Cornell Finally Moving Forward on Maplewood Plan

3 02 2016

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Finally, finally, some real news. Cornell, through its Chronicle news outlet, has issued a statement regarding plans for the Maplewood Park Apartments replacement. Let’s look at the most important details.

– Cornell will be partnering with collegiate housing developer EdR. Cornell will own the land, but EdR will finance, construct and manage the development.

– Groundbreaking is expected this fall, with a summer (August) 2018 opening.

– Approximately 850 bedrooms are anticipated in the first phase, which is only for graduate and professional students. No undergrads here.

– Designs and unit mix are not yet finalized

– To quote Jeremy Thomas, Cornell’s senior director of real estate: ““Our goals for this site are to foster a close-knit neighborhood feel, while connecting this community through walkways and outdoor spaces to the university and surrounding neighborhoods, including the East Hill Plaza area where we are planning future mixed-use development.”

– EdR and Cornell will be meeting with neighborhood groups, the local landlords’ association, and since the project will contain a sizable portion of family housing, the ICSD.

Now, with all that acknowledged, let’s do a little more research. First, the developer. EdR (formerly Education Realty Trust) is a Memphis-based student housing developer following in the steps of Campus Advantage, CA-Ventures, and others who have tried and failed to make their way into the Ithaca market. The difference is, apart from EdR also being a Real Estate Investment Trust that finances its own projects (REITCampus Advantage was not, nor was Campus Acquisitions before it was bought), the company has Cornell’s blessing and the proposal is on Cornell land, which are very, very important cards in their hand. It would take a huge flaw to make local officials come out against this project, which will address a critical student housing shortage at the university.

EdR has been through upstate a few times before, though not in Ithaca. They developed and manage student housing for SUNY ESF in Syracuse (454-bed Centennial Hall), and developed two private apartment complexes adjacent to Syracuse University, the mixed-use 312-bed Campus West project, and the 423-bed University Village Apartments. They have a mix of arrangements with different schools – the SU projects are totally private, but Centennial Hall is owned by ESF and managed by EdR, an arrangement that sounds pretty similar to what Cornell will be doing.

Looking at the profile, I can’t find too much of a pattern in the choice of architects. In many cases, they’re local (the Univ. of Kentucky projects used Sherman Carter Barnhart, a Lexington firm, while University Village and Campus West used Holmes King Kallquist, a Syracuse firm), but there’s a few wild cards from outside a region – Centennial Hall used WTW Architects of Pittsburgh. In sum, it looks there might be a slight preference towards firms local to a project site, but apart from that, the chosen designers are literally and figuratively all over the map. EdR looks to have focused on mixed-use, compact and urban-friendly projects with their more recent partnerships.

As for price range, we’re talking some serious coin being tossed around. The Syracuse projects, which are half the size of Cornell’s project, cost $28-$30 million. EDR, in its own press release yesterday, estimates the project will cost about $80 million. Or course, it will be tax-exempt, but that much money translates to a lot of construction jobs, and Cornell is a strong supporter of trade unions. Local companies might get in as subcontractors, but with a project this large, one of Cornell’s preferred circle of general contractors (Welliver, Pike, LeChase) will most likely tackle the overall buildout.

Now, thinking about the project itself, if it’s 850 beds (rough assumption of one bedroom per person), that’s almost twice the capacity of Maplewood and its 394 units/480 beds. Maplewood is 109,000 SF of usable space (122,000 SF gross) and sits on 16.02 acres. So the current density is about 24.6 units/acre, or 30 beds/acre, in one-story buildings that cover the vast majority of the site.

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The 2008 Master plan, if it’s any indication, calls for 15-30 units per acre (the number of beds is left up to interpretation) and up to 400,000 SF of space in 2-4 story buildings, creating a more campus-like appearance by going vertical instead of spreading out as the current Maplewood does. While the layout in the plan was totally conjecture, the specs are not. The town of Ithaca zoning (High Density Residential) caps it at 36 feet, but Cornell could probably get a floor or two of variance without much difficulty – the town’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan recognizes Maplewood as one of the appropriate sites for “Traditional Neighborhood Development High Density“, dense mixed-use thoroughly integrated into the surrounding street fabric, 6-30 units/acre but averaging 8-16 units/acre with 10-20% open space.

