707 East Seneca Street Construction Update, 8/2015

14 08 2015

By the time I had taken updated photos of the apartment building under construction at 707 East Seneca Street, most of the exterior work had been completed (looking at the photos closely, those might be some trim boards leaning next to the first-floor doorway). The work has shifted mostly to finishing out the interior, and then when the vast majority of work on the building is completed, landscaping and paving will follow. Everything looks to be on schedule for tenant move-in later this month.

For a look at interior progress photos, Modern Living Rentals has been posting occasional updates on their facebook page.

The building will have 6 3-bedroom units, 18 beds total. Todd Fox and Charlie O’Connor of Ithaca’s Modern Living Rentals are the developers, and the design of the building, heavily influenced by its location in the East Hill Historic District, is the work of local firms Schickel Architecture and STREAM Collaborative.

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update, 8/2015

13 08 2015

One of the “secrets” of Jagat Sharma’s success in Collegetown is that he designs unobtrusive, good-looking projects on a restrained budget. Sharma can probably add 114 Catherine Street to his list of successes.

The next few entries are more or less just to clear out my portfolio and keep the blog updated with separate entries to make searches for individual projects easier. If you’ve been reading the Voice, you won’t see anything “new”, but you will get more photos and more information.

In these photos from the end of July, the work is nearly complete. A few workers were assembled around the concrete foundation, where the most visible corner will have an imprinted rectangular pattern for the sake of visual interest. The render I included this post was what I thought the version of 114 Catherine that was going to be built, but the corner windows aren’t as big, and the A/C units appear to be missing from the southward (front-facing) windows, and were moved to the side instead.

Workers are also busy with finishing out the interior, and the front door and stairs will be installed once it’s convenient. Landscaping will follow, and from there it’ll be ready for tenant occupancy later this month.

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. The building replaces a surface parking lot.

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307 College Avenue (Collegetown Crossing) Construction Update, 8/2015

11 08 2015

The last in the Collegetown trio of midrise apartment buildings underway, and the biggest, is Josh Lower’s Collegetown Crossing project at 307 College Avenue. Like 205 Dryden and 327 Eddy, it’s time to give this building its first progress report.

A telescoping boom crane looms overhead as work continues on the foundation of the new building. An excavator is at work digging down to the appropriate level for foundation piling. The two-story concrete masonry unit (CMU) box that previously stood on-site has been demolished. Apart from the murals, there won’t be much missed about the ca. 1980 structure. 307 College had been home to a branch of Kinney Drugs up until about 2006, and afterwards, its commercial space was partially occupied by Ithaca Carshare. The second floor contained several apartments. The Lower family, who run the Urban Ithaca rental company in Collegetown, bought the property for $1.725 million in 2007.

Plans for the property were first announced back in 2009, but with parking requirements still in place, the project would have needed a zoning variance of 57 parking spaces, which the city was uncomfortable with. The project stalled and was unable to move forward with further review until the city passed revised zoning codes for Collegetown in March 2014. There were actually two notable impacts as a result of the zoning code update – one, that it could be built in the first place; and two, that the rear portion, which had been six stories like the rest of the building, had to be chopped down to 4 stories since it fell into a different zone (the building straddles two lots; the rear one is part of the new CR-4 zoning, which only allows four floors, and the front portion is MU-2). This reduced the number of bedrooms from 103 to 98, and later, 96. The final plans were approved last September, and the groundbreaking ceremony was just last month.

Collegetown Crossing will have 46 apartments with 96 bedrooms when it opens in August 2016. Along with those units, the project will host a 3,200 SF branch of local grocery co-op Greenstar on its ground floor. Two smaller commercial spaces are also included. A heated bus shelter and a narrow “pocket park” traversing College Avenue to Linden Avenue will also be available for public use. With a true grocery store coming to Collegetown, residents have generally been in favor of the project.

There’s no construction loan on file, but the FEAF estimated $5 million to build. The grapevine says it actually might be more in the line of $7-8 million. Also a plus, there were no tax breaks requested or given.

Local architect Jagat Sharma can put another feather in his cap, as this project is another of his designs. Syracuse-based Hayner Hoyt Corporation will be in charge of construction.

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327 Eddy Street (Dryden Eddy Apts) Construction Update 8/2015

10 08 2015

Another Collegetown construction project is getting its first real progress report. This time, it’s 327 Eddy Street in Collegetown, also known as the “Dryden Eddy Apartments”.

