Design Competition Announced for Collegetown Apartment Building

19 02 2015

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Back in August, I wrote a story about how a student competition was held in the early 1980s to design the mixed-use building currently standing at 409 College Avenue. It appears that someone liked the idea and decided to launch a competition of their own.

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the competition is to design a replacement for 313-317 College Avenue, a property owned by local developer/landlord Lambrou Real Estate since the late 1970s. Cornellians of my late 2000s vintage will remember this building for housing Dino’s Bar and Grill. In previous years, it’s also held a grocer (1920s), a furniture store (1950s), a record store (1970s), and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant (1990s). Finding the original construction date of the building has been difficult (I’d guess ca. 1910, since it’s missing from this 1906 photo but it’s definitely an older style), and it appears substantial renovations occurred in the mid 1970s, likely the porthole windows on the fourth floor. Because of the heavy alterations borne by the storefronts and top floor over the years, the building has lost much of its historic value.

From a zoning standpoint, the building is in the densest Collegetown zone, MU-2. That entails a mandatory mixed-use component (usually interpreted as commercial space on the first floor), the building can occupy almost all the lot except for a rear setback of 10 feet, and no required parking. The building must be between 4 and 6 floors, and 45′-80′ tall, with a flat roof. 313-317 College already occupies most of its lot footprint, so the area of the new building wouldn’t be a big change, but the addition of a few more floors would make for a greater visual impact. More likely than not, there will be student apartments from floors 2-(4 or 5 or 6).

Speaking specifically about the competition, it’s open to any member of the Cornell community, student, faculty or staff, and has been underway for a couple weeks. Sketch plans were due Wednesday the 18th, final plans/schematics April 7th, and the winner will be announced May 17th. The call for proposals asks for sustainability as a design theme, so an emphasis on “green” features is expected in the submissions. The judges panel will consist of Lambrou Real Estate, AAP professors yet to be chosen, and Ithaca Student Housing, which is also staffed by the Lambrou Family (different branch maybe?). No word yet if there’s a cash prize for the winner.

Just like 409 College over 30 years ago, this is a win-win for everyone involved. The winner gets exposure and a pretty big project to claim on their resume. The Lambrous get a project at a fraction of the design cost of an architectural firm. I hope to see and share some of the proposals as they become available.





News Tidbits 2/7/2015: It Snows In Ithaca, But Verizon Makes It Rain In NYC

7 02 2015

1. As relayed by several outlets, Cornell just received a very generous $50 million donation from telecommuncations giant Verizon. I might make more news about this, but this donation is strictly for the shiny new tech campus down in New York City. The “Verizon Executive Education Center”, in the left of the above render, will be part of the first phase of the campus, set to open in 2017. This goes along with a 6-story, 236,000 sq ft building design by Weiss/Manfredi, and a 4-story, 188,600 sq ft building by Morphosis Architects, both of which are already underway. The skyscraper on the right of the render is a 26-story, 500-room dormitory for students and staff designed by Handel Architects; while not yet underway, it is also slated for a 2017 opening. A design for the tall building on the far left has not been released.

I’d like to see a breakdown of what proportion each campus received from Cornell’s $546.1 million in donations.

2. Looks like some Sun writers decided to do some digging regarding the potential Fine Arts library relocation and expansion. There’s not a whole lot more to add since the Ithaca Voice article; just that the timeline and final design haven’t been set, although the renovation is a “key academic priority”. Students of the AAP school also have mixed opinions about the growth of the library and the possible loss of studio space. But don’t fret dear readers, if a render comes out, it and any pertinent info will be shared here.

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3. A subdivision filed with the city of Ithaca indicates plans for a new two-family, 6-bedroom home at the intersection of Oak Avenue and Oneida Place. The house would be built on land that currently serves as a rear parking lot for 424 Dryden Road. Application here, drawings here. The site falls into the CR-2 Zone of the Collegetown Form District, meaning 2-3 floors, and pitched roofs and porches are required. The architect is Daniel Hirtler of Ithaca, and the developers are William and Angie Chen, also of Ithaca. While not particularly notable, it’s an example of how the form-based zoning applied to Collegetown helps maintain the character of the less-dense outer neighborhood, while still allowing for new construction.

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4. As with virtually every other sizable project in downtown Ithaca, the canopy Hotel by Hilton is filing an application requesting a tax abatement through the CIITAP program, making it the sixth applicant since the revised program was put into affect in 2013. Application here, and the notice of  public meeting, set for 5 PM February 9th at City Hall, is here. A refresher/review of CIITAP can be found here.

The applicant, “Ithaca Downtown Associates LLC”, a.k.a. the Patel Family of the Baywood Hotels Inc., notes that the 7-story, 123-room hotel project has an estimate cost of $20.15 million. Although the value of the tax abatement is not recorded in the city’s application (it will be written out, when reviewed by the county IDA), it looks like they’re seeking the standard 7-year abatement, which will save them something in the ballpark of a couple million dollars over those 7 years.

As with the previous Marriott and Hotel Ithaca applications, the applicant will only pay one-third to one-half of its projected employees a living wage, which is probably going to earn them the scorn and opposition of the Tompkins County Worker’s Center. But the city and Downtown Ithaca Alliance have been supporters of the project. Neighboring businesses seem to be have mixed opinions about the project, with some seeing a potential business source, and others mourning the loss of a convenient parking lot.

The 74,475 sq ft project is expecting to start construction during the spring, with completion in Spring 2016. Local firm Whitham Planning and Design is the architect.

For those already planning a stay, expect room rates of $160+/night, according to the Journal.

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5. It’s PSA time again – INHS is planning meeting #4 for its proposed Neighborhood Pride redevelopment at 4:30 PM Wednesday the 11th, inside the vacant Neighborhood Pride grocery store. The one and only final design concept, shaped by community feedback, will be presented at this meeting. Keep an eye on the Voice for an article (and maybe a rerun here) next Thursday or Friday.

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6. Looking at the city’s project memo going out to its departments, it doesn’t look like a whole lot needs to be reviewed this month. Cornell’s Upson hall renovation, the 6-unit building at 707 E. Seneca, and the 4 for-sale townhomes INHS wants to build at 402 S. Cayuga Street are ready for final approval this month. The 3-building, 6-unit project for 804 E. State (112 Blair) still needs to be reviewed by the zoning board, and will be completing environmental review (SEQR determination of significance).

The only new projects of note are the new house at 424 Dryden, and renovations to the Lake Street Bridge. The bridge project consists of rebuilding the current deteriorated bridge with a new deck and refurbished abutments (base supports), as well as scour reinforcements (to protect from creek erosion), a bumpout for viewing Ithaca Falls, some cute light-posts, and a bridge span that isn’t so degraded that it’s liable to collapse into the creek. That project has a $1,000,000 price tag, and is expected to run from June to November of this year.

For those that use this bridge, start prepping for a detour route – the bridge will be closed during construction, to both vehicles and pedestrians. The city estimates the detour will be an extra 1.7 miles for cars, and 0.7 miles for bikes and walkers.





News Tidbits 1/10/15: Where Will All the Students Go?

10 01 2015

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1. I’ll lead off with this supplement to the Voice opinion article I wrote. Here’s the work sheet I used for the bedroom tally for student-centric housing. I chose to leave it out of the submitted article because 95% of readers checking the Voice would find it obscure or just wouldn’t be interested. If you’re coming here, then you’re probably in the other 5%. Question marks are present because the county’s online records provide total number of units in mixed-use buildings, but not bedrooms (yet residential-only structures have bedroom numbers, go figure). Anyway, there is the off-chance that enough new projects will be proposed in the next 12-18 months that we could still meet the projected need by 2018, since it’s about 500 rooms short at the moment…but I’m not optimistic. There are few large sites left in Collegetown, and even fewer sites in other adjacent neighborhoods. If Fane comes back down to Earth with a project that fits zoning for 330 College Avenue, and Travis Hyde’s Ithaca Gun apartment project ends up being student-centric, then perhaps there will be another 200 or 250 bedrooms to the total. The rest of the balance will need to come from small or medium-sized projects. Anyway, that’s all speculation. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I wasn’t being totally facetious with the suggestion of Cornell building more dorms though. A few hundred rooms could take some of the edge of the housing problem, and it’s less Cornell has to pay out in rent stipends to financial aid recipients. But even if Cornell was mulling it over, it would take years to go through planning and construction.

