February 8, 2007

Cornell Unveils Master Plan

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Cornell’s comprehensive master plan, meant to guide the development of the Ithaca campus for the next twenty-five years, was presented yesterday in the Straight. This first completed stage of the project was intended to address problems with the campus and suggest areas in which improvement can be made.

“This is the first time Cornell has tried to understand how it will grow holistically,” said Cindi Rottenberg-Walker, a partner in a company named Urban Strategies that has been working on the plan.

Though this is not the first effort to plan out campus development, it is the most comprehensive endeavor yet. The plan was created to provide a framework within which changes can be made in Cornell’s planning and priorities.

“It’s a framework,” said Cornell University Planner Mina Amundsen. “We want the plan to tell us which development goes where, not which building goes where.”

Among the issues analyzed in the plan are sustainability, traffic and transportation, connection of residential and academic buildings and Cornell’s responsibility to the Ithaca community.

The development of the CMP started last April when Urban Strategies, a Toronto–based firm, was chosen to head up the project. Cornell also chose other members of the consulting team: New England Engineering, Polshek Partnership Architects and Vollmer Associates, who provide landscape architecture, engineering and planning services.

The team began by talking to over 400 students, faculty, administrators and neighbors to find out what they like about the campus and what they want to change. They then compiled the information into twelve “themes,” which were displayed yesterday afternoon.

Some of the ideas that emerged were that the campus should be more integrated both physically and socially, that the visitor experience needs to be improved and that Cornell needs to be more conscious of the surrounding neighborhood and Ithaca in general.
[img_assist|nid=21218|title=Planning for the future.|desc=The University displayed its master plan for future development in the Straight yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=72]
A poster at the presentation of the plan stated, “Cornell has a symbiotic relationship with the city, towns, villages and countryside that blurs the boundaries of the campus and increases the responsibility of the University toward the management of these places.”

They suggested a “stewardship strategy” for the region, which involved defining clear use of Cornell’s property, protecting the lands and consolidating the research uses.

The cohesiveness of the campus as a whole was also a topic of study. The consultants brought to light the separation of campus buildings. While the academic buildings are concentrated primarily around central campus, most of the residential halls are on either West or North Campus. This means that central campus is usually “empty outside of teaching hours,” according to the study.

Yet, as the consultants observed, “the heart of the campus has an intricate physical structure that is fundamental to the experience at Cornell. This experience needs to be respected.”

“Everyone wants to be on Central Campus, but maybe Central Campus can’t handle all the buildings,” said Frank de Santis, an associate at Polsheck Partnership.

While the over-cluttering of buildings in Central Campus is something to be avoided, one of the goals of the CMP is to maintain the ambulatory access of Cornell. This could involve putting buildings on East Campus, according to Rottenberg-Walker.

The consulting team looked at four different types of transportation on campus: bicycle-use, public transit, vehicles and pedestrians. The study commended TCAT for having extensive service, but said that it is often circuitous and slow. Furthermore, some parts of the campus are less serviced than others. The CMP group will work with the transportation-focused Generic Environmental Impact Statement that the Cornell Transportation Services is producing.

The open-house concluded with six suggestions for areas to be developed, including making taller buildings to preserve open spaces in central campus, tying together Central and East Campus, developing Cornell Orchards (south of Dryden Road), defining the role of East Hill Plaza and revitalizing College Ave. and Linden Ave. below Catherine St. in Collegetown.

One of the main reasons for the open house is to solicit input from the Cornell and Ithaca communities. Sticky notes were posted around the room, and people looking at the presentation were encouraged to write their opinions for all to see. Furthermore, each visitor was asked to complete a survey after viewing the presentation.

“We will start developing plan options this spring,” said Admundson. “Based on input, we will move in the preferred direction.”