The Cornell Fine Arts Library

6 05 2015

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Here we go, renders of the Cornell Fine Arts Library, courtesy of the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council (ILPC) Agenda. Additional renders here, project narrative here. Apparently, the ILPC does get to review the addition, although looking at the agenda for the 14th, it doesn’t look like they’re making any decisions (and being just outside the Arts Quad Historic District, they may not be able to).

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Quoting the front page of the narrative, “rather than acting as a physical symbol, it radiates activity and occupation”. The university wanted the new superstructure, which they’re calling a “lantern”, to be as visible as possible from campus entry points, and it is claimed that the addition will bring “distinction and excellence to the campus”.

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The building will have two entrances, one public and one for AAP only. The interior will consist of four levels of mezzanine shelving for the Fine Arts Library’s collection, as well as interspersed work/study spaces. Floor-to-ceiling space will range from 48 feet on the north side of the reading room to 7.5 feet in some sections of the library stacks. Long, unobstructed hallways will run the length of Rand Hall. The large variation is meant to convey both grand spaces and “private engagement” with the books. The lantern will have a catwalk as well as working spaces.

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The design replaces Rand’s multi-pane daylight-factory windows with single panes, removes the east stairwell, and is purposely designed to overhang above Rand, acting as a sort of canopy for rain and sunlight protection.

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As previously covered, the architect is a Cornell alum, Vienna-based Wolfgang Tschapeller M.A. ’87. More of Tschapeller’s very avant-garde designs can be found at his website here. The project is being funded in part by a multi-million dollar donation from Cornell alumna, architect and UC-Berkeley professor Mui Ho ’62 B. Arch ’66. No construction time frame or total cost have been given at this time.

I’ll call a spade a spade. Rand Hall is getting an ugly hat. One that the rest of campus will be subjected to looking at for years to come.

 

 





State Street Triangle (Trebloc Building Site)

29 04 2015

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Downtown Ithaca could be in for a very large addition in the next couple of years, if developer Campus Advantage has its way.

The Texas-based developer is planning an 11-story addition to downtown on the the Trebloc Building property at 301 East State Street/MLK Jr. Street. The building would reach the maximum of the 120-foot zoning allows on the property, and fill up nearly the whole plot of land bounded by East State, South Aurora and East Green Streets.state_st_triangle_1

In the initial sketch plan presented Tuesday night (link here), local architect Scott Whitham, a consultant for the project, showed floor plans for retail on the first floor of the proposed tower, with apartments on the floors above. The retail section includes five general retail spaces and one restaurant space, with sizes ranging from 1,800-2,300 sq ft each. Space for a fitness center and apartment amenities are also included on the first floor.

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Upper floors look out into an interior courtyard on the second floor, and contain a variety of 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 4 bedroom units. Each floor would contain about 23 units per floor with 60 bedrooms. Over ten floors, that means that the State Street Triangle building would add 230 units of student-oriented apartments, with 600 bedrooms.

For perspective’s sake, that would make it one of the most populated buildings in the city. Cornell’s largest dorm, Clara Dickson Hall, tops out at around 460 students. The Towers of Ithaca College hold about 300 students each. Collegetown Terrace has the only private buildings that come close to having this many people in one building.state_st_triangle_4

There is no parking on the site. The city’s Central Business District (CBD) zoning does not require it. The CBD zoning allows for nearly full lot coverage as well. The CBD zoning is used only for what planners and officials want to be the densest downtown locations, where parking garages and mass transit are in easy access.

This skyline-altering project stands to have a very large impact on downtown and the city in general. It would be the first student-focused development in the downtown Ithaca area, and 600 students is certainly quite the addition. The project stands to capitalize on both Cornell students and IC students, since the project is within commuting distance of both schools.

There’s much to be debated and sorted out moving forward. More detailed site plans and features are expected to be delivered to the city sometime in May. This summer will be a very exciting one for the Ithaca Planning Board.





The Three Proposals for the Old Library

28 04 2015

Hot off the press release, here are the latest renderings of the three remaining contenders for the Old Library site, along with a few details about each. Feel free to pick your favorite and leave a comment.

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I. The Rochester-based Cornerstone Group proposal, a 73,600 sq ft building called the “Dewitt Senior Apartments” (link here), would buy the library site for $925,000, build 63 residential units of senior housing (3 studios, 54 one-bedrooms, 6 two-bedrooms), and include 700 sq ft of community space for nutrition education by Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cornerstone is a Rochester based non-profit housing developer, and is working in partnership with non-profit group Cayuga Housing Development (CHD). CHD is directed by the same people as the Ithaca Housing Authority, who operate Titus Towers. The building’s design is by SWBR Architects of Rochester.

The Cornerstone proposal is the only one which features affordable senior housing, targeted at seniors making less than 80% of median local income, meaning less than $44k/year for a single person, or less than $50k/year for an elderly couple. Rents would range from $825/month studios to $1,200/month for a 2-bedroom. The developers would seek affordable housing tax credits, and asked for a non-binding letter of interest from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, in which the IURA could offer a loan of up to $200,000 towards the development. The agency preferred a more nuanced approach of possible financial support if the project was selected, rather than supporting the project during the decision process. The proposal includes a 32-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, like what Cornell uses) to “ensure rental affordability”.

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II. Ithaca based private developer Travis Hyde Properties proposes a 72,500 sq ft building with 60 senior apartments (21 2-bedroom and 39 one-bedroom), and would include space for senior non-profit group Lifelong, professional offices, and a community room (link here). The building uses a butterfly roof for rainwater collection and to keep the height as minimal as possible, and the three-story section is intended to respect the massing of the neighboring church. Lifelong occupies the first two floors of the western wing, with housing on the top floors. Commercial office space faces Court Street, and a one-story eastern wing holds shared space for both Lifelong and a community room. The units are market-rate. and Lifelong’s space at 121 West Court Street is renovated and kept on as an annex property. No purchase price is given, except to say “fair market value”.

Travis Hyde is currently developing the Carey Building addition, built the Gateway Commons apartment building, and further back, developed Eddygate in Collegetown. Travis Hyde teamed up with Ithaca-based HOLT Architects for their proposal. The project has been designed to achieve LEED Silver at a minimum, with LEED Platinum being considered.

What makes this proposal unique is that it’s the only one that includes space specifically for Lifelong.

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III. Syracuse-based Franklin Properties of Syracuse have teamed with a group of local firms (STREAM Collaborative and Taitem Engineering, among others) to propose a “wellness center” for the library site, called the “West Court Lofts and Wellness Collective” (link here). This proposal is the smallest of the three proposals at 58,000 square feet and has the fewest number of units at 22, along with medical offices, a café, and a small community room. The first floor would have the cafe and some office space, and the second floor would be all medical offices. Senior housing would be built on the upper floors. In a major change from the previous proposal, the units are now intended to be higher-end condos for empty nesters and retirees.

Notably, this proposal is the only one that reuses the original library, although the building would be extensively modified. Members of the ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council) liked this proposal because it keeps the 1967 library and its “intrinsic historic value”. The library site would be purchased for $925,000.

In sum, we have apartments for low and moderate-income seniors, higher-end senior condos, and market-rate senior apartments. Each is going after a different part of the Ithaca market.

Three previous contenders have pulled out of the process – Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services pulled out when they purchased the Neighborhood Pride site (the 210 Hancock project) and decided to focus on that. Integrated Acquisition and Development (IAD) dropped out next; their “Library Square” proposal was the largest at 90 units. IAD is, however, involved with the recently-proposed State Street Triangle project in downtown Ithaca. DPI Consultants submitted the only original proposal that included owner-occupied housing, but did not respond to the RFP after expressing frustration with the county’s frequent delays in the evaluation process.

The next meeting of the Old Library committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 30th at 9 AM in the county’s legislative chambers. 5 PM Meetings will be set up during May for developer presentations to the public (the first, a meeting for the Cornerstone proposal, will be held on the 1st; the Travis Hyde proposal will be presented to the public on May 8th at 5 PM, and the Franklin Properties proposal on May 12th at 5 PM. All will be in the legislative chambers). For those unable to attend, comments on the proposals can be emailed to the committee at Legislature@tompkins-co.org with the subject title “Old Library Property”.

