Tompkins Financial Corporation Plans New Headquarters Downtown

25 03 2015

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Downtown Ithaca will be getting another large addition in the next couple of years, if Tompkins Financial Corporation has their way.

The local financial services company has announced plans for a new headquarters in downtown Ithaca. The location of the proposal, 118 East Seneca Street, is between the DeWitt Mall and Seneca Place on the Commons. The site is currently home to a small drive-thru branch of Tompkins Trust Bank.

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The sketch plan can be found here. Currently, there is no specific design, only a massing diagram (local firms Trowbridge Wolf Lansdcape Architects and HOLT Architects will be designing the new building). Potentially, the project could be seven floors, 100 feet tall, and about 110,000 GSF. Plans call for a small amount of enclosed parking on the first floor behind the building footprint, with floors 2-7 being built out and over the parking.

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The bank branch would be moved across the street to 113-119 East Seneca, and though it’s a little hard to tell from the images provided, it looks like the buildings on site will remain in place, while major renovations are applied to the ground level. 113-119 East Seneca currently has a surface lot topped by three floors of offices.

The project has a fairly quick schedule, with formal plans expected at next month’s Planning Board meeting, and final approvals for the headquarters expected by June. According to the blurb on the Ithaca Times, completion is anticipated by January 2017.

Tracing its history back to 1836 and the establishment of Tompkins County Bank, the Ithaca-based company offers retail and corporate banking, insurance, and asset management services. Along with Tompkins Trust Bank, TFC operates several other subsidiary banks, including Tompkins Bank of Castile on Western New York, and Tompkins VIST Bank in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Collectively, the company holds about $5 billion in assets and employs 1,000, including 400 in its headquarters.

On a final note, it’s worth noting that TFC turned down participation in the U.S. Treasury’s TARP program, otherwise known as the “bank bailout”, and was did not offer subprime loans during the 2000s housing bubble.





Ithaca Jobs Numbers Revised – Vindication Feels Good

19 03 2015
I predicted between 69,600 and 70,100. Looks like I’m right, for now.
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March is an important month for the Bureau of Labor Statistics; it’s the month where the previous three years’ of data are revised. For Ithaca, it’s yielded some very interesting results.

First off, the 2013 numbers have been revised from a yearly average of 69,000 to an average of 69,400, a 2.8% increase or 1,900 jobs more than the 2012 averaged job total of 67,500. The 2012 data were not changed.

Secondly, the 2014 total job numbers have also been revised upward, from an initial estimate of 69,150 jobs, to 69,650 in the Ithaca area in 2014. The gain seems paltry compared to 2013’s gains. 250 jobs, a 0.4% increase.

Looking at the data more closely, the 2014 data is, at a glance, alarming – November 2014 lost 1,000 jobs when compared to November 2013. December 2014 lost 1,500 jobs when compared to December 2013.

However, these results aren’t the result of changes in 2014. The Voice looked at archived reports of the initial jobs numbers for 2013 and 2014, which we’ve included below (values shown are in thousands – for example, 69.0 equals 69,000 jobs).

Now here are the revised 2013 numbers and 2014 numbers:

For visual reference, here’s a lne and bar plot of the numbers.
The large drop last Spring has been erased. The drop of 1300 jobs last May is now a gain of 700. Pretty big difference. Spring 2013 job numbers decreased slightly in the revision.Summer employment values were also decreased in both years, which means there is more seasonality to the Ithaca employment cycle than previously estimated.

Fall 2013, by the BLS’s account, had tremendous job growth, with November and December 2013 now tied at 73,700 jobs, the record employment figures in the Ithaca metro. A revision such as December 2013’s, where 2800 more jobs were added, is highly unusual. It is because of this revision that the 2014 numbers look so poorly – compared to the initial fall 2014 values, they were actually increased a little bit, just not as much as 2013’s were.

So what can we expect from the 2014 numbers moving forward? Being the “freshest” data, there is a very good chance they will be revised again next March. For the sake of example, the 2013 numbers were initially 68,000 at the end of 2013, then 69,000 in the March 2014, and now 69,400. We will need to wait and see if the fall 2014 figures are adjusted, and by now much.





