Lofts at Six Mile Creek Construction Update 4/2015

22 04 2015

Heading back to downtown again, the “Lofts@SixMileCreek” (no spaces? no spaces…) apartment project is plodding away towards its anticipated late summer completion. From the outside, there’s been progress under all that protective plastic wrap – the first five floors have had their exterior walls framed and glazed (glass wall installation). The top couple of floors should be sealed up in short order.

According to an update from Jason at Ithaca Builds from the start of the month, walls and utility rough-in was underway inside the top floors, and drywall hanging and finish-work was beginning on the lowest floors of the apartment building. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance recently scheduled visits to the unfinished units as part of its Downtown Living Tour last Saturday.

Perhaps the most controversial thing about this project was when the rents were released at the start of the month – prices range from $1,220/month for a studio to $2,655/month for the largest two-bedroom on the upper floors. That got a lot of attention on the Ithaca Voice’s Facebook page, and much of it wasn’t good.

Jeff Stein, the Voice’s editor, followed up with an editorial saying that the criticism misses the point, the best way to alleviate the affordable housing crisis is to bring new units to the market at all income levels, which increases competition among landlords. Although I didn’t have a hand in the editorial, I support every word of it. Rents are high for this project, without a doubt. But the city not only needs units specifically for affordable housing, but units that will create competition for Ithaca’s burgeoning renter population.

With more units to better satisfy demand, landlords won’t be as able to charge premium prices on subpar units – inferior products will more likely be vacant. There would be a market push for owners to either upgrade their units to maintain a certain price point, or downgrade their prices to more affordable segments. Whether or not Ithaca will ever be able to get to that ideal balance between supply and demand is another story.

The Lofts at Six Mile Creek project consists of a a 7-story, 49,244 square foot structure that will contain 45 rental apartment units: 3 studios, 21 1-bedroom and 21 2-bedroom units. The building is being developed by Bloomfield/Schon + Partners out of Cincinnati, and construction is being handled by Turnbull-Wahlert Construction, also based in Cincinnati.

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Ecovillage Construction Update 4/2015

21 04 2015

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

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

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

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Ithaca Marriott Construction Update, 4/2015

16 04 2015

It may not look like a whole lot has happened at the Marriott site downtown, but it is a very complex undertaking. One anonymous reader close to the project wrote in to describe the work being done on site in the past couple months:

“Foundation work is progressing nicely despite the weather. Contractors have installed steel H piles to [the] bedrock along the perimeter. Wood cribbing has been installed within the piles. The wood panels slide into the web of the H. The cribbing is backfilled and remains forever, securing the bridge area once complete. Another contractor is drilling tie backs to hold the cribbing in place. The rods are grouted in place to a depth of 20 feet or more. The rods anchor the wall in place so the structure can be built within the opened area. Caissons will be drilled in a few days. The caissons are massive open pipes that are socketed into bedrock, 25 to 30 feet below grade. The hollow caissons are filled with concrete and rebar. Concrete beams will be formed from the top of each caisson similar to floor joists. Then a few million tons of hotel will be constructed on top. The cantilevered design is impressive and makes for some very difficult design constraints. This building is a big sail that is side heavy.”

To paraphrase, and hopefully I have this right, the bridge is being secured by H-shaped steel bars, wood cribbing and filling material, and steel tiebacks are being used to stabilize the retaining wall. Per wikipedia, grouted tiebacks can be constructed as steel rods drilled through the cribbing out into the soil or bedrock on the other side. Grout is then pumped under pressure into the tieback anchor holes so that the rods can utilize soil resistance to prevent tieback pullout and wall destabilization. With the bridge and retaining wall established, caissons can now be drilled. Caissons are piles drilled to a sufficient depth to allow the weight of the hotel to be transferred from the weak soil above, to the stronger bedrock 25-30 feet below. The weight will be spread out over the piles with concrete beams on top of the caissons, allowing for the hotel above to be stable and secure.

The photos don’t show the level of work involved with building the retaining wall, and as of April 5th it doesn’t look like the caissons were being drilled just yet. But those look like caisson liners next to the excavator, so pile drilling will be underway soon.

The $32 million, 10-story, 159-room hotel is slated for an opening in Q3 of 2016 (July-September). The hotel will include a fitness center, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and 3,000 sq ft of meeting space.

The hotel has been designed by Atlanta-based Cooper Carry Architecture and development is a joint venture of Urgo Hotels of Bethesda and Ensemble Hotel Partners, a division of Ensemble Investments. Urgo’s portfolio includes at least 32 other hotels totaling 4,500 hotel rooms. Interior design will be handled by Design Continuum, W.H. Lane of Binghamton is the general contractor, and Rimland Development contributed the land to the joint venture and is a partner. Long Island-based Rimland was the original firm that pitched the project in 2008 as the “Hotel Ithaca”, before the old Holiday Inn downtown went independent.

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Stone Quarry Apartments Construction Update, 4/2015

15 04 2015

Substantial progress has been on Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service’s (INHS) Stone Quarry Apartments project on Spencer Street on South Hill. Photos from April 5th show that the sixteen 2-story townhomes and 19-unit, 3-story apartment building have been fully framed, sheathed with Tyvek weather wrap, and have windows installed.

Exterior work continues as clapboard siding is installed on the new units. The color selections here are in many cases the same as those found at the Belle Sherman Cottages on the east side of town – the beige-tan window trim is the previously mentioned “Savannah Wicker”, and the brown-orange color is “Mountain Cedar”. “Light Maple”, “Autumn Red”, “Pacific Blue” and “Sable Brown” round out the color selections.

