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.

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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.





Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 5/2015

20 05 2015

With three months filed away since my last trip out to the Boiceville Cottages, it seems like a good time for an update.

The pace of construction has picked up with the onset of the warm half of the year. The stucco homes with pea green timber trim have been completed. Three homes that were sheathed and had only a few windows fitted in February have progressed have now been fully fitted, stucco has been applied, and an attractive canary yellow timber trim is being attached to the new homes. Four more homes (stucco with teal timber trim) have started since last February, and these are not as far along – some of the red waterproof sheathing is still visible while the exterior finishes are being applied. Three concrete slab foundations, outlined with blue waterproofing (the covering might be for cement board being used to protect the slab insulation) are ready for new house construction in the near future. Suffice it to say, given the amount of disturbed land nearby, more slabs and more homes are a likely bet as we press on towards summer. So far, there looks to be at least 17 units completed during this calendar year.

A couple more community features have also been added – a small wooden footbridge now crosses the neck of the pond, and a simple, modern looking bus stop shelter has been built near the meeting house.

Boiceville is in the midst of a 75-unit expansion, which will bring the number of units on the property to 135. Most of the units are 1 and 2-bedroom cottages, built in clusters of three, although a few “gatehouse” rowhouses offer studios and 3-bedroom units. The initial 24 units were built from 1996-97, with another 36 units built in the late 2000s.

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News Tidbits 5/9: Changing Elevations

9 05 2015

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1. Looks like the CU Suites project is in fact the render shared by Taylor Contractors. Readers might remember these elevations from last week for a proposed “Cinema Drive Senior Housing”, but that the image didn’t match up with the proposal, a 3-story, 43,000 sq ft structure. According to the village of Lansing’s Board of Zoning Appeals agenda, the project is now a multi-story mixed-use building with a size of 87,515 square feet, which looks about right for the building proposed above. The project is seeking rear yard setback and height variances for not enough of a rear yard parking setback from the lot line, and for exceeding the maximum height allowed by zoning (which is 35 feet).

Doing some back of the envelope calculations, if one calls only the top three floors senior housing ((3/4.5) * 87515 = 58343) and uses the rough guidelines of 15% for circulation/utilities and 980 sq ft per unit, then one gets about 51 units, which makes this a pretty sizable project by local standards.

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2. Now for a change or perspective – new perspectives of the 210 Hancock project, in the form of elevations found in higher resolution here. Now you can see what all of the buildings look like as a whole, rather than the simulated viewpoints previously shown. The elevations heights give the apartment building’s height at about 40 feet. Apart from some tweaks to the way the first-floor parking is screened, there haven’t been a whole lot of changes since the last planning board meeting. Note that the buildings are tucked in or pushed out and separated by “hyphen” connectors so they don’t present one continuous street wall. The design is by local firms TWLA and HOLT Architects.

Am I the only one who finds the lime green and goldenrod to be a bit..intense when compared to the other facade materials?

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3. You want more new drawings? You get more new drawings! This batch represents the latest incarnation of the duplexes proposed for 112 Blair Street / 804 East State Street. Renders copied from here, project narrative here. Developer Demos / Johnny LLC (the Nestopoulos family) is still trying to have these ready in time for the Fall 2015 school year. Rather than continue seeking an area variance in zoning, the project is back down to two duplexes with three bedrooms and ~1,235 sq ft each (12 bedrooms total). After meeting with neighbors, it was decided to move back to surface building to reduce building height, and to add expansive front porches, which gives the otherwise bland duplexes a little character. Site Plan Review will take place this month.

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4. Looks like there might be an expansion of senior care facilities in Ithaca town. The Ithaca Town Board is set to discuss changes next week to the Planned Development Zone (PDZ) for the Sterling Heights / Clare Bridge Cottage assisted living facilities, located on Bundy Road just north of the city-town line. Sterling House is a 48-unit assisted living facility, while Claire Bridge Cottage is a 32-unit facility specializing in memory care (Alzheimer’s and dementia). The new building, a 23,200 sq ft 32-unit facility to be called “Clare Bridge Crossings”, is designed to bridge the gap between the two – patients who might be in early stages of illness and experiencing mild symptoms, but otherwise still capable of some degree of personal independence.

