Ithaca Builds

Mapping, photos and information for Ithaca construction and development projects

Chain Works District August Meeting

August 5, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

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Unchained Properties and the project team for the 95-acre Chain Works District (former Emerson site) held a second public meeting today (August 5th), primarily to discuss their approach to zoning and to give more information on proposed site layout. Mayor Myrick began the meeting by noting that the community involvement this early-on in a project bodes well for its development, and that the local economy is seeing some of the best numbers statewide as far as unemployment, job growth, and housing creation, so this project will inevitably become a major part of the change we should continue to see in the City.

Myrick and the project team explained the reasoning behind the developer’s decision to seek a Planned Development Zone (PDZ) in the Town of Ithaca, and a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the City of Ithaca, since the parcel is split between City and Town. The PDZ and PUD are essentially the same thing: it’s a form of zoning and regulatory process that can be approved by the municipality in order to allow a project to develop outside of the current zoning on a parcel or set of parcels.

Scott Whitham of Whitham Planning and Design observed that since the current zoning for the Emerson parcel is Industrial, it would not be applicable or realistic to a large mixed-use redevelopment, as is being proposed, so the project team is submitting zoning materials to both the City and Town to consider in their PDZ and PUD processes, which carry the same requirements as a rezoning of any other area: the community has input and commentary in public meetings throughout the process, and the rezoning would fall under the requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), and review from the Tompkins County Planning Board. Once the zoning portion is complete, then the project team may submit Site Plan Review applications to the corresponding Planning Boards.

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Craig Jensen of Chaintreuil | Jensen | Stark Architects summarized some items from the previous presentation: several buildings would likely be demolished to create open spaces between mixed-uses, and the design team is studying similar projects that have incorporated adaptive reuse practices on former industrial sites. The 1/2 mile distance to downtown (closer than Collegetown) will make non-automotive transportation options an attractive prospect.

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In addition to working on the zoning proposal for this site, Noah Demarest of Stream Collaborative is working on combining the two Town and City Zoning Codes to conform with the Town Zoning & Comprehensive Plan and the forthcoming City of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan. The combination would be adapted into a Form-Based Zoning Code, with Transect Zones rather than the existing zones and codes we have today, which can be over-complicated and use-based, and contain more amended content than original content.

Transect and Form-based zoning seeks to establish allowable building massing as a priority over accepted uses, and emphasizes a logical transition from rural areas to urban centers, mimicking the transitions found in natural geography. More information is available from the Form-Based Codes Institute and the Center for Applied Transect Studies (which was founded by Andr├ęs Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, who wrote the first form-based code for the town of Seaside, Florida). The zoning code suggested here is adapted from SmartCode template, which is a Transect-based subset of form-based codes.

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Transect-Based Zones are as follows: T1 (Natural) included in project, T2 (Rural) not included, T3 (Neighborhood Edge Zone) not included, T4 (Neighborhood General Zone) included in project, T5 (Neighborhood Center Zone) included in project, T6 (Central Business District Zone) not included.

The existing topography affects these zone decisions: a 15% or greater slope is not realistically developable, so there are several areas, especially towards the south end of the site that would not be developed.
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The question and answer session brought-up traffic concerns on surrounding streets. The Project Team has employed Steve Ferranti of SRF Associates to study the current and historic traffic and transportation patterns, along with trip generation estimates based on the proposal as part of the SEQR process. The team noted that mixed-use projects generally have different peak patterns than single-use, which should help with congestion. Concerns about environmental remediation and removal needs surfaced, which will be studied in detail by the team’s environmental consultant LaBella Associates throughout the same SEQR process, in both rezoning and site plan review. The response from the public was again, quite positive overall.

323 Taughannock Boulevard: Updated Plans for 20-Unit Waterfront Project

July 28, 2014 // by Jason Henderson

It’s clear that a lot of attention has been paid to the design of this proposal, and I thought it worthwhile to post some of the revised images and presentation materials for Rampart Real’s 20-unit 323 Taughannock Boulevard Project, designed by Stream Collaborative, with MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) and structural engineering by Taitem Engineering, and civil engineering and surveying by TG Miller. (If you’re interested in green building design, I can’t recommend a better book than Green Building Illustrated, co-authored by Taitem’s Ian Shapiro, previous article here).

Old photo of the inlet:

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The Cayuga Inlet got its major start with the 1819 launch of the Cayuga Steamboat Company’s first ship (The Enterprise), then the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal, which connected to Cayuga Lake by another canal. This gave Ithaca waterway access to Chicago and the Atlantic. The Ithaca-Owego Railroad opened in 1834, with a line going to the Susquehanna and Southern Tier. The Cayuga Inlet provided a water-to-rail-to-land and vice-versa loading point, but Ithaca never took off as a major shipping hub for a variety of reasons which included financial Depressions, the difficult surrounding terrain, and further construction of major railways to the south- most importantly, Binghamton. (Snodderly, Ithaca and its Past)

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The architectural style of harbor and waterfront buildings are taken into full account in the design here, which blends aspects of traditional industrial freight/warehouse buildings and modern techniques to connect occupants to the waterfront. Skylight and louver-style roofs are iconic of harbor warehouse and freight buildings, in order to gain sunlight, but also natural ventilation for large enclosed spaces (although I believe the angled racks are for solar panels- creating the same visual effect). Many residential waterfront projects include large bay windows, terraces facing the water, and an immediate area to access the waterfront, all of which are here. There’s even a four-seasons greenhouse planned for the fourth floor.

Design references and inspiration:

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Rendered Elevation with material selections and architectural features of buildings nearby:

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The material selections look respectful to context, and the rendered elevation helps to show how they fit together within the design: wood siding on the roof level, possibly slate or dark metal standing seam roofing, lap siding for the second and third floors, and a brick veneer with stone base on the ground level. The vertically-oriented siding and multi-level windows on the stairwells also draw a nice visual interest. Hope to see this one move forward- it would probably be the first new, primarily residential building of this size on the inlet since, well, ever. I’m not sure if these would be for rental or condominium, but Ithaca’s West End has been seeing some very nice projects as of late.

North, South and East Elevations:

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Site Plan and Floor Plans:

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