News Tibits 3/14/15: A Spring Thaw and A Warming Housing Market

14 03 2015

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1. This past Friday the 6th, the city IURA (Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency) sold off a vacant city-owned property at 215-221 West Spencer Street to Edward Cope for $110,000. The name might not sound familiar, but a quick address check of the sales documents reveals an association with PPM Homes, a local rental company with a few hundred bedrooms in dozens of properties scattered around the city, most of them subdivided homes. Edward Cope also bought a vacant privately-owned lot at nearby 228 West Spencer Street for $15,000 on February 19th. 228 West Spencer, a small, steep site with tight zoning restrictions, was approved last year for one custom house design with 1536 sq ft. of space (the design plans came with the sale). As for 215-221 West Spencer, it was noted in July of last year that the city was selling the parcel (though I was under the impression it had already sold) and the buyer was intending multi-family housing. The 0.47 acre site has the potential for a medium-sized apartment building (20 units), but that’s a simple calculation using the zoning. With topography and neighbor considerations, the reality will be smaller.

In short, keep an eye on these properties, because PPM has the money to make the house and the apartment building happen.

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2. From the March IURA Agenda, a few good notes from the attached February minutes:

A. The Hotel Ithaca conference center is still actively trying to move forward.

B. The IURA received an inquiry about vacant land in the Cherry Street industrial park, from a business seeking to relocate into the city.

C. The city is making progress on taking over the state-owned parcel at 508 Taughannock Boulevard, previously used by the U.S. Coast Guard.

D. The former Ithaca Gun site is virtually entirely cleaned up, which will allow the apartment project proposed for the site to move forward with the planning and approvals process.

All things to keep an eye on in the upcoming months.

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3. Looking at the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee Agenda, there was quite a pushback from locals and the county for the proposed Titus-Wood historic district. The city fire department objected to landmarking their parking lot, the county wrote a letter opposing landmarking 317 W. State (and 315 W. State, which is not a registered address but could be the parking lot) because it was felt neither was historic enough and that it impeded urban infill, and the owner of 110 S. Albany, Ian Shapiro of Taitem Engineering, protested because his previous experience with the ILPC has been very frustrating, and that the ILPC gives applicants a really hard time over energy conservation efforts such as solar panels.

For the record, he’s not wrong about that. Some ILPC members have not been a fan of solar panels (examples here, here, here and here), and it has been at times a months-long process to get installation approval. It boils down to a dispute of alternative energy use vs. historic preservation, both things that Ithacans love, but can conflict with each other in cases like these.

Regardless of the opposition, the PEDC passed the historic district resolution with a unanimous vote, and the resolution now goes on to the Common Council, who will likely approve the new historic district.

4. Over in Lansing, concerned citizens looks like they can put their fears to rest regarding development of the Kingdom Farm property. The 528.1-acre property sold to a Cayuga County dairy farmer on March 10th for the hefty price of $2.8 million (in other words, $5,302/acre). The farm has been in the possession of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the business branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses) for several decades, and the owners even pitched a 500-unit development for the site in the late 2000s. Back in October when the tax-exempt land went up for sale for $3 million, the Lansing Star reported that some more activist local residents wanted the town to step in and help a farmer buy the land so they could keep the property agricultural. There hasn’t been any news of the town taking that step, and it appears the problem resolved itself without the need of taxpayer dollars. Also, it means the property, assessed at $2.2 million, goes back onto the tax rolls. This might be one of the few cases where everything appears to have been worked out and all can go home happy.

5. 514 Linn Street has come down for a new duplex now under construction. Each apartment unit will have 3 bedrooms and be completed this summer. Although the predecessor building dated from the late 1800s, it was also an early “cookie-cutter” home; 512 Linn was the same design. Fall Creek is mostly developed, but Linn Street is no stranger to new builds – 514 follows a few years after 516 Linn, which was a new home built on a vacant lot.