The new building appears to be a one-story addition tucked between the other two structures, so it won’t be visible from the street. Along with the new building, there will be updates to parking, landscaping stormwater facilities, and the addition of a couple of courtyards between the buildings. The architect is PDC Midwest, a Wisconsin firm that specializes in memory care facilities.

Now, some readers might be saying, “who cares?”. There’s a couple of reasons to care. For one, this is important from a quality-of-life perspective. Picture a senior couple where one is reasonably healthy and the other has memory care needs. It means a lot to have a facility nearby that can care for their loved ones. Secondly, an expansion would bring with it a number of jobs to support the new residents – nurses, maintenance, kitchen staff and so forth. So there’s an economic benefit as well.

Full disclosure – my mother is a nurse who works for an assisted living program that includes clients with memory care concerns. So I’ve heard a thing or two about a thing or two.

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5. On a parting note for the week, here’s a little more information on Cornell’s redevelopment plans for East Hill Plaza. According to Planning Committee minutes from the town of Ithaca, Cornell will be taking part in a multi-day design charrette hosted by form-based zoning proponents FormIthaca in early June. Form-based zoning in a very small nutshell is zoning that focuses on design elements rather than use. Cornell is interested because the plan will hopefully lead to a regulating plan for the “compact mixed-use” development Cornell hopes to build to build in that area. The plan could provide language for a new Planned Development Zone that would potentially allow Cornell to move forward with a housing/retail mix at East Hill Plaza.

Cornell has sought to redevelop East Hill Plaza and surrounding parcels (most of which they already own) for several years. A vision for the plaza shows up in Cornell’s 2008 Master Plan (the so-called “East Hill Village” shown above), and given the need for housing in the area, East Hill Plaza would likely be one of the location where opposition would be less likely, given the the lack of homeowners nearby and the site’s proximity to Cornell.

 





State Street Triangle (Trebloc Building Site)

29 04 2015

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Downtown Ithaca could be in for a very large addition in the next couple of years, if developer Campus Advantage has its way.

The Texas-based developer is planning an 11-story addition to downtown on the the Trebloc Building property at 301 East State Street/MLK Jr. Street. The building would reach the maximum of the 120-foot zoning allows on the property, and fill up nearly the whole plot of land bounded by East State, South Aurora and East Green Streets.state_st_triangle_1

In the initial sketch plan presented Tuesday night (link here), local architect Scott Whitham, a consultant for the project, showed floor plans for retail on the first floor of the proposed tower, with apartments on the floors above. The retail section includes five general retail spaces and one restaurant space, with sizes ranging from 1,800-2,300 sq ft each. Space for a fitness center and apartment amenities are also included on the first floor.

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Upper floors look out into an interior courtyard on the second floor, and contain a variety of 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 4 bedroom units. Each floor would contain about 23 units per floor with 60 bedrooms. Over ten floors, that means that the State Street Triangle building would add 230 units of student-oriented apartments, with 600 bedrooms.

For perspective’s sake, that would make it one of the most populated buildings in the city. Cornell’s largest dorm, Clara Dickson Hall, tops out at around 460 students. The Towers of Ithaca College hold about 300 students each. Collegetown Terrace has the only private buildings that come close to having this many people in one building.state_st_triangle_4

There is no parking on the site. The city’s Central Business District (CBD) zoning does not require it. The CBD zoning allows for nearly full lot coverage as well. The CBD zoning is used only for what planners and officials want to be the densest downtown locations, where parking garages and mass transit are in easy access.

This skyline-altering project stands to have a very large impact on downtown and the city in general. It would be the first student-focused development in the downtown Ithaca area, and 600 students is certainly quite the addition. The project stands to capitalize on both Cornell students and IC students, since the project is within commuting distance of both schools.

There’s much to be debated and sorted out moving forward. More detailed site plans and features are expected to be delivered to the city sometime in May. This summer will be a very exciting one for the Ithaca Planning Board.





The Three Proposals for the Old Library

28 04 2015

Hot off the press release, here are the latest renderings of the three remaining contenders for the Old Library site, along with a few details about each. Feel free to pick your favorite and leave a comment.

