September 15, 2005

Campus Life Prepares to Open Student Center in Collegetown

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As part of an ongoing initiative to improve quality of life at Cornell, Campus Life is slated to launch Collegetown Commons, the newest of its community centers, Sept. 22 on College Avenue.

Collegetown Commons, located in the storefront space below Sheldon Court at 410 and 412 College Ave. will feature evening and late-night programs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the semester.

“What we hope to do is to use this space as an extension of the community centers and residence halls,” said Denice Cassaro, assistant director of Campus Life for community center programs. Campus Life also hopes to provide a forum other than bars through which underclassmen can become acquainted with the Collegetown area and all it has to offer.

“So many Cornell undergraduates spend a good portion of their years here living off campus and a good portion of the students living off campus live in Collegetown,” said Alderperson Mike Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward). “This will enable the university to reach out to those students living off campus and offer them a level of support it previously wasn’t offering.”

The Commons will consist of two distinct places. 410 College Ave. will serve as an informal meeting space, featuring an art gallery to display exhibitions of student work. This space is equipped to hold small seminars such as yoga classes, information sessions and art workshops.

The adjacent space is geared toward coffeehouses, comedy nights and other performance-oriented events. The two spaces can be combined for larger events if needed.

Collegetown Commons, at least initially, will not include service desks such as those found in Robert Purcell Community Center, Appel Commons and Noyes Community Centers.

In the coming weeks, Campus Life will hold a contest to seek names for each individual space.

Cassaro noted that the idea of a community center in Collegetown is still evolving. “It’s experimental,” she said. “We’re happy to give it a shot.”

Students interested in displaying their work in the art gallery should contact Laura Boyd, Campus Life program director.

While he supports the concept of bridging the gap between Collegetown and the Cornell campus, Taylor acknowledges that the opening of the community center removes two prominent commercial plots from the Collegetown landscape. In recent years, the University had leased the storefront areas to private businesses, but decided this year to use the space as an alternative to bars.

“As an alderperson, something that I was pursuing with Cornell previously was trying to get retail back into the area under Sheldon Court. Collegetown, with all these empty storefronts, Sheldon Court included, isn’t looking too healthy right now financially and as a place for commerce,” Taylor said. “Stores, besides serving residents of Collegetown and the area, also generate sales tax revenue.”

Overall, students seem enthusiastic about the idea of social programming in Collegetown. “I like the idea of connecting Collegetown to Cornell,” said Marissa Evans ’06, a resident of Collegetown. “Students are always looking to try new things and I’m sure this could catch on.”

Archived article by Josh Goldman
Sun Staff Writer