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2. If this were in Ithaca, I’d have splurged pages of writing over it. But it’s not. Construction permits have been filed for Cornell’s second academic building at its new tech campus on Roosevelt Island in NYC – a 189,000 sq ft structure designed by some of Cornell’s favorite alumni architects, NYC firm Weiss/Manfredi. They’re the same ones who are handling the Vet School renovation, and who designed the Sesquicentennial Commemorative Grove that opened last fall. The building is the one on the right in the above image, the one that looks like an ice cube breaking apart. Building number one, the design in the left foreground, is already underway.

For the record, I’m still not a fan of the tech campus.

3. The Ithaca Times has done an interview with Bill Manos that’s worth a read. It has your standard anti-regulation rant (the same one you get from your retired Fox News-watching uncle), and he calls the sale an “opportunity from Heaven” that he didn’t see coming. He says the sudden closure was so the new lessees could renovate the diner and have their new restaurant (called “Old Mexico“) ready for the Spring. I don’t think that exonerates the “bad manners” of giving his employees only eight days’ notice, but hopefully they’ve all been able to move on like he claims in he interview.

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4. Looks like the 6-unit, 18-bedroom project for 707 E. Seneca has seen some slight revisions as it goes to the ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council) for further review (agenda here). About the only notable change I can find from the previous render is in the spacing of the dormer windows. Although the lot is undeveloped, it’s in a historic district, hence the extra step of ILPC approval. A lot of the major details have already been hashed out, so I imagine the council will only have minor suggestions, but we’ll see what happens. The ILPC is also set to review the Old Library proposals, and given their exacting approach, my inner cynic tells me it will be less about which project they like the most, but rather which one they dislike the least.

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5. On another note, the two duplexes proposed for 804 E. State Street (formerly 112 Blair) has been upped to three. Details and drawings here. All are two units each with three bedrooms in each unit, so 18 total. They also look about as utilitarian as one can get away with; the easternmost house (building “D”) has a chamfered corner, and that’s about the only interesting architectural detail I see. Parking will now be shoehorned into the basement level  of all three buildings (12 spaces total; it’s a hilly site). The construction cost has been upped to about $600,000, but the construction timeframe of late Spring/summer 2015 is still the same. Although the lot is being cobbled together from slices of adjoining properties, it will still require an area variance from the zoning board because of how close the houses are to each other. Looking on the bright side, this development will replace a parking lot and works as appropriate infill for lower Collegetown.

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6. I finally received an email response from the Zaharises regarding what’s underway at their old furniture store at 206 Taughannock Boulevard. Unfortunately, it’s not very descriptive:

We’re renovating the building into apartments. It looks quite different doesn’t it?!

Yes. Yes it does.

 





Collegetown Construction Updates, 11/2014

3 12 2014

Next stop, Collegetown.

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Over at 140 College Avenue, framing is underway on a 3,800 sq ft, 12-bedroom addition to the historic John Snaith House. The project is designed by local architect Jason Demarest and developed by Po Family Realty, a smaller Collegetown landlord.

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This house at 205 College Avenue seems confused. Before the extremely vivid paint job and mix-and-match additions, it looked like this, and a photo from January 2014, with the paint but without the additions, is included below. I really don’t know what to make of it. I dunno how long the Lowers have been sitting on permits for this one, but I didn’t see anything go through the city boards.

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News Tidbits 11/22/14: The Quiet of An Early Winter

22 11 2014

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1. Here’s the first revision for the Maguire proposal in Ithaca town. With different building sizes and parking layouts, about the only thing that remains the same is the general site configuration. The planning committee packet has its retinue of numbers to help sell the town on the project; 50 new jobs and 100 transferred to the site (average wage $44,300), with an extra $2,000,000 in taxes for the town. The town is being cautious about the project because it relocates a proposed park (Saponi Meadows), and the project doesn’t fit with the just-completed Comprehensive Plan. Zoning would need to be amended, and the trail to Tutelo Park would hinge on a land donation to the town that also seems to involve them taking responsibility for the roads on Ithaca Beer’s property. Observant readers will recall Ithaca Beer is undergoing an expansion of its own.

