Bank Alley continues to take shape as Raulli & Sons secured the Bernie Milton Pavilion roof assembly on the structure last week. Syrstone continues to spread stone base and install pavers along Bank alley, and future planters and benches are taking form along the eastern extension to Aurora Street. Power & Construction has already completed wiring and round footings for the pole lamps, which will permanently replace the temporary lighting as the surfaces phase progresses.
The Ithaca Commons Rebuild Project crews have begun laying pavers over top of stone bases along Bank Alley, and several sections of concrete have been poured along Bank Alley and the east end for the floor and planter boxes, along with tube pours for the pole lighting systems. Steel sections of the new Bernie Milton Pavillion arrived in mid-October, and crews have been welding together the frame for the roof at the end of Bank Alley. The Home Dairy Alley also received a new concrete walkway. Previous design posts here (part one link) and here (part two link).
As announced a few weeks ago, the Commons Rebuild Project has hit another set of delays with NYSEG utility work, and won’t be completed until next Spring. While the news is certainly a bummer, the deck should be paved with concrete by early November, so I look forward to the center section being opened-up again for pedestrians.
Pedestrian malls are quite uncommon (and not always successful) in the US nowadays, so on a recent trip to Charlottesville, Virginia (college town of the University of Virginia), I visited the Historic Downtown Mall. Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall is sizeable (seven blocks), highly successful, and it’s easy to see why: it’s in the dead-center of town, which is not far from UVA’s campus, and is anchored at one end by a large hotel and conference center (The Omni Charlottesville), Regal Theater, and the other by a public pavilion for outdoor events (the nTelos Wireless Pavillion), Downtown Transit Hub, City Hall, and Visitor’s Center.
The major blemish here is a failed hotel project: the Landmark Hotel, which was to be opened by now, but stalled back in late 2008 when the construction lender folded, the borrower defaulted on payment, then the FDIC took over, then the bank was officially dissolved, and now the property has been bought by another developer, but the City is claiming that the building is unsafe, so construction has not resumed. The original developer is CNET-founder Halsey Minor (see how to blow a fortune).
In any case, I was thoroughly-impressed by the place: large movable planters, sprawling open dining areas, plenty of lighting, directory signs on each block, brick and concrete pavers, and cross-streets allowing traffic fit well here. Charlottesville, like Ithaca, is a big tourist destination, so the retail mix was similar, and certainly loaded with restaurants and cafés. It was hard not feeling envious, but with any luck, Ithaca’s new mall will wrap-up in time for next summer. If you’re ever down in Hooville, it’s worth checking-out:
The Landmark Hotel project:
The Ithaca Commons Rebuild Project Team gave a presentation this morning on the phasing for this Summer and Fall (Phase 3), as the paving and the bulk of the remaining work wraps up this November. Michael Kuo, the Project Manager has agreed to share slides from the meeting that help to explain the rest of the project.
As was reported in the news and at the meeting, the team was able to value engineer certain portions of the project in order to re-integrate the gateway structures, and playground, which is being designed by Play by Design, a local firm specializing in custom playgrounds that has built hundreds of projects throughout the world. The City of Ithaca has agreed to install the mechanical vault and run plumbing lines for the future water feature, which is expected to attract donor funding to build at a point in the future.
In the last six weeks since work resumed in earnest, the telecom mains and services have been run, along with water service upgrades that have involved digging-up and connecting the mains to water, fire sprinkler system lines, and telecom piping into each building (commonly called “laterals”). Once connected, the piping is tested and then the old services disconnected and taken out. The crews have averaged about 2-3 each day.
A new electric duct bank is currently being installed by NYSEG, along with a new gas main, replacing the old galvanized steel gas piping with high density polyethylene yellow gas pipe (HDPE), a similar material to plastic bottles actually, but much stronger. After the gas main section is replaced on the 200 Block’s north side, NYSEG will then cut open and replace the lines on the south sides of both blocks, then back around the northern side of the 100 Block from the west.
As the underground utilities are completed in each wing of the Commons, the paving program will begin in July, as crews will grade and prep surfaces for pouring a concrete base, on top of which, the concrete surface pavers will be set for the final walkable layer. Because the concrete can be poured section by section, and dry time is relatively fast for concrete, the surfaces will be opened-up to pedestrian traffic, starting with Bank Alley, then the east 200 Block, and west 100 Block.
Per each wing, the concrete base is poured, then pavers set, which should take about 3-4 weeks in each phase
Phase 1: Bank Alley (mid-June to late June)
Phase 2: 200 Block (late July, possibly August)
Phase 3: 100 Block (starting in October)
Here’s the phasing for the Bank Alley wing:
Scenes from the last few weeks:
The Commons Rebuild project entered Phase Three this past month, as Vacri Construction is back on site digging-out trenches for the installation of telecom pipe ducts and utility vaults (the large pre-formed concrete blocks with manhole access). The duct bank run along the western end near Cayuga Street is being worked on right now.
In addition to the duct piping and vaults, NYSEG is installing a new gas main along several of the outside edges of the construction fence to replace the old one. The concrete slab is cut and removed in sections, then several feet of soil is dug out to install the piping. The gas main is not part of Vacri’s contract, but since the gas main is quite old, NYSEG requested to replace it during the same timeframe since the project presents an ideal opportunity to do so. As of now, the concrete is cut, but not yet removed.
