ITHACA, N.Y. — Here’s a construction photo gallery to peruse when you need a break from the relatives hitting the eggnog too hard. This month, we’re taking a look at Collegetown and Downtown.

The Chapter House site (400-404 Stewart Avenue)

It seemed a little optimistic when a late fall or early winter opening was suggested for the replacement structure on the Chapter House site, but the new build has made good progress. The three-story building is fully framed, spray foam insulation has been applied to the exterior and the water-resistant underlayment has been attached to the roof. It’s pretty common to use water-resistant spray foam for modern brick construction, given that bricks absorb moisture and plywood sheathing can rot when exposed to moisture (see the Simeon’s Rebuild and DiBella’s for other examples of its use). Framing for the apartment building at 406 Stewart Avenue, also destroyed by the April 2015 fire, is underway.

Now, the question on everyone’s mind is, will the Chapter House reopen in the new building? The truth is, that question has not been resolved. Chapter House proprietor John Hoey has given indications he would like to reopen, but it may not be here, and the first-floor retail space is still being marketed by Pyramid Brokerage.


According to Matt Butler at the Ithaca Times, Maplewood is running 25 days behind schedule, which forced the project team to ask the town of Ithaca for approval to work on Saturdays. Normally that’s not a big deal, but because this changed a section of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), getting planning board/lead agency permission is a legal necessity. The delays have mostly been weather-related; the abnormally wet autumn we had really ate into the construction schedule, because among other issues, you can’t safely pour and cure concrete for foundation slabs if there’s a heavy rain risk.  The delays and work cancellations have been severe enough that, with the promise of less weather-prone work elsewhere, a few subcontractors opted out of their contracts – there don’t appear to be hard feelings, it’s just that crews need steady employment.

The request for Saturday hours was approved, so with any luck, they can get to where they need to be in time for the students’ arrival at the start of August. There are 27 buildings in some state of construction, from foundation work to framing to exterior facade application, and all manner of interior work from framing, to rough-ins, and for the furthest along, insulation and perhaps drywall hanging. Fixtures, primer coats of paint, and trim pieces (moldings, baseboard) will follow. There are have been some minor exterior design modifications (like the dormers in the buildings along Mitchell Street), but otherwise it’s as-approved.

The Lux (232-236 Dryden)

Visum Development has teamed up with Welliver for one of the few projects not affected by the state building codes change that has left many Collegetown projects unable to move forward. The former Cascadilla School dorm has come down, and in its place will be two apartment buildings with 60 units and 191 bedrooms, geared towards students as most Collegetown projects are.

232 Dryden, the building closer to Dryden Road, has started work on exterior framing – the partially-above grade basement level, built into the slope of the site, appears to have been framed with Amvic insulated concrete forms (ICFs), similar to those seen at the Ithaka Terraces and the Fox Blocks at the Thurston Avenue Apartments. These are thermally insulated plastic blocks filled with concrete – they tend to be a more expensive approach, but they also tend to have a higher grade of insulation (higher R-value), making for a more energy-efficient structure. There has been talking of making the complex net-zero energy capable, provided that the energy of an off-site solar array can be procured. STREAM, the architect of The Lux, also did the Ithaka Terraces. The exterior walls will be assembled block by block, with new pours as rows of blocks are set in place. The rebar provides additional stability. It appears the cinder block elevator core/stairwell has been assembled as well.

232 Dryden might be the more visually prominent of the two buildings, but it is also the smaller one – it will have 20 units and 53 bedrooms. 236 Dryden will host 40 units and 138 bedrooms. Welliver has 236’s foundation excavated, and the steel piles are in. However, judging from the steel rebar sitting on the edge of the site, the concrete pours have yet to take place, and it looks like the wooden forms are just now being built on the far side of the footprint.

Downtown Ithaca

Meanwhile in Downtown, it looks like winter and New Year’s are the ideal season for building new foundations. From top to bottom, Harold’s Square, City Centre, and the Hilton Canopy – about 300 apartments, 131 hotel rooms, 23,000 SF of retail space, 16,000 SF of office space, and well over $100 million in investment. Harold’s Square has been excavated but yet to really start foundation work, while the Hilton and City Centre have slabs in and are building the perimeter walls and structural support columns. By late summer, expect all three to be reaching skyward, likely with their own cranes – something that TCAD will no doubt use in their advertisements and brochures for years to come.

Brian Crandall

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