November 11, 2008

Collegetown: Toward an Outstanding Urban Environment

Print More

Collegetown, encompassing the City’s most densely populated and highly valued concentration of real estate, has seen dramatic change during the past twenty years, most of it without the benefit of an overarching vision and detailed plan. Over the course of the past two-and-a-half years, however, dozens of Ithaca residents have participated in coordinated efforts toward the realization of this neighborhood as “an outstanding urban environment,” according to the Collegetown Vision Statement.

The first initiative, set in motion by Ithaca’s Common Council in February 2006, established a task force representing students, long-term residents, business interests, Cornell University and City government. Its product was The Collegetown Vision Statement, which was endorsed by the Common Council in June 2007. That document then guided a larger, successor group, the Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee, which has worked with members of the community and with consultants engaged by the City and Cornell to create an urban plan and design guidelines for Collegetown. Adoption of this plan will now be considered by the Common Council, along with legislation intended to assure that future development is consistent with the plan and the original vision.

Having resided in the Bryant Park neighborhood immediately east of Collegetown for thirty-three of the past forty-four years, with six years devoted to graduate study at Cornell and more recent residence as a homeowner (and as, for about a dozen years, a part-time employee in Collegetown), I have had ample opportunity to reflect on the character of this neighborhood as it was, is and might be — for students, the University, residents of the adjacent neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

My next few postings on “Cornell in Context” will focus on aspects of Collegetown as projected in the “Goals & Objectives” presented in the vision statement, and copied below. Though I have been a member of both Collegetown study groups and represent the Third Ward on Common Council, my thoughts are my own and are not representative of any organization or official body, and will be presented to stimulate consideration by readers of this blog.


(From the Collegetown Vision Statement, endorsed by the City of Ithaca Common Council, June 6, 2007)

“The primary goal of the Collegetown Vision Statement is to set the course for the creation of an outstanding urban environment that builds on its proximity to the adjacent campus of Cornell University, an institution of importance to the city for its educational and cultural contributions and for its positive impact on the local economy. As such, there is a unique opportunity to create a diverse, commercially viable, dense, mixed-use community characterized by notable urban design, a predominantly student population, high quality architecture, vibrant public spaces and pedestrian amenities. The vision for residential neighborhoods east of Collegetown includes a population mix of students, long-term residents, families and owner-occupants that enables all to enjoy a high quality of life. The neighborhood between Collegetown and downtown is a primarily residential historic district that enjoys a unique status as a result of its location between two active commercial areas. This area merits attention in the form of programs or incentives to strengthen both its visual appearance and the resident mix of owner-occupants and student renters. A convenient public transportation system connecting Collegetown and the surrounding neighborhoods to the larger Ithaca community is one of several strategies aimed at reducing car traffic in Collegetown and enhancing the environment for pedestrians.”