For reference, here’s a copy of the criteria used to judge the project, and a rough timeline from here on taken from the county’s documents:

1. Staff score criteria identified in RFP including narrative explanation for each score ( Rank on a scale of 0 to 5 where 0 = did not address and 5 = addressed exceptionally well) – April

A. energy efficiency and carbon footprint, including impacts of proposed
demolition/deconstruction and/or remediation, of the project including any attempt to meet Architecture 2030 standards (e.g., 0 – meets current energy code, 5 – meets LEED Platinum or 2030 district standard)

B. quality of the overall program and conceptual design, including its compatibility with the surrounding historic neighborhood and how it addresses traffic, vehicular and pedestrian circulation and parking ( e.g., 0 – meets zoning code, 5 – setbacks and massing sensitive to adjoining property and street, design includes elements to address historic district, incorporates traffic and pedestrian features that will serve building occupants and minimize neighborhood impact)

C. responsiveness to community needs including housing and other uses, such as a community organization (e.g., 0 – does not specifically address a community need, 5 – provides housing addressing an unserved market segment, including a diverse population, includes mixed uses, provides a community amenity and houses a community organization)

D. positive economic/tax base impact (e.g., 0 – no net positive impact as requested subsidies outweigh benefits, 5 – large net positive impact including impact to tax base and downtown economy)

E. capability of the developer or development team to undertake, finance, and manage the project (e.g., 0 – development team experience doesn’t match project scope and financing plan is questionable, 5 – excellent development team with extensive comparable experience developing successful projects and financing plan is sound with little or no uncertainty)

F. demonstrated market feasibility of the proposed program (e.g., 0 – no evidence that market analysis has been conducted or that market for proposed uses is supported by demand, 5 – market well documented by community-wide and developer studies and costs are in line with market)

G. price/lease payments offered for the property (e.g., 0 – NPV does not meet county’s listed price without any rationale, 5 – NPV greatly exceeds county’s listed price)

H. plan for managing neighborhood impacts including noise and air quality during demolition/deconstruction/remediation and construction. (e.g., 0 – no substantive plan presented, 5 – plan presented that minimizes neighborhood impacts to the maximum extent possible both during construction and after project is occupied)

2. Committee reviews staff scoring and either confirms or revises. Post for public review. – April

3. Optional interviews; public comment period/hearing. – May

4. Committee considers proposals, staff scoring, and public comments and recommends a decision to the Legislature. – May/June

5. Legislature considers committee recommendation and makes a final decision. – June/July





News Tidbits 4/25/15: Long Week, Long Reads

25 04 2015

Grab the popcorn and sodas, folks, this will be a long one.

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1. Let’s start with some new and updated renders for the evolving 210 Hancock Street development that INHS has planned for the Northside neighborhood.

In each image, the top half is the old version, the bottom half the newest version. The lead image, an aerial rendering, shows that the houses haven’t changed much, though at the city and neighborhood’s insistence, Lake Street has now been closed off to all vehicular traffic in the refined proposal. The biggest structural changes have been in the apartment buildings – the color scheme of materials has been changed up quite a bit, and the partitions between the buildings have been re-worked to try and make the buildings appear less connected (one of the complaints raised was that they were too much like a wall; for this same reason, the buildings are slightly offset from each other, so no continuous face is presented towards the street).

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Looking closer at the individual apartment buildings themselves, the designs have been pretty thoroughly reworked. Different window layouts, different window sizes, different colors – about the only thing that’s been kept the same is the overall massing of each building. The plan calls for 53 1 and 2-bedroom apartments and about 65,000 square feet of space, of which 7,500 square feet will be covered parking. The included commercial space has been expanded from 8,200 sq ft in the initial proposal, to about 10,000 sq ft now. More renders of the newest iteration can be found here.

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No real changes yet in the for-sale houses that will be included in the project, apart from a palette change (previous render here – the new one is less bright, with darker earth tones). These are designed to blend in with the surrounding homes, and fall in INHS’s typical 2-3 bedroom, 1,100-1,400 sq ft range. The houses are townhomes in rows of 2-4 units, All sporting one or two-story porches. These will be built in a phase separate from the apartments. Certain affordable housing grants are geared towards owner-occupied units specifically, so the Neighborhood Pride lot will be split up into two parcels, one with the apartment rentals, one for the homeowners.

Questions and comments can be directed to the City Planning Office at dgrunder@cityofithaca.org.

2. Up in Lansing village, it looks like a proposed mixed-use project may finally be moving forward after years of incubation. “CU Suites”, a 3-story, 43,000 square foot project proposed by the Thaler family for a vacant lot on Cinema Drive, is asking the village to waive sewer connection fees. Presumably, this is about getting their finances in order before moving into the construction phase; there has been no news if funding has been secured yet. Something to keep an eye on this summer, certainly.

