While construction was supposed to be completed over the summer, work continues on projects like 201 College Avenue, pictured above.

Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

While construction was supposed to be completed over the summer, work continues on projects like 201 College Avenue, pictured above.

August 24, 2017

Students Return to Incomplete Collegetown Apartments

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Despite the rush of construction in Collegetown this summer, the dust has not quite settled yet. Though many Cornellians are back on campus for another semester, some are returning to apartments still under construction.

The latest buildings in Collegetown include a new modern apartment complex on 201 College Avenue, an ongoing renovation to the Schwartz Center Plaza and the non-residential Breazzano Center, an academic space for Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business.

Although these projects are still under construction, some of the buildings are already currently occupied by Cornell students and faculty.

Patrick Braga ’17, vice president of new market development for Visum Development, said that the Breazzano Center is turning Collegetown into a “new sort of ‘South Campus,’” given that the Schwartz Center, Sheldon Court, eHub and the new business school building are creating a “unique new cluster.”

“It’s also exciting to see some townhouse projects coming to Collegetown, which will add some variety to the housing typologies in the area,” he added.

The lease for 201 College Avenue started Aug. 18 at 10 a.m., and residents were allowed to move in after 5 p.m. that day when Visum Development received an occupancy permit. While the landlord had received city approval to inhabit the building by move-in, “a lot of things weren’t done,” according to Rachel Karina ’19 who moved in on Aug. 22.

“They still haven’t done a paint job, they’re missing cargo nets, the AC isn’t working,” she said. “They sent residents an email saying it was good to move in on Monday [Aug. 21], but this is the state of things right now.”

Karina said that she received a flyer advertising the new 5-story, 74-bedroom apartment building last fall. Since apartment hunting in Collegetown was competitive and the rent at the new site had a lower price tag — $1,080 per person for a two bedroom — she jumped on the opportunity.

“The rent was cheap, especially for a new single bedroom in this location,” she said. “But now I’m suspecting that price is because they knew it wouldn’t be done.”

Braga wrote in an email to tenants that while each apartment room has been cleaned at least three times and is fully habitable, “dust is still settling both literally and figuratively.”

Construction on the exterior of the building will extend well into September, as well as interior touch-ups such as floors, AC and a working keypad.

However, Braga commented the building went through several key building inspections before it got its final certificate of occupancy.

“The proposal then goes through a few layers of city government approval to confirm that the building conforms to zoning laws and building codes, and the building undergoes several inspections before a final certificate of occupancy is issued,” he said.

201 College Avenue resident Ana Schonander ’20 said that while the new apartment is “livable,” the basement gym, mail and media room are all unfinished.

“Waking up at 7 a.m. because of construction isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not exactly how I want to live,” Schonander said. “Even with all this, I am happy to be living in the heart of Collegetown.”

Last year, many students who signed leases on 327 Eddy Street had a similar experience. Although the apartment was supposed to be completed at the beginning of August prior to the start of classes, the move-in date was delayed until Sept. 9.

“We moved into an unfinished, mostly unfurnished apartment,” said Noah Chovanec ’18, who lived in 327 Eddy Street. “The entire semester, we had contractors coming in and fixing stuff up. Overall, the lack of definitive communication and foresight from the landlord was incredibly frustrating.”

Chovanec added that he thought his landlord, Steve Fontana, actually knew the building would not be realistically finished by August 1, but that he told students it would be finished in August anyway in order to guarantee occupants for the year.

“The apartments had all kinds of paint dings and stuff like that that we ended up getting charged for through our security deposit,” he said.

Meanwhile, Collegetown residents can expect some more upcoming construction projects over the next few months. There are plans for construction of a new 24-unit apartment building next door to the Breazzano Center, as well as plans for faculty housing at 119-125 College Avenue.

  • Ezra Tank

    I’m sorry but whomever was the project manager of the jobs in Collegetown the past few years … they should NEVER work again as a project manager. That area has been tore up for over 2 years. TWO YEARS! They have crushed local businesses, more than inconvenienced local residents who simply could not use Dryden Ave in that time frame and basically demonstrated how NOT to run a construction project.

    I really think local businesses should bring a class action suit against Cornell and the town of Ithaca for their lack of planning. But what do you expect when you have a clueless mayor who basically just walked out of college running the city of Ithaca? You might as well elect a community organizer next time.

    Any good town would have set a deadline for completion of the project and every day the contractor went over they would be fined.

  • Julie Doig McPeek

    And to say that $1,050 per month is cheap is ridiculous! These rents are close to NYC prices! If the university is serious about providing affordable student housing this is NOT the way to do it!

    • Ezra Tank

      Exactly. Cornell gets away with this yet local residents have to pay ridiculously high taxes only to have the city and county tell them they are going to build section 8 housing next to them.