Ithaca’s Sanborn Maps

16 12 2014

This post was inspired by two events – a reader messaging me and asking about historic maps, and another reader telling me about the history of the Cayuga Place/Lofts @ Six Mile Creek site. In both these cases, I ended up looking at Sanborn Maps.

Sanborn Maps were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a way to gauge the amount of fire insurance a site needed. A bunch of things come into play when gauging fire insurance – other structures nearby and their uses, geographic features, width of adjacent streets, fire walls, railroads, building materials, and so on. These maps, as exhaustive of a task as they must have been for surveyors, were crucial in determining the right price for insurance coverage. According to the wikipedia article, agents “relied upon them with almost blind faith”. The company was very successful and produced maps into the 2000s, and Sanborn was an early investment of Warren Buffett in the 1960s. Today, the maps are owned by their successor, Environmental Data Resources Inc.

sanborn_1893

With all that noted, Sanborn Maps are a veritable treasure trove of information. Ithaca and Tompkins County were included in the first Sanborn volume published in 1867, and every few years henceforth. While the 1867 map doesn’t appear online, 1866 maps from a rival publisher can be downloaded from the Tompkins County Public Library here. The 1866 Ithaca map was the same one I used in my “A Walk Down Varick Street” post from last Spring. The other Sanborn volumes listed on TCPL’s website date from 1893, 1904, 1910 and 1919. Between published volumes, updates would be sent out on “slips”, sheets with the updated lot details that one could paste into place on top of the old map. There are also 1888 and 1898 copies, which are proprietary and therefore can’t be linked. The same holds true for any map not published by the government after 1922, which takes out the Sanford Maps from 1929, 1957, 1961 and 1971. These newer maps can still be accessed for academic use at Cornell’s Olin Library.

So for the sake of example, I’m going to use the Lots @ Six Mile Creek site and its surrounding block, since I’m already acquainted with it.

map_1866

I’ll lead off with the 1866 map. #13 Cayuga is a small hotel, #16 a doctor’s office, #18 a “Select School” and #19 a livery (horse stables). All the others (excluding the one labelled “Tannery”) are homes.

map_1893

Fast forward 27 years to 1893. On the corner of S. Cayuga and E. Clinton are 3-story rowhouses. A carpet maker sits to their north, and the hotel next door has expanded in the past couple decades. The corner Livery is still there, as are most of the homes. A machine shop sits where the doctor’s office used to be, while Reynolds & Lang (a maker of farm equipment) and George Small’s Planing Mill fill out the east end of the block.

map_1904

Now for another jump, 11 years forward to 1904. The hotel is now a “Farmer’s Hitching Shed” with an earth floor, and the small 2-story building next door is the Forest City Hotel. Many liveries filling in what was once open space, and the planing mill and farm equipment factory have updated names as a result of new business partners.

map_1910

Only a few years later in 1910, the planing mill has moved and the Star Theatre and a bowling alley have taken its place. A concrete garage now sits next to the creek, a bicycle shop and a clothing store sit next to the livery on the corner of Green and Cayuga, and the Forest City Hotel has become Mobb’s Hotel.

map_1919

By 1919, it all starts to get a little jumbled. The change in orientation doesn’t help either. The Star Theatre is now a furniture warehouse and the corner livery is a garage.

Without linking to the images of the later maps, I can at least describe what happens. By 1929, Cayuga Street is automobile row, with Hudson-Essex, Nash and Buick dealerships. A large parking garage is built on the east end of the block. Some houses on Green come down for the Cayuga Press printing plant. The 1961 map shows nothing but Cayuga Press and autocentric development, parking garages and car dealerships and gas stations; the corner townhouses are gone, as are most of the other houses. The whole block is levelled for parking lots and a department store by 1971. The vacated store became the library in 2000, the parking garage went up in 2005, and the apartments have followed. But you can read about the recent work here.

For a budding history buff, the Sanborn maps are a great way to kill a few hours. It also makes one realize just how much downtown Ithaca has evolved over the decades.





Lofts @ Six Mile Creek (Cayuga Place) Update, 11/2014

5 12 2014

As much as I hate to entertain the currently-fashionable use of prepositions in project names, and the “@” symbol to make it modern and hip, that is the official name for what was the condo portion of Cayuga Green. More notably, the project website describes these as apartments rather than condos as initially planned. Apartment projects are easier to get financing for since it’s generally easier to find renters vs. buyers, but given some of the discussion about the need for owner-occupied units that has come up lately (the Old Library redevelopment comes to mind), this is a mild disappointment.

The 7-story, 45-unit, 49,244 GSF apartment building topped out on October 2nd. The concrete floors were poured and the balcony pads were craned into place and secured throughout the fall. Peering into the building from the parking garage, some steel wall frames have been erected on the upper floors, while rough interior work seems to be underway on the lower floors. The plastic sheathing is to break the winter winds and keep the space above freezing.

