February 11, 2008

New Vision to Improve C-Town Cohesion and Business

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Amidst the controversial moratorium on Collegetown development, the Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee is moving forward to create a plan for future growth in the area. On Feb. 18, the CVIC will meet with Goody Clancy, the recently selected architecture firm that will be working on the project.
Last October, the Ithaca Common Council voted to halt approval of further development proposals in Collegetown in an effort to create a more cohesive design plan for the area. Since then, the CVIC has been collaborating with Goody Clancy, in addition to the real estate company WZHA and traffic firm Nelson Nygaard. Additionally, the University and the City each have donated $75,000 towards the planning process.
“We’re working against the moratorium being lifted and that’s Oct. 1,” Leslie Chatterton said at a CVIC meeting last Tuesday. [img_assist|nid=27613|title=New developments|desc=A moratorium on construction in College­town will be lifted this fall, spurring new business initiatives.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
According to David Dixon, principal-in-charge of urban planning and design at Goody Clancy, the last stage of the process will result in implementing a zoning code that he will hand to the City.
“I think realistically there will be a pretty clear recommendation within six months and then there’s sort of a refining and confirming process that might last until the end of the year,” Dixon said.
Once the guidelines are written, it is up to the city and private businesses to implement the design.
“Most of the actual development will be done by the individuals and firms in the private sector,” said Mary Tomlan ’71 (D-3rd Ward). “The City’s participation will be in public works projects, such as street and sidewalk improvements…[and] will require that a capital project be established to fund it.”
The design will “hopefully give a real presence” to the concerns outlined in the Collegetown Vision Statement drafted with Collegetown’s shortcomings in mind, according to Ron Mallice, the project manager representing Goody Clancy.
“There’s a lot that can be done: better circulation, certain kinds of housing, taking advantage of the gorges, having better retail services, taking better advantage of the Schwartz Center. It’s already a vibrant place … but we want to make it even more so,” Mallice said.
Goody Clancy has not formally signed a contract with the CVIC, according to Leslie Chatterton, but the terms of the agreement will be discussed on Feb. 18. Once the details are settled, Dixon and Mallice, the project manager representing Goody Clancy, will be frequenting Ithaca.
“We’re going to start doing interviews with a lot of people downtown and in the University community. It is through this that we really get a sense of how to start with the project,” Dixon said. “We’ll sit down with the city and get a list of elected officials, the mayor, other city departments and agencies that focus on this in different ways…people at the University [such as] students, administration, faculty and staff, people in the neighborhood, businesses or landowners who may also have another perspective.”
Bimonthly CVIC meetings are open to the public, so that concerned community members can observe or participate in discussion. At the meeting on Tuesday, CVIC members mentioned having an open house or display window this March, exhibiting the design plans as well as the charrette, which according to Chatterton, is “a workshop setting where design and planning consultants elicit creative ideas.”
In the 1980s, Collegetown changed dramatically with the addition of taller and larger apartment buildings, creating a much more densely populated space that raised transportation issues related to parking, sidewalk space and buses. Retail offerings also changed their complexion, according to to Tomlan, and in the 1990s there was talk of creating an overall plan, which had not been implemented until now.
Dixon, who has also worked in many other university towns, such as those near Ohio State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory University and the University of Cincinnati, stressed the potential a college town can have.
“There is so much that can be gained by working together with the community, to make Collegetown the coolest, best place for people to spend their time … We [have worked with] a lot of neighborhoods … where people can just walk around, bump into people they would not normally see or talk to … [and] make it a better and better and better place for people to find community,” Dixon said.

For related stories see:
City Officials Discuss C-Town Moratorium
City Blocks New C-Town Construction Projects
Cornell Pitches In to Improve Collegetown