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6. Lastly, it looks like the town of Ithaca’s planning board finally has a few things to work on, after having no meeting since early January. For their Tuesday meeting, the town will review plans for more luxury tents at La Tourelle, a new municipal water tank near Sapsucker Woods, and revised plans for the Amabel project off of Five Mile Drive. The number of units has been reduced to 28, and since November, two units were added to the far west portion of the parcel bordering Five Mile Drive (and as it turns out, those center units aren’t duplexes). Contrary to the example render, six different home designs will be available. Developer Sue Cosentini of New Earth Living LLC hopes to begin sales this summer.

Get connected:

Have comments or questions about these projects for your local government? Contact info below:

Town of Ithaca Planning Board: Use the form here – http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/contact-us

Ithaca Common Council: http://www.cityofithaca.org/341/Common-Council – click on your councilperson’s name, their email is on the subsequent page.

 





Poking At the Jobs Numbers, Again

9 03 2015

11-24-2012 195

Talk about doom and gloom. One look at the Journal’s webpage and the pessimists are in for a treat. It’s no secret that Binghamton, Elmira and to a lesser extent Syracuse and Utica-Rome have suffering, declining economies. Upstate was the factory of the nation a hundred years ago. Now, for a number of reasons, manufacturing has shifted to the south, or more commonly, overseas. Ithaca’s neighboring metros are suffering.

I’m personally not a fan of the way the article is presented. It’s the highlighted piece of the Journal. But the title doesn’t really apply to Ithaca, and they acknowledge that if one reads the article. A lot of folks will only glance at the title, think it applies to Ithaca, and think that the Ithaca economy is tanking. Question dear reader, how many times have you read an article online, scrolled down to the comments and clearly see the comment of someone who read only part of the article, if any of it at all?

Here’s the Ithaca excerpt, which they title the “Ithaca Oasis”:

“Ithaca is the sole economic oasis in central New York. Since the recession, Ithaca’s private-sector jobs have grown by 10 percent. Only New York City has done better in the state, with nearly 15 percent more private-sector jobs in the same period.

“We have come back in terms of jobs in this most recent recovery,” said Elia Kacaypyr, who follows Tompkins County conditions as an economics professor at Ithaca College. “Things are better here than many of our neighbors.”

The reason for Ithaca’s resilience: an economy heavily dependent on education services and far less reliant on manufacturing. Education and health services alone added 6,800 jobs in the Ithaca region over the past 10 years, with 4,600 of those since the recession in 2008.

But that belies some underlying weakness, Kacaypyr said, notably in housing and retail sales.

Median home prices in Ithaca declined slightly in 2014 compared to 2013, and 2014 retail sales increased just slightly ahead of a 1.6 percent inflation rate. Also, the pace of Ithaca’s job growth is slowing.”

I guess if it was me, I’d have pushed for “Ithaca An Economic Oasis in Sputtering Upstate Economy”, or “Upstate Economy Suffers, Ithaca Rare Exception”. But what do I know; I’m a blogger, not a professional journalist.

Anyway, that last paragraph stands out to me – the IJ ran an article about that a couple of days ago, here. The report, prepared by Elia Kacapyr of Ithaca College, is mostly disappointing news, 0% growth in the local economy with most indicators staying steady with inflation. But I do want to make a couple of contrasting points to some of the data.

The jobs number stated in the article, which seems to be a major swaying factor in the ecnomic report, is a net gain of 100 jobs in 2014 (a 2013 annual average of 69,000, and a 2014 annual average of 69,150, which is rounded down). The data comes from the Federal BLS website here. I don’t fault working with the data in it current form, but I will note that the numbers are suspect.

All of the year-over-year job losses are in a period of February to May 2014. I’ve written about this before. This was covered on the Voice. You can darn well bet that a loss of 1300 jobs like the one reported last May would make the news. Then the Voice ran reaction articles from city officials and county officials.

The BLS numbers are up for revision. And because the numbers are generated via random sampling, that for a small community like Ithaca, may not be statistically significant, and the potential for misleading data is large. In Spring 2012, initial reports of a 4,100 job loss were revised to a gain of 1,100, a nearly 10 percent change to the overall total (I made note of the steep drop that time as well). Revisions to the 2014 data haven’t been fully implemented yet, and there’s still no evidence of large layoffs in the education and healthcare sector. Latest numbers from Cornell’s factbook show the university added 73 faculty and staff from November 2013 to November 2014 (1% growth), and Ithaca College’s headcount decreased by 18 (1% loss). No large layoffs in the Ithaca area were noted in the state’s WARN act database.