Developer Bloomfield/Schon + Partners planned to release leasing/pricing details last month, but I haven’t heard anything yet. Completion for the project is set for late Spring 2015, which according to their facebook, is a little later than intended due to material supply delays created by the rough November weather (curse you, polar jet stream). If the last photo is any indicator, the upper-floor units are going to have some fantastic northeast views.

As noted before, this project makes the completion of 15 years of planning and construction. At 45 apartment units, It’s also one of the largest non-student-related projects slated for a 2015 completion – the 35-unit Stone Quarry Apartments and the 21-unit 323 Taughannock are also pegged for 2015 completions.

20141129_135747 20141129_135859 20141129_135828 20141129_135807 20141129_140005 20141129_140241 20141129_140308





The Past and Future of Mixed-Use

13 09 2014

 

I figured I’d change this up from the standard construction update format. There hasn’t been enough development news tidbits this week to merit putting up a new entry; better luck next week, ladies and gents.

I was impressed by the Ithaca Times recent editorial, “The Mixed-Use Future“. It’s a piece that upholds the value of mixed-use projects and that single-use neighborhoods shouldn’t be maintained strictly because that’s the status quo.

Mixed-use projects are something that have only recently picked up steam, as urban areas embrace new urbanist concepts in an effort to add vibrancy to decaying downtowns. Ithaca has arguably been one of the most successful examples in upstate. But it had to work to get there, and the process hasn’t been without acrimony.

100_7263

I’ll rewind the clock back about 15 years to the start of the new millennium. Ithaca’s downtown was quite a bit different from today. There was no Gateway Commons, Breckenridge, Seneca Place or Cayuga Green. The Commons was plagued with high vacancies, severe enough that then-mayor Alan Cohen was mulling over reopening it to vehicular traffic. The big news at that time was the county library’s plan to move into the old Woolworth’s on Green Street (which they purchased at low cost, the owner had struggled to fill the building after Woolworth’s closed in 1998).

The last two newer developments I mentioned, Seneca Place and Cayuga Green, are closely tied together. They and the Cayuga Street garage all depended on each other as the sort of “pie-in-the-sky” redevelopment plan that Ithaca desperately wanted.

100_1883

In the early 2000s, their working titles were the “Cayuga Green at Six Mile Creek” and “Ciminelli/Cornell Office/Hotel” projects, and collectively they were called the “Downtown Development Project“. Cayuga Green has heavy city involvement. At the time, the swath of land surrounding the library on its block was all city-owned surface parking, with the helix for the Green Street parking garage to its east (it was actually kinda neat looking for a parking garage ramp; a photo can be found here).  The first phase of Cayuga Green would also be the lynch pin for the Ciminelli project; the city would convey the parking lots to the IURA, who could sell them off and partner with a developer to build a parking garage to serve the Ciminelli building and some of Cayuga Green. This phase would become the current Cayuga Street garage, which opened in June 2005 with 700 spaces, 34,000 sq ft of first floor retail, and a nearly $20 million price tag. The 185,000 sq ft Ciminelli project was constructed concurrently and also opened in 2005 as Seneca Place on the Commons, with the Hilton Garden Inn for its hotel occupant, Cornell as the primary office tenant, and retail space that would fill up over the next couple years.

100_7262

Phase II focused on a couple things (IIA and IIB, technically). The Green Street Garage would be redeveloped, the helix torn down, and a movie theater would go in the renovated space under the garage. The city owned the top two floors of the 3-story garage, and used eminent domain on the owner of the first floor. Originally, there was to be either 36,000 sq ft of retail on the first floor, or an intermodal transit center (a hub for TCAT and Greyhound/Trailways, essentially). The garage would add two more floors and have space for 1,082 cars.

Perhaps thankfully, this was never done (though the zoning was raised from 60′ to 85′ for the land that the Green Street garage sits on). The Cayuga garage picked up more retail space as the plans were rewritten. A 12 screen national theater chain was proposed for the retail space of the Green Street garage, but given the plans for an expanded theater at the mall in Lansing, it became clear that such a project wasn’t feasible. By good fortune and negotiation, Cinemapolis agreed to take the space, and the theater shrank from 12 to 5 screens and went into the Green Street garage.