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I. The Rochester-based Cornerstone Group proposal, a 73,600 sq ft building called the “Dewitt Senior Apartments” (link here), would buy the library site for $925,000, build 63 residential units of senior housing (3 studios, 54 one-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms), and include 700 sq ft of community space for nutrition education by Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cornerstone is a Rochester based non-profit housing developer, and is working in partnership with non-profit group Cayuga Housing Development (CHD). CHD is directed by the same people as the Ithaca Housing Authority, who operate Titus Towers. The building’s design is by SWBR Architects of Rochester.

The Cornerstone proposal is the only one which features affordable senior housing, targeted at seniors making less than 80% of median local income, meaning less than $44k/year for a single person, or less than $50k/year for an elderly couple. Rents would range from $825/month studios to $1,200/month for a 2-bedroom. The developers would seek affordable housing tax credits, and asked for a non-binding letter of interest from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, in which the IURA could offer a loan of up to $200,000 towards the development. The agency preferred a more nuanced approach of possible financial support if the project was selected, rather than supporting the project during the decision process. The proposal includes a 32-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, like what Cornell uses) to “ensure rental affordability”.

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II. Ithaca based private developer Travis Hyde Properties proposes a 72,500 sq ft building with 60 senior apartments (21 2-bedroom and 39 one-bedroom), and would include space for senior non-profit group Lifelong, professional offices, and a community room (link here). The building uses a butterfly roof for rainwater collection and to keep the height as minimal as possible, and the three-story section is intended to respect the massing of the neighboring church. Lifelong occupies the first two floors of the western wing, with housing on the top floors. Commercial office space faces Court Street, and a one-story eastern wing holds shared space for both Lifelong and a community room. The units are market-rate. and Lifelong’s space at 121 West Court Street is renovated and kept on as an annex property. No purchase price is given, except to say “fair market value”.

Travis Hyde is currently developing the Carey Building addition, built the Gateway Commons apartment building, and further back, developed Eddygate in Collegetown. Travis Hyde teamed up with Ithaca-based HOLT Architects for their proposal. The project has been designed to achieve LEED Silver at a minimum, with LEED Platinum being considered.

What makes this proposal unique is that it’s the only one that includes space specifically for Lifelong.

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III. Syracuse-based Franklin Properties of Syracuse have teamed with a group of local firms (STREAM Collaborative and Taitem Engineering, among others) to propose a “wellness center” for the library site, called the “West Court Lofts and Wellness Collective” (link here). This proposal is the smallest of the three proposals at 58,000 square feet and has the fewest number of units at 22, along with medical offices, a café, and a small community room. The first floor would have the cafe and some office space, and the second floor would be all medical offices. Senior housing would be built on the upper floors. In a major change from the previous proposal, the units are now intended to be higher-end condos for empty nesters and retirees.

Notably, this proposal is the only one that reuses the original library, although the building would be extensively modified. Members of the ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council) liked this proposal because it keeps the 1967 library and its “intrinsic historic value”. The library site would be purchased for $925,000.

In sum, we have apartments for low and moderate-income seniors, higher-end senior condos, and market-rate senior apartments. Each is going after a different part of the Ithaca market.

Three previous contenders have pulled out of the process – Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services pulled out when they purchased the Neighborhood Pride site (the 210 Hancock project) and decided to focus on that. Integrated Acquisition and Development (IAD) dropped out next; their “Library Square” proposal was the largest at 90 units. IAD is, however, involved with the recently-proposed State Street Triangle project in downtown Ithaca. DPI Consultants submitted the only original proposal that included owner-occupied housing, but did not respond to the RFP after expressing frustration with the county’s frequent delays in the evaluation process.

The next meeting of the Old Library committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 30th at 9 AM in the county’s legislative chambers. 5 PM Meetings will be set up during May for developer presentations to the public (the first, a meeting for the Cornerstone proposal, will be held on the 1st; the Travis Hyde proposal will be presented to the public on May 8th at 5 PM, and the Franklin Properties proposal on May 12th at 5 PM. All will be in the legislative chambers). For those unable to attend, comments on the proposals can be emailed to the committee at Legislature@tompkins-co.org with the subject title “Old Library Property”.

For reference, here’s a copy of the criteria used to judge the project, and a rough timeline from here on taken from the county’s documents:

1. Staff score criteria identified in RFP including narrative explanation for each score ( Rank on a scale of 0 to 5 where 0 = did not address and 5 = addressed exceptionally well) – April

A. energy efficiency and carbon footprint, including impacts of proposed
demolition/deconstruction and/or remediation, of the project including any attempt to meet Architecture 2030 standards (e.g., 0 – meets current energy code, 5 – meets LEED Platinum or 2030 district standard)

B. quality of the overall program and conceptual design, including its compatibility with the surrounding historic neighborhood and how it addresses traffic, vehicular and pedestrian circulation and parking ( e.g., 0 – meets zoning code, 5 – setbacks and massing sensitive to adjoining property and street, design includes elements to address historic district, incorporates traffic and pedestrian features that will serve building occupants and minimize neighborhood impact)

C. responsiveness to community needs including housing and other uses, such as a community organization (e.g., 0 – does not specifically address a community need, 5 – provides housing addressing an unserved market segment, including a diverse population, includes mixed uses, provides a community amenity and houses a community organization)

D. positive economic/tax base impact (e.g., 0 – no net positive impact as requested subsidies outweigh benefits, 5 – large net positive impact including impact to tax base and downtown economy)

E. capability of the developer or development team to undertake, finance, and manage the project (e.g., 0 – development team experience doesn’t match project scope and financing plan is questionable, 5 – excellent development team with extensive comparable experience developing successful projects and financing plan is sound with little or no uncertainty)

F. demonstrated market feasibility of the proposed program (e.g., 0 – no evidence that market analysis has been conducted or that market for proposed uses is supported by demand, 5 – market well documented by community-wide and developer studies and costs are in line with market)

G. price/lease payments offered for the property (e.g., 0 – NPV does not meet county’s listed price without any rationale, 5 – NPV greatly exceeds county’s listed price)

H. plan for managing neighborhood impacts including noise and air quality during demolition/deconstruction/remediation and construction. (e.g., 0 – no substantive plan presented, 5 – plan presented that minimizes neighborhood impacts to the maximum extent possible both during construction and after project is occupied)

2. Committee reviews staff scoring and either confirms or revises. Post for public review. – April

3. Optional interviews; public comment period/hearing. – May

4. Committee considers proposals, staff scoring, and public comments and recommends a decision to the Legislature. – May/June

5. Legislature considers committee recommendation and makes a final decision. – June/July





News Tidbits 4/25/15: Long Week, Long Reads

25 04 2015

Grab the popcorn and sodas, folks, this will be a long one.

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1. Let’s start with some new and updated renders for the evolving 210 Hancock Street development that INHS has planned for the Northside neighborhood.

In each image, the top half is the old version, the bottom half the newest version. The lead image, an aerial rendering, shows that the houses haven’t changed much, though at the city and neighborhood’s insistence, Lake Street has now been closed off to all vehicular traffic in the refined proposal. The biggest structural changes have been in the apartment buildings – the color scheme of materials has been changed up quite a bit, and the partitions between the buildings have been re-worked to try and make the buildings appear less connected (one of the complaints raised was that they were too much like a wall; for this same reason, the buildings are slightly offset from each other, so no continuous face is presented towards the street).

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Looking closer at the individual apartment buildings themselves, the designs have been pretty thoroughly reworked. Different window layouts, different window sizes, different colors – about the only thing that’s been kept the same is the overall massing of each building. The plan calls for 53 1 and 2-bedroom apartments and about 65,000 square feet of space, of which 7,500 square feet will be covered parking. The included commercial space has been expanded from 8,200 sq ft in the initial proposal, to about 10,000 sq ft now. More renders of the newest iteration can be found here.

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No real changes yet in the for-sale houses that will be included in the project, apart from a palette change (previous render here – the new one is less bright, with darker earth tones). These are designed to blend in with the surrounding homes, and fall in INHS’s typical 2-3 bedroom, 1,100-1,400 sq ft range. The houses are townhomes in rows of 2-4 units, All sporting one or two-story porches. These will be built in a phase separate from the apartments. Certain affordable housing grants are geared towards owner-occupied units specifically, so the Neighborhood Pride lot will be split up into two parcels, one with the apartment rentals, one for the homeowners.

Questions and comments can be directed to the City Planning Office at dgrunder@cityofithaca.org.

2. Up in Lansing village, it looks like a proposed mixed-use project may finally be moving forward after years of incubation. “CU Suites”, a 3-story, 43,000 square foot project proposed by the Thaler family for a vacant lot on Cinema Drive, is asking the village to waive sewer connection fees. Presumably, this is about getting their finances in order before moving into the construction phase; there has been no news if funding has been secured yet. Something to keep an eye on this summer, certainly.

The Cinema Drive site was previously approved for a project of those parameters in fall 2012, consisting of two commercial spaces and a 39-unit apartment building, but that plan has not been carried out. The CU Suites proposal went before the village for “alterations and possible clarification” last December. No updated renders on the village website, but a site plan of the previously approved plan can be found here.

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3. Here’s some more details on the “not feasible as presented” Flatiron project. Readers might recall the 12-unit affordable housing proposal at 910 West State Street was given low priority for HUD Entitlement Grant funding.

From the presentation notes recently posted online:

“The project application is not fully developed, but probably represents more of an effort to start a conversation about the project. There is a great need for affordable housing in the community. The project was conceived to address the high cost associated with typical renovations to properties which make them unaffordable. The project would be located in an oddly-shaped trapezoidal building which [Ishka Alpern] would like to renovate to match its prior condition. It would be a very nice, unique addition to Inlet Island. Inlet Island has historically been a location for affordable housing and it is important to maintain that, before too many unaffordable projects are built there. Unfortunately, it is difficult to build affordable housing units without some form of funding assistance.”

In the Q&A the committee had with developer Ishka Alpern, no time table was given, and Alpern said he was open to waiting a year to refine it. It was also noted that once a commercial lease on the property expires in four years, an even larger project could be proposed, though it could be limited by the poor soils. While it appears renovating is the most feasible approach, the city was not impressed with the cost of investment per beneficiary – larger projects like 210 Hancock mentioned above have economies of scale going for them, costing less to build per unit. Smaller projects like the Flatiron need proportionately more assistance, making them less attractive for grant money. The city’s looking for the greatest good for the greatest number, in a sense.

In other news from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), a private developer, Viridius Property LLC, is buying five duplexes with 10 units of affordable housing from non-profit Community Housing of Ithaca with the intent of keeping them low-to-moderate income, but retrofitting the buildings to run on renewable energy sources. Viridius, a company run by computer scientist and tech CEO Stuart Staniford and his wife, was established in early 2014, and has been on a buying spree as of late. They own $1.7 million in rental real estate assets now, these duplexes will raise it $2.7 million, and the goal expressed in a letter to the IURA is $5 million.

Quoting the letter sent to the IURA:

“Viridius is oriented to the “triple-bottom-line.” Although as a privately owned business
we will look to return on investment, we also seek to improve the environment and society. We
are particularly focused on contributing to the solution to climate change by converting the
existing building stock to be appropriate for continued use in the twenty-first century. At each of our properties, Viridius is removing the propane, natural gas, coal, or oil heating systems and replacing these with systems based on renewables. The specifics depends on the particular
building; to date, we have used pellet boilers and air source heat pumps. Viridius is also
developing our first solar panels at one of our buildings, and elsewhere acquires commercial
renewable power for electricity. Also, at our own residence we have deployed geothermal heat
pumps for heating and cooling and have all our electrical needs taken care of by solar panels on site. Viridius is certified as a living wage employer by the Tompkins County Worker’s Center
and has five full time staff at present in addition to the owners.

So it’s eco-friendly and/or affordable housing. Most residents will welcome the new fish into the local pond, even if all the property being acquired is a bit eye-raising.

Lastly from the IURA, the Carpenter Business Park on the north side is on the market for $2.85 million. Four vacant parcels on Third Street and Carpenter Park Road on the north side of the city recently sold for $2.216 million from “Templar LLC” based in Ithaca to “Ithaca Lender LLC” out of New Jersey, in what may have been a foreclosure sale. The address on file is associated with a company called “Kennedy Funding Financial LLC”, which is described as “one of the largest direct private lenders in the country, specializing in bridge loans for commercial property and land acquisition, development, workouts, bankruptcies, and foreclosures.” A google search turns up a legal notice between the two entities a few months ago.