My honest expectation is that when the numbers are completely final, the number of jobs averaged out over 2014 will come out between 69,600 and 70,100. It still won’t be as much growth as 2012-13, but it’s a roughly 1% increase for the year. I could be wrong, but we’ll see.

The report suggests 400 jobs will be gain in 2015, and economic growth of 0.3%. I think that with Cornell’s recent budget issues, and the resulting slowdown in hiring it may cause, that’s a fair estimate.





News Tidbits 3/7/15: All is Not Well on East Hill

7 03 2015

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1. Leading off this week with a note of optimism – David Lubin, the developer of the proposed Harold’s Square mixed-used building in downtown Ithaca, says that plans for the 11-story building are still underway, according to a comment he made to the Ithaca Journal. Lubin says he’s currently in the process of lining up investors to finance the construction of the project, a challenging process once one tells investors that the project is in upstate New York. It’s not impossible to have a private project financed in Ithaca (if the Marriott underway down the street is any indication), but for a project costing $38 million, it’s no surprise that it’s taking a while. It’s easy to think that this one has slipped into the dustbin, but fortunately it has not.

Meanwhile, Ithaca Builds woke from its winter slumber to give an update regarding Lubin’s other big project, the Chain Works District for the old Emerson site on South Hill. Currently, the Chain Works District is in the process of writing up its Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). A DGEIS is part of the State Envrionmental Quality Review (SEQR), where the leading agency looks at a project, determines if any adverse project impacts are properly mitigated, and if so, issues a statement giving a negative declaration (approval). In this case, the NYS DEC also needs to be on board, approving the contaminated site for residential use. This is a pretty complicated project. There’s 800,000 sq ft of space to be removed or re-purposed, in an environmentally compromised site split between two political entities who are conducting joint meetings with their planning boards in an effort to try and move this project forward (the town of Ithaca board deferred to the city of Ithaca for lead agency; and both have rezoned the site to their respective specialized mixed-use zones). According to IB, the Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) contain about 60,000 pages of paperwork. The official timeline (already behind schedule, according to city docs) hopes to have the DGEIS submitted shortly, with a declaration of significance sometime in the Spring. In theory, Phase I site prep could start this year, but who knows if that will happen in practice.

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2. The ILPC (Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council) had a chance to review the four proposals for the Old Library site. Perhaps no surprise, the favored proposal was the Franklin/O’Shae proposal at top, which keeps the 1960s library and its “intrinsic historic value”. Members did, however, express some concern with the current building’s environmental contamination (asbestos). As for the other proposals, council members generally liked the Travis Hyde plan, and felt the Cornerstone and DPI projects were insensitive to the site (although one member expressed appreciation that at least the Cornerstone plan had affordable housing). It sounds like there will be some major tweaks to the building renders in the full proposals due later this month, so it’ll be best to hold off on judgment until those revised plans are published.

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3. Now for some bad news- Cornell is running into major financial problems, to the tune of a $55 million deficit. About half of that, $27.5 million, is expected to be reconciled with budget cuts (the other half will be covered by tuition increases). Considering the very large role Cornell plays in the local economy, this could have a chilling effect on local businesses that depend on Cornell or its employees. There are shades of 2009 here, when a projected $150 million deficit over 5 years resulted in 432 voluntary retirements, and hundreds of jobs lost.  The cut from 2008 to 2009 was a 5% reduction for the 2009-10 fiscal year, while the cut to go into effect for 2015-16 is estimated at 2-2.3%. Quoting an interview the Sun did with Skorton:

“[In the 2008 financial crisis,] We froze everybody’s salary for a year, paused construction, slowed down on hiring, developed a voluntary staff retirement incentive and 8 percent of the staff force was reduced … and [we had] a couple hundred layoffs, which is very, very hard to do,” Skorton said. “So that’s how the University acted in the worst crisis that ever happened. And so that’s a predictor of how it’s going to happen in this case.”