Without actually going inside, it’s a safe bet that interior is moving along with rough-ins and wall framing, maybe even drywall and finish work on the lower floors. The apartments are expected to be completed in October 2015.

The Stone Quarry project consists of 16 two-story townhouses (2 rows, 8 each), and a 19-unit, 3-story apartment building on the northern third of the property. Specifically, the breakdown of unit sizes is follows:

16 three-bedroom Townhouses
2 three-bedroom Apartments
11 two-bedroom Apartments
6 one-bedroom Apartments

As with all projects by INHS, the units are targeted towards individuals with modest incomes, with rents of $375-$1250/month depending on unit size and resident income. While affordable housing is generally welcome and sorely needed, Stone Quarry had a number of complaints due to size, location and lingering environmental concerns.

The build-out is being handled by LeCesse Construction, a nationwide contractor with an office in suburban Rochester. The design is by local firms HOLT Architects and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects.

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Dairy One and Binoptics Construction Update, 4/2015

14 04 2015

Neither one is especially pretty, but the local benefits are substantial.

Over on Warren Road in Lansing, two business expansion projects are underway just across the street from each other. The first one is the Dairy One project at 720 Warren Road.

A quick walk-by of the site shows that the exterior of the building is complete, finishes have been applied, and the grass landscaping has been seeded and covered with straw to protect it from the wind and birds. The new research center looks ready for its spring opening.

The new “Northeast Dairy and Food Testing Center” is a 50-50 collaboration between local firm Dairy one Cooperative Inc., and Chestnut Labs of Springfield, Missouri. The  17,000 sq ft building is a $3.5 million investment and will add 11 jobs at the outset, 3 through Dairy One and 8 through Chestnut Labs. 4 more jobs would be added over the following two years if all goes to plan.

According to the TCIDA report, Chestnut opted for Ithaca as its first satellite office because of a desire to expand into the Northeast and its proximity to Cornell. The design by Syracuse-based Dalpos Architects.

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Across Warren Road on its west side, the new addition to Binoptics is underway. Technically the address for Binoptics is 9 Brown Road, but the property sits on the corner of Brown and Warren Roads.

The plywood has yet to be sheathed and covered in exterior facade materials, but windows have been fitted into the new one-story, 2,800 square foot addition.  The addition is pegged at a cost of $7.7 million, mostly on new equipment. The design of the addition is by Rochester-based Architectura P.C., who also did the Cayuga Medical Associates Building just south of the Route 13/Warren Road intersection.

BinOptics, a laser developer and manufacturer, sees the addition as part of its plan to add 91 jobs over the next three years, including 35 jobs this year as the new addition is completed.

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Belle Sherman Cottages Construction Update, 4/2015

12 04 2015

Over at the Belle Sherman Cottages off of Mitchell Street, work is underway on the first set of five townhomes, lots 25-29. The CMU block wall foundations have been assembled and look ready for the Simplex modular pieces to be brought onto the site and fitted. The houses are built using four modules, but the size of the townhouse lots suggests these might have only two modules per unit. The townhouse units sold out fairly quickly, just a few weeks. Sales are underway for the second set of townhomes (lots 20-24), which are expected to be built this year as well.

Elsewhere on the site, the “Classic Bungalow” on lot 12 has been assembled and is undergoing lap siding installation (“Mountain Cedar” color, with a lighter “Savannah Wicker” tan color planned for the dormer). The porch is being assembled and exterior trim is being installed. If you’re interested in learning more about the construction process, there’s a little more info in my previous post here, and on Ithaca Builds here and here. Once completed, there will only be two unbuilt home lots, the already-sold “Autumn Yellowfarmhouse planned for lot 11, and the unsold and un-marketed lot 9.

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707 East Seneca Street Construction Update 4/2015

10 04 2015

Another infill project is underway in the East Hill Historic District between Downtown and Collegetown. 707 East Seneca, like 202 Eddy Street and 140 College Avenue, had to go through the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council for approval, along with getting approval from the planning board and zoning board for an area variance (the lot was too small). After informational and voting meetings by different boards throughout the fall and winter, all the approvals have been granted.

The ILPC-approved design is made to be compatible with the historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that surround the building. 707 East Seneca was originally the playground area for the now-closed East Hill School, and the lot was given to the city in 1982. The property fell into disuse, and the playground into disrepair.  The city voted to put the lot up for sale through the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) last summer, and the lot was sold for $130,000 on December 22nd (the market asking price was $175,000, and the assessed value of the land is $100,000, so the final price looks pretty reasonable).

The apartment building planned is a 3-story, 6-unit, 18-bedroom structure with 4 garage parking units in a basement built into the hillside, and five surface parking spaces. According to documents filed with the city, target completion is July of 2015. Note for the included renders, the black-and-white image with the small basement windows is the final design, but the colors are the same as the lead rendering.

Without getting a good look at the back of the now fenced-off property, it looks like the site has been cleared and excavation is underway for the retaining walls and foundation. Being a sloped site, retaining walls will be built on the west edge of the property (right side of the photos) and for tree wells, and the east portion will use a sloped bank built using fill material. Offhand, I think I remember seeing that the building itself will be assembled from modular pieces, craned into place on the foundation over a day or two, not unlike the method used at the Belle Sherman Cottages.

The design of the building is by Schickel Architecture of Ithaca, and the developer is Ithacan Todd Fox.

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