Excavation has been underway for a little while now, since the old Club Sudz/Tung Fong Grocery came down earlier this summer. The Club Sudz building had been built around 1910 as a 3-story building, but the structure was partially destroyed by a fire in 1970, and only the bottom two floors were rebuilt.

These photos are nearing two weeks old now, but a more recent photo taken by Mark Anbinder shows steel sheet piles on site. The project will use “flowable fill” to a depth of three feet in its foundation. Flowable fill is an alternative to concrete and is often used in roadwork or as retaining wall backfill.

What comes in its place is a 5-story building broken into three stepped sections. As elevation increases going eastward, the building steps back to another five-story section. Initial plans approved in 2014 called for a 6-story building with a different crown treatment (which looked better, in my opinion). Somewhere along the way, the building lost a floor, and then very shortly before construction began, the crown was changed from a triangular prism to a glass box. Presumably, this doesn’t affect the appraisal for the crown projecting into the city’s right-of-way.

The new 5-story building will bring 1,800 SF of retail space and 22 new units with 53 bedrooms to the market in August 2016. Longtime Collegetown landlord Steve Fontana (of the Fontana’s Shoes family) is the developer, Jagat Sharma is the architect, and GM Crisalli & Associates of Syracuse will be overseeing construction. A construction loan of $4,824,000 is being provided by Tompkins Trust Company.

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205 Dryden Road (Dryden South) Construction Update, 8/2015

9 08 2015

Demolition work has commenced at 205 Dryden Road, also known as “Dryden South”, in Collegetown. Only a pile of debris indicates where the old Kraftee’s building once stood. Once the site is cleared, Excavation work and pile driving for the foundation can begin. When completed in August 2016, 205 Dryden, a 6-story, 65-foot structure, will house Kraftee’s in 2,400 SF of retail sapce on its ground floor, and 2 4-bedroom apartments on each of the upper five floors, for a total of 10 units and 40 bedrooms.

Kraftee’s is one of the local private college department stores, and opened its second location in Ithaca in December 2002 (the first store opened in Herkimer in 1989, moved to Oswego in 1990, and is still open today). Owner/developer Pat Kraft bought 205 Dryden in August 2004, and in January 2008, moved the store to the old convenience store next door (325 College Avenue, now the home of PopShop). In fall 2011, Kraftee’s moved back into the Dryden Avenue space after 325 College was sold to John Novarr, and he decided to not renew Kraft’s lease. Now, with the new build underway, Kraftee’s is temporarily housed at 315-17 College Avenue, in a space rented from the Lambrou family.

As previously discussed, plans for a new building on the Kraftee’s property have been in motion for a while – since at least 2009, according to Dryden South’s website. Formal plans, however, were not presented until May 2014, after the new Collegetown zoning went into effect. Plans were approved last August, but given the student renting cycle and rented units in the upper floors, work on the site began only recently.

According to county records, the project was extended a $6,400,000 building loan from Oswego-based Pathfinder Bank on July 14th. Prolific Collegetown architect Jagat Sharma handled the design, and Rochester-based LeChase Contruction is in charge of the build-out.

 

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News Tidbits 7/25/15: To Reuse and Rejuvenate

25 07 2015

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1. Let’s just outright say it – the Tompkins County Legisltaure’s Old Library decision is a complete mess at this point. As covered last week, there were three separate individual resolutions – one from legislator Mike Lane for the Travis Hyde proposal (first image), and one each from legislators Dooley Kiefer and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne for the Franklin proposal (second image).

They all failed. 8 yes’s are required. The Travis Hyde proposal failed with 5 yes and 7 no’s. The Franklin proposal failed with 5 yes and 7 no’s on Kiefer’s resolution, and 4 yes and 8 no’s on McBean-Clairborne’s resolution. Martha Robertson, a supporter of the Travis Hyde proposal, recused herself because she had received donations from Frost Travis during her failed congressional campaign in 2014. Legislator Glenn Morey, also a supporter of the Travis Hyde proposal, was absent from the meeting.

I don’t see any way this will ever get the eight votes required. Kathy Luz Herrera voted against the proposals because the resolution has a ground lease (meaning the county still owns the land but leases the property), and Dooley Kiefer has stated she refuses to support any of the projects unless they have a ground lease – in other words, these two have mutually exclusive votes. By voting against McBean-Clairborne, Kiefer’s made it clear she will vote against the Franklin project unless it meets her exact specifications. Shinagawa voted against Travis Hyde for not being what the community wanted, but won’t vote for the Franklin proposal unless they guarantee Lifelong’s involved. And Stein has come out in favor of the Travis Hyde proposal. There’s no solution on the horizon.