As was announced in the Ithaca Times, the Commons Rebuild Phase Three is a go, with work starting this week. Phase Three of the Commons Rebuild will focus on the demolition of the remaining concrete surfaces, installation of new pavers, and installation of surface amenities (see earlier posts for more detail: Part One, and Part Two here). The Power & Construction Group (out of Scottsville, NY) was awarded the electrical work contract, and will begin work by transitioning to a temporary lighting system, as the current pole lights are removed to prepare the edge strips in front of businesses for demolition. NYSEG will be on site to finish-up a new gas main, and Vacri Construction (out of Binghamton, NY) is back for phase three as the only bidder and recipient of the general contract. The general bid came in at $2 million over-budget, which includes the reductions in three project scope addendums. Some original design items have been removed from the project:
Items that have been removed:
-Granite Pavers for fill sections
Items still included:
-Bernie Milton Pavilion
-Benches, Planters, Tables & Chairs, Bike Racks, & various standard surface amenities
Common Council approved a resolution at their meeting on February 19th to fund the amount, and the Board of Public Works accepted the contract at their meeting on February 24th.
This is a relatively image-heavy post, and there are still so many details I’m leaving out, but I hope these shots taken from Sasaki‘s final presentation and the bid drawings documents give a rough idea of each of these features.
Benches, Tables, and Bike Racks
Part of the new design is focused on providing multiple seating options with fixed benches, fixed swivel chairs and tables, and also some movable seating areas. The previous Commons design relied heavily on wide concrete planters for bench seating, but the new design allow for easier re-configurations over time.
The seats and bike racks will be from Landscape Forms, a company out of Kalamazoo, Michigan (see Parc Centre, Catena, Escofet (benches), and Bola (bike racks))
As I’ve stated before, I’m quite far from a working knowledge of plants, but I think these look to be tasteful options, and the angular ground cover designs are certainly interesting. I hope that the trees are trimmed so that they don’t grow to expansive- the view of the facades on the Commons has really grown on me, and all of the tree options max out at heights of 25 feet, and all the way up to 100 feet for the Honey Locust (although there’s probably not enough soil to provide the nutrients to grow that big).
Bernie Milton Pavilion
Named after the much-loved and sorely missed Bernie Milton (1942-2002) the Soul musician, and former DJ at WICB Radio, the proposed pavilion is an interesting steel and glass structure, designed to be situated at the end of Bank Alley. The roof will funnel water onto a shaded drip piece to provide effect, then down into a trench drain. The positioning at Bank Alley is designed to draw interest from Seneca Street, and provide more space for concert venues, since viewers will now have a much longer line of sight.
Out of all the features, I have to admit, these are probably my favorite. The former signs were rather small in comparison, but these large gateway structures are perfect for giving visitors a strong first impression. For people that have never been here, it’s not so easy to identify where the Commons is located. Large, tasteful signage goes a long way.
The water feature is a series of stepped-up stone blocks with water misting jets and puddle drains embedded in the crevices, and one under a stone cantilever, inspired by the effect of water streaming over rock layers in the Ithaca’s gorges. The water lines will run south to a main water vault with pumps and drains. It’s no Trevi Fountain, but I think it’s a rather well-planned and inspired design.
Phase Three (the last phase) of the Commons Rebuild project will start this Spring (bid opening is January 23rd), with the focus on installing the surfaces and amenities for the redesign. The full scope and contract documents run up to the 1,000-page range, so I thought I’d condense a few of the items down with basic explanations on finishes.
Erosion & Soils
To prevent soil erosion and ensure proper drainage, cast iron surface and scupper drains will be put in place, much like the ones that exist now, and current drains will be cleared of any existing debris. The drains are primarily located in the side areas where surface water funnels, since the surface is designed to elevate slightly towards the center, much like a street. Each drain then feeds into the main stormwater sewer via PVC pipe.
The surfaces will mainly comprise of textured and non-textured granite pavers, mortared granite pavers, concrete pavers, and cast in place concrete paving. The granite pavers will be supplied by J.C. Stone (or equivalent- see Englishman’s Bay), and the concrete pavers will be from Hanover Architectural Products (or equivalent- see PlankStone).
Electric Utility Enclosures
The final lighting will be mostly a combination of lamp post and cable-suspended (the term is “catenary lighting”) Selux Discera 600 LEDs (along the pedestrian way and Bank Alley), Selux Ritorno LED Retrofit Kits (at gateways), BK Lighting “El Dorado” series (at the pavilion and gateways), and “BK Lighting Integral AriStars” (at the pavilion).
Part Two will contain details on benches, tables, bike racks, plantings, the pavilion, and water features.
Last month, the City of Ithaca requested proposals to design the new future custom play structure for the Commons Rebuild project. Below are the location map documents, and the RFP. The initial design was a proposed model from Sasaki Associates, the design consultants for the Commons Rebuild project. The design proposals would likely be reviewed at a future Planning & Development Meeting.
The proposal calls for play features that exceed ADA requirements- there is a section in the Americans with Disabilities Act that outlines the requirements for these features, which include accessible routes, ground level activities, and transfer stations (there’s a good link here to some short descriptions of each requirement).
Architect Robert Leathers, founder of Playgrounds by Leathers is originally from Ithaca and has practiced here for quite a long time (his son Marc now runs the company). He is quite well-known in the playground design world for his work all over the country and outside with over 3,000 playgrounds designed and built. Their process focuses on bringing-in local residents, and especially, the children to help design each project. I don’t know if his firm has submitted a proposed design, however, it would make for an interesting turn of events.
As announced on the Ithaca Commons project page, Vacri Construction‘s team wrapped-up last week for this year’s Phase Two, but they’ll be returning sometime between January and March to finish-up some additional telecom work. For now, the space in front of Center Ithaca is opened-up and paved for events (Ice Wars and Chowder Cook-Off is December 13th & 14th).
The Surface Improvements Phase begins Spring 2014, which will see the installation of the new pavers, chairs, tables, play structures, pavillion, and other features that will greatly enhance the public space. Plans for the improvements posted here.