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):

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And here are the old ones for reference:

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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.





206 Taughannock Construction Update, 4/2015

17 04 2015

Work has progressed at the site of the apartment project at 206 Taughannock Boulevard on Ithaca’s Inlet Island, where seven apartments and office space are being built from the gut renovation of a furniture store and warehouse. The changes on the exterior have been slow, but given this past winter, the focus of the past few months has probably been on the interior space.

Since November, a little more siding (best guess, fiber cement/Hardie board) had been installed on the exterior, and the industrial steel siding at the front side of the roof has been replaced with an irregularly-shaped plywood-and-housewrap structure. Looking at the window spacing, siding and trim boards already applied to the front of the building, this rooftop re-do is likely intended to break up the bulk of the old warehouse by giving the impression of individual buildings within the greater structure. It could look nice or it could look clunky, we’ll have to wait and see.

206 Taughannock was until 2014 the site of the Unfinished Furniture Store (otherwise called the “Real Wood Furniture Store“) owned and operated by the Zaharis family. From the county records, the building itself is a 9,156 sq ft structure originally used for retail and warehouse space and dated to sometime in the 1970s. The store closed last April when its owners retired, and a building permit issues a few months later. Photos of the store before renovation can be seen here at Ithaca Builds. Perhaps the biggest loss in this renovation is the removal of a rather attractive mural from the front of the structure.

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Next door, work continues on a satellite office for the Ithaca Police Department in the ground floor space of the former Lehigh Valley House, now a six-unit condominium. The Lehigh Valley renovation was done by local developer Tim Ciaschi, with design work by local architect Claudia Brenner.

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Two more Inlet Island projects are waiting in the wings, although only one is likely to start anytime soon. The 21-unit 323 Taughannock apartment project is expected to start construction this year, but no work appeared to be taking place when I checked the site at the start of April. Meanwhile, 12 affordable apartment units have been proposed for 910 West State Street in a project called “The Flatiron”. The developers, Alpern and Milton LLC, applied for affordable housing grant funding to help finance the project. However, the IURA has deemed the project a low priority because it wasn’t feasible as presented. The site as-is is shown below. The red building with the mansard roof would be renovated, and a structure of similar height and appearance would be built on the triangular lot to its left (west).

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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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