The Ithaca Economy, Part III: Ithaca’s Economic Health

27 05 2015

Part I looked at how in the past 25 years, Ithaca and Tompkins County had their keisters handed to them by a deep 1990s recession, but came out of the Great Recession of the late 2000s nearly unscathed. Part II provided a break down of job growth by BLS sectors – some sectors, like manufacturing and trade, have given way over the years to a workforce increasingly made up of engineers, scientists and social activists.

However, two big attractions have yet to be discussed – “Government” and “Education and Healthcare”. Those will be covered here in Part III.

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At left is the plot of jobs from 1990 to 2015 in the “Government” sector. Cue the sharpening of the pitchforks. Yes, the token government bureaucrat falls in this category. So do police officers, firefighters and military personnel. The sector shrank briefly in the early 1990s and has grown or held steady since. But in the 2000s recession, there’s an enormous boost – from November 2008’s 9,000 jobs to January 2010’s 10,300. The sector maxed at 10,400 jobs, over 15% of the local market, in October and November 2011. The annual average number of government jobs that year was 10,000, and it has fallen steadily since, with last year’s annual average total of government jobs being about 9,100.

Now the proverbial juggernaut, “Education and Health Services”. Cornell, Ithaca College, TC3, ICSD and other local school districts, as well as doctors, nurses and so forth. Just how much of the local economy does this sector comprise? I plotted it out in annual average proportions below.

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Since 1990, it’s climbed from about 45% of the total job market to 55% of the total job market. The colleges and university by themselves account for nearly 10,000 jobs. In the BLS plot, the sector shrinks a little in the early 1990s, but then it’s climbed ever since, though with a strong amount of seasonality as a result of the academic year.

Now back to the recession question. If Cornell cut hundreds of jobs, and IC didn’t really grow (according to their own reports), what helped cosset Ithaca from the economic maelstrom a few years ago? Why did it do so much better in the 2000s than the 1990s?

The other half of that economic sector. Healthcare.

It’s no big secret that healthcare has been a big grower in the county for the past several years. The local healthcare industry was essentially untouched by the 2000s recession. Cayuga Medical Center has added over 500 jobs since 2008. Baby Boomers are retiring in large numbers, and they expect a full suite of healthcare services; and while the Boomers are generally fleeing this state by the truckload for warm, low-tax locales like Florida, college towns with a high quality of life, such as Ithaca, are seen as a major draw in their own regard. As more boomers look to a community like Ithaca as an alternative to the golf course-and-shuffleboard crowd, it creates more healthcare job opportunities, which are spearheading job growth in the region.

So there’s the hypothetical conclusion – growth in several small sectors and government helped to offset losses in other sectors during the late 2000s recession, but the real difference between the early 1990s and late 2000s is the growing healthcare market created in large part by an older, retiring population. Health services buoyed the local economy even when Cornell and IC were financially stressed. These days, they all work together to bring job growth to Ithaca and set new record highs in local employment.

Now comes the gut check – does that conclusion make sense? The question was posed to local economists and economic development officials.

“I think your gut is not too far off.” Replied Martha Armstrong, Vice President and Director of Economic Development Planning for TCAD. “Certainly Upstate New York had a prolonged and deep recession in the early 1990s and real estate values took a huge hit, actually losing ground, which was uncommon nationally.”

“Yes, education and health held up well during the great recession, never declining in Ithaca. Ithaca didn’t get involved in the housing bubble or predatory lending. Once the recession ended. Hiring in health and education really took off. As for Cornell’s 700 job cuts [during the recession], that’s 2% of 34,500 jobs in the sector, ” explained Elia Kacapyr, the head of the economics department at Ithaca College and the operator of the Ithaca Business Index. “I can’t confirm it was health care and not education jobs that saved us. The employment figures are combined into one sector. I suspect it was education services. It seems to me education employment dwarfs health in Ithaca. Cornell, Ithaca College, TC3, K – 12.”

Unfortunately, there was no real consensus because the conclusion was unable to be thoroughly proven. A slight disappointment, but for what it’s worth, there is no doubt that Ithaca’s economy handled the latest recession well. Tompkins County is a rare economic bright spot in an otherwise depressed upstate economy.