The Cinema Drive site was previously approved for a project of those parameters in fall 2012, consisting of two commercial spaces and a 39-unit apartment building, but that plan has not been carried out. The CU Suites proposal went before the village for “alterations and possible clarification” last December. No updated renders on the village website, but a site plan of the previously approved plan can be found here.

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3. Here’s some more details on the “not feasible as presented” Flatiron project. Readers might recall the 12-unit affordable housing proposal at 910 West State Street was given low priority for HUD Entitlement Grant funding.

From the presentation notes recently posted online:

“The project application is not fully developed, but probably represents more of an effort to start a conversation about the project. There is a great need for affordable housing in the community. The project was conceived to address the high cost associated with typical renovations to properties which make them unaffordable. The project would be located in an oddly-shaped trapezoidal building which [Ishka Alpern] would like to renovate to match its prior condition. It would be a very nice, unique addition to Inlet Island. Inlet Island has historically been a location for affordable housing and it is important to maintain that, before too many unaffordable projects are built there. Unfortunately, it is difficult to build affordable housing units without some form of funding assistance.”

In the Q&A the committee had with developer Ishka Alpern, no time table was given, and Alpern said he was open to waiting a year to refine it. It was also noted that once a commercial lease on the property expires in four years, an even larger project could be proposed, though it could be limited by the poor soils. While it appears renovating is the most feasible approach, the city was not impressed with the cost of investment per beneficiary – larger projects like 210 Hancock mentioned above have economies of scale going for them, costing less to build per unit. Smaller projects like the Flatiron need proportionately more assistance, making them less attractive for grant money. The city’s looking for the greatest good for the greatest number, in a sense.

In other news from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), a private developer, Viridius Property LLC, is buying five duplexes with 10 units of affordable housing from non-profit Community Housing of Ithaca with the intent of keeping them low-to-moderate income, but retrofitting the buildings to run on renewable energy sources. Viridius, a company run by computer scientist and tech CEO Stuart Staniford and his wife, was established in early 2014, and has been on a buying spree as of late. They own $1.7 million in rental real estate assets now, these duplexes will raise it $2.7 million, and the goal expressed in a letter to the IURA is $5 million.

Quoting the letter sent to the IURA:

“Viridius is oriented to the “triple-bottom-line.” Although as a privately owned business
we will look to return on investment, we also seek to improve the environment and society. We
are particularly focused on contributing to the solution to climate change by converting the
existing building stock to be appropriate for continued use in the twenty-first century. At each of our properties, Viridius is removing the propane, natural gas, coal, or oil heating systems and replacing these with systems based on renewables. The specifics depends on the particular
building; to date, we have used pellet boilers and air source heat pumps. Viridius is also
developing our first solar panels at one of our buildings, and elsewhere acquires commercial
renewable power for electricity. Also, at our own residence we have deployed geothermal heat
pumps for heating and cooling and have all our electrical needs taken care of by solar panels on site. Viridius is certified as a living wage employer by the Tompkins County Worker’s Center
and has five full time staff at present in addition to the owners.

So it’s eco-friendly and/or affordable housing. Most residents will welcome the new fish into the local pond, even if all the property being acquired is a bit eye-raising.

Lastly from the IURA, the Carpenter Business Park on the north side is on the market for $2.85 million. Four vacant parcels on Third Street and Carpenter Park Road on the north side of the city recently sold for $2.216 million from “Templar LLC” based in Ithaca to “Ithaca Lender LLC” out of New Jersey, in what may have been a foreclosure sale. The address on file is associated with a company called “Kennedy Funding Financial LLC”, which is described as “one of the largest direct private lenders in the country, specializing in bridge loans for commercial property and land acquisition, development, workouts, bankruptcies, and foreclosures.” A google search turns up a legal notice between the two entities a few months ago.

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4. Construction is gearing up for the Gannett Health Center’s addition on Cornell’s Central Campus. Work on the project officially launched March 30th, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. Expect site clearing, excavation, and pile driving as we move through the spring and into the summer. The project will be broken into phases – Phase I focuses on new construction, Phase II on renovation of the current building, and Phase III concludes the project with reconstruction of the Ho Plaza entrance. About 75% of the material removed from the old building is expected to be recycled.

