November 6, 2002

City Board Discusses New W. Campus Plans

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Members of the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board held a special meeting last night at City Hall to further discuss the Cornell University West Campus Residential Initiative (WCRI).

Changes to the West Campus Initiative Site Plan proposed by Cornell representatives at the meeting included a detailed description of West Campus’s Community Recreation Center (CRC) and modifications to the planned parking lot near University and Stewart Avenues. Cornell representatives also responded to various other concerns already brought up by Ithaca residents.

Robert Corby of Bero Architecture, hired to oversee historic preservation, told the Planning Board that there would be five primary components to the CRC including a “gymnasium of 6,000 square feet, convenience store, cafe, fitness center and a great hall.” The hall is designed to be a focal point of the building with a climbing wall, balconies and a depressed glass ceiling that would run west to east.

The CRC is slated to be placed near the intersection of Campus Road and West Avenue. Corby described this design as “semiformal yet deferring to its context.” He went on to say that the CRC “completes the western definition of library slope” as it is “designed to be looked down upon from the top of the hill.”

According to Corby, the placement of the CRC near the southeastern edge of West Campus is designed t, “serve students in the house system and the surrounding area.” Corby hopes that students living in and around Collegetown will use the CRC along with students living within the planned housing system.

Corby also addressed the concerns of students living in the Psi Upsilon and Sigma Phi fraternities directly adjacent to the site. “Service and loading docks have been moved to the South end. Trash will be housed inside the building,” he said.

Design of the CRC was done by Graham Gund Architects, a Cambridge, Mass. firm. Construction is slated to begin during phase three of the WCRI.

The other major adjustment to the WCRI concerned the creation of a parking lot located west of West Campus, near the intersection of Stewart and University Avenues. This parking lot is currently intended to replace the parking lot on the north end of West Campus.

Student behavior was a concern previously mentioned by Ithaca residents as reason not to allow the parking lot to be constructed in its proposed location.

Kathryn Wolf, principal architect with Trowbridge & Wolf, addressed these concerns. “[We] believe that serious students will choose to live in this academically oriented west campus community.” “We have examined the Cornell University Police Reports from the last five years… only one [incident of disorderly conduct] took place in a lot associated with a residence hall,” she added.

Questions previously posed by the Board concerning the feasibility of the plan included whether or not students would use the parking lot, located roughly a block away from West Campus.

“Students on West Campus are accustomed to walking up Libe Slope, often several times a day. Cornell students in general are accustomed to walking up steep streets all over the city and it’s not going to occur to them that there is anything unusual about parking one block away down a bit of slope,” Wolf said.

One of the biggest concerns addressed at the meeting was the question of safety. “The revised proposal shifts the parking lot substantially to the east–sixty feet at the south end of the lot,” Wolf said.

Much of the land where the lot would have existed in the previous plane will now be replaced in the new plan with woodland and lawn areas, which will vary between thirty-five and fifteen feet. “This is an established principle of designing for security–[to] maintain a clear open area around the perimeter,” Wolf said.

Lighting of the lot was also adjusted to meet security concerns. The lot’s lighting fixtures will use a new technology called the spill eliminator a “previously unavailable technology which was created to address the concerns over light spillage,” Wolf said. “This is not a house shield, but rather, a brand new precision engineered technology that reduces light spillage behind the poll to just 2%.” The lot may be the first site in Ithaca to use the new technology.

The new lot would provide roughly 195 parking spaces to the West Campus community. The current West Campus lot contains approximately 145 spaces.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar