News Tidbits 11/21/15: Building and Rebuilding

21 11 2015

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1. Starting off this week with some eye candy, here are some updates renders of the townhouses proposed for INHS’s 210 Hancock project in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Details and project status here. 210 Hancock has been approved by the Planning Board, and Cornell, the city and county do have dedicated funds ($200,000 total) going towards the affordable housing units, but still needs to be seventeen conditions prior to receiving a construction permit, one of which required revised townhouses to better reflect the neighborhood. The Common Council also need to vote to discontinue using the sections of Lake Avenue and Adams Street on which the new greenways and playground will be constructed, which apart from the time needed and paperwork generated, isn’t expected to encounter any obstacles, with formal conveyance to INHS anticipated by March 2016. INHS is shooting for a May construction start.

The Planning Board will be voting on “satisfaction of site plan approval” at its meeting next Tuesday, which should be a fairly smooth procedure, if the paperwork’s all correct.

Personal opinion, the townhouses, with more color and variation in style, appear to be an improvement over the previous version. These five will be rentals, while the other seven will be for-sale units, and built in a later phase (government funding for affordable rentals is easier to obtain than it is for affordable owner-occupied units, so it could take a year or two for those seven to get the necessary funding). The apartments have not had any substantial design changes since approval.


For what it’s worth, here’s the final site plan. The rental townhomes will be on the north corner of the parcel, furthest from Hancock.

2. Turning attention to the suburbs, someone’s put up some sizable chunks of land for sale in Lansing village. The properties consist of four parcels – 16.87 acres (the western parcel) for $500,000, right next to a previously-listed threesome of 28.07 acres (the eastern parcels) for $650,000. The eastern parcel also comes with a house, which the listing pretty much ignores. Lansing has it zoned as low-density residential, and given the prices (the western parcel is assessed at $397,600, the eastern parcels at $561,100 (1, 2, and 3)) and being surrounded by development on three sides, these seem likely to become suburban housing developments, possibly one big 30-lot development if the parcels are merged. For the suburbanites out there, it’s something to monitor.

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3. House of the week – or in this case, tiny house of the week. The 1-bedroom, 650 SF carriage house underway at 201 West Clinton Street draws inspiration from 19th century carriage houses, which makes sense given that it’s in Henry St. John Historic District. It and the main house are owned by former Planning Board member Isabel Fernández and her partner, TWMLA architect Zac Boggs. The two of them did a major and meticulous restoration of the main house, which used to house the local Red Cross chapter, a couple of years ago (more info on that here).

Anyway, the framing is underway and some ZIP System sheathing has been applied to the exterior plywood. No roof yet and probably not much in the way of interior rough-ins, but give it a couple of months and that 1960s garage will be given a new life as a tiny house.


4. Time to take a look at the Planning and Development Board agenda for next Tuesday. For reference, here’s what a typical project guideline looks like:

PDB (Sketch Plan) -> PDB (Declaration of Lead Agency) -> PDB (Determination of Env’tal Signif., PDB BZA reccomendation if necessary) -> BZA (if necessary) -> PDB (prelim/final approval).

Here’s the meat of the agenda:

A. 210 Hancock – Satisfaction of Conditions of Site Plan Approval (see above)
B. 215-221 Spencer St. – Consideration of Prelim/Final Site Plan Approval  – this one was first presented as sketch plan in March, to give an idea of how long this has been in front of the boards
C. 416-418 East State Street – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – “The Printing Press” jazz bar is a proposed re-use for a former printshop and warehouse that has seen heavy neighbor opposition. The bar has changed its emphasis, redesigned the landscape and moved itself to a more internal location to mitigate concerns, but the opposition is still strong, mostly focusing on noise and traffic. The board has simply and succinctly recommended that the BZA grant a zoning variance.
D. 327 Elmira Road – Determination of Environmental Significance and Recommendation to the BZA – The Herson Wagner Funeral Home project. This one’s had pretty smooth sailing so far, only a couple complaints that Elmira Road isn’t appropriate for a funeral home. The Planning Board, however, applauds the proposal, which replaces a construction equipment storage yard, for better interfacing with the residential neighbors at the back of its property. It has been recommended for BZA approval.
E. Simeon’s on the Commons Rebuild – Presentation & Design Review Meeting – Before anyone throws up their arms, this is only to talk about the materials and design of the reconstruction, and to get the planning board’s comment and recommendations.
F. The Chapter House Rebuild – Sketch Plan – The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) must have come to some kind of acceptance on the proposed rebuild if the Chapter House is finally at the sketch plan stage. the Planning Board will have their own recommendations, which will have to be coordinated to some degree with the ILPC (the ILPC is arguably the much stricter of the two). We’ll see how it looks next week.
G. Hughes Hall Renovations – Sketch Plan – more on that in a moment
H. DeWitt House (Old Library Site) – Sketch Plan – originally slated to be seen a couple months ago, but pulled from the agenda. The 60-unit project is not only subject to Planning Board review, but ILPC review since it’s in the DeWitt Park Historic District.