So now it heads back to the Old Library Committee. Sale to the highest bidder and demolition of the library are real options on the table.

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2. Turning to Lansing town, the planning board there has approved plans for the 102-unit Cayuga Farms townhouse project for a 31.4 acre parcel off of North Triphammer Road near Horvath Drive. First reported last Friday by the Lansing Star, the project received negative SEQR determination (meaning that, following the state’s environmental review guidelines, that the planning board decided the project will have no serious detrimental impact on the community) and issued preliminary site plan approval.

However, one issue still remains to be resolved before any shovels hit the dirt – sewer. The project currently has a modular package sewer treatment proposal that would work in place of the voter-defeated municipal sewer, and allow for denser development than the town’s rule on septic tanks. But the DEC’s interest in that type of treatment has been mixed. It could be a while before the situation gets sorted out.

Readers might remember this project because it’s one of the few I’ve openly derided. The 102 units are townhouse-style apartments marketed towards the upper end of the market. They would be built in phases over a period of several years.

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3. Now for some eye candy. Included with this week’s planning board project review committee agenda are additional renderings for John Novarr’s project at 209-215 Dryden Road. Doing a quick visual cross-check with the initial renderings, there don’t appear to be any substantial design changes, and the colorful metal cladding appears to retain the same pattern as before. Getting a little poetic here, the cascading metal bars are reminiscent of water running down a wall.

The city’s Full Environmental Assessment Form doesn’t express many worries about the project; some concerns have been raised about too many pedestrians on the street (the building would add 420 people to Collegetown’s sidewalks at the outset, 600 when fully occupied), but that seems to be about it for now.

The $12 million project is moving right along in an effort to start construction this fall. Declaration of Lead Agency and some CEQR discussion (the city’s more stringent version of SEQR, State Environmental Quality Review) are expected at the July planning board meeting. Plans call for 76,200 SF building with three floors of classrooms and three floors of offices for Cornell’s Johnson School Executive MBA program. The building would be ready for the Big Red’s B-students in April 2017. The property would remain on the tax rolls.

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4. A couple of interesting news notes courtesy of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) Agenda:

First, popular downtown restaurant Madeline’s is looking to obtain an agency loan as part of a renovation project. The $470,000 project would add three jobs, only one of which pays living wage. The restaurant on the first floor of the Rothschild Building (the two-story building in the above photo) hopes to take advantage of the new hotels going up, and law firm Miller Mayer moving its 60 employees into the Rothschild Building. Previously the firm was in the Chemung Canal Trust Company building further up the Commons.

Second, the Finger Lakes School of Massage has applied for an agency loan to facilitate a move from West Hill to downtown. The school would move its ~34 staff and 75-95 students into 10,804 SF of leased space on the Rothschild Building’s second floor, with a further 1,700 SF on the ground level for a retail store and alumni massage clinic. The space would be renovated at a cost of about $194,300.

Although both projects come with risks (Madeline’s being a restaurant, FLSM having some worrying financial statements), both projects have been recommended for loan approval. The FLSM and Miller Mayer news suggest that most of the office space in the old Rothschild Building, left vacant when Tetra Tech moved to Cornell’s office park in 2010, has now been refilled.

The new window cut out built recently into the Rothschild Building’s east facade is part of the space where FLSM is moving into.

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5. And now another reuse project – at 416-418 East State Street, currently home to an underused 7,600 SF office and a connected manufacturing/storage building. The house dates from the 19th century, with various additions as recent as the 1970s. According to plans filed with the city, an LLC linked to Argos Inn architect Ben Rosenblum has plans to convert the old manufacturing space into a bar and storage space, with renovated offices and a 2 bedroom apartment in the original house. The project will include an accessory parking lot, revised landscaping and handicap access. Area and setback deficiencies have resulted in the need for a zoning variance, but a parking variances won’t be required because the bar will have after hours parking across the street at Gateway Plaza. The building itself won’t change dimensions, but the change in use triggers the city zoning laws.

There have been some concerns expressed about this project – at least one neighbor is vociferously opposed to a bar, citing noise problems and concerns about smokers, and the county planning department is not a fan of the traffic and parking arrangement. Offhand, I think a bar is legal in B-4 zoning, but the noise impacts will merit further scrutiny.

The project is definitely something of interest to the Voice’s audience, but in an email, Rosenblum said that details are still being worked out and that he’d prefer to discuss the plan at a later date.

