As construction continues to be a fixture of Collegetown, Tuesday’s Collegetown Neighborhood Council meeting focused on the numerous development projects — some that have already broken ground and others that remain undefined concepts —and the potential housing and business opportunities to be derived from them.
JoAnn Cornish, director of planning and economic development for the City of Ithaca, began the meeting by presenting a list of the projects.
“People had been sitting on projects for a long time, waiting for the economy to get better.” Cornish said. “A lot of the real estate in Collegetown is some of the most expensive real estate in the United States.”
One of the Collegetown projects pending approval is for 302 to 306 College Ave., which would require the demolition of seven buildings to make room for 102 apartments, according to Cornish.
An approved development at 307 College Ave. will contain a GreenStar grocery store on the first floor and 46 apartments as well as create a “midblock walkthrough” in this area, Cornish said.
“Part of the original Collegetown Plan was to break up these superblocks,” Cornish said. “You don’t have to go to either end of the block, you could cross in the center.”
Other plans for the 300 block of College Avenue include the construction of a 12-story apartment building. Currently, no building in Collegetown is taller than six stories, the current zoning limit.
Additionally, the Johnson Graduate School of Management plans to develop a six-story education and office building on the 200 block of Dryden Road.
“This project will help to bring back Collegetown to what it was, which was a pretty vibrant place. It still is active, though, especially with all the pedestrians,” Cornish said. “I think it will be more attractive and more people will come into Collegetown. We’ll see the face of Collegetown change.”
Under the Collegetown Urban Plan, which was created and endorsed by the Common Council in 2009, approximately 1,000 new bedrooms and 8,000 more square feet of commercial area will be in Collegetown.
“We are an upstate New York city, where most cities are dying, and we just continue to have interest,” Cornish said. “Of course, there is money to be made.”
Following Cornish’s presentation, University Planner Leslie Schill outlined how the University hopes Collegetown will change, especially its public and green spaces.
“It’s a heavy transportation route by foot, by bus and all the other ways,” Schill said, describing Collegetown.
Additionally, Schill said the University wants to develop the areas surrounding student housing into more welcoming and lively areas for pedestrians, including potentially the entrance to Sheldon Court and the area near the Eddy Street gate.
“There aren’t any parks in Collegetown. So as the buildings go up, it’s going to feel dry,” Schill said. “We’re looking at some of those areas and thinking about an enhanced public realm.”
The University is considering many possibilities to expand green space, Schill said.
“The back side of Eddy Gate — the ‘Dead End,’ the historic gateway to campus — what if it were re-enlivened? What if you took out the parking… offered a more green area?” Schill asked. “What if this space were reimagined and more prioritized for the pedestrian? Some early thoughts in house on this being a more green, linear park.”
On campus, the University also has plans for a large rehabilitation project in 2016 for the Agriculture Quadrangle, meant to “revitalize” the area.
“Right now the entrance [to Mann Library] is not terribly inviting,” Schill said. “But what if it was an outdoor plaza with new seating? People could spill outside — they want to — we just have to give them seating.”