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





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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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.





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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707 East Seneca Street Construction Update 4/2015

10 04 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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114 Catherine Street Construction Update 4/2015

8 04 2015

Work has commenced on the foundation for the new 3-unit, 17 bedroom apartment building at 114 Catherine Street in Collegetown. Plans were approved by the city of Ithaca late last year, and with the worst of winter over (though snow in early April definitely makes one second guess that), construction has been able to proceed on the new building.

The parking lot that once fronted the street is gone. Wooden forms are in place for holding the concrete once it is poured, and rebar criss-crosses the space between the forms. Rebar is used to strengthen and reinforce concrete, the concrete bonds with the steel bars as it hardens. It looks like the east wall of the foundation has already been poured. A blue waterproof membrane can be seen on the concrete in the last photo.

The architect is a Collegetown favorite, local architectural firm Jagat Sharma. The building is being developed by Nick Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate. Plans call for a 3-story, 4,180 sq ft structure with a 5-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a 6-bedroom apartment on the second floor and on the third floor. If construction stays to schedule, the building should be completed by August in time for the fall semester.

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202 Eddy Street Construction Update 4/2015

7 04 2015

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After being destroyed by a fire last March, reconstruction is underway at the site of 202 Eddy Street in Collegetown. Following the disaster, developer Nick Lambrou vowed to rebuild on the site. Being a part of the East Hill Historic District, any new structure needed to be approved by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Council. After thorough review, the ILPC approved plans for a new 12-bedroom apartment building that completely replaces the fire-damaged building.

The new structure is a faithful interpretation of the original building, though it’s not an exact copy. An entrance door was repositioned, exterior emergency stairs will be internalized, and a chimney will not be rebuilt, but otherwise, its a close approximation of the original 19th century home. The architect is Ithaca-based Jagat Sharma, who has previous experience from the reconstruction of Sigma Pi’s house when it burnt down in 1995.

In these photos from last Sunday, the concrete foundation has been poured, and the first two floors are framed with plywood and covered in Tyvek house wrap to keep out moisture. Rough framing is underway on the top floor and cupola, and the mansard roof trusses are complete but the roof itself is still in progress. Rough openings in the walls indicate future window locations, although some spots are not as obvious since they’re covered by the house wrap.

Plans call for the new building to be completed and ready for occupancy by August, in time for the fall 2015 semester.

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