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4. Construction is gearing up for the Gannett Health Center’s addition on Cornell’s Central Campus. Work on the project officially launched March 30th, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. Expect site clearing, excavation, and pile driving as we move through the spring and into the summer. The project will be broken into phases – Phase I focuses on new construction, Phase II on renovation of the current building, and Phase III concludes the project with reconstruction of the Ho Plaza entrance. About 75% of the material removed from the old building is expected to be recycled.

The architect of record is local architecture/Cornell alumni-filled firm Chiang O’Brien. There will be two additions, the four-story, 55,000 square-foot building featured above, and an additional 18,600 square foot addition that replaces the northeast side of the current building. The project also includes a new entrance and substantial renovations to the original 1950s structure (22,400 square feet of the existing 35,000), as well as landscaping, site amenities, and utilities improvements. The projected cost is $55 million, and the target completion date is October 2017.

The Gannett Health Center expansion has been a long time coming. Initial plans in the late 2000s called for a completely new building on site. HOLT Architects prepared a plan for a 119,000 square foot building, and an all-new building was also included in Cornell’s 2008 Master Plan. But once the Great Recession waged its battle on Cornell’s finances, the Gannett redevelopment was scaled back to its current form. According to a statement given by Gannett Director Dr. Janet Corson-Rikert to the Sun, the earlier plan had a budget of $133 million; the new addition and renovations are expected to cost $55 million.

The project is expected to create about 175 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs (additional doctors, counselors and support personnel) when completed.

5.  According to next week’s Board of Public Works agenda, the approved 327 Eddy apartment project has been pretty heavily modified.

Here’s the old design:
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Here’s what the developer is planning to build:

327_eddy_rev3_1

I must have missed something? All the sources I’ve seen have referred to this as a six-story building, not five. The side windows were added late in the approvals process, I think. Anyway, the project is going to the BPW because the developer wants to project the top centerpiece window as a bay window rather than having it set back from the front facade. This would push two feet (2′ x 12′ isoceles triangle) into the city’s right-of-way over Eddy Street,  and the board is recommending to the council that the mayor authorize (he says she should he should, sheesh) the intrusion for an appraised value of $3,073.84, based on an appraisal value from Pomeroy Appraisal Associates in Syracuse.

The decrease in size also comes with a decrease in units and rooms – from 28 units and 64 beds to 22 units and 53 beds. This is a double-edged sword – some might cheer the loss of size or like that the roofline is continuous with its northern neighbor, but it will be harder to stem the tide of single-family home conversion to student apartments if Collegetown’s core isn’t as capable of absorbing Cornell’s student population growth.

The included email in the agenda says the planning board recommended an overhang bay window. Personally, I feel it would make the building look clunky. But that’s just me.

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6. Here’s another project being served up to the Planning Board this Spring. Additions and renovations to a car dealership down in southwest Ithaca’s suburbia. Site Plan Review and drawings here. The dealership is Maguire Fiat Chrysler. Plans call for combining two show lots into continuous lot and adding 20 spaces, adding a 1,165 square foot showroom addition, and new landscaping and signage, including a second freestanding sign for Fiat that requires a sign variance (the max allowed by zoning is one freestanding sign). Documents indicate all the work will cost about $360k and run from September to December of 2015.

Observant readers might remember that Maguires proposed a delaership/headquarters compound in Ithaca town late last year; but due to irreconcilable differences regarding standard zoning vs. Planned Development zone, the plan was tabled.

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7. Woof. Almost to the end. The Ithaca Planning and Development Board is going to have their hands full at next Tuesday’s meeting. Agenda here. Here’s a rundown of what’s in store:

– A minor subdivision to create a new home lot at 201-203 Pearl Street.

A. Approving the adjustment to the Carey Building design discussed earlier this week

B. Enhancements to the pocket park next to the Lake Street bridge (landscaping, paving)

C. Declaration of Lead Agency and discussion on INHS’s 210 Hancock project

D. Declaration of Lead agency, Public Hearing and Determination of Environmental Significance for the proposed Texas Roadhouse on Meadow Street

E. Declaration of Lead agency for the Tompkins Financial HQ – hopefully, we’ll get some detailed renders at the meeting

F. “State Street Triangle Project (Trebloc Building site)” – This will be huge. I cannot stress by excitement enough at seeing the Trebloc Building demolished – I have not hidden my dislike of it, and in nearly seven years of writing this blog, it’s the only building I’ve ever called an “architectural turd“.  Located at 301 East State Street, the Trebloc Building was built in 1974 during the age of Urban Renewal, and was originally supposed to be two floors. The city has been quietly desiring redevelopment of the prominent corner for years, and the site was upzoned from 60 to 120 feet in late spring 2013.

