206 Taughannock Construction Update, 4/2015

17 04 2015

Work has progressed at the site of the apartment project at 206 Taughannock Boulevard on Ithaca’s Inlet Island, where seven apartments and office space are being built from the gut renovation of a furniture store and warehouse. The changes on the exterior have been slow, but given this past winter, the focus of the past few months has probably been on the interior space.

Since November, a little more siding (best guess, fiber cement/Hardie board) had been installed on the exterior, and the industrial steel siding at the front side of the roof has been replaced with an irregularly-shaped plywood-and-housewrap structure. Looking at the window spacing, siding and trim boards already applied to the front of the building, this rooftop re-do is likely intended to break up the bulk of the old warehouse by giving the impression of individual buildings within the greater structure. It could look nice or it could look clunky, we’ll have to wait and see.

206 Taughannock was until 2014 the site of the Unfinished Furniture Store (otherwise called the “Real Wood Furniture Store“) owned and operated by the Zaharis family. From the county records, the building itself is a 9,156 sq ft structure originally used for retail and warehouse space and dated to sometime in the 1970s. The store closed last April when its owners retired, and a building permit issues a few months later. Photos of the store before renovation can be seen here at Ithaca Builds. Perhaps the biggest loss in this renovation is the removal of a rather attractive mural from the front of the structure.

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Next door, work continues on a satellite office for the Ithaca Police Department in the ground floor space of the former Lehigh Valley House, now a six-unit condominium. The Lehigh Valley renovation was done by local developer Tim Ciaschi, with design work by local architect Claudia Brenner.

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Two more Inlet Island projects are waiting in the wings, although only one is likely to start anytime soon. The 21-unit 323 Taughannock apartment project is expected to start construction this year, but no work appeared to be taking place when I checked the site at the start of April. Meanwhile, 12 affordable apartment units have been proposed for 910 West State Street in a project called “The Flatiron”. The developers, Alpern and Milton LLC, applied for affordable housing grant funding to help finance the project. However, the IURA has deemed the project a low priority because it wasn’t feasible as presented. The site as-is is shown below. The red building with the mansard roof would be renovated, and a structure of similar height and appearance would be built on the triangular lot to its left (west).

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Stone Quarry Apartments Construction Update, 4/2015

15 04 2015

Substantial progress has been on Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service’s (INHS) Stone Quarry Apartments project on Spencer Street on South Hill. Photos from April 5th show that the sixteen 2-story townhomes and 19-unit, 3-story apartment building have been fully framed, sheathed with Tyvek weather wrap, and have windows installed.

Exterior work continues as clapboard siding is installed on the new units. The color selections here are in many cases the same as those found at the Belle Sherman Cottages on the east side of town – the beige-tan window trim is the previously mentioned “Savannah Wicker”, and the brown-orange color is “Mountain Cedar”. “Light Maple”, “Autumn Red”, “Pacific Blue” and “Sable Brown” round out the color selections.

Without actually going inside, it’s a safe bet that interior is moving along with rough-ins and wall framing, maybe even drywall and finish work on the lower floors. The apartments are expected to be completed in October 2015.

The Stone Quarry project consists of 16 two-story townhouses (2 rows, 8 each), and a 19-unit, 3-story apartment building on the northern third of the property. Specifically, the breakdown of unit sizes is follows:

16 three-bedroom Townhouses
2 three-bedroom Apartments
11 two-bedroom Apartments
6 one-bedroom Apartments

As with all projects by INHS, the units are targeted towards individuals with modest incomes, with rents of $375-$1250/month depending on unit size and resident income. While affordable housing is generally welcome and sorely needed, Stone Quarry had a number of complaints due to size, location and lingering environmental concerns.

The build-out is being handled by LeCesse Construction, a nationwide contractor with an office in suburban Rochester. The design is by local firms HOLT Architects and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects.

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Belle Sherman Cottages Construction Update, 4/2015

12 04 2015

Over at the Belle Sherman Cottages off of Mitchell Street, work is underway on the first set of five townhomes, lots 25-29. The CMU block wall foundations have been assembled and look ready for the Simplex modular pieces to be brought onto the site and fitted. The houses are built using four modules, but the size of the townhouse lots suggests these might have only two modules per unit. The townhouse units sold out fairly quickly, just a few weeks. Sales are underway for the second set of townhomes (lots 20-24), which are expected to be built this year as well.

