ITHACA, N.Y. — No other neighborhood in Ithaca quite has its construction timed like Collegetown. And that’s no surprise, given that everything enters a frantic summer rush to be ready for new students when classes resume in late August. Having much interest but little common sense, it seemed time to take a trip through bustling Collegetown and take a look at the latest additions to its perpetually young and often-avoided streets.

201 College Avenue

Have to say, at least it looks like its renderings. Visum Development is wrapping up the 5-story, 74-bedroom apartment building, although its new residents can expect to hear the sounds of construction for a few more weeks. According to Visum CEO Todd Fox, who happened to be at the site when the photos were taken last week, there were cleaning crews inside, and a certificate of occupancy was being obtained so that new tenants could move in last Friday.

On the outside however, work is still coming along. From the looks of it, it appears all the woven bamboo siding has been attached. However, the overhead canopy has yet to be installed over the front entrance, and some of the decorative black metal rails and fiber cement panels have yet to be clipped on over the structural metal rails. So while tenants will be able to move in for the fall semester later this week, construction on the exterior and landscaping finishes will extend into September.

As 201 wraps up, Fox has his eye on his other approved projects – 210 Linden Avenue, a 4-story, 36-bedroom building, has been excavated and padded, and is waiting on municipal permits to begin construction of the foundation. As with 201 College, William H. Lane Inc. of Binghamton will be the general contractor, and local design firm STREAM Collaborative is the architect. 232-236 Dryden Road, a pair of 4-story buildings with 191 bedrooms, is due to start site prep in September. Two smaller Visum projects, for 118 College Avenue and 126 College Avenue, have no firm construction dates at this time.

The Breazzano Center (209-215 Dryden Road)

The Breazzano Center is occupied, with Cornell staff now in their new offices on the upper three floors of the six-story building. The lower three floors are classrooms and academic space for the university’s Executive MBA program. The interior and exterior finish work is wrapping up (interior moldings, some cosmetic exterior panels), and it looks like the new street seating, curbing and bike racks are in – the development team may hold off on plantings until next spring, depending on how well the project team thinks the new landscaping will grow in before winter comes.

On the inside, there’s lots of natural light thanks to the glass curtain wall, the natural wood paneling gives it a warmer look, and the lighting underneath the staircases in the multistory atrium is a modern touch. With all the transparent glass and bright light, it can feel a little disorienting, creating a feeling of space that makes the 76,000 SF building seem much larger than it is. The $15.9 million Collegetown project will be 100% occupied by Cornell on a 50-year lease from developer John Novarr. Hayner Hoyt Corporation of Syracuse is the general contractor.

Novarr isn’t taking much of a break, as construction of the new 24-unit apartment building next door is expected to begin next month. Plans have also been approved for faculty housing at 119-125 College Avenue, but construction has yet to get underway.

400-404 Stewart Avenue (The Chapter House site)

The new structure is quite substantial for a modest three-story building – structural steel frame (currently up to the second floor), steel floor panels, finished basement, – all heavy duty, commercial grade construction, befitting for a mixed-use structure with possible food retail or general retail tenants on the 3,000 SF ground floor. The exposed portion of the concrete foundation wall will be faced with bluestone later in the build-out. The apartment building planned for 406 Stewart Avenue has been graded, but construction will not start until later this fall.

As for the Chapter House itself coming back, proprietor John Hoey said in a message “{t}he chapter house plans to return, hopefully, to the original location if a deal can be reached with…property owners that can support a pub for next 20+ years in Collegetown OR we do a deal to acquire one of many existing pubs in Collegetown that are on market, closed or plan to close due to negative effects of social media on bar population.” Short version, it’s coming back, though maybe not in this building.

Schwartz Plaza

Cornell’s modest but notable renovation of Schwartz Plaza has made significant progress. Gone are the walls that kept the sunken plaza cloistered from passerby, and in its place are stone seats and durable granite setts, for what the university hopes will be a visible, attractive public gathering space in Collegetown’s dense quarters. Ornamental grasses will be planted between the seats, and from the renders, it looks like recessed LED light poles will be added as well.

Wood benches will be installed on a granite base below the steel trusses of the far wall, and some of the stone seatings on the near/eastern side will be overlaid with wood benches as well. Hopefully the marble columns get a thorough cleaning; after a few decades, it could use a good scrub. New ornamental bushes and vines will be planted along the trusses and against the back wall of the sunken “forecourt”.

Originally, this was supposed to be done in time for classes, but that seems unlikely at this point. A September finish is likely a fair estimate.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.