October 29, 2002

Officials Debate West Campus Initiative

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In the midst of controversy created by the West Campus Residential Initiative (WCRI), the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board met to further discuss tthe environmental impact of the WCRI on the surrounding residential area and review research done by Cornell officials working on the project

The WCRI is Cornell’s plan to demolish and rebuild West Campus. According to plans, the WCRI will construct self-sufficient “houses” that include libraries, computer labs, dining halls and residence rooms among others things. In addition, Noyes Community Center will be torn down, however there are no definite plans for when this will occur.

The current controversy stems from the University’s plans to place a 195-space parking lot on University Avenue. The parking lot would serve as the main parking facility for students living on the new West Campus.

According to Joann Cornish, deputy director of planning and development, Cornell representatives gave a presentation on alternatives to the University Avenue lot and asserted that the University Avenue lot is the most desirable for the University.

Cornish said that the board is concerned about the parking lot for several reasons. First, “they feel as though Cornell is placing the parking lot in this residential area so that they can keep their own residential site free of parking,” she said. Cornish also said that the board is concerned that “students won’t use the parking lot because it is downhill.”

In terms of alternatives to the University Avenue site, Cornish said that the board is interested in exploring two possibilities: not having a parking lot at all (and thus encouraging students to utilize A and B parking lots on campus) or the possibility of placing the parking lot at Stewart and Williams Streets.

Additionally, according to Cornish, the board is concerned with the security of the possible University Avenue parking lot. “By buffering [the parking lot from the neighborhood], you create a second risk that’s been a concern all along.”

Kathryn Wolf of Trowbridge and Wolf, the architectural firm working on the WCRI, said that she and other officials will be looking into the concerns that the board raised. “We hear the concerns of the planning board,” she said, “and we are now exploring some modifications.”

Wolf said that the modifications would be in response to several of the board’s main concerns. “Lighting and security are two of the big ones,” she said.

According to Cornish, now that Cornell has presented its alternative possibilities and announced that none of these alternatives are feasible for their plans, the next step is in the hands of the Planning Board. “We are sort of at a standstill,” she said, “what the board will do from here I’m not sure.”

Cornish stressed that Cornell has correctly followed every protocol in developing their plans for the University Avenue parking lot. The parking lot “is an allowed use in the zone,” she said.

The next meeting of the Planning Board will be Monday, Nov. 4th in the Common Council Chambers of Ithaca City Hall. According to Cornish, “it will be a working meeting.” The board will be examining the final draft of the environmental impact statement for the WCRI, a document that explores the many different effects the WCRI could have on the surrounding area.

Archived article by Kate Cooper