ITHACA, N.Y. — Have a few minutes to burn on this chilly winter day? Spend it with us in the warm glow of your screen. This month we’re looking at some (most) of the major construction projects, public and private, underway in Ithaca this winter.

Harold’s Square (133-139 The Commons)

Harold’s Square on the Commons is moving right along. The Commons-facing side of the structure has been mostly finished from the outside with brown terra cotta panels. As you can see in the street-level photo, once the mineral wool was on, steel rails were attached to the building and the panels are clipped into place atop the rails. The westernmost face has its expansive glass installed (with metal “fins” to provide some respite from the direct sun), while the waterproofed exterior awaits its aluminum metal panel finish. In the taller, southern side of the building, window installation has begun on the lower levels.

According to the new website, monthly rents will range from $1,300 for a studio, to $3,000 for a top-of-the-line two-bedroom. The floorplans are included below. Note the studios are just a little above the legal minimum, at 342 SF. Truly for someone who likes to live with a small footprint, I guess. Most units come with their own washer and dryer, studios will share a common room with a washer and dryer.

There are 6 studios, 42 one-bedroom units (749 square feet), and 29 two-bedroom units (1,088 square feet). Units come with quartz countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless steel fixtures and Energy Star appliances, vinyl plank floors, and everything is that marketing-friendly neutral color palette of subdued whites, beiges, greys and browns. Fiber optic internet is included in rent, and the units are “pet-friendly”. Higher-end units also have balconies.

Shared amenities include a dog washing station, 12th-floor rooftop terrace, “Amazon Hub” apartment lockers, keyless entry, private storage and bike storage, trash and recycling chutes on every floor, a security system and access to two high-speed elevators. All units are non-smoking. 60 kW from a solar array in the Schuyler County town of Dix will be utilized to offset the building’s carbon footprint. 

Visions Federal Credit Union (410 Elmira Road)

Endwell-based Visions Federal Credit Union had begun their expansion into the Ithaca / Tompkins County market. The financial non-profit is proposing to build a 3,320 square-foot branch office with a parking lot containing 20 spaces and drive-up ATMs. The building will be finished out in a fairly standard mix of painted aluminum metal panel system and fiber cement, with a masonry base and aluminum window system.

More interestingly, the majority of the lot would be fenced in from the adjacent roadways and turned into an outdoor amphitheater. A 940 SF stage structure would be built at the southern end of the property, and the lawn would be maintained for use as an outdoor event and entertainment venue – rough estimates put the seating capacity at about 500, with the shopping center parking lot to double as a parking area for concert series attendees (the initial plan is five concerts from May-September, with smaller events in between). The remainder of the property would be fitted out with stormwater retention areas, landscaping improvements, a small amount of sidewalk, electric vehicle charging stations, a pet-friendly outdoor waiting area next to the building and bike racks.

The site is being cleared and graded for construction at the moment. The elevated pad in the first photo is where the new branch office will be built. The third photo shows the graded site pad for the amphitheater. The $1.25 million project should take about eight months to build out, putting it on course for a late summer opening.

Maguire Ford/Lincoln (504 South Meadow Street)

The new exterior cladding is going up on the renovated and expanded Maguire Ford-Lincoln at 504 South Meadow Street. Generally speaking, the materials consist of Alcoa ribbed aluminum panels on the back and sides, Alpolic aluminum panels on the front, and painted panels on the old service wing being retained and incorporated into the renovation. For automakers, aluminum panels are often the desired finish of choice because it projects a clean, modern image, and automotive sales are all about pushing the latest and greatest technologically-advanced four-wheeled machines out onto the roads. You can see on the rear wall how rails are attached to the exterior wall, and the panels are attached to the rails above the sheathing.

Many of the windows have yet to be fitted, and the old service wing is still sheathed in Tyvek house wrap while it waits for its exterior panels. The curved “airfoil” feature with the Ford blue oval has yet to be installed at the front entrance, but there are spaces on either side of the entrance that suggest where it will be attached to the main structure. The Lincoln logo will go above 2×3 black aluminum swatch on the northeast corner next to the entrance, as requested by Ford corporate design guidelines. Initially, the plan was to have an exposed concrete masonry base, but late in the review process they upgraded to stone veneer, which lends a more upscale and aesthetically pleasing appearance to the structure. It does look like some windows were changed or deleted when compared to the last set of drawings from review, but minor fenestration alterations are typically a minor enough change that re-review isn’t warranted.

According to a filing with the Tompkins County Clerk on January 13th, CFCU Community Credit Union is lending the Maguire Family of Dealerships $5,362,500 to fund the renovation and expansion. This is unusually high; the Site Plan Review estimated the cost of the project at $1.5 million. The loan notes that fees and other expenses mostly related to the mortgage total $1.788 million, which still lends a very substantial $3.574 million towards the construction project itself, to be paid out in six payments, and all except about $12,000 of that going to the general contractor, G.M. Crisalli & Associates of Syracuse. The terms of the agreement stipulate a completion no later than July 1st.

Library Place (105 West Court Street)

Library Place is making progress over at 105 West Court Street (the new mailing address; guess we should stop saying 314 North Cayuga Street now). The concrete masonry unit (CMU) northeast elevator/stair tower has topped off, and it looks like part of the northwest tower is being assembled now. The square holes above the lower levels of the tower are most likely slots for structural steel. If I’m reading the floor plans right, a third stair tower will be constructed along the south wall of the building. The concrete foundation footers have been poured, and a CMU foundation wall is being assembled; the pink materials along the outside of the wall are lightweight polystyrene insulation boards, Owens Corning Foamular from the looks of it. I see a work truck on-site for subcontractor Gorick Construction of Binghamton, but rather surprisingly there’s no signage around for general contractor LeChase Construction.

Signs along the perimeter fence advertise a Spring 2021 opening for the four-story, 86,700 square-foot building. Prices for the 66 senior housing units are not yet available. Amenities will include a restaurant, à la carte home health services from an on-site agency, community room, courtyard gardens, workout facilities, warming pool, and underground parking. Senior services non-profit Lifelong will provide on-site activities and programs.

Cayuga Flats (203-209 Elm Street)

Now you see it, now you don’t. The house and two apartment buildings previously on the site of INHS’s new Cayuga Flats apartment project have been removed and the site is being excavated for the new 13-unit building, which will serve households making 30%-60% of area median income (about $18k-$35k/year for a one-person household). The new 12,585 square-foot will be two stories from the front (northwest) and three from the back (southeast), further downslope.

Of the 13 units, ten will be one-bedroom units, and three will be two-bedroom units. The building’s design, penned by Rochester firm SWBR Architects, is a fairly modern look with fiber cement siding with wood-like fiber cement and masonry accents.Engineering-wise, the project will be built on a 5″ concrete slab resting on a vapor barrier and compacted stone base, with concrete masonry unit (CMU) or poured concrete walls and footings. This foundation wall will also serve as a retaining wall. The floord above will be a traditional lightweight wood frame common in low-rise multifamily construction. This should take about a year to build out.

For the record, this is down the street from the storm sewer that collapsed. The storm sewer that gave way is the fourth photo, and will take about two months to replace. There’s no indication that the construction project and the nearby sewer collapse are related.

Arthaus Ithaca (130 Cherry Street)

Here’s another project undergoing site prep. The former AJ’s Foreign Auto has been torn down and the site is being graded for Arthaus Ithaca, a new five-story apartment building.

Among the features are support service office space, a community room, a gallery/studio (in partnership with the Cherry Arts, according to state docs from October) and a fitness room. It’s about 123 units (48 studio, 55 1-bedroom, 20 2-bedroom) of affordable housing, 50-80% of area median income, plus a one-bedroom unit for the property manager for 124 total. A breakdown of units and rents is at the end of this post and on the NYS HCR website here. Forty units (the ESSHI grant units in the rental breakdown table) will be set aside for young adults aged 19-26 for formerly foster care and homeless youth, and administered by Tompkins Community Action.

Along with the housing, the building would include parking for about 36 vehicles within and outside the building ,and 7,748 square feet of potential retail or office and amenity space geared toward artists. Also included is space for 52 bikes and 4 motorcycles, and access to Ithaca CarShare. The exterior will be finished out in light grey, medium grey and red fiber cement panels, with the internal courtyard areas having white stucco finishes. The ground level will have dark grey fiber cement panels and dark grey masonry.

A public promenade will run along the west side of the property next to the waterfront, pending approval from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The project was designed by Vecino’s in-house team, BW Architects and Engineers (remember, they’re a big firm that can afford to have their own architecture team). The project is also seeking to get arts groups involved in the design, to give it a unique local flair. The project will be built to state (NYSERDA) “Performance Path for Energy Star” standards for sustainable housing (Tier II, >25% energy savings above code). The city was looking to start off on the right foot with the upzoned waterfront, and this is exactly the kind of creative, affordable project they were hoping for.

Brindley Street Bridge Replacement

Not every project is my private organizations; there are some municipal plans underway as well. The Brindley Street Bridge Replacement project includes the relocation of Brindley Street by connecting Taber Street with the West State-MLK Jr. Street/Taughannock Boulevard intersection. The existing Brindley Street roadway and structure will remain (with appropriate improvements) and be utilized for pedestrian traffic. The existing bridge will continue to be used by the public during construction of the new bridge and approach roadways until September or October of 2020.

The new approach roadways have been graded, rising slightly for the new bridge that will go in later this year. The new two-way bridge will make getting to and from Cherry Street just a little easier than the current 1950s one-way bridge.

GreenStar Co-Op (770 Cascadilla Street)

The bigger, greener GreenStar Co-Op is approaching the finish line. The interior is being fitted out with equipment, the parking lot is striped, the bikes racks and street trees are in, and the new “Welcome to Ithaca” mural has been put up on the building’s backside, which faces Route 13. According to GreenStar’s website, the Certificate of Occupancy, the legal permit to occupy the new structure, is expected within the next few weeks, after city inspectors have gone through and make sure everything is good to go.

Of course, moving is more than just a building and equipment. The central kitchen, warehouse, administrative operations and retail store all have to relocate. Time is needed to test the new equipment and get staff acclimated to the new space. As a result, the actual opening for business is still a couple of months off. “While our goal is to transition with minimal interruptions to our business operations, we may need and will greatly appreciate your patience and understanding while we transition to our new home,” GreenStar says on their website.

If you want a look at some annotated interior shots, GreenStar has them up on their website here. The Co-Op has raised the $2 million it sought for its capital campaign, and is now aiming for a reach goal of $2.5 million.

Brian Crandall

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