Scott Whitham is serving as a consultant, and local architect Jason Demarest is designing the renovation.

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6. Some very substantial changes are in store for Campus Advantage’s $40 million, 240-unit State Street Triangle project at 301 East State Street in downtown Ithaca.

The Texas-based developer has recruited the assistance of Ithaca architecture firm STREAM Collaborative to help redesign the 240-unit project. And there’s clearly been a lot of work since the previous planning board rendition.

In this revision, a much greater emphasis has been placed on the street interaction and active street uses. Gone is the soaring corner, and in its place is a design with a greater use of horizontal elements (like the decorative belt above the third floor) in order to give the building a more human scale – crucial when you’re planning one of the largest buildings in Ithaca.

The developer is also seeking to remove the northbound turning lane from Aurora onto State Street, and replacing it with a pedestrian area with widened sidewalks, outdoor seating and dining spaces. The land would have to be procured from the city, or some other type of collaboration would have to take place with city officials and engineers.

In documents provided in the city’s planning board agenda for next Tuesday, the developer notes that the project remains student-oriented, but in order to play down comments of it being a massive dorm, 10 4-bedroom units were reconfigured into 40 studio apartments that the developer hopes will be appealing to non-student tenants looking for a less expensive, modestly-sized space.

The State Street Triangle project is also exploring LEED certification.

The project still has a lot of details to be addressed – city transportation engineer Tim Logue has expressed concerns that the traffic study underestimates the number of car trips, and has asked for a revised study. The project is also under closer analysis because the potential addition of 600 residents into downtown Ithaca would put a greater stress on utilities and infrastructure.

These and other questions are likely to be topics of discussion at next Tuesday’s meeting.

The State Street Triangle may be pursuing a CIITAP tax abatement (so much for my theory a couple weeks ago), but the city has not uploaded the application at the time of this writing.
7. Looks like a busy meeting next week for the Ithaca city planning board. In order:

1. A subdivision at 106-108 Madison Street on the Northside. The applicant wishes to create a new lot on the east side of the existing lot, for the purpose of building a new-single-family home.

2. A. Declaration of Environmental Significance and BZA recommendation for the Dibella’s sub shop proposed at 222 Elmira Road

B. Declaration of Environmental Significance, BZA recommendation and potential approval for the 1,100 SF addition to the Maguire Chrsyler/Fiat dealership in Southwest Ithaca

C. Declaration of Environmental Significance, and potential approval for the two duplexes proposed at 112 Blair/804 East State Street

D. Site-plan approval for the first phase of the Tompkins Financial HQ (the new drive-through in the current HQ’s parking lot)

E. CEQR (the city’s version of SEQR) discussion for 215-221 W. Spencer Street

F. Declaration of Lead Agency and CEQR discussion on 209-215 Dryden (the Novarr project noted above)

G. Declaration of Lead Agency and CEQR discussion on State Street Triangle (

noted above)

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H. Sketch Plan – Hotel Ithaca Expansion. Readers might remember a 9-story addition and convention center were approved for the Hotel Ithaca almost two years ago (shown above). Nothing has happened with the expansion plans, for reasons which had been attributed to financing. Dunno what we can expect this time around, but we’ll find out next week.





News Tidbits 7/11/15: Trying to Make A Dent in the Housing Deficit

11 07 2015

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1. We’ll start this off with a brief data map, courtesy of Curbed NY. The Urban Institute, a DC think tank, quantifies the country’s affordable housing problem with a detailed study that lays out, county by county across the whole United States just how many units are affordable to what it labels “extremely low-income” (ELI) households, who make 30% or less of county median income. In Tompkins County, this means families of four making $23,200 or less during 2013, the latest year for which data is available. The full report comes with an interactive map.

Nationwide, the numbers aren’t very good – in 2013, only 28 of every 100 ELI families could find affordable housing, down from 37 out of every 100 in 2000. In Tompkins County, the situation is even worse – it’s gone from affordable housing being available for 19 out of every 100 ELI households in 2000, to 16 out of every 100 ELI households in 2013. There was only two other counties in the northeast that fared worse – Centre County, PA, home to State College and Penn State, and Monroe County, PA, a far-flung NYC commuter county.

While much of the talk about affordability focuses on the middle class getting priced out, it’s worth noting that the tight housing market and college-centric rental market have had a continued negative impact on what little housing there is for the poorest tiers.