Elsewhere on the site, the “Classic Bungalow” on lot 12 has been assembled and is undergoing lap siding installation (“Mountain Cedar” color, with a lighter “Savannah Wicker” tan color planned for the dormer). The porch is being assembled and exterior trim is being installed. If you’re interested in learning more about the construction process, there’s a little more info in my previous post here, and on Ithaca Builds here and here. Once completed, there will only be two unbuilt home lots, the already-sold “Autumn Yellowfarmhouse planned for lot 11, and the unsold and un-marketed lot 9.

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News Tidbits 4/11/15: Not Feasible As Presented

11 04 2015

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1. If my inbox has been any clue over this past week, there are some folks who are pretty unhappy with the results of the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Old Library site. One more applicant has dropped out of the process – DPI chose not to respond to the RFP. DPI had proposed 76 condos and 8 apartments for the site, a move that was cheered by some residents who spoke passionately about the new for purchasable housing in the city. That leaves three contenders of the original six:

-The Syracuse-based Franklin Properties project, now called the West Court Lofts and Wellness Collective, would renovate the existing building and include 22 residential condominium units (down from 32 units in the RFEI), medical offices, a café, and community room.

-The Rochester-based Cornerstone Group project, known as the Dewitt Senior Apartments, would build 63 residential units of senior housing (down from 70-80 units in the RFEI), and include community space for nutrition education by Cooperative Extension.

-The Ithaca-based Travis-Hyde Properties project would build 60 residential senior-focused units (up from 48 units in the RFEI), and would include space for Lifelong, professional office, and a community room.

There have been no renderings published as of yet, but there will be a stand-alone post when they show up on the county’s website. The three proposals will be judged against each other over the course of the next couple months. A quick glance at the judgement criteria can be found in the Old Library meeting notes here.

The next meeting of the Old Library committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 30th at 9 AM. 5 PM Meetings will be set up during May for developer presentations to the public. Comments on the proposal can be emailed to Ed Marx, the County Planning Commissioner, at emarx@tompkins-co.org with the subject title “Old Library Property”.

2. Local credit union CFCU (Cornell-Fingerlakes Credit Union) is making some moves by buying a retail commercial strip with an eye towards redevelopment. The property, 501-507 S. Meadow Street, sold for $1,555,550 on March 30th, well above its assessed value of $950,000. According to a statement taken by the Ithaca Journal, “the current intention is to ultimately use the site for credit union-related purposes”.

The one-story, 9,203 sq ft strip buildings date from 1980 and 1990 and previously housed a Thai restaurant and offices for Lama Real Estate, the business of previous owner Robert Lama. The site is currently zoned the suburb-friendly SW-2, but like much of big box land, it has been targeted for urban mixed-use in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. CFCU is currently headquartered in about 30,000 sq ft of office space in two 1990s office buildings at 1030 and 1050 Craft Road in Lansing.

In short, nothing immediate going on here, but definitely a property worth keeping an eye on.

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3. The proposal for a Texas Roadhouse on in Southwest Ithaca is getting a couple minor revisions. According to a cover letter from the restaurant chain, plantings have been revised to break up the expanse of blank walls, handicap ramps are now present in the new elevations, and signage has been tweaked. All in all, not a big change from the previously-shown drawings. It doesn’t look like this one will have too many issues moving forward.

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4. At the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) meeting on the 8th, the city voted to approve the sale of land at 320-324 E. State Street to Lighthouse Hotels LLC for construction of the new Hilton Canopy Hotel. Also up for discussion was the removal of 30′ setbacks on all sides of the special MH-1 zoning at the Nate’s Floral Estates mobile home park on the west side of the city. With the 30′ rear yard setbacks already in place and vegetative buffers installed by the big boxes to the south, it was felt by the city economic developer planner that the additional setback was redundant. The removal would facilitate setbacks reduced to 10′ on one side and 5′ on the other side, if I’m reading this right. According to the notes, the mobile home park has a waiting list of tenants. The proposal looks like it will allow a few more units in the park, though it looks pretty tightly packed as-is.

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5. According to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) notes from the April 2nd meeting agenda, the board was not impressed with the Flatiron proposal. On page 6, it gives the project low pritority, with the description “not feasible as presented“. On the other hand, the INHS Hancock Street project was well received and given high priority.

