Ithacating in Cornell Heights

1. Here’s a little more information on    diamond 4c       the proposes medical office building at 2141 Dryden Road. Site Plan here, planning department memo here. A local doctor operating as “Slaterville Springs Real Estate Company, LLC” is planning a 3,676 SF pre-fabricated building on the site. The building would be built using a Superior Wall precast concrete foundation (Superior Walls are commonly seen with modular builds), and built into the hillside – one story from the front, two from the back. The doctor’s office would occupy the upper level, and the lower level is spec space. The plans include a roof-mounted solar system, electric heat pumps, and an electric vehicle charging station in one of the three proposed parking areas. 48 parking spaces are indicated, four of which are ADA compliant. A covered bicycle rack and dumpster enclosure are also provided.

Having all these green features at a semi-rural site with gobs of parking (the Institute for Traffic Engineers’ parking standards for medical offices is about 3.5 per 1,000 SF, or 13 in this case) is liking having a diet coke with your Big Mac. A project can be “green”, but much of its green impacts are mitigated if it encourages fossil fuel use with increased vehicle traffic. It would benefit the town to plan and zone for developments like this closer to villages and hamlets.

The site also includes landscaping, some limited signage, lighting and stormwater features. The town planning department’s opinion is that the project is not substantial enough to merit full site plan review. Spec Consulting of Groton is doing the project design.

2. The Black Diamond Trail will receive a major addition after New York State announced funding for a bridge over the Cayuga Lake flood control channel earlier this week. The $1.2 million award from the state will pay for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge for the trail, which will span the inlet from the current trail segment along Floral Avenue, to the intersection of Cherry Street and Cecil Malone Drive. This would provide greater connectivity for West Hill residents to the businesses along the waterfront and the big box corridor, giving them to option to walk/bike through here instead of going up to West State Street. In an interview with the Journal’s Tom Pudney, city transportation engineer Tim Logue notes that design work, public hearings and municipal approvals for the bridge will take another 18 months, so construction won’t be until 2021.

3. Now for a look at Dryden’s Mill Creek subdivision. Site plan application here, proposed covenants here, site plans here. This is the 908-acre subdivision of land west of Freeville into forty home lots. It looks like the Lucente family (as RPL Properties, for the late Rocco P. Lucente) is working with surveyor Alan Lord to plat the lots. The 40 lots range in size from just over 5 acres, to 60 acres. 23 acres on the eastern edge of the parcel would be deeded over to the town for land conservation.

Even as subdivisions go, this is a very questionable design because it’s not really following state guidelines for conservation subdivisions, which cluster houses near roads on smaller lots so as to preserve natural space. These lots aren’t designed for that, which really opens up the possibility of large-scale natural space degradation or destruction. Given that the zoning here is a conservation district, it meets the word of the law, but not the sentiment.

4. Courtesy of the County Clerk’s office, we now know what the amount of the construction loan was for the latest phase of the Village Solars. 24-unit Building “K” (113 Village Circle) and 24-unit Building “L” (40 Village Place) received a $5.6 million loan from Elmira Savings Bank, which is mildly interesting in that the previous building loans were from Tompkins Trust. Note that the buildings are switched around from the site plan above, so that middle building is “K” and the building to the east is “L”. Both buildings are expected to be completed by the end of September 2019. I

n February, my last visit, Building “K” was substantially finished from the outside, while Building “L” was just a foundation pad. However, the Lucentes in-house construction team have been building these for years and have the process down pat, so if they’re framing by now, they could certainly have “L” finished by the end of September.

5. The recent article regarding the U.S. Census Bureau estimates created quite a stir and a number of strong and/or concerned emails. Before anyone gets hung up on the numbers,realize that the census is all about estimating from an annual survey of about 2.1 million households nationwide, out of a little over 126 million. They’re reasonably comfortable with national figures, a little less so with states, and generally, they just hope to be close with counties, especially medium-sized one like Tompkins who are hard to sample but can still vary by several hundreds of people from year to year.

Now consider the statistics mentioned in the article. From 2010 to 2017, the area added 2,412 housing units, and from 2010 to 2018 it added about 6,000 jobs (1.4% annual growth). The colleges add 800 or so students in total. All signs point to steady, modest growth.

Here’s an exercise. Let’s take those 2,412 housing units. 964 single-family homes, and 1,448 multi-family units. The average household size is 2.5 persons/home, and 2.2/persons per multifamily unit. So a gross estimate for the number of occupants in new housing is (964 * 2.5) + (1,448 * 2.2), or 5,596 people.

