March 27, 2009

Students Speak Up on C-Town

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As the moratorium on construction in Collegetown nears expiration and the planning of the neighborhood’s future remains under debate, more students are beginning to voice their opinions and exercise their influence on the planning process. Last night, members of the Student Assembly attended a meeting of the Collegetown Neighborhood Council, where community members and students discussed the progress of the development plan recommended by Goody Clancy consultants.
“Students make up 97 percent of Collegetown,” said S.A. President Ryan Lavin ’09. “We recognized that we have to lobby as much as we can to make sure that the interests of the students are represented. The Goody Clancy plan encourages development. … If there’s going to be any change or progress, there needs to be a lot more students involved in the process.”
Up until yesterday’s meeting, changes have been made to the development plan — which addresses details such as building specifications and parking in Collegetown — with little student input. One such adjustment to the Goody Clancy plan would be to maintain the current maximum building height in the 400 block of College Avenue, and ignore the recommendation to raise the height to 90 feet.
The plan originally recommended by Goody Clancy was intended to encourage development and increase the density of Collegetown, an expansion likely to increase residential space for students as well as foster competition between landlords.
“If you have more [housing options such as apartments], you create more competition and prices may come down,” said Patrick Kraft, owner of Kraftees. However, Kraft went on to say that rather than promoting competition, the plan is actually restricting it.
Increased development and density in Collegetown is also regarded positively by retail business owners who encourage student involvement in the planning process.
“Students need to be more involved in this because Collegetown is a college area, and the needs of the students need to be addressed. I wish that students showed up like this a year ago,” Kraft said.
Throughout the meeting, individuals questioned the changes made to the Goody Clancy plans by the Ithaca Planning and Development Board. According to John Schroeder ’74, Planning Board chair, the board felt Goody Clancy’s plan did not sufficiently focus new development on those blocks where increased density and redevelopment would most improve the quality of life in Collegetown, as opposed to other blocks that already have high-quality buildings and urban design.
Schroeder said that raising building heights along Dryden Road below College Avenue would exacerbate the “canyon effect” there, whereby tall buildings obstruct visibility and light, which has already been identified as a problem. Development should instead be selectively focused where needed, he said.
“I would rather the focus be on those areas [such as upper Linden Avenue and the middle portion of College Avenue] that badly need renovation, rather than on the highest quality blocks like the 400 block of College Avenue,” Schroeder said. The 400 block is between Oak and Dryden Avenues.
In addition to building concerns, transportation and parking logistics were addressed by Jennifer Dotson (G-1st Ward), chair of Common Council’s planning committee. Currently, students take advantage of free parking around Collegetown. Although details are still being negotiated, Dotson suggested that the implementation of a more comprehensive meter system would discourage students from parking their cars in Collegetown for long periods of time. Such a change would keep parking accessible to errand runners and business patrons.
Dotson elaborated on a new parking system that would allow for drivers to pay varying parking prices at computerized kiosks installed on every block.
“What we would ideally do is pick a price [for parking] that would maintain a 15-percent vacancy rate at all times so that you’re not circling the block forever to find a space,” Dotson said. “Ideally, we would be able to vary that price throughout the day according to traffic flow,” but installing this system would be expensive. For now, the planners are looking to implement a new system with the existing meters.
The increased cost of parking might discourage students from parking in the vicinity of Collegetown and persuade them to take public transportation instead.
Kraft suggested that bus information be posted within local businesses such as Kraftees to make bus schedules available to commuters and perhaps encourage dependence on public transportation.
As the development plans continue to be shaped, Lavin encouraged students to attend the upcoming Ithaca Common Council on April 1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.