101_4904

IIB and Phase III are the residential portions, Cayuga Place Apartments and Cayuga Place Residences (Cayuga Green condos). As originally proposed, there was going to be 70 to 80 apartments with ground-floor retail, and anywhere from 40 to 122 condos. The city IURA had entered a contract in 2002 with Cincinnati-based Bloomfield/Schon to develop the units. The apartments were first proposed in 2005, and with abatements approved, the 68 units and 15,000 sq ft of retail space opened in 2008. The condos are a lot more complicated, bouncing between several iterations and layouts (here’s a few versions 1, 2, and 3, here’s 4 and here’s 5) before settling on the 45-unit design currently under construction. Part of the problem was financing, especially during the recession; a later problem was that the land along Six Mile Creek is not that great for construction. It will have taken 15 years, but the downtown redevelopment project will be complete next year.

cayugaplace_v5

101_4905

There’s been an enormous amount of controversy. A 20-year abatement was used for Seneca Place, the labor used in some of the construction was from North Carolina, and the fight with one of the property owners (Thomas Pine, who ran Race Office Supply on the corner of Seneca and Tioga) was pretty ugly. The fight over the apartments and condos was even uglier in some ways, because the developer requested and received a 10-year tax abatement (and the ICSD was not game). Instead of bringing new, permanent jobs like an employer’s new office or factory, this was housing, and it was market-rate and premium housing at that. The retail portion offered jobs, if they could lure shops, and retail doesn’t exactly pay well either. Some, such as local megalord Jason Fane, said the project would fail. There have been problems, certainly. The Cayuga garage has struggled to fill its retail space. Only now with the impending addition of TC3’s Coltivare restaurant and learning center has it filled most of the space (Merrill Lynch took the leap a few years ago and rents some of the space; then there was that failed wine tourism center). It has taken years for the condos to begin construction. But, slowly and haphazardly, the project is building up and out.

Ithacans did a lot of soul-searching. Were the costs outweighing the benefits? Was growth downtown, or even in the county, a good thing?

101_4907

Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen opinions. I think that for all the problems and strife, that the city has benefited from the downtown projects. Through local character and some luck, the downtown residential units are full and most of the retail space is occupied. Seneca Place and Cayuga Green demonstrate that mixed-use can add life to underutilized parcels and spark interest in neighboring properties. Each project should be weighed carefully, of course. But thanks in part to active urban reinvestment, Ithaca is in a position many upstate cities envy.

6-29-2014 320

 





Cayuga Place Photo Update, June 2014

3 07 2014

As previously shown by Jason at IB a couple weeks ago, foundation work continues at the Cayuga Place condominium project along Six Mile Creek in Downtown Ithaca. In the couple weeks between his last photo set and this set, work continued with the foundation pouring, and more rebar was laid in place (IB offers a much more through level of foundation construction here). The top down view from the garage gives a pretty strong idea of the footprint of the building, which will be seven stories. Cayuga Place will add 39 residences when complete, contributing to downtown’s rapidly growing residential market. The project is by Cincinnati-based Bloomfield/Schon, and the foundation work by Turnbull-Wahlert Construction, also out of Cincinnati.

By the way, going up to the top of the garage required going the long way up the ramp – a homeless man was sleeping next to the door on the top landing of the west stairwell, and hornets were having a field day in the southeast stairwell.

6-29-2014 300 6-29-2014 301 6-29-2014 315 6-29-2014 320

cayugaplace_v5





Dear Cayuga Place, Please Settle On A Design

17 08 2013

cayugaplace_v5

This building has become the bane of this blog’s existence. From the Planning Board:

The applicant is requesting modifications to site plan approved on August 28, 2012, including: a reduction in the site footprint to 6,920 SF (from 9,400 SF); an increase in total floor space to 49,244 GSF (from 47,075 GSF); an increase in the number of stories to 7 (from 4); an increase in the number of units to 45 (from 39); a reduction in the height of the first‐floor elevation to 409’6” (from 410’); a reduction in floor‐to-floor height to 11’4”without mezzanine loft (from 15’6” with mezzanine loft); an increase in total building height to 81’4” (from 63’6”);the addition of 21 unit balconies and 18 false unit balconies; the addition of 4 unit walk‐outs; and the use of auger‐ grouted steel core displacement piles for the foundation (from a spread‐footing foundation).

So in sum, a taller building with a smaller footprint is being proposed, with a few more units of apartments. The gross area only changes slightly, and the ceilings aren’t as high as before. Given the prelim renderings of this latest version, the general design elements remain the same, although at just over 81 feet tall, the building should now fully mask the wall of the parking garage next door.

So let’s see here…here are original renderings v1, v2 and v3….an updated version of V3, v3.1 if you will….v4…..and now this latest one, which we’ll call version 5. This building has changed its “image” more times than a teenage girl.

At least with the current revision, the change may have been less for market concerns, and more out of engineering concerns. Note the change in the type of foundation; spread-footing foundations are shallow foundations, which spreads the weight out and doesn’t go as deep into the soil (you often see these in flood-prone areas). The replacement is a deep foundation, which is selected when the soil is poor in the shallow layer. My guess is that they were doing site testing, the near-surface soil was worse than expected (perhaps due to the presence of Six Mile Creek), so Bloomfield and Schon decided to build upwards on the more stable portion of the parcel, rather than out. Deep foundations are usually more expensive, which could explain the increase in number of units.

Will this be the incarnation that actually gets built? Good question. I’m kinda tired of flavor of the season, so I’m kinda hoping it just goes up already.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers