April 5, 2001

Center Plans to Reopen Carriage House

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The Crossroads Life Center — an organization dedicated to improving multiculturalism in the Ithaca community since 1995 — will be moving into the abandoned Carriage House on Stewart Avenue when renovations and fundraising are complete.

The center is a faith-based organization which serves as a gathering place for international students and their families to foster dialogue and friendship, according to Mark Chandler, director of the Crossroads Life Center.

The Center has had its eye on the Carriage House since 1996 when it began raising money and planning for the move. Toted as a safe, smoke and alcohol free environment, the new Carriage House will boast an espresso bar, noodle bar, gift shop, lounge area and space for music and the arts.

Once completed, the new space will be able to accommodate up to 160 people, and will offer new programming and activities that are not possible in the current location, according to Chandler.

Chandler said that he expects to meet with the contractor next week in order to plan for the renovations needed on the century-old Carriage House, but the purchase date has yet to be determined.

“This sounds a bit fishy to some people, but we are going to buy it as soon as we either raise more funds or seek a low interest loan,” Chandler said. “The main idea is to keep the momentum going.”

In order to start the renovation project, the center will draw on an anonymous donation of $300,000. The ultimate goal will be to raise $300,000 more for a total of $600,000 that can be put towards the purchase of the building and eventual programs.

“I haven’t visited the Carriage House. It seems to be an attractive setting. There are many international students that reach out to faith-based organizations and if they take advantage of this, that is great,” said Brendan O’Brien, director of International Students and Scholars.

The new activities of the Carriage House — from arts and crafts to music, dancing and unique international cuisine — will fall in line with the groups aims at attracting international students and community members, helping to ease their transition to an American and Ithaca lifestyle.

“Everyone needs a place to socialize and it would be nice to have an outlet for this,” said Rebecca Brown, ’04.

Brown explained that she has many friends who are international students, and she sees a need for a place like the Carriage House in the Ithaca community.

Planned renovations will change the inside of the two-story hay-loft, long ago used as horse stables and a storage facility, while still maintaining the current structure, look and feel of the historic landmark.

“We want to help internationals in transition. Our idea is to give them something meaningful by offering them a chance to volunteer,” Chandler said.

In particular, Chandler noted that Cornell graduate students from other countries often bring their wives and children to campus with little or nothing to do.

Although renovations have not yet begun, Cornell students are already excited about the project.

“I think the Carriage House is a great idea. The only concern I have deals with its accessibility to students, however I would make an effort to go,” said Haewon Jeon, ’01.

“We will ask those interested in working at our restaurant in the Carriage House to donate as much time as they like and in return, train them and give them the skills necessary to start their own restaurants when they return home,” Chandler pointed out.

By working closely with On-site, a Cornell student organization that encourages student volunteering, Chandler foresees that the renovations will run smoothly.

On-site will rely on the assistance of community organizations and possibly the business school orientation program to participate in the construction project.

“How much we get involved with the project will depend on where they are at,” said Tom Alley ’04, project manager of On-site. The organization has approximately 20 to 40 people who volunteer on any given weekend for various projects.

The group is working towards increasing funding with an upcoming website and open houses at the Carriage House to increase public awareness.

“It will be a one-of-a-kind place,” Chandler said.

The group expects to begin renovations in August, and open for events by the end of 2002.

Archived article by Chris Westgate