According to some praise-worthy sleuthing by David Hill at the Ithaca Journal, the developer is Robert Colbert in cooperation with Austin Texas-based Campus Advantage, a large-scale developer of student apartments. plans call for a 120-foot building on site, with first floor retail and student-oriented apartments above.

This will be a tremendous project by Ithaca standards. The developer clearly states on its website that it’s only interested in working with sites that will provide at least 100 units of housing. Assuming the Trebloc Building’s footprint of 13,569 sq ft, one story retail followed by eleven floors of apartments yields almost 150,000 square feet of residential space. Figure a loss of 15% for utlities and circulation space, and an average size of about 980 square feet for an average residential apartment unit, and one gets 130 units and an unknown number of beds that could conceivably add a couple hundred students to downtown Ithaca’s population, not to mention millions of dollars of taxable real estate.

There’s a lot that will need to looked at – utility loads, parking, vehicle circulation, aesthetic impacts, and numerous other attributes. But the city’s holding the door open about as wide as it can for this site, and it’ll be an exciting process.

G. “Sketch Plan: Cornell Fine Arts Library – Rand Hall Addition”

Written about previously, it looks like the city will get its first chance to review the project. But someone with a insider’s look has some pretty harsh comments for the plan to renovate Rand hall.

Cornell Architecture professor Jonathan Ochshorn wrote in to tell readers here about the plans for the Fine Arts Library. I’m including a link to his blog post on the project here.

To try and sum up Prof. Ochshorn’s post would do him an injustice, but suffice it to say, the library plans will only keep the brick shell of Rand – the windows will be replaced, and a large “hat” will be placed on the roof. One that bears strong scrutiny from the Planning Board, since there could be significant visual aesthetic impacts on the Arts Quad Historic District.

I’m gonna tie up this post here and sit on the other items until next week. More weeks like this and I’ll need an intern.





Lofts at Six Mile Creek Construction Update 4/2015

22 04 2015

Heading back to downtown again, the “Lofts@SixMileCreek” (no spaces? no spaces…) apartment project is plodding away towards its anticipated late summer completion. From the outside, there’s been progress under all that protective plastic wrap – the first five floors have had their exterior walls framed and glazed (glass wall installation). The top couple of floors should be sealed up in short order.

According to an update from Jason at Ithaca Builds from the start of the month, walls and utility rough-in was underway inside the top floors, and drywall hanging and finish-work was beginning on the lowest floors of the apartment building. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance recently scheduled visits to the unfinished units as part of its Downtown Living Tour last Saturday.

Perhaps the most controversial thing about this project was when the rents were released at the start of the month – prices range from $1,220/month for a studio to $2,655/month for the largest two-bedroom on the upper floors. That got a lot of attention on the Ithaca Voice’s Facebook page, and much of it wasn’t good.

Jeff Stein, the Voice’s editor, followed up with an editorial saying that the criticism misses the point, the best way to alleviate the affordable housing crisis is to bring new units to the market at all income levels, which increases competition among landlords. Although I didn’t have a hand in the editorial, I support every word of it. Rents are high for this project, without a doubt. But the city not only needs units specifically for affordable housing, but units that will create competition for Ithaca’s burgeoning renter population.

With more units to better satisfy demand, landlords won’t be as able to charge premium prices on subpar units – inferior products will more likely be vacant. There would be a market push for owners to either upgrade their units to maintain a certain price point, or downgrade their prices to more affordable segments. Whether or not Ithaca will ever be able to get to that ideal balance between supply and demand is another story.

The Lofts at Six Mile Creek project consists of a a 7-story, 49,244 square foot structure that will contain 45 rental apartment units: 3 studios, 21 1-bedroom and 21 2-bedroom units. The building is being developed by Bloomfield/Schon + Partners out of Cincinnati, and construction is being handled by Turnbull-Wahlert Construction, also based in Cincinnati.

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