An article in the Sun a couple of days later notes that faculty employment is at an all time high. With 1,652 faculty in Fall 2014, Cornell has now passed 2007’s 1,647. – but one observant commenter, who I will happily buy a drink if I ever meet in person, notes that Cornell’s total enrollment is up 2,050 students since 2007. Devil’s in the details, folks – Cornell could use this “all-time high” as an excuse to not hire more faculty during its latest financial crisis, even though the student-faculty ratio have been increasing for years. Let’s not forget that faculty-student ratios are a crucial part of college rankings.

All of this is rather disconcerting news, especially in a time where the national economy has been picking up. Cornell has real potential to not only cause a localized recession, but also fall behind its peer institutions.

4. On a somewhat brighter note, even with this appalling winter, the construction of Klarman Hall is only nine days behind schedule, according to the Sun. Atrium glass installation should begin in April, and East Avenue will be reopened to two-way traffic around that same time. Although this project is well underway towards a December 2015 completion, one has a right to wonder if it is wise for Cornell to pursue the Gannett expansion and Upson renovation (valued at over $100 million combined) during these perilous financial times.

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5. The town of Lansing’s planning board is set to review some slight changes to the massive Village Solars apartment project at its Tuesday meeting.

First, a quick primer – while the whole plan is for about 300 units, the approved phases account for only 174 units, and are being built in phases. The photo updates I’ve previously featured here on the blog show the first phase underway, buildings “A”, “B” and “C” on the right (south), with 36 units total. There are four phases, with two sub-phases in phase 2. Phase 2 consists of D, E, G and H with their 41 approved apartment units, and phase 2A is building F, which has the community center as well as 10 more units.

The revised plan calls for moving 6 units from buildings G and H to building M, which is in phase 4. G and H are combined into one apartment building (G/H), leaving 35 units in Phase 2. There are a couple reasons cited for this change – when working with NYSEG to lay out the utilities, it was decided to make phase 2 all electric services, due to concerns that Lansing may not be able to provide gas service if the tense situation with the gas pipeline proposal on West Dryden Road doesn’t go in the town’s favor. One of the results of the utility infrastructure change was a difference in utilities layout, and it was deemed prudent to shirt the walkway northward. This impacted the site design, which is why the Lucentes are seeking to revise the PDA (planned development area, similar to the city’s PUD and the town’s PDZ).

The change isn’t huge, and isn’t likely cause too much consternation among board members. This is actually the first site plan I’ve seen for the project, since it was approved before the town uploaded supplemental docs to its webpage. More importantly, it’s much clearer how future phases could build out – if the ~300-unit project takes 8-10 years as projected, then estimating the construction of phase 2 and 2A from summer 2015-16 seems reasonable.

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6. Planning board members had mixed reviews about the Simeon’s rebuild, according to the Ithaca Times. While some members were excited about the rebuild, others expressed concern with the proposed addition of a second-floor balcony, seen in the above render by architect Jason Demarest. The project is eligible for state tax credits designed to renovate historic buildings, but if the credits are granted, then the balcony would not be built. If the credits are not granted, the building owners are looking not only at a balcony, but the possibility of widening the bay windows a little (it turns out the bay windows were an early renovation to the original Griffin Building, and larger bay windows would benefit a planned expansion of Simeon’s to the second floor). Regardless, cast-iron ornamentation that was salvaged before demolition will be incorporated into the rebuild.

During the same meeting, the planning board accepted revised signage for the Marriott, and there was further discussion about the Canopy Hilton. Nearby residents expressed concerns that a downtown hotel will increase traffic, and complaints were made about the ingress/egress plan for both the hotel and the CSMA next door. No word on the land swap CSMA wants, but it doesn’t seem like they’re budging on their property’s all-important utility easement quite yet.