5. So, Hughes Hall. Hughes Hall, built in 1963, has dorm housing and dining facilities for Cornell students attending the law school, but those 47 students will need to find alternative housing once the hall closes in May 2016 (yes, with Maplewood closing as well, Cornell is putting 527 graduate and professional students out on the open market next year…it’s gonna be rough). However, this has kinda been known for a while. Cornell has intended to renovate Hughes Hall since at least 2011, as Phase III of its law school expansion and renovation. The building was used as swing space while Phase I was underway, and then the phases were flipped and Phase II became Hughes Hall’s renovation, while Phase III became Myron Taylor Hall’s renovation. According to Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, who designed the law school addition (Phase I), the Hughes Hall renovation will “house offices, administrative support spaces, academic programs and meeting spaces.” Well see how the renovated digs look at Tuesday’s meeting.

Cornell Construction Updates, 11/2014

2 12 2014

The best part about holiday photo tours is that students are few and parking is ample.

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I know this project has been done for a couple of months now, but I was unable to take photos until now. The $650,000, 1,700 sq ft project is essentially Cornell’s history engraved in stone benches and pavers (unfortunately covered by snow and ice here). I imagine it must be a nice spot to sit when not covered in snow.

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Far bigger is the continued construction for the future Klarman Hall, pushing onward to its December 2015 completion. Construction firm Welliver is plodding through the cold weather to undertake steel work, metal decking, and mechanical and electrical rough-in in the basement. The 33,250 sq ft building was designed by Koetter | Kim & Associates.

The New Gannett Student Health Center

31 01 2014


Copy of the proposal, including description, renderings, and all the other bells and whistles here. Note that this isn’t a total teardown and replacement, but an addition onto the previous building. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a large, curved structure on what is current Gannett’s parking lot. The feeder road to Willard Straight will stay in place, going under the new addition, and the ambulance bays will also be located here.


Note how it says Levels 1 and 2. The elevation changes allow for a partial below-grade section under the main level that connects with Ho Plaza’s walkway. Above the road will be three levels of offices and exam rooms, with a mechanical penthouse on top of the new structure. So 4/5 floors, depending on your viewpoint.

Although it looks like some of the original structure will be preserved, it gets a major facadectomy. Larger windows and and a more “contemporary” entrance will be built on the Ho Plaza side. About the only similarity to the current structure is the use of Llenroc stone for the outline.


The current entrance gets replaced with a two-story addition (shown on the right), and the 70s addition also gets a revised facade (but remains mostly intact).


Probably my biggest complaint is the subtle multi-hued glass panels. It looks cheesy. My armchair critic says to stick with one panel color, ideally the a neutral grey/smoke tone. Other than that, it’s standard Cornell fare for the 2010s – a hypermodern glassy box, with the use of stone to try and harmonize it with the surrounding plaza and structures. The architect of record is local architecture/alumni-filled firm Chiang O’Brien.

As previously noted, the addition will add about 38,000 sq ft to Gannett, for a total of 96,000 sq ft. The projected cost is $55 million, and the target completion date is October 2017.


Yet Another Makeover for Statler Hall

16 12 2013


Another makeover is planned for a section of the Statler, this time the circa 1987 PoMo front entrance space. As noted by Ithaca Builds, the addition, at a cost of $2.4 million, calls for a modernized pop-out addition and entrance on the west face of Statler Hall (the side facing East Avenue) with new landscaping and pedestrian features. The project adds a relatively modest 1,619 sq ft to the Statler, with 319 sq ft on the first floor, and 1,300 sq ft on the second floor. The exhaustive summary of the project is included on their website here, with more renderings here. The timeline for construction is a short three months, May to August 2014.


This is the third renovation in the series, all by Philly-based KSS Architects. The first phase involved the construction of the Beck Center in 2004, which added 36,000 sq ft and renovated 16,000 sq ft on the east wing of Statler Hall. The second phase added 14,000 sq ft on the south face of the Statler, and was completed in 2010. Since the Hotel School is landlocked with little hope of re-purposing nearby property, the procedure with new structures always involves additions and renovations, rather than totally new buildings as we would see in other schools. The Statler was first built in 1949 on what was previously four homes of faculty row (at one point, a few dozen faculty had homes on Cornell campus, other examples include what was once Grove Place on what is now the Engineering Quad, and another cluster of homes where Savage-Kinzelberg Hall stands today). The auditorium was added to the south end in 1956, and further renovations were undertaken in 1959 and 1968. The hotel tower was added along with this front entrance in 1986/87. If history is any indicator, his will not be the last addition or renovation.

