ITHACA, N.Y. –– Need a break from your socially distanced work or home situation? Then you’ve come to the right piece. This month, we’ll be looking at projects underway in and around the city of Ithaca –– and there’s so much underway, the article is being split into two parts. Here is the first piece with a closer look at Ithaca’s latest additions.

Cornell North Campus Residential Expansion

First and foremost, the biggest project underway, Cornell’s 2,000 bed, $175 million north campus expansion. Cornell and its construction partner, Welliver, have been working on this project since shortly after approvals were issued in June 2019, and the first two buildings should be ready for occupancy in August 2021. These will be part of the sophomore housing village when the project is completed, as the university transitions to housing all of its sophomores on campus. The two sophomore dorms will house 821 students total as well as provide study and assembly spaces, and one of the buildings will host a new dining hall.

As reported by my colleague Matt Butler last month, two of the north campus dormitories will be named after two famous Cornell alumna, the late author Toni Morrison and the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Although the text of Cornell’s announcement isn’t explicit, it implies that the two buildings to be named in honor of Morrison and Ginsberg are the two dormitories that will open later this year. Cornell is soliciting ideas for the other three dormitories through November 23rd. Cornell historian and raconteur Corey Earle says they’ve received 755 submissions and 147 names to date.

The first two photos show the new 1,244-bed freshman dorm complex going up on the former Appel Fields, slated for an August 2022 opening. Structural steel framing continues on these structures, with some precast concrete and terra cotta tiles already in place. These pre-cast panels are unusual in that the insulation is built right into the panel, so there’s no need for stud walls or sheathing here. Welliver’s construction crews can attach the panels practically as soon as the structure is framed. The sophomore buildings so appear to have some plywood sheeting, but only as a temporary measure prior to the new glazing (exterior glass) being installed. Some fireproof gypsum panels have also been attached adjacent to assembly spaces like the lobbies and the dining hall.

If you like this style of architecture, you’ll be happy to know ikon.5, the architecture firm, have been tapped to design Collegetown’s Innovation District. If you don’t like the architecture…well, at least the chosen materials are high quality. Glazing is often judged by how clean the reflection lines are (straight, not distorted or wavy), and here they’re straight and crystal clear.

City Harbor (101 Pier Road)

Work is well underway at the City Harbor project site along Ithaca’s waterfront. Dredging has been completed and the new marina boat slips and promenade seawall are in place, though the 1,700 foot-long promenade itself won’t be finished out until construction is much further along. As the project was getting off the ground this year, the developers (Lambrou Real Estate, Bridges Development Group, and Edger Enterprises, which doubles as the general contractor) offered up a portion of the site that had yet to get underway as an outdoor space for drive-in movies, which was much welcomed after initial plans for a socially-distanced drive-thru in Lansing became caught up in red tape.

The first phase of City Harbor includes the marina, promenade, the mixed-use Point West building with ground-level restaurant, and the Point East apartment building (96 units between the two). The 60-unit Point East II Building will be built in phase two, and planned for a new Newman Golf Course clubhouse and community center will also follow in the later phase, provided the city and the developers are in agreement on plans and legal matters.

Meanwhile, Guthrie Clinic broke ground last month on their new 60,000 square-foot medical office building. Pile driving for the new deep foundation is underway, as is excavation for subterranean utility lines. Technically, the Guthrie project is a part of City Harbor, but Guthrie is working with construction firm Welliver on the buildout of their parcel separately from the rest of the City Harbor development. When it opens alongside Phase I of City Harbor in a year or so, Guthrie will be adding another 75-100 jobs to its local workforce.

West End Heights (709-713 West Court St.)

Lakeview Health Service’s new affordable housing development is moving skyward over in Ithaca’s West End neighborhood. Framing is up to the fourth floor –– note that ground floor is framed in steel with steel stud walls and fireproof GP DensElement fiberglass mat sheathing, while the upper floors are wood construction with plywood Huber ZIP panels. This is because the ground level will host offices for Lakeview, and commercial-grade construction has more stringent fireproofing requirements than residential spaces. Also note the fireproof spray material on the structural steel support columns in the last picture; you can also see one of the stairwells and the elevator core at left. The masonry stairwell on the west end of the building is coated with a blue water-resistive barrier that makes the project look like a veritable rainbow from street level.