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From SW to NE, you have the Subaru/Hyundai dealership, the Fiat/Alfa Romeo/Maserati dealership (those wealthier Cornellians need to get their GranTurismos and Ghiblis serviced somewhere), the corporate HQ and the Nissan dealership. The dealerships themselves will follow carmaker-approved design language, as the examples included in the packet suggest. Two lots on either side of the corporate office are tagged for future development, and an Audi/Porsche/Jaguar dealership is included in the dealership renderings, but not in the site plan. The project would be LEED certified, have electric car stations, walking trails, a loop road, and a coffee bar/cafe. Unique to the project would be apple and cherry orchards and vineyards – I suppose this is where the “artisanal” moniker comes in. We’ll see how warm the town is to the project after the presentation.

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2. In other presentations, this one for the county, the Old Library Committee is recommending that all four of the remaining Old Library proposals be asked to submit formal proposals. Last Friday, the county also opened up a 10-day comment period on the RFP draft document. Personally, I don’t see much to add to it, and most of it consists of things that would be great if one project had it all – but none will. It’s what HR recruiters call a “purple squirrel“, a perfect candidate that has a vanishingly small chance of applying. It requests green building, affordable housing, purchasable units, mixed uses, and a special meeting with the stringent ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks & Preservation Council; I recall notes from a recent meeting where they had an argument on whether solar panels were appropriate for historic buildings and districts). I don’t believe any project on that site can meet all those and still hope for a construction loan from a private entity. Condos (which is what purchasable units means in this case) are hard to get financing for, and affordable housing torpedoes the DPI and Franklin/O’Shae projects because they won’t break even at a lower price point, therefore no loan, no build.  I suspect Travis Hyde would also have the same problem, and the Cornerstone Group, while affordable, doesn’t have mixed use or green building measures. I understand it’ll be a “whatever comes closest” situation, but I feel like the county is setting itself and local residents up for a disappointment in one way or another.

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3. Looks like the Times has had a busy week writing about local projects. A piece on 114 Catherine, a piece on 323 Taughannock, an article about the Troy Road project, and a piece on the Chain Works District. Gee, I wonder where they got the idea that local developments make for interesting articles? A fifth entry notes 85 people attended the brainstorming session for the Neighborhood Pride site, which is simply fantastic.

If I’m to recommend any of the four, it would be the piece on the Chain Works/Emerson project, which is in-depth and broad in its review of the site and its environmental issues. The writeup on 323 Taughannock notes that developer Steve Flash originally wanted a taller building on site, but soil conditions combined with the costs for a more substantial foundation made it cost-prohibitive (and unlike the Purity project, this was discovered well before any plans were approved).


4. Compared to much of this year, this month’s Ithaca city planning board meeting looks to be rather quiet. Agenda with all the attachments here. INHS will be giving a description of their “visioning process” for the Neighborhood Pride site, which probably means a rundown of how they’re going to come up with the design (the goal is to present a sketch plan of the project in March or April). The 114 Catherine and 128 West Falls Street infill projects are in the last stages of review, some discussion of the environmental assessment form is scheduled for the Canopy Hotel, and Purity is still trying to amend its previously approved plan. Also in the itinerary, formal review will begin of the 3,400 sq ft DiBella’s planned for big box land. In terms of sketch plans, there’s a review for a new children’s garden at Cass Park, and a pair of duplexes (4 units total) for what is currently a parking lot at 112 Blair Street, behind the houses on the embedded map. 112 Blair is zoned CR-2, meaning parking, vegetative buffers, and hipped roofs are required. It needs to be 2-3 stories and permits a max of 35% lot coverage (it’s a 6,390 sq ft lot, so about 2235-3353 sq ft per duplex, 1117-1676 sq ft per unit). Infill is always welcome, though hopefully they aren’t as plain as their State Street neighbors built a few years ago. News next week will likely be lacking due to the holiday, so the next development roundup will probably be in December.