A Bigger Vet School

10 10 2013


I’ve only ever been in the vet school once, to deliver an invitation for a wine and cheese event to an alum of my fraternity house who worked as a researcher at the vet school.  When it came to getting photos, I would just take advantage of my Bradfield perch, take my photos, and that was that.

The vet school is not unlike the rest of the school in that it’s been built in spurts. The original vet school was in James Law Hall, where Ives Hall stands now (and even prior to that, it shared space in the north wing of Goldwin Smith Hall, the old dairy science building). The vet school moved further east with the construction of Schurman Hall in 1957, and expanded with the Vet Research Tower in 1974, the Vet Education Center and Vet Medical Center in 1993 and 1996, and the East Campus Research Facility and Vet Diagnostic Lab in 2006 and 2010 respectively.  Essentially, the vet school is like many human hospitals, a mish-mash of additions and new wings/buildings, incoherent and even incompatible. The completion of the the  VDL building left a large amount of vacant space in Schurman Hall that was difficult to repurpose, hence the approved plan – demolish 68,000 square feet of space, build 65,000 square feet of new space, and renovate 33,000 square feet of existing space, to be done in two phases with a combined cost of $63 million.

Looking east from Tower Avenue. Rendering property of Cornell.

Looking east from Tower Avenue. Rendering property of Cornell.

Given those stats, it seems like a misnomer to call it an expansion, but one of the effects of the reconstruction will be to increase the number of matriculating vet students in a year from 102 to 120 – and given Cornell’s #1 vet school ranking, they will not be lacking in applicants. Over four years, you have 72 more professional students – you’re welcome, Ithaca landlords. Among the details, the old auditorium will be torn down, and in its place comes the new Flower-Sprecher library, two new lecture halls, a new dining hall, large gathering spaces (i.e. yet another open atrium) offices, an expanded anatomy lab, and a green roof. The architects of this plan are New York-based Weiss/Mandfredi, who specialize in hypermodern glassy spaces.

Looking west from new courtyard. Rendering property of Cornell.

Looking west from new courtyard. Rendering property of Cornell.

As for the time frame, Phase I, which comprises the tear-down and new construction, will start in April 2014 and be completed in a 12-month time frame. Phase II, the renovation component, will commence at that time and proceed towards a tentative completion in October 2016. I will already be beyond my 5-year reunion, so that kinda freaks me out.

Straying a bit here, but I’ve heard from my vet school friends that the market isn’t absorbing new grads like it used to, and not at the salaries that it used to. A for-profit school planned for Buffalo was recently cancelled. But, I suppose for the #1 school, these are concerns that the college is reasonably shielded from. Adopting a dog in the next couple years is on my priorities list (if I can ever establish enough of a schedule that makes me feel like I’d have adequate time to love it), so in my totally uneducated opinion, more vets is fine by me.

Klarman Hall

16 02 2013
Image Property of Cornell University

Image Property of Cornell University

The Humanities Building has a name – Klarman Hall. The building is named for Seth Klarman ’79, a prominent hedge fund manager and large-scale investor in pro-Israel organizations. Considering the construction cost  is at least $61 million, Klarman probably put up at least half of that amount.

A part of me wonders if there’s any cruel humor to be had in an investment banker with strongly pro-Israel views funding a humanities building where most of the students who will walk through those doors will hold an adopted dislike of him (due to his strongly capitalist tendencies, and Israel being an easy target for disdain given the conflict with Palestine). For what it’s worth, Mr. Klarman does keep a very low profile, and is considered fairly conservative as investors go.

Klarman Hall, which I have previously shrugged off as a token glass box, is set for a construction launch this summer, with completion in 2015. The building is planned to be LEED Platinum with low-energy everything and living roofs, and is designed by Koetter, Kim and Associates, a Boston firm founded by Cornell alumni.

In a twist any cynic would enjoy, it was discovered a few years ago that Goldwin Smith, the professor and namesake of the hall Klarman will be contiguous with, was a virulent anti-Semite.

Exploring Milstein Hall

16 08 2011

So, fortunately for me, I’m not the only person out there who has an interest in Cornell construction projects. By good fortune, I happened to receive a series of emails from a newly minted Cornell graduate, “BB”, who took the time and opportunity to explore the nearly complete Milstein Hall and pass along some photos to this blog. For that I am thankful, as my trips to Ithaca have become fewer and further between. While I am glad for the photos, I’m still going to push the token disclaimers that I do not encourage or condone the exploration of unfinished buildings, due to a safety risk and legal concerns with trespassing. Also, while he is kind enough to share the photos here, they are his property, with all associated rights and privileges. I would encourage those that want to use his photos to contact him directly.

For those who wish they could answer nature’s call while on a spaceship…

They’re not even stalls. They’re more like bathroom pods.

I’m looking at this photo, and immediately, “The Imperial March” pops into my head.


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