News Tidbits 2/28/15: The Big Chill

28 02 2015

1. We’ll start this off with a little investigative work. A large medical office building at 821 Cliff street sold for $945,000 on February 23rd. The sale also came with two other adjacent parcels of undeveloped land, totaling just under 5 acres. Primary Developers Inc. (local developer Mauro Marinelli) sold the building and lots to an LLC with the oh-so-patriotic name “American Blue Sky Holdings LLC”. A little digging reveals the LLC is registered to a Lansing address that is also used by a renting company called Red Door Rentals. This company has never been in the news previously, and its website is nothing but a title page and an email address. A little more digging shows that it’s a recently-launched local business managed by Greg Mezey, a Cornell employee (and alumnus, as his name is familiar to me from when we overlapped as students several years ago). Red Door Rentals has 3 properties and 19 bedrooms, so this purchase is surprisingly large for a small rental company. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on this, watching to see if there’s any intent to redevelop the parcels, or if the LLC is just going to stay the course. Although the healthcare industry is a growing sector with stable tenants, a possible site redevelopment isn’t out of the question – previous owner Marinelli had plans approved in 2007 for a 44-unit apartment complex on a vacant parcel just north of the sold properties, but the project, called Bella Vista, was never built.

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2. Well that was fast. It’s hardly been a week and 2 of the 5 units (the middle one and the second from right, lots 21 and 22) in the second phase of the Belle Sherman Cottages townhouses have already been reserved as of the 25th. These are not cheap, they’re going for near $300k. Taking guesses – wealthy parents of Cornellians, or permanent residents?

It may seem like these are a frequent topic of this blog, but that’s because unlike many local projects, they have a strong and regularly updated online presence, which makes my work much easier.

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3. There hasn’t been much news about the Old Library site as of late, because the four entities invited to submit detailed proposals have until March 20th to get all their paperwork in. But one thing worth noting is that the Cornerstone project, the only one which has an affordable housing component, is asking for a non-binding letter of interest from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency. If selected, the IURA could offer Rochester-based Cornerstone and its partner the Ithaca Housing Authority up to $200,000 towards the development of approximately 70 affordable housing units.

In terms of community support, the Cornerstone project has garnered little interest, with the eco-friendly Franklin/O’Shae proposal and the DPI condo proposal receiving the most support. While this is the only project that offers affordable housing units, they’re apartments rather than purchasable units, and every proposal submitted in the RFEI misses the county’s (overly high) expectations in some form.

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4. It’s not uncommon to find apartments through Craigslist, but at least one stalled local project is trying to find retail tenants through the online classifieds website. The project in question is the “College Crossings” development, which comes up in news updates once in a great while – since approval in 2012, the site has been cleared, but not a whole lot else has happened. The second floor was revised from office space to 2 apartments with 9 beds total, which is arguably a better fit and easier to finance in the Ithaca real estate market, and the developer (Evan Monkemeyer of Ithaca Estates Realty) claims to have two of its six retail spaces leased (for a Subway and a Dunkin’ Donuts), with a potential lease on a third space pending – as the site has claimed for months, if not years.

Apparently, the developer is now turning to Craigslist to lease the remaining spaces. Will it be effective? Maybe. It seems the project’s not totally dead, but there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of this mixed-use shopping center ever coming to fruition.

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5. Looks like we’re about to shatter the old record for the coldest month ever recorded in Ithaca. Thanks to that -22 F Tuesday morning (the last time Ithaca was that cold was January 22, 2005; in fact, I can only find 10 days that were colder in the entire 122-year record), the monthly average stands at 10.6 F, 0.7 F less than 1979. Saturday will not be enough to warm up the average, so February 2015 will go down as the coldest month in Ithaca’s recorded history. Yay?

 





News Tidbits 2/21/15: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

21 02 2015

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1. Looks like marketing has started for the second set of townhomes in the Belle Sherman Cottages project. Local real estate listings have two of the yet-to-be-built townhouses listed for $275k and $310k. The base-equipped units have 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and 1,325 sq ft of living space. Unlike the first set of townhouse units, these units have the garage in the back. The first five townhouses have sold out and are ready to begin construction when the weather permits. This second set of five, lots 20-24 (aka the 200 Block of Walnut Street), will likely see construction later in the year, depending on how well the sales go. They probably don’t need to worry, the first set sold out in a matter of weeks.

