January 22, 2004

ILPC Rejects Lot Plans

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Sitting at the intersection of University Avenue and Lake Street, Redbud Woods has generated much controversy over the last year as a proposed site for a parking lot as part of the new West Campus Residential Initiative. On Dec. 19, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) denied a certificate of appropriateness for the project.

A certificate of appropriateness was needed because Redbud Woods became part of a new historic district over the summer amidst the debate over its future use.

According to Jean Reese, the project leader of the residential initiative, the project team will now meet in the coming weeks to look into how to proceed.

December’s meeting continued past trends as members of the public continued to express concern over the lot’s placement. In attendance were 660 Stewart Ave. residents, members of Delta Phi fraternity and other members of the community.

Dorothy Reddington, an Ithaca resident, said, “The entire city of Ithaca is indebted to the Cornell students who have shown much more concern for their alma matters’ history, aesthetics and ecology than has the Cornell administration.”

Discussion, moderated by David Beer, chair of the ILPC, focused on the aesthetic issues — removal of wooded land and visibility of automobiles — relating to the parking lot.

Cornell’s project team then presented the measures it is taking to address these concerns. These measures, according to the team, exhibit a sound balance between accommodating the University’s current education program and incorporating planning board concerns.

The measures include building the parking lot depressed into the land, allowing car bumpers to be hidden from residents’ view, planting trees on the site’s east side, and allowing for additional shrubbery and vegetation. Efforts have also been taken to preserve the historic alignment of the carriage path.

Comments were also made by the Cornell team that criticized the testimony given by Historic Ithaca, a non-profit organization, at a previous ILPC meeting. “The Cornell campus is neither a museum nor an interpretation of life at the turn of the 20th century, but an educational institution in the need of adapting its facilities and land to its educational mission at the turn of the 21st century,” said John Bero of Bero architecture, one of the firms affiliated with the project.

When asked by board member Kathleen Foley about how the parking lot placement on West Campus was relevant to the educational mission of the university, Bill Wendt, director of Cornell Transportation Service, responded, “the parking lot is needed to maintain the status quo of parking within the neighborhood.” Wendt added that the construction of the new West Campus dorms will add to the number of cars in the neighborhood. The lot will now accommodate 170 cars, allowing for special events to take place at the new dorms.

According to Wendt, efforts have been made by the university to seek alternative sites for the lot, and it has been determined that the West Campus lot must be placed in Redbud Woods.

Kathleen Maloney, a landscape architect, said in closing remarks, “The Cornell parking lot is an excellent example of a design that is unobtrusive and has minimal effect on the historic character of the setting.”

Following the presentation of testimony by the Cornell team, the ILPC stated their differing opinion on the plans and voted on a resolution to deny the certificate of appropriateness.

Member opinions varied slightly, four on the board voted for the resolution while a single member voted against it.

Archived article by Ted Van Loan