October 25, 2000

City Reviews Plans for West Campus Renewal

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West Campus will be renovated and rejuvenated over the next eight years in a plan to create a more community oriented atmosphere for upperclassmen. Yesterday the plan continued to progress.

West Campus Program Planning Group (WCPPG) chair Isaac Kramnick, professor of government, and University engineer John Kiefer, presented the West Campus Living-Learning proposal to the City of Ithaca’s Common Council. They received unanimous support.

“Over the last three years, two committees were formed from faculty, students and administration in order to discuss [the transformation] of West Campus into five residential colleges,” Kramnick said.

The overall goal of the West Campus initiative is to “provide a living-learning environment” where students would interact with live-in professors, graduate resident advisors and other upperclassmen.

“By the 2008-2009 school year we hope to have five residential colleges … each with their own dining facilities and planning council,” Kramnick said.

The living centers are not designed to have themes like the program houses, but they are crafted to provide an environment where students, faculty and graduate students can interact.

The capacity of West Campus will not be changed, according to Kiefer, and will still house a total of 1800 students with approximately 350 to 450 students per building. However, the Initiative will involve a remodeling of some buildings and a possible demolition of others.

“One way [to improve West Campus] is replacement and renovation of obsolete residence halls,” Kiefer said. “There is a good chance that the class halls and the dining center will be demolished.”

Planning for the remodeling of West Campus has been discussed since 1998 under the WCPPG committee then chaired by John Ford, dean of students. After studying the plans of other universities’ housing, the committee presented its ideas in a report to Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice-president for student and academic services.

“We would like to complete the planning [phase] by January of 2001,” Kiefer said, “and have the first residential college by fall of 2004.”

The initial plan for the remodeling of West Campus came after a $100 million anonymous gift but the postulated cost may be in the vicinity of $200 million, according to Kramnick.

The houses will also allow students who are members of the houses while living in them to continue their membership with the house through their student career, even after they’ve moved out, “possibly with dining privileges and other benefits,” Kramnick said.

The Common Council reacted positively to the proposal, with Chair Scott Whitham urging the WCPPG to continue working closely with the City Council.

“The beginning of this process feels really positive,” Whitham said. “I’m hoping that this will continue as a similar process [to the North Campus Initiative].”

The City Council will be kept up to date with regular reports from the WCPPG with possible regular meetings in their scheduling, according to Whitham.

However, Betsy Darlington of the Conservation Advisory Council expressed concern over the necessity of demolishing buildings and rebuilding over them.

“I urge you to look for any possible way to recycle that material,” Darlington said. “[There is] wastefulness in the demolition of thirty to forty- year-old buildings.”

The West Campus Initiative will continue through its planning phases, and developers hope to have the first facility designed by this coming spring, according to Kiefer.

“We recognize the impact that this [construction] has on not only those living there but those in the surrounding community,” Kiefer said, assuring the City Council that conversations between the two groups will continue.

The first project to be undertaken, according to Kiefer, will be the indoor remodeling of the gothic buildings as well as the construction of a recreation center.

Archived article by Leonor Guariguata