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2. For those that haven’t seen it, the Ithaca Times did an excellent piece this week regarding the murky political issues with Jason Fane’s 130 East Clinton project. Readers may recall that the project applied for tax abatements, but was rejected by the county IDA. The argument is that there was political interference with the decision, and the interference has been masked by statements incongruous with the CIITAP application process (ex. saying that the project was rejected for not being mixed-use, which is not a stipulation in the CIITAP application). The Times builds a pretty significant case that politics are infiltrating the process, manifesting as last-minute demands, and threaten to cut off development in downtown Ithaca, where land values and more stringent community demands make projects more expensive. Nathan Lyman, Jason Fane’s lawyer in the Clinton matter, has sent a letter to the city with his criticisms of the way program and the way local officials dealt with the project; an online copy can be found here.

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3. Some minor tweaks to the 6-unit, 18-bedroom 707 E. Seneca project: basement windows to try and break up the monotony of its concrete block base. Apart from that, the color descriptions, facade details and finishes look to be unchanged from the earlier plan (first image). The project, planned for a vacant parcel that was one an abandoned school playground, is due to receive final site approval at next week’s planning board meeting. Developer Todd Fox hopes to have the project complete in time for the 2015-2016 academic year.

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4. Taking a gander at the upcoming planning board meeting, here’s what there is to look forward to:

– A. More talk about the Marriott signage – Marriott corporate wrote in to say that they’re not going to change their rooftop corporate signage just because Ithaca wants to be unique, but they are open to shrinking it so that it’s less prominent. The hotelier also said they would be open to some degree of “interpretation” with the street-level signage.

– B. Final Site Approval for the Canopy Hilton - This might be delayed again due to a potentially huge problem on the horizon. The CSMA (Eagles Building) next door sent a letter opposing the use of its rear parking lot for a utility easement by this and the Carey Building, because it could hamper their own theoretical expansion plans. In the letter, they have said they would allow the easement if they get to take the land between them and the Carey Building, which is what the Hilton intends to use as their driveway. It would be a major rearrangement of the Canopy site plan (and potentially prohibited by the city’s transportation engineer since E. Seneca is one way), and these moves by the CSMA could impact work on the Carey Building as well. The city already granted an easement late last month to the Carey Building for the municipal parking lot between CSMA and the Carey Building, and work’s already begun, so it’s unlikely that parking lot’s ever going to be reopened. Everyone loses.

I can’t tell who at the moment, but considering the Carey and Hilton projects have been under review for nearly a year, the timing of this is awful, someone really botched up here. This could be a very nasty fight. Let me grab the popcorn.

– C. Declaration of Lead Agency/Environmental Review of the Lake Street Bridge Replacement and neighboring pocket park

– D. Final Site Plan Approval for the 5-unit, 3 building project at 128 West Falls Street

– E. Final Site Plan Approval of the Upson Hall Renovations on Cornell’s Campus

– F. Final Site Plan Approval for the 6-unit 707 E. Seneca project (item 3 up above)

– G. Sketch Plan presentation of INHS’s 210 Hancock/Neighborhood Pride Redevelopment

– H. Sketch Plan presentation for the Simeon’s/Griffin Building Reconstruction (seen above, courtesy of Jason K. Demarest Architect)

Subdivision review will also take place for the duplex proposed behind 424 Dryden Road, and paperwork has been filed for another subdivision to create a lot for a new single-family home (203 Pearl Street) by slicing off the north portion of 201 Pearl’s lot. The Pearl Street subdivision won’t be reviewed until the March meeting.

5. Another Ithaca Times piece, this one about strong opposition to a proposed expansion to a spiritual wellness/meditation center on Turkey Hill Road. the expansion calls for 10-12 beds for overnight visitors, but neighbors are fiercely against it for noise and traffic concerns.The architect for the expansion is Noah Demarest of local firm STREAM Collaborative, but there’s no renders of the proposed expansion on the website just yet (but their website is updated pretty regularly, so it’s only a matter of time).

Good heavens. This is one of those weeks where it seems everyone in Tompkins County hates everyone else that lives in Tompkins County.

 








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