February 20, 2008

Consultants Gather Input For a New C-Town Vision

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Residents of Collegetown may be glad to know that a facelift for the neighborhood is in the works. Four consultants from Goody Clancy Architects have spent an intensive two days meeting with students, permanent residents of Collegetown, merchants, property owners, Cornell administrators, trustees and the City of Ithaca planning officials. Their visit — the initial phase of a process that will continue through October — was arranged to gather the community’s ideas for the neighborhood.
The consultants were brought in as part of a joint effort between the University and the City of Ithaca, as each provided $75,000 towards creating a master plan for Collegetown. A moratorium on building in the neighborhood was put into effect by the City last November in order to prepare for the consultants’ visit.
The feedback began Monday morning with a kickoff meeting hosted by the Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee. Afterwards, Student Trustee Kate Duch ’09 led a focus group of six under graduate and four graduate students. Cornellians discussed what they felt were the biggest concerns regarding the neighborhood.
“One of the concerns highlighted was that Collegetown doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of all students,” Duch said. “Collegetown has a lot of restaurants and bars but only one tiny grocery store and no fitness center. The rent is far too high, particularly for graduate students, and students without cars have difficulty traveling elsewhere for other services.”
According to Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th), the consulting group also had a number of their own ideas, in addition to listening to others.
“They talked about making the area outside the Schwartz Center as lively as possible,” Myrick said. “They are also looking at how to enhance the gateway to the University and the streetscape.”
Another issue on the docket was what many call the “superblock” — the area between Dryden Rd., College Ave. and Eddy St. — which many consider to be too big. Though it is all developed, they hope to create pedestrian walkways through the area.
In pursuit of information from Collegetown’s permanent residents, the consultants also met with the Collegetown Neighborhood Council Monday night. They discussed, among other things, zoning for the neighborhood, the creation of new developments and the best ways to improve parking supply and car usage, according to Jane Marcham, a member of the CNC.
Yesterday afternoon, the consultants spoke with the City of Ithaca planning officials in a private meeting to lay out key issues they hope to look at. According to John Schroeder ’74, Planning Board member and production manager at The Sun, the consultants spoke about improving the services available to students and permanent residents.
Other objectives include improving the pedestrian experience, bicycle lanes and bus transit. The consultants also have a vested interest in finding ways for Cornell to maintain a role in the residential and commercial happenings of Collegetown, which may mean revitalizing the bottom floor of Sheldon Court.
At the meeting, the consultants expressed interest in solving some of these issues by creating higher-density mixed-use developments that would incorporate retail and restaurants on the ground floor and housing on top.
“We’re at a very early stage with the consultants, but I think everyone was quite impressed with what they were telling us,” Marcham said. “It’s a study that’s been going on for more than a year and we hope that the plan will take shape in the next couple of months.”
Mary Tomlan (D-3rd), who attended three of the meetings with the consultants, agreed that all groups had a chance to voice their opinions.
“I think it was very productive for the consultants,” Tomlan said. “I think they got to meet with a wide range of stockholders in Collegetown. We certainly have an idea of their approach and how they will go about developing the area.”
The consultants left town last night to head back to their offices in Boston, but they will return to Ithaca on March 7 and 8, according to Myrick.
“When they come back, they will be creating a charrette,” Myrick said. “It’s about sketching out maps and draw out concepts. They’ll work on finalizing everything and bringing back proposed design guidelines. Hopefully everything will be done by October.”
Goody Clancy has worked with a number of college towns to help improve the neighborhood surrounding campus. Past clients of the consulting firm include Ohio State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory University and the University of Cincinnati.