There’s one last detail to mull over in all of this. According to the city, Cornell will be exercising its right to take back the Ithaca East apartments to the east and northeast of Maplewood (I spoke/emailed with Abbott about this a few days ago when the city docs were released, so…convenient timing). According to property manager Bruce Abbott, Cornell renews every June and he has two years to finish out his management of the property, so Cornell won’t take over Ithaca East until June 2018 at the earliest – which would be just in time for a second phase if Cornell desires, right as phase one is finishing up. Cornell also purchased the homes between Maplewood and Ithaca East, in 1998 and 2013. So looking further ahead, here’s an adjacent 8.2 acres that seems likely to fall under the Big Red development radar in the next couple years, not to mention future plans for East Hill Plaza. EdR is going to be very busy over these next few years.





Holiday Inn Express Construction Update, 1/2016

19 01 2016

Nothing too exciting underway yet at the Holiday Inn Express at 371 Elmira Road, but the site is being cleared and prepped for construction. The site combined two tax parcels, one of which held a 7,556 SF 1970s office building, and the other a 960 SF engine repair shop. Both have which have been demolished to make way for the new 11,769 SF, 79-room hotel. Eventually, a retaining wall will be built on the back end (east side) of the parcel, to hold back the slope soil from what will be the hotel’s parking lot. A staircase and sidewalk will connect Spencer Road to the parking lot and Elmira Road.

For those who aren’t especially big fans of chain hotels and corporate architecture, this one appears to have a relatively unique design, while following the standard materials and color scheme (called “Formula Blue“) for new Holiday Inn Expresses. Standard for the HI Express line, the hotel’s lobby will serve as a “great room”, there will be free high-speed internet, and while there will not be any full-service dining, a breakfast bar will be included.

Rudra Management and Rosewood Hotels (Jayesh Patel) of suburban Buffalo is the developer, while Silvestri Architects and Optima Design & Engineering, also of Buffalo, are in charge of design. The project is being financed with a $5.98 million loan from S&T Bank, a regional bank in Western Pennsylvania. The project required a little bit of time to obtain financing, having received approval in March 2014, but now receiving the construction loan until this past October. Another Rudra/Rosewood project just up the road at 339 Elmira Road was not so lucky. A Summer 2016 opening is planned.

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Collegetown Terrace Construction Update, 1/2016

17 01 2016

Being a 247-unit, 344-bed project means a lot of earth has to be moved before anything starts to rise from the ground. As a result, the project is undergoing the necessary if not exactly glamorous step of excavation for Building 7. All three phases combines have an estimated construction cost in the range of $70 million. The impression I’m getting from here is that when the time comes, foundation forming and pouring will begin from the west side and slowly make its way east, and so the west side of the curvaceous apartment building will be further along the east side at a given time during construction (similar to how it played out with Buildings 5 and 6 during the previous phase). Local development company Novarr-Mackesey plans to have the apartment building ready for tenants by August 2017.

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From December 2015:

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Boiceville Cottages Construction Update, 1/2016

15 01 2016

Just a pass through Caroline to check on the latest progress at the Boiceville Cottages. At present, it looks like about six new houses have been framed out – the three furthest along (red-orange trim) are receiving their exterior stucco coats, while the three less further along (cobalt blue trim) look rather like shiny ornaments thanks to the aluminum facer on the Rmax Thermasheath polyiso insulation (previously some red-faced Atlas polyiso was used). Rigid thermal foam plastic insulation board is lightweight, easy to cut, provides decent fire and moisture protection and provides a very high degree of insulation from the elements, greatly limiting the transfer of heat outward. As compared to traditional plywood sheathing however, it’s not as strong, and because the water control is on the outside with the foam sheathing, there are limitations or extra steps that need to be taken before applying many exterior facade materials like wood or fiber cement.

The roof foam boards are covered in Feltex synthetic roof underlayment before the shingles are attached. Compared to traditional asphalt-saturated felt, the synthetic material offers greater moisture resistance, and they’re light-weight and high-strength. However, wicking, where water can be drawn up the roof and promote leaks, can be a big issue with synthetic roof underlayment, so it has to be installed correctly and carefully.

