March 26, 2008

Cornell Univ. Presents Renovation Plans for School of Hotel Admin.

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Under the yellowish lights deep within the Ithaca City Hall building last night, the Ithaca Planning and Development Board heard the first public proposal for a renovation to Statler Hall, the home of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Cornell’s Fa­cilities Ser­vices presented plans for a renovation to Statler Hall that would dramatically change the façade of the building as it faces Campus Road.
The Beck Center, the glass encased building attached to Statler Hall, was completed in 2004 by KSS architects. Now, the same firm has plans to extend the current addition around the original stone structure of Statler, creating a warmer entrance for the building on Campus Road and adding more multi-use space.
“We’re taking a boring and empty façade and enlivening it,” said Christine Carstensen, project manager and architect for Facilities Services, who is in charge of the renovation. “It has always looked like the back side of a building, but it’s in the middle of central campus, so we want to open it up.” [img_assist|nid=29130|title=Big plans|desc=J. Shermeta of KSS Architects addresses the City Planning and Development Board last night in City Hall.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The transformation of the building would include added space above the area behind Statler Auditorium, which will bulge out over the sidewalk on Campus Road.
“One of the exciting new features is to have conference space, complete with bathrooms, a new elevator shaft and a fire stair,” Carstensen said, adding that the renovation would divide up offices and add administrative space.
If approved by the Planning Board, the project would begin construction in September and continue for 10 to 14 months. Carstensen, along with KSS Architect J. Shermeta, will put the project up for preliminary and possibly final approval by the planning board on April 22.
“I think people like the overall project, but you need to give more attention to the pedestrian level,” John Schroeder ’74, chair of the Planning Board and Sun Production Manager, told the hotel school planning team.
Schroeder said that he especially liked the design, which incorporates small cubby-like windows and long broad steel framed structures. However, he questioned the fact that the sidewalks along Campus Road. will not have a buffer between the road, and that air vents along the first floor would detract from the pedestrian experience.
Students have been asked to give their input in the planning process since the team began work on the Beck Center in 2002.
“Some of the students have been polled throughout the process, but this is the first public forum we’ve had [for the new project],” Carstensen said.

A New Look for Hoy Road
Also on the docket for the Planning Board meeting was the rehabilitation of Hoy Road, which wraps around the South side of Schoelkoff Field. As one of the main entrances to Cornell’s campus, the road will get a new look if the University’s current plans go through. The road sits adjacent to Cascadilla Gorge, where erosion has caused it to fall into a state of decay.
Since the 1990s, Cornell has tracked the impact of the road’s movement. Over the last few years, the road has moved several inches in certain places in the direction of the gorge.
“It’s not as stable as we’d like it to be,” said Jimmy Stewart Ph.D. ’81, a geotechnical engineer who is consulting on the project. “We recommended that Cornell take action to maintain the hillside … we concluded that the best solution was to insert steel piles and install timber to maintain the character of the natural area.”
The plan also calls for the road to be repaved, landscaping to take place on the north and south sides of the road and bicycle lanes to be added to make accessing the road more physically and aesthetically pleasing.
“We came up with this plan working internally and with city people,” Tammi Aiken, designer and engineer for the Planning, Design and Consulting department, said.
The Planning Board questioned some of the environmental aspects of reconstruction, which include removing some existing trees and doing work within the gorge. On the whole, though, the board seemed happy about the work.
“This whole project seems to be very well thought out,” Schroeder said.
The team of five consultants is hoping to gain preliminary approval for the plan at next month’s Planning Board meeting, according to Aiken. If passed, the road would close the week after graduation this coming May and reopen by early September.