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On a final note, we’re averaging the third coldest year since records started in 1893. Damn it, I want my global warming.

Oh wait, here it is. Virtually everywhere else except Ithaca. Sigh.





The Collegetown Boom Continues: The Plans for 302-306 College Avenue

30 10 2014

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I touched on this one in last week’s news updates, but now I have some images to go along with it. Plans brought forth by Avramis Real Estate and designed by Collegetown favorite Sharma Architecture show not one but two buildings, one 6 stories and one 4 stories. The sketch plan can be found here. The buildings are split up according to zoning – one occupies the 6-story MU-2 zone, the other the 4-story CR-4 zone. Neither requires parking, although a small amount is provided between the two structures.

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The buildings on the MU-2 portion consist of three older homes originally built around 1900-1920, and periodically updated to reflect a changing Collegetown, such as the bump-out in front of 306 College that houses Collegetown Liquor. Not exactly devoid of charm, but the alterations have been enough to compromise their historic value. These house 36 bedrooms.

The CR-4 portion has 4 homes, all late 1800s to early 1900s, and house 32 bedrooms. Once again, not without their charms, but pretty run down.

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The MU-2 building, called “304 College Avenue”, will house 64 apartments with 117 bedrooms. The CR-4 building will house 38 apartments with 85 bedrooms. So the site will see a net gain of 134 bedrooms (202-68).

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304 College almost doesn’t look like a Sharma to me.  The mosaic tiling is a feature that makes it stand out, although I personally am not the biggest fan. It’s boxy and bulky, but not offensive.

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Not much to say about the Catherine Street building, the design still has yet to be fully rendered. But it looks pretty standard for Jagat Sharma’s work, the Fontana Apartments or 211 Linden come to mind.





News Tidbits 10/25/14: It Seems Expensive Because It Is

25 10 2014

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1. I always appreciate it when people respond to my emails. On a whim, I emailed the realtor in charge of the Belle Sherman Cottages to see which ones were underway with sales, and what the time frame was. She forwarded the request to the developer, Toby Millman of Agora Homes and Development LLC, who wrote back to say that as of the 17th, the front-loading garages on lots 25-29 (render above) were being marketed, and three of the five have been sold. They are planning for an April 2015 completion for those five, with the modules being set into place next year (some site prep work may occur this fall). The five townhomes with the back-loading garages are not being marketed just yet. Who knows, with most of the homes being sold and several under construction, the entire project could be complete by the end of 2015.

2. Oh geez. An Irish-themed Hooters is coming to Ithaca. According to the Post-Standard, Tilted Kilt, a “Celtic-themed sports pub”, is looking at a restaurant for Ithaca. The Syracuse location due to open next month will be 7,000 sq ft, I expect an Ithaca location would be similarly-sized. The chain already has a location in Watertown, and has plans for a Utica restaurant as well. Basically, any city over 30,000 roughly within an hour’s radius of Syracuse. Here’s the chain’s website, featuring a woman preparing to make out with a hamburger. I’m sure the fratty frat boys at Cornell are getting excited. Placing bets on whether they go for Lansing or southwest Ithaca.

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3. Per the IJ, The developers of the Carey Building expansion are asking for a tax abatement from the city via the CIITAP application. A primer on CIITAP applications can be found here at the Ithaca Voice; a number of projects in the city’s “density district” have used them in recent years as a way to offset high development costs in downtown and West End. Recently, Jason Fane made news for pursuing a tax abatement via CIITAP for his project on East Clinton Street. The standard abatement is 7 years, with 90% of the increased value being offset in the first year. In this case,the building was assessed in 2014 at $475,000. The new construction will cost $4.7 million according to the IJ, but it says $1.6 million in the city’s site plan application; that gives us assessed values in year one of $945,000 if the IJ is right, or $635,000 if the SPR is still accurate. The abatement tapers off through the latter six years. As with Fane, I suspect Travis Hyde Companies is pursuing an abatement simply because they can, they meet the qualifications so carpe diem. The wide difference in the IJ and SPR numbers could be an indication of rapidly rising project costs. Regardless of reasoning, this definitely isn’t going to do the developers any favors when it comes to community relations.