The architect of record is local architecture/Cornell alumni-filled firm Chiang O’Brien. There will be two additions, the four-story, 55,000 square-foot building featured above, and an additional 18,600 square foot addition that replaces the northeast side of the current building. The project also includes a new entrance and substantial renovations to the original 1950s structure (22,400 square feet of the existing 35,000), as well as landscaping, site amenities, and utilities improvements. The projected cost is $55 million, and the target completion date is October 2017.

The Gannett Health Center expansion has been a long time coming. Initial plans in the late 2000s called for a completely new building on site. HOLT Architects prepared a plan for a 119,000 square foot building, and an all-new building was also included in Cornell’s 2008 Master Plan. But once the Great Recession waged its battle on Cornell’s finances, the Gannett redevelopment was scaled back to its current form. According to a statement given by Gannett Director Dr. Janet Corson-Rikert to the Sun, the earlier plan had a budget of $133 million; the new addition and renovations are expected to cost $55 million.

The project is expected to create about 175 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs (additional doctors, counselors and support personnel) when completed.

5.  According to next week’s Board of Public Works agenda, the approved 327 Eddy apartment project has been pretty heavily modified.

Here’s the old design:
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Here’s what the developer is planning to build:

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I must have missed something? All the sources I’ve seen have referred to this as a six-story building, not five. The side windows were added late in the approvals process, I think. Anyway, the project is going to the BPW because the developer wants to project the top centerpiece window as a bay window rather than having it set back from the front facade. This would push two feet (2′ x 12′ isoceles triangle) into the city’s right-of-way over Eddy Street,  and the board is recommending to the council that the mayor authorize (he says she should he should, sheesh) the intrusion for an appraised value of $3,073.84, based on an appraisal value from Pomeroy Appraisal Associates in Syracuse.

The decrease in size also comes with a decrease in units and rooms – from 28 units and 64 beds to 22 units and 53 beds. This is a double-edged sword – some might cheer the loss of size or like that the roofline is continuous with its northern neighbor, but it will be harder to stem the tide of single-family home conversion to student apartments if Collegetown’s core isn’t as capable of absorbing Cornell’s student population growth.

The included email in the agenda says the planning board recommended an overhang bay window. Personally, I feel it would make the building look clunky. But that’s just me.

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6. Here’s another project being served up to the Planning Board this Spring. Additions and renovations to a car dealership down in southwest Ithaca’s suburbia. Site Plan Review and drawings here. The dealership is Maguire Fiat Chrysler. Plans call for combining two show lots into continuous lot and adding 20 spaces, adding a 1,165 square foot showroom addition, and new landscaping and signage, including a second freestanding sign for Fiat that requires a sign variance (the max allowed by zoning is one freestanding sign). Documents indicate all the work will cost about $360k and run from September to December of 2015.

Observant readers might remember that Maguires proposed a delaership/headquarters compound in Ithaca town late last year; but due to irreconcilable differences regarding standard zoning vs. Planned Development zone, the plan was tabled.

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7. Woof. Almost to the end. The Ithaca Planning and Development Board is going to have their hands full at next Tuesday’s meeting. Agenda here. Here’s a rundown of what’s in store:

– A minor subdivision to create a new home lot at 201-203 Pearl Street.

A. Approving the adjustment to the Carey Building design discussed earlier this week

B. Enhancements to the pocket park next to the Lake Street bridge (landscaping, paving)

C. Declaration of Lead Agency and discussion on INHS’s 210 Hancock project

D. Declaration of Lead agency, Public Hearing and Determination of Environmental Significance for the proposed Texas Roadhouse on Meadow Street

E. Declaration of Lead agency for the Tompkins Financial HQ – hopefully, we’ll get some detailed renders at the meeting

F. “State Street Triangle Project (Trebloc Building site)” – This will be huge. I cannot stress by excitement enough at seeing the Trebloc Building demolished – I have not hidden my dislike of it, and in nearly seven years of writing this blog, it’s the only building I’ve ever called an “architectural turd“.  Located at 301 East State Street, the Trebloc Building was built in 1974 during the age of Urban Renewal, and was originally supposed to be two floors. The city has been quietly desiring redevelopment of the prominent corner for years, and the site was upzoned from 60 to 120 feet in late spring 2013.