The Ithaca Economy, Part II: A Jack of All Trades

26 05 2015

Part I provided a brief examination of how the 1990s recession had a deep and lasting impact on the Ithaca economy, while the late 2000s recession was a minor hiccup in comparison. Here in Part II, those recessions will be looked at in greater detail by examining the different occupational groups that make up the Ithaca economy.

ithaca_bls_1990_2015

To see how the overall market changed, here is the plot of all the non-farm job sectors calculated, combined and tracked by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 1990 to 2015. 1990 gives a nice 25-year figure, and it’s also as far as the online data goes back.

There are ten economic sectors defined by the BLS, and all counts are rounded to the nearest 100. Not all of them follow the same pattern as the overall numbers, as seen in the four sectors below.

ith_jobs_tseries_1

Even with the substantial growth in the Ithaca economy, not all parts of the local economy reflect that. At top left is “Mining, Logging and Construction,” which in Ithaca is mostly construction and the Cargill salt mines in Lansing. Employment peaked at 1,700 in August 1990, fell during the economic doldrums of the 1990s, and has made a very gentle climb since the late 1990s, most likely due to population growth and the slow if steady rise in construction demand. Cornell’s recent budget problems could derail that rise.

At top right, “Manufacturing”, industrial makers and producers. Manufacturing peaked at 4,600 in October and November 2000. The woes in this sector match much of upstate – manufacturers closed or left the area for cheaper sites down south or overseas, like Ithaca Gun in 1986/87, NCR/Axiohm in the 1990s and Morse Chain in the late 2000s (Morse Chain shed 500 jobs in the late 2000s, which explains some of the plunge). Fortunately, companies like Borg Warner still maintain a strong presence, and there has been some growth lately thanks to firms such as Groton’s Plastisol and Ithaca’s Incodema.

Lower left is “Trade, Transportation and Utilities”. In this category is where truckers, warehouse workers, retailers, wholesalers and utility crews fall. This category peaked at 7,000 jobs twice, in January 2006 and January 2008, but has fallen closer to 6,000 jobs in the past year or so. The early 1990s dip is there, as is a dip during the late 2000s recession. Overall, the sector’s employment hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past 25 years.

Last image in the figure, at the lower right, is “Information“. Publishers, broadcasters, news agencies like the Ithaca Voice, telecommunications, movie makers, and so on. The category has never employed more than 800 people locally, and is at an all time low as of late (on a national level, the industry has shrunk by a third since the early 2000s). It doesn’t follow the recessions, but it’s a tiny portion of the Ithaca market anyway.

Okay, so these four either held steady or fell during both recessions, and are decreasing or holding steady while the overall local economy has grown. Let’s look at the next four:

ith_jobs_tseries_2

The big difference between the first four and these four is that we can clearly see that these industries have grown in the past quarter century, some more than others.

“Financial Activities” at top left includes groups like bankers, insurance agents, and real estate agents. While currently at its highest ever, it’s hit that watermark many times in the past decade. The industries fell by similar amounts during both recessions, but the late 2000s down-period was much shorter.

The “Professional and Business Services” sector shown at top right includes engineers, architects, veterinarians, scientists and other technical professionals not associated with academia or government. They definitely saw a substantial drop during the ’90s recession, and it mimics that decade’s lengthy downturn. The late 2000s recession is barely noticeable, just like the overall jobs picture.

Leisure and Hospitality” at lower left is easy enough to define – hoteliers, restaurants, and professional entertainers like musicians and artists. There’s been a big push in the hospitality subsector with new hotels in Ithaca opening recently and in the near future, but the job growth isn’t all too impressive, only a few hundred jobs during peak periods. Once again, this sector was deeply impacted by ’90s recession, and jostled though not seriously damaged by the 2000s recession.

The last category, “Other Services” on the lower right, is a catch-all. In this category the BLS includes mechanics, dry cleaners, nannies, social and environmental non-profits, clergy and lobbyists. Given this area’s strong social activism, there’s little reason to wonder why the jobs totals have steadily risen, even during the recessions.

These four probably played a role in Ithaca’s growth in the past 25 years – the city and county have transitioned from factory workers and tradesmen to engineers and non-profits. But I still have yet to touch on the two biggest categories, “Government” and “Education and Healthcare.” Those two, plus some ideas on why the 1990s downturn was worse than the late 2000s recession, will be presented in Part III.

