ITHACA, N.Y. For those of you with a few minutes to kill during your morning office routines, take a gander at what’s being built in Downtown Ithaca below. We can’t guarantee reading it will make you a more interesting person, but it will give you something to chat about during your next coffee break.

City Centre

Newman Development Group’s City Centre has taken shape on the 300 Block of East State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The brickwork has been underway for a couple of months now, and atop the Dow Xarmor sheathing, the construction crew headed by Purcell Construction has attached steel rails. These will be used for the Larson Alucoil aluminum composite metal panels that will cover most of the exterior. The panels visible in the bottom photo are “charcoal” colored, and the ones still covered in protective wrap include “classic black” and medium grey. A few more shades of grey and white will make an appearance as the facade work continues.

The sales office states that all three commercial retail spaces on the ground level have tenants signed on, but the Ale House is the only one that has gone public. The other two have confidentiality agreements, though the developer hopes to introduce them in a month or so. About a quarter of the 192 apartments have tenants lined up, which is impressive given that A) these units are not cheap, going from $1,545/month to as much as $3,265/month, and B) The building doesn’t open until June 2019. Those $3,265/month units are the two-bedroom units facing the Commons, with the curved corner wall, and every one of them is pre-leased.

The mix of tenants so far includes students, downtown workers, and empty nesters looking to downsize. Apparently, the sales office gets a fair number of calls asking if units are for sale, but no dice. Due to a number of obstacles and challengescondominiums still remain something of an untapped market in Ithaca.

Hilton Canopy Hotel

There were no sure-footed construction workers to be seen this weekend at the Hilton Canopy project on Seneca Way. With regards to that worker safety controversy last month, there have been no new developments to speak of, and given that OSHA investigations can take up to six months, don’t expect any news for a while.

The building is topped out and sheathed, and a light blue water-resistive barrier has been applied to the exterior. The warehouse-style windows have begun their installation, and near ground level, work has started on the brick veneer. Fiber cement panels will be used to complement the brick. Fiber cement has become a go-to for higher-end projects since it can be made to look like wood, and in fact fiber cement is essentially wood pulp fibers mixed with concrete. One can do panels like those that will be used here, and they can also do what looks like wood siding, but fireproof and termite-proof.

There’s still a fair amount of time left before the 131-room hotel welcomes its first guests – the Hilton website says mid 2019, though keep in mind that hotel construction in Tompkins/Cortland tends to aim for target opening dates near graduation weekends or move-in weekends, when visitor traffic is at its highest (and by extension, most profitable).

Harold’s Square

Dave Lubin and his team are looking like underdogs in the competition for the Green Street Parking Garage Redevelopment, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy. Not only is the Chain Works District still plodding through Planning Committee meetings, the steel skeleton continues to rise over at the Harold’s Square project site on the Commons, which will include 16,000 square-feet of retail, 33,000 square-feet of office space and 108 apartments.

The foundation of the new building is complete. The support shoring has been removed and the land backfilled to the foundation wall. Structural steel encompasses all of the bottom two floors, a small portion of the third floor, and vertical beams rise up another two floors, with some connector joints already in place. Corrugated decking has been laid on the lower levels, with a steel rebar mesh on top of the decking. When the concrete for the subfloor is poured, the steel mesh will add strength and rigidity to the concrete as it cures. Expect Harold’s Square to keep moving skyward as we go through the fall, with an opening for the mixed-use project next summer.

Press Bay Court (108-114 West Green Street)

Not every building project has to be grandiose. Press Bay Court, a project by local businessmen John Guttridge and David Kuckuk, is all about thinking small. In what could be seen as an expansion of Press Bay Alley, the plan reuses a dilapidated 1920s building and renovates it into several small-scale retail spaces, ranging from 320 – 2,200 square-feet. Among them will be Halal Meat and Groceries, One Ring Donuts, Gee June Bridal Shop and Hair • Color • Art.

The business websites for Gee June and Hair • Color • Art both indicate October 2018 openings in Press Bay Court (October 16th, in Gee June’s announcement), and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. The interior of the building was gutted and new steel stud walls have been erected, as well as fresh gypsum sheathing on the outside. The four second floor one-bedroom apartments are also being renovated, which will be rented at below-market rates. Expansive windows will be installed at ground level to provide a better sense of the activity indoors, and an awning will be erected as the exterior is finished out. The exterior parking lot will be turned into a landscaped pedestrian gathering space for impromptu social events as well as festivals and small concerts or shows.

107 South Albany Street

So, here’s an often-overlooked detail about new building construction – the building doesn’t have to be 100% complete in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy (CO). As long as the interior is up to code and the exterior work doesn’t pose a safety threat, a building inspector can grant the building owner a CO and tenants can be moved in, even if the exterior is still a work in progress. It tends to be something one sees more often in Collegetown with its hard August/fall semester deadline, but it’s the case at 107 South Albany Street as well.

A glance through the front door suggests the interior is finished, and lights and tenant belongings could be seen through the windows.  But the exterior facade work is ongoing. The masonry is partially completed, most but not all of the fiber cement siding has been attached, and some trim pieces are still missing. But what matters to an inspector is that the building is safe, the power is on, the water is flowing, and the air-source heat pumps are running. Granted, it probably gets a bit loud during work hours, but there’s a difference between uncomfortable and unlivable. Renting Ithaca (Nick Stavropoulos) is the developer, and Flatfield Designs (Daniel Hirtler) is the architect. Keep an eye on them, because the Stavropoulos Family has undertaken several progressively larger projects over the past several years, and purchased the Alley Cat Cafe building at 312 East Seneca Street for $800,000 two weeks ago.

What’s in the pipeline?

While not covered above, there are also several renovations underway – the Masonic Temple and Bank Tower renovations are ongoing, as is the Tompkins Center for History and Culture on the Commons’ Bank Alley.

As for new construction, there seems to be a lull at the moment. With the exception of the Green Street Garage Redevelopment proposals, of which none can get underway until late 2019 at the earliest, no other downtown building plans are going through city government for discussion and review at this time. If one wants to expand the bounds of Downtown a little bit, the DeWitt House senior housing is expected to start site prep later this year at the Old Library site next to DeWitt Park. But otherwise, it’s looking likely there will be a brief quiet period between these projects and any future plans.

Brian Crandall

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