The five-story West End Heights project will bring sixty apartment units to the city when it comes to completion in late 2021. As previously reported, “(o)n the first floor of the $21.7 million building, office space will be available for both residents and other Lakeview clients. Twenty of the units will be reserved for people with a mental health diagnosis, and an additional 10 units are for people with a diagnosis who are also experiencing homelessness. The remaining 30 units are affordable housing (households making less than 60% area median income), with eight of those units for ‘homeless or unstably housed individuals who may also have special needs relating to substance abuse and/or HIV/AIDS’”. In short, the housing fills a rare but much needed subset of affordable housing. Lecesse Construction of Rochester is in charge of the buildout.

Cayuga Flats (203-209 Elm St.)

Over on West Hill, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services’ new 13-unit apartment building is fully framed and sheathed in ZIP panels. If you’re cross comparing to West End Heights, ZIP Panels come in both standard green wall sheathing and red roof and wall sheathing forms. The performance of the two varieties are similar. Most but not all of the windows have been installed, and the doors will come along a little later. A water-resistive wrap looks to be in place over structural overhangs and awnings, and it looks like some but not all of the roof has been covered with underlayment, which is used to help keep moisture out. Units will be finished out with Energy Star appliances and other sustainable features, and the project is seeking LEED Certification. Home Leasing Construction of Rochester is the general contractor for this project, and Rochester-based SWBR Architects penned the design.

Of the 13 units, ten will be one-bedroom units, and three will be two-bedroom units, targeted at those making 50-60 percent of area median income. Occupancy is expected in February 2021. INHS is currently accepting applications on these and sixteen units in recently renovated homes throughout the city. The application for these units can be found here with floor plans here. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 1 to be accepted into the lottery, which will be held on Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. via Facebook Live (frankly it’s probably healthier to avoid Facebook, but this is one way they can demonstrate transparency during a pandemic). More detailed guidelines on income limits and several other units can be found here.

Ithaca Arthaus (130 Cherry St.)

Meanwhile, just over the flood control channel, The Vecino Group’s Ithaca Arthaus project is up to the fourth floor of five. Here too, it’s Huber plywood ZIP panels encasing the apartments on the upper levels, but in this case the ground floor uses concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls. Taking a guess here, the white material on the bumpout in the first photo may have to do with the choice of material finishes –– most of the building will have a fiber cement panel facade, but that and the stairwell to its left appear to be getting a stucco finish, which requires a base underlayment to protect wood surfaces (like ZIP panels), but not CMU, which is why the CMU stairwell has no covering.

The zoning on Cherry Street does not allow for residential uses on the first floor of buildings due to the flood risk posed by the inlet, and instead the ground level will host covered parking (34 cars, 4 motorcycles, 52 bike rack spaces), the lobby, the rental office, and Cherry Arts Gallery and studio space (Arthaus’s “theme” is to appeal to tenants who are artistically inclined and need space to work on and show their work, and the gallery is being managed in partnership with the Cherry Artspace next door). The project recently sought and received variance for some signage tweaks for bracketed signs with the building’s name and identifying the gallery space.

Missouri-based Vecino is a large enough firm that they’re using their in-house construction team to build the Ithaca Arthaus. Alongside Vecino on the project team are Fagan Engineers of Elmira doing the civil engineering work, local firm Taitem Engineering as energy consultants, and Ithaca’s Whitham Planning and Design for landscape architecture and community outreach. CRM Property Management of Rome (Oneida County) will manage the property on Vecino’s behalf.

The project will host 48 studio, 55 one-bedroom, and 20 two-bedroom units, rented to those making 50-80 percent of area median income, plus a one-bedroom unit for the property manager for a total of 124. (A breakdown of units and rents is at the end of this post and on the NYS Homes and Community Renewal website here.) Forty of those units will be set aside for young adults aged 19-26 for formerly foster care and homeless youth, and administered by Tompkins Community Action. Arthaus will be built to state (NYSERDA) “Performance Path for Energy Star” standards for sustainable housing (Tier II, >25 percent energy savings above code). Expect an opening in fall 2021.

While Arthaus’s opening is a little ways off, stay tuned for part two of Ithaca’s construction updates later this week.

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