The City of Ithaca has released a bid request for the replacement of five traffic signals, including the installation of new mast arm traffic signals and appurtenances, new sidewalk curb ramps and connections to existing sidewalks, intersection pavement milling and resurfacing, and new pavement markings. The bidding has officially opened this week, and bids will be accepted until April 9th, then read aloud at the Board of Public Works Meeting (probably the 14th). Once the contract is awarded, and notice is given to proceed, the full scope of work must be completed within 85 days, so the target completion will probably land in this summer, perhaps July or August.
Images from the plans along with maps embedded below:
The Barradas and Partners, Ciappa & Marinelli Builders Tower/Thing Two on the Longest Night Solstice Towers is nearing full frame-out, as all three levels and exterior sheathing has been completed, and most of the interior is framed, with the stairs to follow. Doors to the outside have been hung on every level, and most of the 12″ x 12″ box windows have been installed. Once the crazy weather subsides, we should be seeing the exterior Tyvek house wrap completed, and the facade going up. Tower One has completed electrical rough-in, so plumbing rough-in will proceed next (domestic piping will be all copper, and heating will be PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene, which has become more popular in the last 10 years), then drywall installation. The buildings will be fully-sprinklered as well, so the main riser will follow along the stair paths, then branch out along floor joist cavity paths.
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.
Architect John Barradas‘ Longest Night Solstice Towers Project had tower two (or “thing two” as John and Ciappa & Marinelli Builders like to call it) nearly framed to its top out height when I came by for a look this past Friday, February 14th. Tower one’s electrical rough-in is coming close to completion (the wiring job looks very nice), and it’s quite an interesting sight at night with the lights on.
The pictures from February 14th (at the end) contain shots inside tower one and two- tower two’s layout is slightly different (accommodating the elevated path and entry at a different orientation for example), but the functions are the same on each floor- kitchen/living on ground, two separated bedrooms on second, master bedroom and bath on third, and a laundry and storage area on roof level with a terrace.
Tower two has a distinctly different feel being closer to the sidewalk and street, and the view is altered now from inside tower one, however, what I find most interesting about this project is the way in which concepts in other forms of art synthesize within the design. Architecture is a difficult art form since the end result must serve specific functions and be able to accommodate different living and/or working preferences, so it’s fascinating seeing it pulled-off like this. A door is an opening, a window is an opening: the openings are intended to lose the sense of what you would call “the middle ground” of a perspective, a term commonly used in photography and painting. John uses Edward Hopper‘s “Rooms by the Sea” (1951) as a reference, where the open door goes straight to the sea, with nothing in view in between, which is the design intention of using doors on each level.
Another theme is an idea coined by Colin Rowe, in his phrase “grid, frame, lattice.” It’s a way of thinking about the built environment as parts of a whole, in the geometric interpretation. We have a city “grid,” we have individual lots with buildings, our “frame,” and within that frame we have “lattice”: the joists that make up the flooring, the studs that form the walls, the structural elements that form the building. Downtown Ithaca is our grid, the square footprint, symmetry, and situating of the towers represent the intended frame, the floor joists will be left exposed to reveal the lattice, the fencing around the frame is a lattice, the vertical strips on the outside are a lattice, etc.. Architects have a term, “parti,” which is meant to describe the root idea or inspiration of a design, and I never fully understood what that meant until I came across this project.
Well, it’s been a real treat watching this 50-unit, 60,000 square foot project go up a stones throw from where I live, and I think it’s a great addition to downtown. Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services has pulled off a large, mixed-income affordable housing project in the middle of downtown, desperately needed to fulfill housing demands that go well beyond the existing stock and availability of housing units in Ithaca, so hats off to them for making this a reality. Affordable housing developments in close proximity to downtowns and civic institutions offer residents easier access to local resources, and mixed-income developments have been associated with tangible benefits for residents beyond providing affordable housing. [The Director of INHS, Paul Mazzarella, gave a nice short presentation to the City Planning Committee last night on housing trends and needs in the area, so I’ll post the link and content once it’s available]
Interior demolition work is being done by Compass Builders, and after a couple weeks, they should have all the interior walls down, along with the plaster ceiling. The walls are a combination of metal studs with sheetrock facing and sprayed-in cellulose cavity fill, along with original walls, which were built with cellular gypsum block coated in plaster, but also cinder block and terra cotta block. The original plaster ceiling is quite heavy, containing a layer of plaster coating on top of metal lath, then another thick coat of plaster, and then ceiling tiles glued underneath, all hanging from heavy metal hangers attached to the ceiling deck.
Sparks Electric Company started last week, demoing and capping electric lines for the wall and ceiling demo to proceed safely, and HALCO took care of the old cooling system ductwork today, as well as capping a few water supply lines that will be in the way of wall demo.
I’ve written a bit about this topic before, but just this past Monday Joe Minicozzi of Urban Three came back to Ithaca to deliver his talk at the Downtown Ithaca Alliance Annual Dinner. It’s a powerful presentation and argument on how assessed taxable values of property relate to value in a local economy, and that “smart growth”, density, and especially downtowns typically represent a huge value prospect compared to suburban and commercial strip development. The presentation has evolved since last year to include more information on municipal cost comparisons as well, which compound the importance of the argument, since they’ve uncovered that the municipal costs of sprawl typically outweigh the costs of dense development patterns, implying an inherent subsidy in the property tax system that benefits sprawl over density. (Joe brings up a good point in that we’ve known this to be true since the 1970s, when Richard Nixon commissioned a study called “The Costs of Sprawl“, which was updated again in 2000 and 2005)
Luckily enough for those that missed it, there’s actually quite a good video online of a presentation he’s done in Missoula, Montana (about 68,000 people), so here it is:
Here’s a photo update of the Barradas & Partners / Ciappa & MarinelliLongest Night Solstice Towers project with photos taken at different stages during the past few weeks. Work is well underway on the second tower: the foundation walls were built and sealed on top of the foundation footers, joists and subfloor for the ground level were hung, ground floor walls assembled, and floor joists for the second level were just finished-up today. There’s now a poster of the project design near Seneca Street, on the fencing that surrounds the site (to be used for growing vegetables this Spring and Summer) for those interested in taking a look.
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.