September 5, 2000

City Tries to Improve Collegetown Parking

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The 10-month moratorium on construction in Collegetown ended July 5, allowing developers to propose new projects in the area. Construction was originally stalled to study density, quality of life and overcrowded parking in Collegetown and the surrounding areas. During the 10-month period, a panel of lawmakers studied the effects of future construction and development in the Collegetown area on both local residents and students.

With the moratorium ended, it remains to be seen as to whether new parking proposals will improve the situation in Collegetown.

Following a recommendation by the Ithaca Department of Planning and Development, the city changed the parking requirements for new construction in the Collegetown area. Originally developers allocated one parking spot per every three tenants, but will now have to provide one spot for every two tenants.

In addition to the new parking requirements, the Department of Planning and Development recommended a list of proposals to the city council, including a new parking garage, automated equipment at the current garage on Dryden Rd. and a reorganization of the city parking system.

Formerly, the parking system was fragmented among a variety of institutions, including the Ithaca Police Department and the Department of Planning and Development. The new parking system would be overseen by one person, said H. Matthys Van Cort, Director of Planning and Development.

“Right now, there’s no one who wakes up thinking about the parking problem. There are a lot of departments trying to solve the problem, but it’s not their main priority,” Van Cort said.

Parking in Collegetown and the surrounding neighborhoods has been a problem for a number of years now, with many streets filled far beyond their calculated capacities. The current residential parking permit system was set in place in order to decrease the problem in the surrounding neighborhoods and the city is considering stricter enforcement of these existing regulations. This parking permit system allows residents to park in the surrounding neighborhoods during specified hours.

While the city has made efforts to address the parking concerns, considerable debate remains as to whether this will relieve the parking problem to any great extent. The Board of Planning and Development voted unanimously to have a public hearing at their next meeting to discuss these new proposals.

Though greater parking availability may draw cars away from the surrounding neighborhoods, some believe that more parking will also increase the number of cars students bring with them to Cornell, rather than decrease the congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“There are plenty of students living in Collegetown who have the means to bring a car to school with them, but they don’t because they don’t want the hassle of parking,” said Josh Glasstetter ’01, a member of the Common Council. “If more parking becomes available, more of these people will bring their cars up with them.”

In addition to these concerns, the Board of Planning and Development recently granted preliminary approval to a new development, planned at 319 College Avenue. The building plans do not meet new parking requirements.

Developers plan to apply for a parking variance, or exemption, based on the fact that it can provide the necessary parking, simply further away from the building than the new regulations require. The parking garage will be situated 880 feet away from the building, while requirements demand parking facilities to be placed within 500 feet of the development.

Archived article by David Lechtenberg