Another set of homes is still at the concrete slab and sill plate stage, but it looks like some wood stud walls will be going up shortly. Schickel Construction is aiming to have all 17 of the new units complete by the end of the summer.
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Upson Hall Construction Update, 1/2016

13 01 2016

Upson Hall’s bright turquoise walls stand out among the winter greys. Students and staff can thank (or curse) the spray-on moisture barrier for the splash of color. To see what the sheathing looks like without the barrier, photo #9 below shows a little bit of the white gypsum board in the upper left, near the southwest corner of Upson.

The unsheathed, unsprayed section on the northeast corner remains uncovered so that the new structural steel for the bump-out can be erected, while the steel for the northwest bump-out has already been assembled and installed. The plastic is still up over the exterior walls, keeping the winter winds at bay.

According to the project website, general contractor The Pike Company (Rochester office) is cutting/coring shafts through the first floor to the fifth floor, and demolition activities are underway in the basement. The shafts not only serve as ingress/egress, they’re designed to serve as social spaces and integrate the floors of the building. Utilities rough-ins, framing and drywall installation are underway on the upper three floors where interior work is further along, while work on the first and second floors won’t begin major work until August 2016. Part of the basement will be finished in the first year of construction, and the rest of the basement in the second year. Basically, half the building is still occupied at any given time during construction.

The $74.5 million dollar project is part of a larger series of renovations to the Engineering Quad that will result in $300 million in improvements over a decade. While the project will only add about 4,000 SF to the 156,000 SF building, the renovation are expected to help the engineering school adapt to changing academic space needs and technology, and make the building much more energy efficient. The college is paying for the project with a mix of philanthropy and operating funds. A full FAQ is available on Cornell Engineering’s website here.

Along with Cornell’s internal project management team, the project is designed by New York City firms LTL Architects, Perkins+Will, and Thornton Tomasetti.

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Cornell Veterinary School Expansion Construction Update, 1/2016

12 01 2016

Over at the Vet School, it looks like the expansion project is now at surface level. With the foundation completed, the only direction for the project to go is up, which the Manitowoc Potain self-erecting crane should help with. Phase I interior renovations should be completed by this time, and the Phase II new construction will be moving ahead to a June 2017 completion. Like Klarman Hall, Welliver is the general contractor of this $74.1 million construction project.

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News Tidbits 12/26/15: Do You Hear What I Hear

26 12 2015

1. Not as visible, but still important – Student Agencies Inc. has secured a $3 million construction loan from Tompkins Trust Company for a major renovation of its building at 409 College Avenue. Although details about the project itself are a bit scarce in the paperwork filed on the 18th, it is likely the eHub entrepreneurial space being built for Cornell students, faculty and staff. The eHub space will include space for PopShop (a space for student business planning and development), the eLab business incubator, conference space, mentors-in-residence, and basically all the physical space and things a budding businessperson would like to help them succeed.

According to a previous write-up by the Cornell Chronicle, the lab should be open later this Spring, with 10,000 SF on the second and third floors of 409 College Avenue, and 4,000 SF of space in Kennedy Hall on the Ag Quad. STREAM Collaborative of Ithaca will be the interior architect for 409 College, and Ithaca-based Morse Project Management LLC is the general contractor.

Now, this could be a great thing for Ithaca, because it leverages Cornell’s presence to foster business development. Sort of like a Cornell-centric Rev. And Rev, for what it’s worth, has had several successful associated firms in the past couple of years – Ursa Space Systems was named a STARTUP-NY partner and will be hiring 22 people, and Ithaca Hummus is looking at hiring 50 over the next five years. Even the Ithaca Voice grew from what was basically a one-person operation when it launched in June 2014 (hat-tip to Jeff Stein), to having several full-time staff as well as giving Ithaca a higher profile through viral hits like the Key West promotion and the Harry Potter Wizarding Weekend.

Anything that allows Ithaca to grow and diversify its economy is a great thing, and if it can utilize Cornell’s presence to help that cause, all the better.

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2. The Lansing Star is reporting that 2015 was a banner year in Lansing, with 200 single-family homes, apartments and townhouse in the works. Along with the 20 or so plans reviewed, the town is also looking at revising its Comprehensive Plan, and the town may even consider the adoption of form-based codes in certain locations such as the proposed and stalled Lansing Town Center.

