased by nearly 2500 students since 2005. There hasn’t been much private housing built for IC students in recent years (perhaps a few dozen units), and barring the occasional over-enrolled year, there hasn’t been as much need for private student housing on South Hill.

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Recent trends noted, historically Ithaca College has grown by leaps and bounds. Apart from a small drop in enrollment when the school was moving into its new South Hill digs in the early 1960s, enrollment continued to swell all the up to about 1991. when it enrolled 6,443 students. Enrollment fell 12% to 5,688 in 1994, before slowly rising back up in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Looking at graduate student enrollment, there was a substantial increase during the 2000s, climbing from 230 in 2004 to 507 in 2010. Since then, however, the number of grad students enrolled on South Hill has tapered down to 463.

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One thing that has stayed fairly consistent over the past decade is the proportion of gender on the Ithaca College campus. The gender split is typically 42-44% male, 56-58% female, with this year having the highest female proportion in recent years, just like Cornell.





More Student Housing for South Hill?

31 12 2014

Polite observation – South Hill has two types of housing being built these days: luxury single-family housing (Westview, Southwoods), and student housing. Most of the student housing tends to be concentrated close to Ithaca College, in the vicinity of Pennsylvania and Kendall Avenues. There have been a number of new, small apartment buildings built in recent years, many of them by local company Heritage Builders. I’d estimate offhand that in the past three years, Heritage has added about 60 bedrooms to the neighborhood, and while they aren’t explicitly student housing, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that’s their purpose.

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I initially photographed these buildings as part of another post planned for some construction updated for South Hill. But then I noticed something earlier this week that changed my mind.

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According to the county records for the 29th, someone bought an unusually high number of building lots. All but 2 of the 9 tax parcels (totaling 14 lots) are undeveloped, the remainder being a house and swimming pool. All of the sales were registered to an entity called “Kendall Avenue Corporation”. Kendall Avenue Corporation was created in November, according to the Ithaca Journal, with a registered address at 680 Ridge Road in Lansing – an address used by Heritage Builders. The undeveloped lots sold for $5,000-$9,000 each because they’re small and lack road access. But lots can be consolidated per zoning board approval, and new roads can be built by a developer and deeded to the town, which the town board typically accepts so long as they meet certain requirements.

I’m going to take a stab at this and say that Heritage is planning a lot more student housing over the next few years, at least enough to fill several small apartment buildings. Given previous complaints, I don’t think the permanent residents of South Hill will be pleased about the new neighbors.





News Tidbits 12/10/14: Content Being Contentious

10 12 2014

This one is coming out early this week for the sake of timeliness.

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1. Thursday the 11th, the county IDA votes on whether to approve tax abatements for two downtown projects, Travis Hyde’s Carey Building addition and Ithaca Renting/Fane Org’s 130 East Clinton. The $4.1 million Carey Building addition adds 9,000 sq ft of incubator office space and 20 units, 16 of which are 300-450 sq ft studios. 130 East Clinton would add 36 units in three interconnected buildings on a steeply sloped parcel adjacent to the city police HQ, at a cost of $4.4 million. The multi-year tax abatements are in the range of $850k each.

At the public hearing for the two projects, the Carey Building attracted little attention and dissent (which isn’t to say that there hasn’t been any), but Fane’s project attracted much ire. I’m not going to defend Fane’s character. Heck, the man’s been combative through this whole process. But I will side with the trustworthy opinions of Cornish, DeSarno and others that it contributes something to the very tight housing supply and it is a welcome resource. Denying the project by virtue of it being Fane is legally perilous and sets a bad precedent, and saying it’s a bad spot…well, it’s downtown Ithaca, where high-density lot use is expected. If Fane didn’t think he could get the environmental assessment approved he wouldn’t have proposed it. We’ll see what the board decides.

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2. Up on South Hill, Ithaca College is holding meetings to flesh out its new master plan. Similar to the plan Cornell published in 2008, the purpose of the master plan (website here) is to determine what the space needs are for different assets and programs of the college, and figuring out where to put them. The master plan is being spearheaded by Perkins Eastman out of NYC. The previous plan by Sasaki Associates was published in 2002 with a refresher in 2010, so to get something out in 2015 would be appropriate. I did a writeup on the old IC plan way back in August 2008. Don’t expect any new plan to be followed to a tee- the athletic center ended up on the complete opposite of IC’s campus than originally planned. But it will provide insight as to what IC wants to build through the rest of the decade and beyond. Key things to looks for – dorm sites in case the college decides to expand its student population, and new program space, which tends to get built sooner or later (for instance, the Business School addition, Athletic Center, and Peggy Williams Center from the 2002 plan).

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3. The 15,700 sq ft retail pad proposed by Wegmans is up for final review at the December planning board meeting, accordingly to the city projects memo. Compared to the initial design, the building has been rotated on site so that its long axis is now north-south, and the design itself received a number of tweaks, though the overall design theme is still the same as before. There have been some concerns raised by local wine and liquor store owners that it could be home to liquor/wine store, similar to what Wegmans has done at other sites in Johnson City and Buffalo. However, that is one of only a few ideas being floated, and the planning board doesn’t vote on what type of store can be allowed to open in a building, that’s a debate for the Common Council.

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4. Looks like the Maguire plan has hit a dead end. According to the Times, the Maguires want the site rezoned rather than a specialized PDZ for the property. Looking at the PDZ regulations, the town’s idea would give more freedom in regards to property use, but it also gives the town the right to regulate the form and layout of the structures on site. I guess the Maguires aren’t fond of that. The town just completed its comprehensive plan and is trying to get its new form-based zoning together, so the Maguires are essentially usurping something the town spent years working on. In conclusion: no dice. The Maguires are still interested in doing something, but it may not be in Ithaca town. Though with as packed as the city is and as questionable as Lansing can be, I’m not sure they have many options.

5. Over in Lansing Village, a mothballed project is getting a revival. “CU Suites” (aka Manley and Richard Thaler, who own the Triphammer Marketplace) proposes a 3-story, 43,000 sq ft building on the west side of Cinema Drive, on a site that is currently a vacant lot. Interestingly, this site was previously approved for a mixed-use structure with those parameters in fall 2012, consisting of two commercial spaces and a 39-unit apartment building, but that plan was never carried out. The proposal before the board seeks “alterations and possible clarification” to the project. No updated renders on the village website, but a site plan of the previously approved plan can be found here. Before the previous plan was approved, the site has been marketed for an office building for two years, to no avail (the market for office space in Ithaca is pretty weak). We’ll see what happens, maybe this one will finally get underway.

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6. For what it’s worth, the proposal at 707 East Seneca appears to be student housing. Applicant Todd Fox (a local developer who’s done a few other small projects in Ithaca and Dryden) wants to build six units with sixteen bedrooms, five 3-bedrooms and a basement 1-bedroom, situated next to four parking spaces tucked into the hillside (four more spaces would be out in the open). I’m not sure how so many units are possible, since I thought the maximum allowed on site was four units. I’d love to see how it looks, but there’s nothing on the city website (which, sidenote, has been “updated” and now has information of three separate websites, the new one, E-govlink and “TSSERR”; the notification emails don’t work and it’s driving me nuts). If something comes up, you’ll find it here sooner or later.





When Things Don’t Work Out

17 01 2013

Frequent readers of this blog are aware that I cover two things – Cornell (its history and physical plant) and new projects and real estate development in the Ithaca area. Now, I’m not going to say I’m beating a dead horse with the former, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it hasn’t been easy coming up with new topics to write about, that aren’t widely available already (ex. the Willard Straight Takeover of 1969), or previous written in this blog.

Fortunately, Ithaca has been undergoing a veritable boom in construction. Just today, I checked the town of Ithaca planning board notes to find yet another multi-unit housing project proposed – “Hawk’s Nest at Springwood”, a 3-story, 50-unit building to be built at the Springwood Townhomes area just east of the intersection of 96B and King Road. The project will be marketed to the 55+ crowd.

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This area has seen a cluster of (mostly suburban-style) development in the past few years, with the Holly Creek Townhomes, College Crossings, the Namgyal Monestery, The Country Inn and Suites, The College Circle Apartments (IC) expansion, and a number of private homes. Which, counting that all of the top of my head, gives 184 more beds at IC, and 74+ other housing units. Quite the little burst of activity south of IC.

So, considering the question in a previous entry about historical construction trends, this latest development pushes the private residential units number from 2011-2016 over the 1,000 mark, nothing to sneeze at when the total number of units in the entire metro is just under 42,000. In considering the planned developments north of Ithaca, and single-family homes, the number of units planned in those five years could very well be in the 2000+ range, a proportion highly unusual for upstate New York, and probably only comparable to the Albany metro, where a massive computer chip factory has been underway.

Now, time for the Debbie Downer – I have no expectation all these projects will come to fruition.

In the past, several projects have been downsized, modified, or cancelled. Take Ithaca Gun, a project constantly being re-evaluated due to rapidly increasing costs associated with the site cleanup. The project started off with 160 units, but neighbors complained. It was decreased to 80, then 33, than upped to 45. The final result seems to be a shot in the dark. Because of the uncertainty, I did not include it in the unit count.

Other projects, both current and old, were modified in the planning. The Trebloc Building downtown was originally supposed to be two floors (and I will personally donate a very nice bottle of Finger Lake wine to any developer who proposes to knock that abomination down and replace it with something more fitting). Cayuga Green, covered previously, has been redesigned four times. Collegetown Terrace has undergone at least one major revision and a couple minor ones.

Some projects never see the light of day. The McGraw House, an assisted living facility downtown, considered an expansion in 2009/2010. Then they shelved it. A 400-unit development was planned for West Hill (Carrowmoor), but this also appears to have gone stale.  Cornell’s West Campus was slated to be bedecked in Collegiate Gothic – killed by the Great Depression (among other Cornell proposals and plans that can be found using the search bar). Wal-Mart was once slated for Lansing. The most outlandish serious proposal goes toward a city-sponsored urban renewal plan proposed for Collegetown in 1968. The project would have tore down the heart of Collegetown, and in its place put up an eleven story office building, and 6 to 8 high-rise apartment towers (total 375 units), the tallest being 18 to 21 stories. It also would have included a 600-space parking garage and retail venues.

It’s sort of like “survival of the fittest”. The projects with the most stable funding, and the strongest proposals, tend to win out. Some projects are clearly underway, some go through revisions, some will remain pie-in-the-sky. I do, however, look forward to as many of these projects coming to fruition as possible.





The Keyword Bar XVII

26 07 2012

…because the planning board discussed projects I’ve covered ad nauseum and Cornell hasn’t caught my attention in the past week.

1. “how many students from cornell have jump to there deaths” (7-25-2012)

Death of grammar aside, this would not be an easy number to calculate, since a number of cases over the years have been questionable as to whether the fall was accidental or intentional, and whether an individual would be considered a student (ex. a case of a former student). That being said, it seemed from casual queries back during the 2010 suicides that for CU students who were believed to have committed suicides via gorge jumping, it is likely in the mid double-digits. This number does not reflect the number of suicides in the gorges (which is much higher, as they tend to be a magnet for those who want to go out in dramatic fashion), the number of gorge deaths (including accidental falls, the number is almost certainly in the few hundreds since Cornell opened) nor suicides that occur by other methods. From 2006 to 2010, there were three student gorge deaths by suicide, but a variety of other events (note – the hyperlink has one inaccuracy – William Jacobson was an IC student who drowned in a retention pond).

2. “eastman hall at ithaca named after” (7-25-2012)

Eastman Hall, an IC dorm, was built in 1962-1963. From what I can tell, many of these early buildings, built during IC’s rapid expansion on South Hill from 1959-1968, are named for older administrators or large donors (for instance,  Talcott Hall is likely tied to a student life administrator named “Mrs. Talcott” in news articles from the 1930s). Although there is no concrete evidence, Eastman Hall is likely named for George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak in Rochester, and a well-known philanthropist, especially of music schools. Although he passed away in the 1930s, it’s possible his company, or some foundation attached to his estate, made a donation; or it could be the manifestation of a donation from when Eastman was alive.

3. “chi gamma at cornell university sorority” (7-22-2012)

Their history seems rather unusual. Chi Gamma formed in 1956, after dissociating from its national (Sigma Kappa) because it did not wish to abide by the national’s racist membership policies. They lived at 150 Triphammer, and the sorority was active until at least 1963, when it merged with Chi Omega (both were small houses, so they decided to join forces as an attempt to hold their own in the increasingly meager sorority rushes of the ’60s). The house itself became home to the new and all-female Triphammer Co-op the following year, which became co-ed in the 1990s.

4. what is the address of the llenroc mansion (7-22-2012)

100 Cornell Avenue, Ithaca NY. There are only two houses on the street, the other I believe is a private residence.

5. ithaca “collegetown” fire 1998 (7-23-2012)

It might seem odd that in a stretch of century-old buildings, 407 College Avenue (the Apollo Chinese Restaurant building) was built in 2000 (as seen on its cornerstone). Well, the simple reason is that the old building, a wood-frame structure built in 1887, burnt down in October 1998, leaving 51 students homeless. The fire was believed to have started in the kitchen of a first-floor restaurant. Emergency housing and aid was provided by the Red Cross and Cornell. Since the site is prime Collegetown real estate, it was redeveloped into a six-story building and opened in August 2000.








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