February 25, 2004

Board Approves C.U. Construction Projects

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The Ithaca Planning and Development Board granted Cornell final approval for Phase II of the West Campus Residential Initiative as well as preliminary site plan approval for a 15,000-square-foot addition to Schoellkopf Memorial Hall last night. The board also granted final site approval for the Island Health and Fitness Center and reviewed proposed changes to the Thurston Avenue Bridge.

Andrew Magre, Cornell’s project manager for the WCRI, presented revised plans for the demolition of Class of ’28 and Class of ’22 Halls to accommodate the House Two North and House Two South complex.

Robert Blakeney, Cornell’s project manager for renovations and additions to Schoellkopf Memorial Hall, presented the University’s plans for changes to the home of the football team. The building has not undergone a major renovation since it was built in 1914, according to Blakeney.

The proposed changes include the 15,000-square-foot addition on the site of the current Hall of Fame room and a new locker room.

“We gotta get these guys winning some more games, and they need a bigger locker room,” Blakeney said of the football team.

The addition will also include a new Tradition Room, where people can “visit and appreciate and see Cornell football history,” Blakeney added.

“Kudos to the architect. This was very sensitively done,” said Ellen McCollister, chair of the board, after the site was approved.

Another issue presented to the board was the sketch plan review of the Thurston Avenue Bridge.

“It seemed to me that with the development of North Campus, the bridge would not serve the community it was meant to serve,” said William Gray, superintendent of public works for Ithaca.

The proposed project would include widening the sidewalks, adding bike lanes on either side and adding new steel arches that would rise above the guard rails. Planners hope the wider sidewalks and bike lanes would reduce the risk of pedestrians getting hit by cars both because they would no longer need to step into the street and because the sidewalk would not be up against cars, according to Gray.

Gray explained that currently 11,700 cars cross the bridge each day, joined by 7,000 pedestrians. He estimated that the number of cars would go up to 15,600 in the next 20 years. He cited the intersection of Dryden and College Avenues as the only place in Ithaca that is as heavily congested.

G.P. Zurenda Jr., a member of the board, asked Gray if there was any way to make the bridge less conducive to suicide.

“If you couldn’t jump off that bridge, there are lots of other ways to jump into the gorge. All the traditional methods [of preventing suicide] would have visual impacts, and it didn’t seem they’d solve the problem,” Gray said.

During the bridge’s construction, it will never be completely shut down. According to Gray, one lane will be open to northbound traffic as well as one sidewalk. The city plans to start construction early next spring.

The board also granted final approval to the Island Health and Fitness Center, which is scheduled to break ground on Buffalo Street near the Station Restaurant when the snow melts. The plan calls for a 50,000-square-foot fitness center.

The Planning and Development Board will meet again next month, when Cornell plans to request final approval for the Schoellkopf renovations, according to Blakeney.

Archived article by Freda Ready