April 11, 2001

West Campus Plans Proceed

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As the West Campus Residential Initiative moves forward, the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board is deciding how to address the development. The board held a public scoping session last night to discuss which issues should be addressed in an environmental impact statement.

John Kiefer, project director for the West Campus Residential Initiative, presented diagrams to the board outlining the potential changes to West Campus.

Starting in 2003, construction will begin on the first of five living-learning units on West Campus. The units will replace the six existing Class Halls, each of which will be demolished as new living-learning units are constructed. The project will continue in stages until its ultimate completion in 2009.

Each living-learning unit will house 350 students and will be equipped with facilities such as a library, computing center and a dining hall. Noyes Community Center will be demolished in the final stages of the plan, as the in-house programming and dining facilities will accommodate student needs, Kiefer said.

A 65,000 square-foot recreation center is also included in the West Campus plan.

“The West Campus Residential Initiative is about the quality of student housing, not the quantity,” Kiefer said. “The intent is not to increase the number of beds.”

The gothic dormitories will not be externally altered, Kiefer said, although there will be some internal maintenance.

Following Kiefer’s presentation, the Board allotted time for public comment.

“I think this has the opportunity to be a very good project, but I do have some concerns,” said John Schroeder ’74, a resident of Stewart Avenue across from the proposed construction site.

Schroeder’s concerns included the potential impact of construction traffic on private housing in the area, as well as the status of the Hot Truck during and after construction.

Michael Smith, manager of the Hot Truck, also attended the meeting to share his viewpoint.

While the Hot Truck’s nightly parking space is not owned by Cornell, the stairs and landing in front of the truck and the truck’s power source are on Cornell property, Smith said.

“I hope there are provisions in this plan so the Hot Truck can continue to exist as it is right now,” Smith said. He added that he hoped similar accommodations will be provided if the construction calls for the current layout to be altered.

In response to these concerns, the Board discussed adding the construction’s effect on the Hot Truck to the list of issues considered in the environmental impact statement. This statement will reflect the results of a comprehensive study on the potential effects of this large-scale construction project.

Following public comment, Kathryn Wolf of Trowbridge and Wolf Landscape Architects, the architectural firm working in conjunction with Cornell on the Residential Initiative, presented the Board with a proposed list of issues to consider in the environmental impact statement.

“We spent a considerable amount of time going through the site plan to decide which issues should be included in this,” Wolf said.

Wolf proposed that the University study potential construction effects on drainage, natural, visual and historical resources, and transportation and parking.

According to Wolf, the two major areas of focus will be transportation and construction impact.

The reconfiguration of West Campus will necessitate the removal of two existing parking areas. To combat the impending parking shortage, three sites were identified for potential parking expansion. A surface parking alternative is proposed west of Stewart Avenue next to the Von Cramm Hall cooperative. The construction of two new parking garages is also proposed, one at the intersection of South and West Avenues and one on the existing lot at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Williams Street.

“The University views this as an opportunity to build on their ongoing program of encouraging students to park in remote parking,” Wolf said. “Those kinds of campus-wide strategies will be discussed.”

While some members of the Board expressed concern about the potential closure of area roads during construction, Wolf said no streets will be shut down because work will be confined to the site.

Other transportation issues proposed for consideration include traffic circulation and transit service at key intersections.

It was also proposed that the environmental impact statement consider construction impacts on drainage, air quality, noise, and traffic.

Board members proposed additions to the scope of the statement at the end of the meeting. The desire for a section on the Hot Truck was reiterated. Studying the impact on voter access to on-campus polling places was also discussed.

The Board agreed to accept any additional public comments for 10 days, after which they will vote on the scope of the environmental impact statement. This vote will occur at the next Planning and Development Board meeting on April 24.

Archived article by Abigail Conover