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6. Looking at the March Planning and Development Board meeting minutes, 402 S. Cayuga Street has been approved, pending BZA approval of the variance (which was granted this week, if I have my notes right). The 4-unit, 9-bedroom project may be small, but it’s thoughtful infill and will help bring some affordable owner-occupied housing back into the city.

Approvals were also granted for the city project to replace the Lake Street this summer and fall, and refurbish the pocket park to its southeast. 210 Hancock was discussed without any voting, and sketch plans were presented for the TFC HQ downtown, and the 215 West Spencer Street apartment project, which have been written about previously. The board also discussed added additional questions to the CEQR (the city’s version of the SEQR used in project impact analysis), and the revised paperwork will be reviewed at a later meeting.

Oh, and on a more personal note, this totally made my day:

D. 2014 Planning Board Annual Report

[Senior city planner Lisa] Nicholas briefly walked through the annual report, observing it was a very busy year with a considerable number of additional housing units built. [Board member Garrick] Blalock asked if the annual report is publicized. Nicholas replied, no. Blalock replied it should at least be sent to the “Ithacating in Cornell Heights” and “IthacaBuilds” web sites. Nicholas agreed to do so.
I’ll be excited to have a copy. This would make scouting locations where construction photo updates are required a lot easier.

7. Wrapping this up with one final news piece, it looks like Dunkin’ Donuts is moving into the old Johnny O’s space at 406 College Avenue in Collegetown. So there will be one corporate coffee shop next to another corporate coffee shop and sharing a wall with a trendy fro-yo place. There’s probably a sociology thesis to be had in studying the changing retail scene of Collegetown.





707 East Seneca Street Construction Update 4/2015

10 04 2015

Another infill project is underway in the East Hill Historic District between Downtown and Collegetown. 707 East Seneca, like 202 Eddy Street and 140 College Avenue, had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board and zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals have been granted.

The ILPC-approved design is made to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the building. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) last summer, and the lot was sold for $130,000 on December 22nd (the market asking price was $175,000, and the assessed value of the land is $100,000, so the final price looks pretty reasonable).

The apartment building planned is a 3-story, 6-unit, 18-bedroom structure with 4 garage parking units in a basement built into the hillside, and five surface parking spaces. According to documents filed with the city, target completion is July of 2015. Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

Without getting a good look at the back of the now fenced-off property, it looks like the site has been cleared and excavation is underway for the retaining walls and foundation. Being a sloped site, retaining walls will be built on the west edge of the property (right side of the photos) and for tree wells, and the east portion will use a sloped bank built using fill material. Offhand, I think I remember seeing that the building itself will be assembled from modular pieces, craned into place on the foundation over a day or two, not unlike the method used at the Belle Sherman Cottages.

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

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140 College Avenue Construction Update 4/2015

9 04 2015

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

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

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

The addition is a sympathetic design approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (the house was designated a historic structure in 2011), separated from the original house by a glass “hyphen” connector. In the photos below, lap siding has been installed on the street-facing east wall, and uncovered plywood and house wrap can be seen in the rear. The slight variation in the mansard roof tiles are a nice touch. Windows have been installed, and I’d venture a guess that interior framing is complete and rough-in (plumbing, electrical) is underway in the addition.

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

None of the larger projects in Collegetown are underway just yet, but that will likely change when their current tenants’ leases are done June 1st. The following year or so should be very hectic in the neighborhood, with 307 College (96 beds), 327 Eddy (64 beds) and 205 Dryden (40 beds) all expected to start this summer, and Collegetown Terrace expected to start construction of its 300+ bed phase III this year. A quick check of the neighborhood showed that construction has not yet started on two other small projects, the 6-bedroom duplex planned behind 424 Dryden and the 18-bed 3-building project at 804 E. State Street.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update 4/2015

8 04 2015

Work has commenced on the foundation for the new 3-unit, 17 bedroom apartment building at 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. Plans were approved by the city of Ithaca late last year, and with the worst of winter over (though snow in early April definitely makes one second guess that), construction has been able to proceed on the new building.

The parking lot that once fronted the street is gone. Wooden forms are in place for holding the concrete once it is poured, and rebar criss-crosses the space between the forms. Rebar is used to strengthen and reinforce concrete, the concrete bonds with the steel bars as it hardens. It looks like the east wall of the foundation has already been poured. A blue waterproof membrane can be seen on the concrete in the last photo.

The architect is a Collegetown favorite, local architectural firm Jagat Sharma. The building is being developed by Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed by August in time for the fall semester.

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