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4. Maybe the Novarr interview in the Voice will have run by the time this runs; maybe it won’t. Just in case, straight from the developer himself, Phase III/Building 7, with its 247 units, is planned for a late 2015 construction start, with completion in the summer of 2017. It’s a long construction period; it’s also a very big building.

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5. From the Cornell Daily Sun, it’s expected that rents at Collegetown Crossing will be around $1,000, per month, per tenant. Students in Cornell’s Student Assembly aren’t exactly pleased, since that number far exceeds even what most Cornellians can afford (but don’t worry; with student population growth far outstripping supply, there’s enough demand for student rentals, even in the luxury segment, that this place will fill up to capacity as soon as it opens). Welcome to Ithaca’s severely under-supplied rental market; open your wallets wide, boys and girls.

It just occurred to me that since I wrote the enrollment column last year with 2012 numbers, I glanced at the 2014 numbers on the University Factbook. Now it’s 21,850, an increase of 426 students in 2 years, and in pace with the 2002-2012 period. 234 of that 426, 55%, were grad and professional students.

There are a number of factors for why it’s so expensive – land values in Collegetown are high, construction labor is expensive because Ithaca is off the beaten path, taxes are high, and the new Collegetown zoning doesn’t allow Lower to build out the rear portion as he initially intended, forcing him to keep the building’s rear flank at 4 floors instead of 6 (the zoning is also what allows him to build in the first place, since it removed the parking requirement).

Let me be clear. Unless something is done to reduce demand or increase supply, this will become the norm, and Cornell students of modest means will be placed in an increasingly precarious situation with the cost of housing. Just like the rest of Ithaca.

6. To wrap things up, here’s looking into the agenda of next week’s Planning Board meeting (and what will probably comprise my mid-week posts). Purity, The Canopy by Hilton, Chain Works, 114 Catherine, and the 15,700 sq ft retail building on the Wegmans pad site. Only the Wegmans parcel is up for final approval.

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114 Catherine comes to the board with one major change – the front entrance was moved from the corner to the middle of the front facade. Still 17 bedrooms in 3 units.

As for new projects coming up for sketch plan, we technically have three. As much as I was looking forward to it, Ithaca Gun is not one of them, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for next month.

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The first is 402 S. Cayuga Street. Eagle-eyed readers will recognize this as INHS’s 4-unit townhome project.

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The second is Cornell – Upson Hall renovations. Cornell stuff is easy enough to find, they publish veritable novels about projects once they’re cleared by the Board of Trustees. Upson renovations sound like they’re mostly internal work with a facade update. I’m more interested in the proposed biomedical building they have yet to roll out designs for. The Upson renovation is supposed to cost $63 million, so maybe there are additions involved; the new biomedical building, $55 million. The firms involved look to be LTL Architects, Perkins+Will, and Thornton-Tomasetti. In other words, modern glass and steel box, looking for LEED Gold. No renders yet, but I’ll post ‘em when I see ‘em.

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The last of the trio is yet another Collegetown project – 302-306 College Avenue, an address which consists of the three architectural stunners above. I’ve been patiently waiting for a proposal here (though to be honest, I’m kinda partial to 302, second from the left). John Schroeder from the Planning Board has wanted a proposal here for years. They sit in an MU-2 zone – 6 floors, 80′, no parking required. All three are owned by the Avramis family, Collegetown’s third-largest property owners. More interestingly, rumor has it that the buildings they own contingent to 302 College on Catherine Street, which are CR-4 zoning (no parking, 4 floors), are involved as well. So this could be a fairly substantial project. My money is on Sharma Arch being involved, since they are Avramis Real Estate’s usual architect-of-choice. I figured that the M&T Bank on the 400 block would get torn down first, but this is no big surprise, the Avramises have been fairly active in redeveloping their properties.








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