Now for a couple of adjustments. Household sizes are known to be getting smaller. Nationally, from 2010 to 2018, the change was 2.59 to 2.53, so applying that same percent decrease to the single-family figure and the multi-family figure reduces the gross gain to 5,466 people. Also, let’s assume that not every housing unit permitted was built. The vast majority are, but not all. Let’s say 98% were. That reduces the figure to 5,356.

Secondly, some new housing replaces older housing. Those stats aren’t so readily available. But I track them here. In this case, the number I have on file is that of projects recently completed or proposed, net gain is 90.6% of the gross gain. That number is going to be a bit low because I don’t track single-family home construction, which typically happens on vacant lots. Still, assuming it’s otherwise an acceptable estimation, then (5,356 * .906) = 4,853 people.

Now, let’s account for vacancy. Overall, Tompkins County is ticking upward, though still below a healthy market rate / too tight in the urban areas. It was higher in 2010, lower in the middle of decade, and creeping up now as new construction is completed and occupied. Let’s say (rather optimistically or pessimistically, depending your view) there’s a one percent increase since 2010,. Tompkins had 43.453 housing units as of 2017. So with a +1% vacancy since 2010, that’s 434.5, of which 52.7% are homes if we break it up perfectly, but since rentals have a slightly higher vacancy rate in general, let’s say 50-50. So ((217.25 * 2.5) + (217.25 * 2.2) ) * (2.53/2.59) = 997 people.

Let’s do the math. 4,853 people – 997 people = 3,856 people. Add that to 101,564 reported in 2010, and you get 105,420 residents in 2017. The Census’s 2017 estimate for Tompkins County was 104,871. Extrapolate it out a bit, and assuming Tompkins continues to add at about 551 people/year, and 2020 will clock in around 107,073 people. 5.4% growth. A hair below national average, but well above most of upstate New York and the Northeast.

So with that exercise in mind, don’t worry about the Census estimates. They will be what they will be, whether 2,000 people magically disappear or not. They’re not looking to be great, they just hope to be kinda accurate until the next census rolls out in 2020.

Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: elmira savings bank, infrastructure, municipal projects, population projections, statistics, town of dryden, village solars
Categories : construction (planned), general housing, ithaca, statistics, Tompkins County
News Tidbits 11/18/2017: Fears and Hopes for the Future
18
11
2017

1. Here’s an interesting sale – a 62.1 acre parcel on Troy Road sold for $380,000 on the 13th, less than half the original asking price. The buyer, “Troy Heights LLC”, is registered to the same address as Giora and Limor Fix, a semi-retired husband and wife couple who have acquired a number of rental properties around the area over the past decade, with 43 or so units worth something in the ballpark of several million dollars (units are marketed by the Fixes under the name “Homes-for-you Rental Properties”).

The Troy Road property is intriguing because there was a development proposal floated there a few years ago. Rural Housing Preservation Associates LLC had proposed a 130-unit combination of middle-market single family homes, townhouses and small apartment buildings for the site back in 2014; it started as 206 units, the town and neighbors complained it was too big, the project was whittled down to 130, and then the proposal was cancelled by September 2015. Using cluster zoning, the project could have built out 145 units in the low-density residential (LDR) zone, since the town’s cluster zoning allows 2.3 units/acre. STREAM was in charge of the project design, and some of the renders of the never-built apartments can be found here on their website.

So here is a log lot, bought by folks involved in local real estate and with significant assets, under the name “Troy Heights”, which sounds like a project title if anything. I reached out to Giora Fix, and he was kind enough to respond:

“[C]urrently we do not have any concrete plans to develop Troy Road. Once we have them I will be happy to share with you.”

So something to keep an eye on, though it might be a while.

2. Here’s a piece of news from the Times’ Nick Reynolds. With regards to the police consolidation debate, the city wants to have the headquarters downtown on Green Street (likely in that proposed centralized government facility floated for the Central Fire Station site), while the towns would prefer something near the current BPW on the north end of the Northside neighborhood, which offers easy access to Route 13. Consolidation is still a rather unlikely prospect at this time, and there’s little enthusiasm from the more rural parts of the county. But it sounds like the sheriff is keen on killing the city’s ideas before they take off.

3. Bad jobs month for the state, good for Ithaca. The Ithaca metro (Tompkins County) added 1,800 jobs (all private sector) from October 2016 to October 2017, bringing the total to 67,800. The 3.2% increase was the largest gain by percentage in the state over the time period. Unfortunately, the state as a whole lost 11,900 jobs last month, which falls even more to 14,600 jobs when taking away those added by the public sector (government jobs). A study from the Federal Reserve Bank last month notes that upstate economic growth in general has been losing steam over the past year, with exceptions for Ithaca and Albany. New York City is performing reasonably well.

While it’s well and good that Ithaca is doing well, I have concerns about the recent tax reform bill going through Congress. With the potential hit to SALT deductions and the taxation of graduate student tuition waivers, I could see significant negative impacts on the local economy. Given that most communities have property taxes in the range of $2500-$4000/$100,000, a cap of $10,000 as proposed by the House would hit many middle-class and upscale neighborhoods hard. A typical home in Ithaca city is worth about $230,000-$270,000 range at this point, and with about $3779 per $100,000 in property taxes, that means that homeowners with properties valued over $265,000 will take a financial hit, close to half of the homes sold. The Senate’s version removes the SALT deduction completely, affecting all local home buyers. Either case would be a severe blow to the home buying market.

Another concern is the taxation of graduate student tuition waivers as proposed by the House plan. Speaking from experience, I had a waiver that saved me about $14,000/year at the public university where I did my master’s. In my case, seeing that taxes would have cost an extra couple thousand in theory, though the doubling of the standard deduction might have limited its impact on me. A Cornell graduate student is looking at $20,800-$29,500, and could see a tax bill larger than any savings from the standard deduction increase. The Senate version does not tax tuition waivers. Another, lesser factor to consider is that the student loan interest deduction for borrowers on-time with their payments would be eliminated.

On a final note, Cornell’s endowment would be taxed an extra 1.4% under the House bill, as would any college whose endowment is worth more than $250,000 per full-time student. Cornell’s endowment is $6.8 billion, and the school has 23,016 students across all campuses as of Fall 2017. That is over the allowed cap of $5.75 billion as calculated by the bill’s guidelines.

The long story short is that Cornell recruitment takes a hit, as does its endowment, and that could impact current employment as well as future hiring. Politics aside, these “reform” bills are definitely a cause for concern from Ithaca and Tompkins’ economic standpoint.

4. A separate note not so much economic, but something many Ithacans care about – the House bill takes away the historic building rehabilitation tax credit. The renovation of 310 West State Street that I reported in the Voice earlier this week would be off the table without them, and the building will likely be demolished if the credits are eliminated. So the impacts aren’t just economic, but perhaps aesthetic as well.

5. This is looking to be a very quiet late November. For the first time in over a year, the town of Ithaca has cancelled two planning board meetings in a row. Meanwhile, in the city, the only “old business” reviews are final site plan approval for the 601 South Aurora duplex, and final approval for the Brindley Street Bridge replacement.

6. So technically, the Request for Proposals went out for the Green Street Garage site. A site tour for interested applicants is scheduled for December 4th, applications are due by January 23, 2018, and no timetable is given for the selection of the preferred developer. The applications are to include a cover letter, application form, description of project team members with relevant experience, proof of ability operate in NYS, good reputation, financial status, marketing plan, tenant management plan, conceptual designs, financing plan and demonstrated capacity to obtain financing, purchase price, project schedule, community impact benefits statement, schedule, and specific concerns (acknowledgement of site issues and plan to resolve them). A $500 application fee is also required.

Obviously, Ithaca Associates LLC has a huge leg up on the competition, since they not only have a plan fleshed out, they own the ground lease under the eastern end of the garage that everyone else would have to negotiate to obtain. About the only legitimate opening to another developer would be for the western and central portions of the garage, though the city’s requests make it such that anyone else interested had better be thinking big with housing, parking, and other site uses. Saying you’d leave things as-is would be an immediate disqualifier. Unless Fox or Lubin are dreaming up multi-story apartment buildings, it isn’t likely many developers will entertain this RFP. This really feels like it’s just the city stalling for time so they can fully absorb the immensity of the 365-unit, $118 million “Village on the Green” proposal.

Comments : 1 Comment »
Tags: downtown ithaca, economy, green street garage redevelopment, jobs, planning board, politics, real estate sales, south hill, tompkins county, town of ithaca, troy road project
Categories : general housing, ithaca, news, statistics, Tompkins County, urban planning
The War in Fall Creek
22
09
2015
A few weeks ago in the Voice, an article ran saying that bidding wars were breaking out in Fall Creek. Homes in the neighborhood are being fought over by multiple buyers, and driving up the sales prices (and assessments for all the other properties).

So, being of an analytical mind, I wanted to see if there was any way to prove that. And that is the topic of today’s post.

So the hypothesis is, if there are bidding wars going on, we should be seeing relatively low reductions from listing to sales price, or even sale prices above the listing price. According to anecdotal evidence from real estate website Zillow, 90-95% of list value is common, assuming that the home was priced realistically for its market.

Using the bounds of Fall Creek as defined in the article, listing and sales data were pulled from houses sold within the neighb

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