One caveat I’d add is that the key word is reviewed, meaning approved. Not underway. The 102-townhome Cayuga Farms project still had major issues to work out with its proposed package sewer system. If one were to look at permits, it’d probably be 36 or so units with the Village Solars, and probably as many with scattered single-family homes and duplexes, which would make for an average-to-above average year – final 2015 values will be available from the HUD in March. The village could see a big boost from its usual single-digit permit total, if the Cayuga View project gets its construction permit this year.

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3. Speaking of Cayuga View, the price point came up at a Lansing village meetings, the minutes of which came online this week. Drumroll please—

The targeted price point is $1600/month for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit (of which there will be 12), and $2700/month for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit (of which there will be 48).

That’s quite a high figure. Applying the standard 30% affordability threshold, the targeted income bracket for seniors is $64,000-$108,000/year. That’s comparable, or a little more than, the Lofts @ Six Mile Creek. It also draws parallels to inner Collegetown projects like Dryden South, where rents will be $1350/bedroom. But those projects fall in traditionally high land-value areas.

If it’s financed, then a lender must believe there’s a market for it, and given the general difficulty in financing projects in this region, that really is saying something. Increased affluence and number of retirees moving in? Hoping to capture the older, richer Cornell faculty/staff crowd? Bad judgement? Who knows.

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4. In the briefest of blurbs, the Times’ Josh Brokaw, who I applaud for attending even the less interesting city Planning Board meetings, reports that the Tompkins Trust HQ has been approved, with a permit likely once they get a minor curb-cut issue worked out. The contentious Printing Press Lounge debate also received the Planning Board’s go-ahead, if not necessarily its blessing. Expect a late winter or early spring construction start with the Tompkins Trust HQ, with completion the following year.

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5. A couple of interesting developments for the Biggs Parcel in Ithaca town. According to the Times’ Jaime Cone (new writer, guys?), a member of the ICNA, Roy Luft, is prepared to make an offer for the Biggs Parcel that would preserve the vast majority of the land. Luft owns a 10-acre parcel to the south (street address 1317 Trumansburg Road). He proposes to take a non-wetland portion on the southern end of the Biggs Parcel, combine it with the open field behind his house, and pursue a cluster subdivision of homes intended as owner-occupied senior housing, which on the surface seems like a decent plan and location, given that owner-occupied senior housing is in demand and the land is adjacent to Cayuga Medical.

With this offer aired, the county, in a 4-1 vote, is giving the ICNA until January 15th to make an offer, otherwise they’ll put the land for sale on the general market. There is no assessment figure publicly available (though a new value has been determined); the ICNA says that’s unfair, while the county legislators have countered by saying not having the assessment value doesn’t stop the ICNA from making an offer, and that the neighbor group has already had a year and a half to make an offer.

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6. Once again, a double-feature house of the week. The theme of this week – high-end homes. Here we have home #1, 8 Pleasant Grove Lane in Cayuga Heights. The house has been mostly framed and the sides have been sheathed, but from the looks of the exposed roof trusses, if would seem that when this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, the dormers still needed to be decked and the interior was still just stud walls and rough openings.

Design-wise, the home seems to fit in pretty well with its neighbors, which were mostly built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The property was purchased in 2012 for $132,500 by an LLC traceable to a coach for a Cornell athletics team. Previously, the lot had been owned by its Pleasant Grove Road neighbors, and was sold in an estate sale.

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7. House of the week #2. I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the one house under construction that seems to have the entire lakefront mansion community so utterly pissed off. For the record, this house on the Captains Walk cul-de-sac has been under construction for years – you can see it in the satellite imagery for Google maps, which dates from 2013. It also appears to be even larger than many of its million-dollar neighbors. Three-car garage? Check. Courtyard-type entry? Check. Windows have been fitted, the roof has been shingled and the exterior has been sheathed with Huber ZIP System panels. A spring finish would be a good guess. Records indicate a couple from Pennsylvania, the founders of a chain of assisted care facilities, bought the undeveloped parcel for $213,800 in 2013.








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