February 26, 2003

City Board Grants Approval to WCRI

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The City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board (PDB) gave final approval last night to Phase I of the West Campus Residential Initiative (WCRI), including a preliminary approval of the entire project. However, the final approval did not include the Phase I parking plan as it was presented.

Kathryn Wolf, principal architect with Trowbridge & Wolf, presented the plans to the PDB.

“The new proposals have been tailored to address the previous concerns of the Ithaca community,” she said.

Such concerns have included the impact that the disputed parking lot, placed near the intersection of Lake St. and University Ave., would have on the houses directly adjacent to the site.

“Norway spruce hedge placed continuously along the west side of the lot has been increased along University Avenue by 25 percent,” Wolf said. “A few evergreen trees have been strategically located along the east side of the lot so that views remain out from the bottom of their trunks.”

In addition, concerns over the added light and traffic that would result from the placement of a parking lot were addressed with “pushed grating which conceals headlights from the bank and shortening the lot to avoid impacting on carriage paths and trees.”

Robert Corby of Bero Architecture, hired to oversee historic preservation, spoke on the broader effects such construction would have.

“According to Secretary of the Interior guidelines, changes to historic property are acceptable if they preserve the character of the site and show a clear distinction between what is old and what is new.”

Corby said that 64 houses were examined to determine their historic value.

He also said that the construction “restores important size relationships and does not alter the Baker War Memorial or its context,” adding that construction “should restore Stewart Avenue as a core of the campus.”

Corby stated, “In my professional opinion, the plan meets the spirit of Secretary of the Interior guidelines.”

However, PDB members remained uncertain if the plan adequately addressed feasible site alternatives.

City of Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 responded to concerns that construction would be too costly.

“We are not talking about 700 percent of the construction budget here; it is more like 7 percent,” he said.

The WCRI Draft Findings Statement was approved, but not before PDB members amended the document to express their view that sufficient alternatives to the University’s lot plans might have been ignored.

Also addressed at the meeting were plans to reconstruct the Anna Comstock/Zeta Psi parking lot located on North Campus.

Project manager Brenda Cortland Smith said that the construction has been proposed not to add more spaces to the lot but “to provide a safer traffic arrangement.”

According to Smith, the plan includes widening the lot to add a planting island and better storm water drainage systems. Also, it is hoped that the work will “connect Zeta Psi with Anna Comstock.”

Preliminary plans for the site were approved.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar