ITHACA, N.Y. — Onward and upward, especially in Ithaca’s two densest neighborhoods, Collegetown and Downtown. Part two of this month’s three-part construction update gallery series primarily focuses on projects underway in those two neighborhoods. Have yourself a coffee or tea and read on.

For those of who you missed part one, which examined Cornell’s plans, you can read through it here.

The Bronze (238 Dryden Road)

Visum Development Group is wrapping up its latest addition in Collegetown, “the Bronze” at 238 Dryden Road. As Collegetown projects go, this one isn’t especially large. Originally planned as eight two-bedroom units, it appears amenity space on the first floor was reconfigured to add a ninth unit, a one-bedroom apartment, though from the outside it largely appears to be the same. I’m curious if the wood slat accents on the corner make it to the final product, but other than that and the ground floor tweak for the new unit, it looks accurate to STREAM Collaborative’s design.

Units come with Wi-Fi, dishwashers, in-unit washers/dryers, walk-in closets, balconies, and are furnished if desired. You can take a look at the floor plans here. Ads tout “Instagram-worthy chic Scandinavian styling”, which clearly demonstrates that someone in marketing is trying hard. Rents have been listed in the $1,600-$2,200/month range, which is quite pricey within the general Ithaca/Tompkins market, but arguably a little below average for new units in Collegetown. Developers don’t build in Collegetown because they think it’s prettier that way, they do it because they know wealthy Cornell students will pay a premium to be this close to campus in shiny new digs.

The project officially has an August 2022 opening date, though speaking from experience I’ll say that more often than not, developers end up hosting tenants in their other properties or hotels because the delivery ends up being a few weeks late. Collegetown deadlines are tight. But a lot of construction issues, from materials supply to the weather, are beyond the control of the crews. Plumb, Level & Square of Lansing is doing their best to finish the building as soon as reasonably possible.

As for the construction itself, at the time of these photos about a week ago, some of the fiber cement had been attached, but the corrugated metal siding and dark brick veneer at the base were a work in progress. The outer roof membrane (probably synthetic rubber/EPDM) also has yet to be applied, and the balconies had yet to be attached. These look like big things, but they’re finish work that will only take a few weeks. Note that the plan calls for trellises to cover up some of the windowless expanses on the sides with vines.

Rather curiously, the buyers of Visum’s “The Lux” have decided to repaint its yellow accents a shade of dark blue, and the burnt orange shingles on the front balconies were redone in brick red. When you spend $63.25 million on a purchase, you get to paint it how you wish.

Catherine Commons (Catherine Street/College Avenue)

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Neither do John Novarr and Phil Proujansky’s construction projects. Construction is well underway at the Catherine Commons sites, located on either side of the Catherine Street/College Avenue Intersection.

The mostly-residential development includes three multi-story buildings on the “Catherine North” Site and three multi-story buildings on the “Catherine South” Site, a total of six buildings, with a combined total gross floor area of 265,000 square feet. The buildings will contain approximately 360 residential units (with a net gain of 339 bedrooms vs. the previous eleven apartment houses on-site), a 2,600 square-foot commercial space along College Avenue, a 1,600 square-foot private fitness center, and a small parking lot for ADA compliance and service vehicles. The project also includes streetscape improvements, several ADA-compliant plaza spaces, pedestrian amenities, and public bus stop infrastructure. The city granted approvals to the project in March.

As with the Cornell North Campus Residential Expansion, ikon.5 is the project architect and Welliver is in charge of build-out. Local firm TWMLA is the landscape architect, and is working to blend the building’s enhanced pedestrian features with the College Avenue reconstruction project. Integrated Acquisition and Development, Novarr and Proujansky’s firm, served as a non-owner co-developer on the North Campus project, netting a sizable developing fee in exchange for spearheading the development on Cornell’s behalf.

Currently, Welliver and its construction team are installing retaining wall footings on the southern site and excavation for the foundation and retaining walls is ongoing on the northern site. The stack of steel cylinders in the first photo is rebar tubes for what’s likely to be reinforced concrete piles for the foundation, to support the weight of building “1,” which will be nine stories (technically eight, with a partially exposed basement level). The other buildings are lighter and will use conventional and cheaper shallow slab foundations, like that in the second photo. As shown in the last photo, the retaining wall setup consists of steel H-beams with wood lagging between beams, with the concrete retaining wall footings directly behind it.

The plan is to bring the $39.1 million project to delivery by August 2024. Surprisingly, there’s a lack of updated renders of the building themselves, mostly because the color choices for the façade panels has always been in flux. You can get an idea of modern boxy designs intended from the elevations here.

The Ithacan (215 East Green Street)

Downtown Ithaca is busy with its own share of construction, focused on the Green Street Garage parcels. The eastern third is being redeveloped into “The Ithacan” mixed-use project by a team of developers led by Marriott co-owner Jeff Rimland of Rimland Properties.

As planned, Rimland’s $64.3 million development rebuilds the eastern third of the garage with two levels of public parking (about 130 spaces), one ground-level private parking area for the building’s occupants (34 spaces) and ten floors of residential with approximately 200 apartments, mostly one-bedrooms with about 40 studios and 40 two-bedrooms in the mix. 10% of the units will be listed at 80% are median income, and another 10% are set aside for Ithaca College’s Physician Assistant program. A residential lobby would front Green Street, as well as an access hallway between the shops lining the Commons.

The apartments aren’t expected to come onto the market until the start of 2024, but initial advertisements posted online tout in-unit washer/dryers, air conditioning, dishwasher, high-speed internet, hardwood floors, in-unit microwaves and refrigerators. Building-wide amenities include a fitness center, lounge, multi-use room, and a roof terrace with grills and a sundeck. Rental prices have yet to be posted.

Purcell Construction Corporation, which also did City Centre just down the block, is the general contractor for The Ithacan. Hanson Aggregates provided about 13,000 cubic yards of concrete for the project, and Atlanta-based Cooper Carry is the architect.

You get an idea just how tall this building will be from the stairwells and elevator core — it will be 156 feet, 10 inches from the base to the top of the mechanical penthouse. Interestingly, the project appears to use modular units for the assembly of its residential portion. For the areas to be faced with Accro Cor-Ten metal panels, they get an additional waterproofing and railing for adhesion. The “cementitious veneer” doesn’t need the additional work. Masonry walls are being assembled for the parking decks now that the floor plates have been poured and cured. the large metal brackets sticking out of the residential floors of the building are for large decorative steel rails to be added later.

Asteri Ithaca and the Green Street Garage (120 East Green Street)

Meanwhile, down on the other two-thirds of the Green Street Garage site, work continues on the new garage and the Asteri mixed-use proect. The central portion of the garage, which had been rebuilt in the 2000s and designed to accommodate additional floors, appears to be largely completed. Signage and trellises for vines to “soften” its presence will be installed later in the construction process.

Meanwhile, work has begun on the stairwell and elevator cores for the Asteri building, which will be 12 floors at full build-out. The corner next to the garage will be the primary entrance to the Downtown Ithaca Conference Center, and the space between the two will host a narrow but landscaped pedestrian walkway that leads to the Cinemapolis Plaza and Home Dairy Alley.

The $108.2 million mixed-use development, which is being developed by the Missouri-based Vecino Group, is a U-shaped 12-story building that will consist of 350 parking spaces in a reconstructed Green Street Garage, the 54,921 square-foot Downtown Ithaca Conference Center and a small amount of retail space. The upper floors of the building will house 181 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, and set aside for those making 30-80% of area median income. 

The project was approved by the city of Ithaca’s Planning Board in November 2020, and the formal groundbreaking was in September 2021. The project is expected to be complete in early 2024. Welliver is the general contractor for the garage and conference center, and Vecino’s in-house construction team is building the apartment tower. Vecino’s architecture division is in charge of the building designs. Local firm T.G. Miller P.C. is the civil engineer and The LA Group is the landscape architect.

Library Place (310-14 North Cayuga Street)

I won’t lie, I live in constant fear this project is going to grind to a halt again and send a truckload of angry emails to my inbox. The Library Place mixed-use redevelopment, located on the Old Library site at 310-314 North Cayuga Street, had been halted from March 2020, when the state paused construction to rein in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, to March 2022. The 66-unit market-rate senior housing project with ground-level amenity space and retail was the subject of much anxious debate.

Perhaps some of that anxiety is mine. I ask my colleagues to walk past and make sure they see people on site during business hours.

Structural steel framework continues on the four-story, 86,000 square foot structure, with some corrugated steel decking in place on the second floor. To be honest, there is progress, it just appears to be slow progress. Plans call for a Fall 2023 completion. Travis Hyde Properties is the developer, HOLT Architects is designing the building, and LeChase Construction is the general contractor. Taitem Engineering provided design consulting services as the project seeks to achieve high-level state environmental sustainability standards (NYSERDA Multi-Family New Construction Program Tier 3).

Founders Way (320 West Buffalo Street)

The redevelopment of the former Immaculate Conception School is nearly complete. Tenants have already started moving into the rental townhouses and two-family home, and residents will move into the former school building in December. The residents for the main building were awarded via lottery through a call for qualified tenant applications last spring.

The development includes 71 low-and-moderate income apartments and four for-sale townhomes (the blue townhouses on the corner of West Court and North Plain) for owner-occupied lower-income households, for a total of 75 housing units. Most of the units are set at 50-60% area median income, with a smaller number set at 90-100% area median income, the lower-middle brackets that in development parlance is often referred to as “workforce housing.”

The $25 million INHS redevelopment calls for a partial re-use of the existing school building, preserving the west wing while replacing the south wing, and renovation of the two-family house at 330 West Buffalo, and three new two-story townhouse strings along West Buffalo and North Plain Streets. 

Office space for non-profit community organizations at below-market rental rates will be provided in the basement and first floor of the renovated west wing of the school. The plan to renovate the Catholic Charities is still in the works, albeit in a delayed second phase. The school’s gymnasium was sold to the city of Ithaca and is slated for renovation into a multi-purpose facility for the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC).

The overall design is generally true to what was approved, although there is a little disappointment to be had in the renovated west wing’s front entrance. Initially, it was supposed to have a front entrance addition similar to the south wing facing West Buffalo, but that was deleted as a cost-saving measure, and the old school entrance (which only had one window, the center one on the second floor) was renovated instead.

The buildout of the project was handled by Hamilton Stern Construction of suburban Rochester; this is their first substantial project in Tompkins County. Architectural design work was provided by Ithaca’s STREAM Collaborative.

An interior rendering of a West End Ironworks apartment.

West End Ironworks (430-444 West State/MLK Jr. Street)

I know, not Downtown, but I still have a third article coming that will cover the rest of Ithaca, and putting this project here works better for spacing out material.

Arnot Realty’s $39.3 million redevelopment is wrapping up construction on the State Street Corridor. The five-story West End Ironworks project stands to bring to the market 129 apartments and about 4,800 square feet of commercial retail space in three storefronts. Advertisements for the units tout “imported Italian cabinets”, Energy-Star Appliances, plank and tile floors, and stainless steel Energy-Star appliances. Amenities include access to a fitness center, yoga studio, indoor and outdoor lounges, pet-friendly facilities, and secure bicycle parking. Unit sizes will range from 421 SF studios to 1,024 SF two-bedroom units. Forty-nine parking spaces for residents will be available on the ground level and accessible from the rear of the building on West Seneca Street.

As you might have guessed, rents aren’t cheap. Studios range from $1,495-$1,740/month, one-bedroom unit range from $1,795-$2,595/month, and two-bedroom units go from $2,565-$3,100/month depending on size and location within the building. I have not heard anything yet about potential tenants for the retail spaces.

Design-wise, the Planning Department and members of the board have expressed satisfaction with the final product; too many times they’ve approved one plan, only to find it value engineering and cheapened into something that’s a shadow of its presented form. That did not happen here. The brick and steel façade is high-quality and the incorporation of the century-old façade on the corner is sympathetic, though painted brick has its share of detractors.

Welliver is the general contractor for this project as well, with engineering work provided by T.G. Miller P.C. and Taitem Engineering. Eric Colbert & Associates (ECA) of Washington D.C. did the building design – out-of-town firm perhaps, but Colbert is an Ithaca native.

A rendering of the State Street Apartments project.

What’s in the Pipeline

In Collegetown, a number of small-to-medium sized infill projects have been approved by the city of Ithaca, but have yet to begin construction. These include “The Ruby”, a 35-unit apartment building at 228 Dryden Road, a 35-unit building 121 Oak Avenue by developer Josh Lower, and a nine-unit infill development at 325 Dryden Road and 320 Elmwood Avenue. Plans for “The Gem”, a ten-unit building at 202 Linden Avenue, and “The William”, a 34-unit building on the 100 Block of College Avenue, are currently in review. Further out, Novarr-Proujansky has plans approved for a 30-unit apartment building at 109-111 Valentine Place, but work has yet to begin.

In Downtown Ithaca, the biggest project approved that has yet to begin construction is the State Street / Gateway Apartments project by developer Jeff Githens of the recently-renamed PeakMade Real Estate. The land has been purchased for the 321-unit project, and their construction timeline called for a fall start to have everything open in the right seasonal time frame to tie into the August academic year rental shuffle. It’s likely they missed their deadline last year and plan to start in September or October of this year for an August 2024 opening. There’s also the new county office building planned for the 400 Block of North Tioga Street, but the discussion as of late has focused on short-term plans to tear down the existing orthodontics building on-site.

Brian Crandall

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