According to some praise-worthy sleuthing by David Hill at the Ithaca Journal, the developer is Robert Colbert in cooperation with Austin Texas-based Campus Advantage, a large-scale developer of student apartments. plans call for a 120-foot building on site, with first floor retail and student-oriented apartments above.

This will be a tremendous project by Ithaca standards. The developer clearly states on its website that it’s only interested in working with sites that will provide at least 100 units of housing. Assuming the Trebloc Building’s footprint of 13,569 sq ft, one story retail followed by eleven floors of apartments yields almost 150,000 square feet of residential space. Figure a loss of 15% for utlities and circulation space, and an average size of about 980 square feet for an average residential apartment unit, and one gets 130 units and an unknown number of beds that could conceivably add a couple hundred students to downtown Ithaca’s population, not to mention millions of dollars of taxable real estate.

There’s a lot that will need to looked at – utility loads, parking, vehicle circulation, aesthetic impacts, and numerous other attributes. But the city’s holding the door open about as wide as it can for this site, and it’ll be an exciting process.

G. “Sketch Plan: Cornell Fine Arts Library – Rand Hall Addition”

Written about previously, it looks like the city will get its first chance to review the project. But someone with a insider’s look has some pretty harsh comments for the plan to renovate Rand hall.

Cornell Architecture professor Jonathan Ochshorn wrote in to tell readers here about the plans for the Fine Arts Library. I’m including a link to his blog post on the project here.

To try and sum up Prof. Ochshorn’s post would do him an injustice, but suffice it to say, the library plans will only keep the brick shell of Rand – the windows will be replaced, and a large “hat” will be placed on the roof. One that bears strong scrutiny from the Planning Board, since there could be significant visual aesthetic impacts on the Arts Quad Historic District.

I’m gonna tie up this post here and sit on the other items until next week. More weeks like this and I’ll need an intern.





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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Carey Building Construction Update 4/2015

20 04 2015

Readers living or working in downtown might have noticed the lack of progress on the Carey Building, where a five-story addition is underway on top of the two existing floors.

A look at the site shows that the underpinning (foundation-strengthening) process has been completed and covered up, but work doesn’t appear to have moved much farther than that.

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Well, there’s a reason for that. The building plans can’t move forward as approved.

The currently approved design calls for interstitial space between the second and third floors. Interstitial space is an intermediate space between floors sometimes used for housing mechanical equipment. These type of designs, while expensive, are often employed in multi-floor lab or hospital space, where remodeling or re-purposing of floor space is common. The existing second and new third floors of the Carey Building are used/will be used for business incubator space, where that type of flexibility is a huge asset.

Unfortunately, it also doesn’t comply with code, which no one realized until recently.

The new plan is to put in what’s called a plenum space between the third and fourth floors. A plenum space is between the structural floor and a dropped ceiling or raised floor, and it’s used to house HVAC, communication cables, or other mechanical equipment. The change in layout will result in an increase in building height from 77 feet 10 inches to 83 feet.

A few other modifications are also planned – a glass railing on the third floor will be changed to metal, and juliet balconies are being removed from the northern facade (back side, facing the new hotel) because the removal of an old chimney during the foundation-strengthening forces the need for an area variance that the developer doesn’t want to pursue. The old chimney encroached on the rear setback, but with it gone, that grandfathered privilege went with it. The top floor southern balcony (front side) may also be removed as a cost-cutting measure down the line. An emergency stairway for the sixth and seventh floor has been moved from the exterior to the interior.

These changes have to be approved by the Planning and Development Board, as well as the Board of Zoning Appeals. The Planning Board is set to review and make its decision later this month; the BZA, probably early May.

Here are some new renders with the proposed revisions (more in the link):

carey_rev5_1

carey_rev5_3 carey_rev5_2

And here are the old ones for reference:

carey_rev4_3 carey_rev4_2 carey_rev4_1
The Carey Building addition will add a third floor and 4,200 sq ft to the Rev business incubator (nearly doubling it to 8,700 sq ft), and on floors 4-7, there will be 20 apartments. Floors 4 and 5 will have 16 studio apartment units that average only 400-500 sq ft, their small size enabling them to be rented at a lower price. The 4 units on floors 6 and 7 will be larger 2-bedroom units. The $4.1 million project is being developed by local firm Travis Hyde Properties and built by LeChase Construction.








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