2. Staying on the topic of affordability,  the county is all set to sell a foreclosed vacant lot in Freeville to INHS for the express purpose of affordable housing. This was first mentioned on the blog a couple of weeks ago. The 1.7 acres of land off of Cook Street in Freeville is assessed at $25,000, but the county is generously selling the land to INHS for the low price of $7,320, which is the amount owed on back taxes and “required maintenance”. This project would be next to Freeville’s other affordable housing complex, the 24-unit Lehigh Crossing senior apartments south of the parcel. Those were built in 1991 and are managed by a for-profit developer out of Buffalo (Belmont Management).

As noted previously, the village of Freeville (population 520) is outside of INHS’s usual realm of Ithaca city and town, but INHS expanded its reach when it merged with its county equivalent, Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) last December.  This is likely to be the first new rural project post-merger, and the first new affordable housing development outside of Ithaca in several years. BHTC had a string of failures prior to the merger. For INHS, after the controversy with Stone Quarry and 210 Hancock, taking on a development site that’s likely to have less opposition will be a welcome change of pace.

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3. No full decisions from the Board of Zoning Appeals on the 210 Hancock project, but there was plenty of acrimony. Of the three requested variances (height, parking and commercial loading), only the commercial loading variance was granted at Tuesday’s meeting, with the height and parking up in the air until additional information is received about pile driving impacts and winter odd-even parking. INHS has just over two months to submit the additional information.

The same vitriolic sentiment could be applied for the Old Library proposals, where legislator Martha Robertson has been called out for a possible ethics violation, and emails on the Fall Creek Neighborhood Association listserve have turned unpleasant. All in all, it’s been a pretty harsh week for anything related to development in or near Fall Creek.

Some of the 210 opposition is upset that they’re being perceived as “classist”, but when the gentleman leading the opposition posts tweets like this to the #twithaca page for all to see, a negative reaction shouldn’t be a surprise. As for the old library debate, the legislature’s Old Library Committee met on the morning of the 10th, but no endorsements were made.

4. A couple of details worth noting for ILPC’s meeting next Tuesday – “early design guidance” for work planned at 201 W. Clinton Street, and “discussion” about 406 and 408 Stewart Avenue in Collegetown.

201 West Clinton, also known as the Hardy House, was built around 1835, and was previously the home of the local Red Cross chapter from about 1922-2011. After the ARC moved out, it was restored and converted back to a private residence. The house was more recently reviewed/approved for solar panels, and I dunno what’s in store for this next round.

As for 406 and 408 Stewart Avenue, those would be the addresses for the historic (ca. 1898) three-story red-shingled apartment house destroyed during the Chapter House fire last Spring, and the fire-damaged but still-standing apartment house to its north. They are/were operated by CSP Management, the same folks tending to the Simeon’s project. So let’s keep hopes up for a possible rebuild faithful to the original 406.

If you still need your weekly dose of crazy, here’s a rather paranoid screed submitted as part of an application to the ILPC. I can only imagine the committee’s initial reaction to this.

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5. Time to move another Collegetown project into the “under construction” column – 307 College Avenue, a.k.a. Collegetown Crossing, will hold a formal groundbreaking on Monday at 10 AM. The 46-unit, 96-bedroom project was approved last September after a years-long debate over parking; the project was only able to move forward when the new Collegetown zoning went into effect last year. Expect a 12-month construction period, with occupancy likely in August 2016. Collegetown Crossing, which also includes a 4,000 sq ft Greenstar grocery store branch, a pocket park and a TCAT transit hub, is being developed by the Lower family and their company Urban Ithaca.

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6. Looks like we’re on to another iteration of the proposed pair of duplexes at 112 Blair / 804 East State Street in outer Collegetown. Updated file here, previous plans here. It kinda feels like there’s a disconnect going on – the neighbors basically don’t like the houses for being boring pre-fab duplexes; the developer, Demos/Johnny LLC (Costas Nestopoulos), doesn’t want to change that, but is willing to adjust the site layout and invest in extensive landscaping in an effort to hide them. The two sides have met and they seem close to a compromise.

Rather unusually, the 12-bedroom project (4 units with 3 bedrooms each) will open to student tenants in January 2016, after a construction period of September-December 2015. Being a small project, there will probably be enough intersession shuffling to make it work.

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7. Here’s another small project getting a revision – the Maguire Fiat/Chrysler addition down in bog box land. Still adding 20 display spaces, but the addition has grown from 1,165 SF in the last version to 1,435 SF, include a small 418 SF second story intended as a lunch room. This project, which will need an area variance, is also looking at September-December 2015 buildout.








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