ITHACA, N.Y. — As spring draws to a close, most projects aiming for openings next spring or summer have hit the dirt. The Voice is here to introduce you to some of the latest construction plans unfolding in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Cayuga View Senior Living

This project has taken a long time to break ground – approvals were granted over a year ago for this 60-unit senior apartment building on Cinema Drive in Lansing village. The big hang-up was because the project had to secure a construction loan, which even in a regionally strong market like Ithaca’s, is not all that easy. It’s a small metropolitan area in economically-stressed upstate New York, and that doesn’t exactly send banks and credit unions running for their pocket books.

Finally this past spring, the Thalers and their business partners managed to land a construction loan. Five Star Bank of Warsaw (Wyoming County, near Buffalo) is loaning the Thaler family and their associates $10.88 million to make their project become reality. Along with the loan, the Thalers and their business partners will be putting up $1,796,450 in equity to move the project forward, bring total costs to $12,676,450. That will fund a 4-story, 87,359 square-foot building with 48 2-bedroom apartments, 12 1- bedroom units, and 2,680 SF of first-floor retail space, which the Thalers hope to fill with a small eatery or a barber shop. If the name didn’t give hints, the units are age-restricted to those aged 55+.

The apartments will be priced upmarket, $1,550/month for a 1-bedroom, and $2,250-$2,775/month for a two-bedroom, plus $200/month for top floor lake view units. With that comes a community center, in-unit washer/dryer, trash removal, fitness room, wi-fi, library/computer room, intercoms, rooftop garden, basic cable TV and pets under 30 lbs. for an additional monthly fee. Occupancy is slated for Spring (second quarter of) 2018. NH Architecture, who did the Hotel Ithaca, are the designers in charge, and Rochester’s Taylor the Builders is the construction manager.

Quick note, the building will be five floors on its back side facing Triphammer Mall – the site is sloped, and the building will be built into the hillside, which explains all the heavy-duty excavation at the project site.

107 South Albany Street

This is one of those infill construction projects that unless it was on your commute or you were specifically looking for it, it’d quickly slip off the radar. Building projects are a bit like politicians in that the higher profile or most controversial ones get the vast majority of attention. 107 South Albany Street fills neither of those specifications, and as a result, relatively few people are even aware of it. Ithaca developer Stavros (Nick) Stavropoulos is replacing a former single-family home just west of downtown with a 3-story, 11-unit apartment building. All of the units in the building will be 1-bedrooms, and they should be open for their first renters by next summer.

The house it replaces, while not historic, was still a century-old building with some good bones. Stavropoulos partnered with local non-profit Finger Lakes ReUse to dismantle the old house, rather than taking a wrecking ball to it and trucking the broken pieces off to the landfill. By deconstructing the building beam by beam, FLR diverts about 70-90% of materials from the landfill by salvaging the structural components, processing and checking them to make sure they’re in good shape for re-use, and they then package and sell the materials at a low price to interested buyers – for instance, reclaimed lumber could go into bar counters, flooring, or any number of options looking for that well-used look. The cons to this approach are that more work and more time is involved vs. a traditional demolition, which means a greater cost.

The new building is designed to fit into the more traditional buildings nearby by offering a street-facing cornice and a brick veneer, but the old-timey look is juxtaposed to a modern stair tower element that would be visible from West State Street. The 8.427 SF building should cost just under $1 million to build. Local architect Daniel Hirtler (Flatfield Designs) penned the plans.

607 South Aurora Street

Swinging on over to South Hill, here’s Modern Living Rentals latest development. Fresh off a pair of two-family homes on Old Elmira Road, Developer Charlie O’Connor is renovating an existing five bedroom house and building for two-family houses on a large L-shaped lot on South Hill next to the elementary school. Each of the eight new rental units, which will utilize modular components, will be three bedrooms and about 1,128 SF. The existing house will also be renovated and expanded slightly, raising the rear roof-line to add interior space, becoming a two-family home with three bedrooms each. In sum, single-family five-bedroom rental on a large lot will grow to become ten units and thirty bedrooms. Expect occupancy by the start of the new academic semester in August.

Looking at the site a little while back, a new roof is underway, and one can clearly see where the roof was raised in the roof by looking at the trim boards; the new section is housewrapped, and presumably the whole house will receive a new exterior finish at a later date. The windows in the rear are just rough openings for now, new windows will come along shortly. The soil has been excavated for the slab foundation of Building “A”, but due to the angle and slope of the site from the roads, it was hard to tell how much of the site prep for “B”, “C” and “D” has been completed in the rear, apart from some disturbed soil. Once again, Taylor the Builders is the builder, this time as general contractor. Side note – the difference between construction manager and general contractor is that a CM is involved with pre-development planning and construction, and a GC comes in for just the construction phase.

Schwartz Plaza Renovation

One of the biggest complaints about Collegetown is the lack of public gathering spaces – there’s no real park or public plaza that can be utilized for gatherings and events. The gorges aren’t all that accessible and aren’t suitable for large groups, and places like CTB and St. Luke’s provide for small private gatherings and community events, but the lack of a sizable public social space poses a challenge to the neighborhood’s ability to provide for its residents.

As Collegetown’s reason for existence, Cornell is stepping up to the plate to offer a space with the renovation of Schwartz Plaza. It’s not truly a public space as something owned by the city or county, but Cornell’s large, multi-faceted presence offers a reasonable facsimile.

The stated goals for Schwartz Plaza’s renovation are to improve pedestrian circulation, increase safety by providing for better visibility, and to enhance aesthetics. To do this, Cornell will remove the 4-foot tall concrete wall that separates the plaza from the sidewalk, create a series of short stairs to facilitate “permeability” of pedestrians to and from the plaza, and adding new seating and landscaping to make the plaza more inviting. New or improved features include stone walls and pavers, wood-on-granite benches, recessed LED lighting, new bike racks and planters. It’s not really a new structure or even a change of use, but to make the plaza more effective for its intended use as a gathering space.

As projects go, this one should be relatively short at about four months, May-August 2017. TWMLA is responsible for the plaza design, T. G. Miller for civil engineering work, and Taitem Engineering for electrical engineering. The contractor isn’t clear and (unusually) Cornell doesn’t have it listed on their webpages, but the invited bidders were all regional road/landscape construction firms.

In the photos, it looks like removal of the old plaza is underway, with the wall soon to follow. The plywood around the Vermont marble columns is for protection (way back, the columns were intended to be limestone and brick stringcourses, but it was value-engineered to marble and off-white Dryvit).

schwartz construction

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