ITHACA, N.Y. — Struggling for conversation topics this Thanksgiving holiday? Well, we’re here to give you another option. Here’s a pre-snowstorm set of construction updates, focusing on Lansing and Dryden this month.

Ivy Ridge Townhomes (802 Dryden Road)

Not a high-profile project here, but sizable. 802 Dryden Road, also called “Ivy Ridge”, was originally the product of local developer Charlie O’Connor, CEO of Modern Living Rentals. However, just as site preparation and underground utility installations were getting underway late last summer, the project changed hands. On September 12th, the site and construction plans were sold for $2.075 million. Filed on the same day was a construction loan from M&T Bank to pay for construction of the project – a rather substantial $8.6 million for the 42-unit, 108-bedroom townhouse complex. The buyer’s LLC was linked to a suburban Pittsburgh address for Matthew Durbin, and a little online searching indicates Durbin is a Cornell Johnson School (MBA) Alumnus, a former investment banker turned business executive. In short, an outside investor but with a demonstrated familiarity with the Ithaca area, business acumen and the money to make things happen. The sale does not appear to have altered the plans (any revisions would need to be approved by the town of Dryden) or the timeline.

Framing has started on one of the townhouse strings (each string is seven units apiece) and foundation work has started on a second. The plan is to have the units ready for occupancy in time for the Fall 2019 academic semester – being right next to the Cornell Arboretum, it’s a literal stone’s throw from the edge of Cornell campus, and is intended to appeal to graduate or professional students (especially students of the veterinary school, whose location on the eastern edge of Cornell campus has left them with few walkable options). STREAM Collaborative designed the units, Taitem Engineering is on board as a structural engineer, and Granger Construction of East Syracuse is the general contractor.

Arthur Kuckes Childcare Center (Tompkins-Cortland Community College)

Over at TC3, the foundation has been poured and the steel frame is being assembled for what will be the newest addition to the college’s campus, a $6 million daycare and early education facility. The construction costs are about $4.5 million, covered by state grants and a $2 million donation from Arthur Kuckes, the founder of local firm Vector Magnetics, and a longtime supporter of the college.

The purpose of the building is multi-pronged. For one, it provides a much-needed daycare option for students with infants and young children, giving parents more flexibility to take classes while their kids are in a safe, stimulating environment nearby (it’s also open to the children of faculty and staff). For two, it gives students in the Early Childhood education program a greater chance to develop hands-on experience. The new facility is expected to serve up to eighty children in two infant rooms and six early childhood classrooms, and create a dozen jobs.

The groundbreaking in May suggested an opening by the end of 2018, but given the current stage of construction, it’s more likely that the building won’t be ready until mid-2019 at the earliest.

79 North Street (Walgreens)

The lights are on, but no one’s home. Some readers have e-mailed in, asking what’s going on with the new Rite-Aid turned Walgreen’s in the village of Dryden. We reached out to the developer, Ellicott Development of Buffalo, for an update.

“The store will become a Walgreens and has been siting due to the ongoing Rite Aid sale of stores to Walgreens. Walgreens has been working on transitioning a certain number of stores every month. This location should be open for business by mid-December,” said Jeremy Wassel, Planning and Development Coordinator for Ellicott. In other words, Walgreens acquired the building lease from Rite-Aid, but because they only wanted to transition so many Rite-Aids at a time, they decided to hold off on outfitting the new store until next month (not like there was much to transition in a building that hadn’t even opened, but  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). Folks in Dryden can look forward to the new shopping/drugstore option opening in a few weeks.

Heights of Lansing Townhomes (Nor Way)

Forest City Realty (the Jonson family) is continuing work on its latest addition to the Heights of Lansing development, six units of for-sale townhomes being built on Nor Way in the village of Lansing. There hasn’t been any marketing for the new units yet, but if they’re like the others, they’ll be three-bedroom units and be priced in the mid-to-upper $300s. Rather curiously, it looks like they’re putting housewrap on top of plywood ZIP Panels – usually in a wood-frame construction project, it’s ZIP Panels only, or bare plywood covered in housewrap. The front balconies are sheathed in gypsum boards, presumably for fire protection – no one wants the whole group of homes to go up in smoke because someone’s balcony barbecue got out of control. The southern units are furthest along, with roof shingles in place, and it looks like entry doors, garage doors and windows have been fitted in all units. Ducts below the front roof eaves indicate insulation has been blown into the attic spaces. A somewhat educated guess would place these at an early spring completion.

East Pointe Apartments (Bomax Drive)

Truth is not in advertising. Given the images that Park Grove Realty has been advertising this project with, like the one above, the actual built products look quite a bit different, and arguably, less aesthetically pleasing. The stone veneer has been deleted in favor of large swaths of vinyl siding, and some of the design elements meant to add visual interest have been eliminated, like gables and variations in the window arrangement. Value engineering is meant to make a building as cheap to build as possible, without breaking legal stipulations and opening oneself up to the wrath of a planning board.

With that noted, DGA Builders has been building these out at a very quick pace. It appears that at least three of the ten-unit apartment buildings have been fully framed, a fourth is starting framework, and at least a few more have foundation work or site grading underway. The first units in the 140-unit townhouse complex are expected to hit the rental market this spring.

Village Solars Apartments (Village Circle)

The Village Solars complex is a development project that never truly stops. Lifestyle Properties (the Lucente family) only builds two or three new apartment buildings each year, but after four years of construction, it has resulted in quite a large development. A visit to the site shows the next buildings are just getting underway – based off the latest site plan, it appears to be Building “L” and Building “K”, which is a little out-of-order in that these two were supposed to built in 2020-2021, after another phase that so far remains unbuilt. Building L’s foundation has been formed and poured, with all the utilities poking out of the concrete, to be routed into the framing as the building goes up; Building “K” looks like it’s still in the excavation stage, the crushed stone helps with drainage, site leveling and preventing cracks in the concrete due to settling. That water will mostly be pumped out (or chopped up and carried out as ice chunks, given this weather) before the footers are poured.

Each of the two buildings, which have slightly different designs, is designed to host 24 units – 3 three-bedroom, 6 two-bedroom, 3 one-bedroom, and 12 of the one-bedroom “micro-units”, which are 400-500 square feet. Expect a mid-2019 opening for the pair. Next year’s phase likely involves one more apartment building in “Phase 4”, as well as the construction on their mixed-use community center building (Building “F”), which will go in that empty space in the last photo. The town of Lansing’s Village Solars amended PDA law (#6 of 2016, to be technical) says the developers are only allowed one more building to be built before the community center must be constructed, and that the center must be built by the end of 2020.

Lansing Meadows Senior Apartments (Oakcrest Road)

This construction site off of Oakcrest Road is a cause for concern. Readers may recall developer Eric Goetzmann promised senior housing as part of a deal to get a significant tax abatement on the BJ’s Wholesale Club he built just south of here. When Goetzmann persisted in dragging his feet on the housing for years, the Tompkins County IDA and the village of Lansing had had about enough and began pursuing legal action that would have forced Goetzmann to forfeit his abatement for not meeting the requirements set forth as part of the deal, which would force him to pay pack the millions of dollars in taxes saved by the abatement over the past several years. Work started this summer, with a silt fence and groundwork, but it appears to have stopped. That’s not a good sign.

Tompkins County Area Development (who manages the IDA’s activities) and the village of Lansing were both contacted, in the village’s case multiple times, regarding the Lansing Meadows site, asking if there was any updated information that could explain the halt to construction. No one responded back. According to minutes from the village of Lansing Board of Trustees last month, they might still be trying to figure out what’s going on themselves.

Brian Crandall

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