The Ithaca Planning and Development Board approved the third phase of the West Campus Residential Initiative in November, moving the University one step closer to its goal of transforming the housing system for upperclass students. Pending final approval in the spring, construction on a third residential house and a new Noyes Community and Recreation Center is slated to begin in June.
The $43 million project will add 300 beds to the housing capacity on West, as well as an additional dining hall and improved recreation facilities.
“We’re going out for bids on that to line up a contractor in February. We’ll have it awarded in May and proceed and start work after commencement,” said Mike MacAnanny, project manager for the West Campus Residential Initiative. “[It] will be occupied in January of 2007, after roughly 18 months [of construction].”
The third residence hall will occupy the current site of Sperry Hall, which will be demolished at the start of construction. The new building will include many of the amenities included in the Alice Cook House, including a computer lab, library, conference rooms and an in-house dining hall.
“They’re not going to be identical, because each of the buildings sits on a different piece of topography and each of the programs are a little bit different,” said University architect Peter Karp. “I think, for the architectural design, there might be some subtle differences — in the color of bricks, for example — nothing jarring. … Although they have the same architectural language, there will be differences in the way the buildings configure themselves.”
The new Noyes center will expand upon the facilities of the current community center, excepting its central dining hall.
“We had two or three student focus groups, where we had representatives from the Student Assembly Finance Commission and about 20 students from all across West campus. We asked them everything they wanted in a recreation center,” said Andrea Dutcher, director of recreational services.
The new center will be located on the site of the parking lot adjacent to West Avenue and will feature an indoor and outdoor basketball court, an expanded gym, a convenience store and a hardwood multipurpose room suited for martial arts or dance.
“I think it’s a much more complete recreation center than the current Noyes facility — comprehensive and more up-to-date,” Karp said.
Planners faced some objections from fraternities located near the proposed construction site who were concerned about noise and other inconveniences during the 18-month work schedule. The final design of the building was altered to block less of the view of the slope and clock tower.
Unlike the protracted and contentious approval process for the proposed Redbud Woods parking lot, however, the bulk of the West Campus construction plans were approved with little controversy. Cornell presented the full five-phase project to the planning board in 2001, but must receive final approval for each stage before beginning work.
“We care about building design, site location and landscaping, but Cornell is so large that we don’t look at the finest details of every project,” said Ellen McCollister ’78, chair of the planning board.
The removal of a parking lot for the proposed construction of Noyes, in addition to the lot already removed to make room for the Alice Cook House, may raise more concern over limited parking space on West.
“What are the impacts of taking away yet another parking lot on campus? What will that do to vehicular traffic through adjacent neighborhoods?” McCollister asked.
The remaining two phases of the project are expected to start shortly after the completion of Noyes and House Three.
“Phase four starts in January of ’07 and we deliver that one in July of ’08. Phase five we start in June of ’08 and deliver July of ’09,” said facilities project leader John Kiefer, who hopes that the new projects will build upon the successes of the Alice Cook House and the North Campus Residential Initiative. “Every time you do a project you learn lots and lots of stuff.”
Karp was confident that the West Campus Residential Initiative would significantly improve the housing system available to upperclass students.
“I think that this is an exceptional complex for our University,” Karp said. “There’ll be people coming from universities all over the country to see what we’ve done.”
Archived article by Jeff Sickelco
Sun News Editor