 





The Ithaca Economy, Part I: A Tale of Two Recessions

25 05 2015

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Ithaca’s economy has been growing in the past 25 years. Like any market, it’s also had its share of ups and downs – in particular, a recession in the early 1990s and a recession in the late 2000s. Nationally, the early 1990s recession was mild, especially in comparison to the Great Recession of the late 2000s. The 1990s recession only lasted 8 months on a national level (July 1990 – March 1991) and GDP loss was -1.4%. The Great Recession was 18 months (Dec 2007 – Jun 2009) and a GDP loss of -4.3%.

In Ithaca, these recessions played out a little differently.

ithaca_bls_1990_2015

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), after a peak employment of 53,100 non-farm jobs in October 1990, the economy sputtered and shrank, falling as low as 47,700 jobs in January 1992, and not surpassing the 53,100 high mark until October 1995. The first half of the decade saw no real growth in jobs numbers.  The Ithaca College Economic Index, which establishes a number based on local economic indices, further highlights the poor 1990s ecnomy. The way the index works is that the index value in January 1985 = 100; 101 means 1% growth since Jan 1985. The county grew at a rapid pace in the late 1980s, and the index was 135.32 in March 1989. But by March 1992, it was 115.75; the economy shrank 14.5%. The index wouldn’t go above 135 again until February 1999. By this measure, Ithaca and Tompkins County had a lost decade.

In contrast, the late 2000s recession had a pre-recession peak of 158.66 in January 2008, fell as low as 149.44 in March 2009, and a new all-time high was established in June 2010. The economy index contracted only 5.8% during the recession, and Ithaca recovered relatively quickly compared to many cities. The jobs total is hardly a blip, an averaged loss of 200 jobs in 2009 that were quickly recovered in 2010’s growth.

So, why the difference? That’s the $64,000 question. An oft-cited reason is that Tompkins County’s institutions of Higher Education are responsible – Cornell, Ithaca College and TC3 were less buffeted by the economic headwaters that made the recession as bad as it was. Cornell published a report in the late 2000s saying that its construction projects alone provided over 700 jobs. Visitors to the university and staying in hotels and eating at local restaurants was claimed to have created almost 800 jobs.

But the colleges were here in the early 1990s as well. And while Cornell eliminated 900 positions during the recession by retirement or layoffs, the job numbers suggest that other employers must have picked up the slack in employment.

One of the ways to try and figure this out would be to look at the breakdown in employment by sector as described by the BLS. Perhaps education didn’t play as much of a role in the 1990s recession, or other industries grew while Cornell’s rank were whittled down in the late 2000s. Part II will be examining the job sector breakdowns and running some calculations to see just what changed in the job totals, and when.





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.

inhs_pride_v3_elevations_1 inhs_pride_v3_elevations_2

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.

 





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.

oldlibe_cornerstone_proposal oldlibe_cornerstone_proposal_2

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”.

oldlibe_travishyde_proposal oldlibe_travishyde_proposal_2

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.

oldlibe_franklin_proposal oldlibe_franklin_proposal_3

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





Ecovillage Construction Update 4/2015

21 04 2015

Up on West Hill in the town of Ithaca, work progresses on the “Common House” apartment building for EcoVillage’s third neighborhood, called TREE (Third Residential Ecovillage Experience, following its first two, FROG and SONG). Since the end of December, exterior finishes have made their way onto most of the 4-story building; offhand it looks like some type of composite siding along with wood paneling, which adds character and brightness to the building’s otherwise muted appearance. Some sections have yet to be exterior finishes applied, and the housewrap is still visible. Balconies are being built on the northwest corner, but have yet to begin installation on the southeast corner.

The Common House will hold about 15 units, ranging from studios to 3-bedrooms. My previous back of the envelope calculation suggests 25-30 bedrooms in the building. When the Common House is finished later this spring, the TREE neighborhood, with 25 owner-occupied homes as well as the 15 apartments, will be complete, two and a half years after the first homes started construction.Planning for the TREE neighborhood began in 2007, but financial setbacks and the late 2000s recession resulted in an extended incubation and planning process, including a revision that increased the number of housing units from 30 to 40.

Construction is being handled by a local firm, AquaZephyr, which received an award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy for a “zero energy ready” home constructed as part of TREE. The designs of the Common House and houses are the work of California architect Jerry Weisburd.

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