September 15, 2006

Task Force Discusses C-Town Future

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Last night, the Collegetown Vision Task Force met with various members of the Ithaca community to create an idealized image for what they want to see from Collegetown in the future. The meeting was attended by residents, students, Cornell University, city staff, and business owners. Some of the businesses that were represented were Collegetown Bagels, Stella’s Cafe, Ruloff’s, Kraftees and Fontana’s Shoe Store.

The Task Force wants to focus on four themes: business, housing, parking and circulation, and urban design and events. Each of these themes has rough versions of their own vision statements.

David Gelinas ’07, chairman of the Task Force, hopes that this “brainstorming session” would put the pieces together to form one broad vision.
“We want fresh thoughts and ideas for the Task Force and have a broader public representation of ideas and a better public understanding for what we’re trying to do,” said Gelinas.

In order to gather as much outside input as possible, Gelinas and the Task Force divided the attendees into four groups where each represented one of the four themes.

The business group expressed desires for “thriving year-round businesses versus just the times students are here,” said Mimi Mehaffey, owner of Collegetown Bagels.

Noting the many food and beverage establishments in Collegetown, Mehaffey said “the present would benefit from more diversity in business types,” said Mehaffey.

The group also wanted to draw more students and faculty into Collegetown by bringing in clothing stores and a “real” grocery store. However, the challenge facing that idea is the current high rent structures.

Andrew Wang ’08 was part of the housing group and he said one of the issues they discussed were unfair landlords and solutions for students living in poor conditions. One idea was enforcing internal and external maintenance standards, even for aesthetic quality.

The housing group also discussed solutions for the severe lack of parking spaces in Collegetown.

“One of the adult leaders had the idea to give residential parking permits to older Collegetown residents. That would alleviate the traffic and parking problems but, personally, I think that’s unfair to the students. Students should have the right to park,” Wang said.

From the Parking and Circulation group, Gayraud Townsend ’05, Common Council member of the Fourth Ward, said that “students want to walk 2-3 minutes to their cars. They don’t want to take the bus to a satellite parking lot.”

Because solutions are limited, it is important for students to change the way they view parking in Collegetown, according to Townsend.
Several brought up the idea of adding to the Dryden Road parking garage but H. Matthys Van Cort, director of planning and development in Ithaca, said that due to the high land costs in Collegetown, this would be “exceedingly difficult.”

According to Van Cort, land in Collegetown costs $200 per square foot. This combined with construction costs would lead to parking spaces figuring at approximately $43,000 per space in a four-story garage.
The urban design and events group wanted Collegetown to be an “extension of the scholarly environment of Cornell.”
They also expressed the need for wider sidewalks because, currently, there is not enough room for pedestrian traffic.

Townsend said that the Task Force will “compile [everyone’s input] into one document and draw from center themes” to encompass everyone’s vision for Collegetown.