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.

20141227_134402 20141227_134549 20141227_135531 20141227_135604

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.

pennsylvania_ave_1

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.

5-8-2012 347

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).

wegmans_rev1_1 wegmans_rev1_2

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.

707_East_seneca

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.

hawks nest

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.





An Exercise in Mapping, Part II

15 05 2011

Under Construction: The once-vacant Plantations Building on Ithaca Commons is being renovated into 8 apartments, a small amount of office space, and a large restaurant on the first floor of the 5-story building. The project is funded partially by community grant money and will be complete in about a month.

Approved: The 6-story, 52-unit apartment building proposed by INHS (1), the 7-story, 45-unit Cayuga Place condos (2), and the 10-story, 140-room Hotel Ithaca (3) are attempting to find financing in what is still a tight market for construction loans. The INHS building is dependent on state grant money that was not granted last year, and they are hoping to obtain financing in the next round of grants. The Cayuga Place condos has been looking for more unit sales and securing bank financing for almost four years at this point, and it might be time to move that to a stale proposal.

Proposed: The 6-story Challenge Industries redevelopment proposal, which has some office space and 32 units of housing. The project is currently trying to win over the neighbors and councils for zoning variances and approval down the line.

Stale/Dead: McGraw House, a senior living facility, was looking into a 25-50 unit expansion, and held several meetings to discuss proposals on the table, but this has all been tabled until a future time.

Examining the Ithaca College Area:

Note that I don’t use Bing Maps because I like them more, but because they are more up-to-date. For example, IC’s virtually complete Athletics Center is clearly visible on this aerial image.

Under Construction are Ithaca’s College’s Circle Apartments expansion (in the site prep stage; four current buildings (132 units) will be demo’d and nine more (280 units) will be added to the complex) and a 22-unit addition of senior housing (patio homes) to Longview.

Approved are the College Crossings retail center and INHS’s Holly Creek townhomes (11 units in first phase, I think 22 total). Off the map to the south and southwest are a couple of housing developments, Southwoods and Cleveland Estates, which are being developed lot-by-lot.

The proposed facility is the long-term expansion plans for the South Hill Business Campus, which would add 197,000 sq ft in three new buildings 3-4 stories in height. The campus currently has about 288,000 sq ft, of which about 84% is leased.

The stale proposal is an apartment building off of Bella Vista Drive that has been trying to market its units for the better part of five years. I am doubtful it will ever launch construction at this point.





News Tidbits 4/18/11: Fraternity Seeks Recolonization in Turbulent Times

18 04 2011

Image property of Alpha Phi Delta

Seems a second fraternity is seeking to reestablish itself on Cornell’s campus this year.  According to the Daily Sun, an interest group has been preliminarily approved for recognition of the recolonization of the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity (in other words, the first step to recognition has been taken). Unlike Phi Kappa Sigma, this interest group has taken the route of forming a group first and then seeking the recognition of a national (which is the way it’s traditionally done with fraternities), rather than the national coming in and seeking to revive or start a chapter (more common for sororities, but an increasingly appealing option for large fraternal orgs).

Alpha Phi Delta has existed previously at Cornell’s campus. It was a historically Italian-American fraternity founded at Syracuse in 1911, and still draws most of its chapter membership from colleges in the Northeast. The Cornell chapter (Mu) was founded in 1922 and closed in 1968, three years after the fraternity opened itself up to membership for all men(and not just ones of Italian heritage). From old Cornellian yearbooks, it can be determined that they stayed with one house during their time at Cornell, but I’m having one hell of a time trying to determine its location – I can’t find it anywhere nearby on the 1928 and 1954 Cornell maps, which suggests to me it might have been far from campus.

Anyways, given the closure of Theta Xi and the recent fallout due to the SAE tragedy, I’m unsure as to how successful they will be. But, I wish them the best of luck. Oh, and if they’re still looking for a house, it would make my heart jump if they could move into an unused property that could use some revitalizing, like 722 University Avenue.





News Tidbits 8/5/10: Structural Coincidence?

5 08 2010

So, the Ithaca Journal is filled today with articles concerning Cornell’s South Hill neighbor, Ithaca College. Which is great, since they are a good school in their own right and they tend to be overshadowed by its ivy-cloaked neighbor. So, the one article was about how their enrollment is back on target this year after having too many incoming last year (by most regards, a fortunate problem to have). The other article, much more in line with the general themes of this blog, was a review of the $65.5 million, 130,000 sq ft Ithaca College Events Center that is under construction, and currently around halfway towards completion.

One of the big architectural features of the building is a a large, structually-incorporated cooling tower designed to be a focal point of the structure and to be visible from most of campus.

Image Property of Ithaca College

The height of the tower? 174 feet.

The height of McGraw Tower on Cornell’s campus? 173 feet.

So, McGraw Tower is no longer the tallest structure in the county (not including radio masts). After 119 years, it is losing its title to Ithaca College’s new activities center.

Although I never saw anything that indicated as much, I’m willing to wager that this was intentional, to draw more attention to the new “tallest building” in the county. Even though the tower is uninhabitable, the lower floor(s) of the building are, so it qualifies as a true building. McGraw doesn’t qualify since it’s only a clock tower. Bradfield, the tallest true building in the county, is only 167 feet.

In conclusion, I guess size does matter when it comes to bragging rights.








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