March 8, 2016

Cornell GPSA Addresses Maplewood Apartment Concerns

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­­­The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly discussed the potential problems posed by the construction of Maplewood Park Apartments with real estate and architecture representatives Monday.

Murphy Antoine, the architect from Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc., presented a brief overview of the plan proposal, saying that the current plan makes the apartments seem isolated.

“We need to integrate it by understanding the context,” Antoine said. “It feels isolated but in a physical distance sense, it’s actually pretty close to the campus.”

One of the plans for integration is to make the streets more accommodating to public life, according to Antoine.

“The streets are all about the asphalt and the cars right now,” Antoine said. “We are envisioning streets as their own form of public space. It’s not just a place for your cars. It’s a place to engage with your neighbors too.”

Antoine also suggested varying the building types to accommodate the different needs of graduate and professional students.

“Maplewood is all one building type with the exact same plan, color, story,” Antoine said. “We could mix types of apartments and townhouses to meet different needs and preferences.”

Jeffrey Resetco, vice president of real estate development and construction of EdR, a real estate investment trust partnering with Cornell on the project, explained that community amenities would be included in the new development.

“We are envisioning something like the Big Red Barn but on a smaller scale as a community room so you can open it up and have events,” Resetco said. “There will also be a business center for group projects and work. We are also planning an outdoor recreational space like tot lots for people who have families and volleyball courts.”

One of the primary concerns of graduate students are rent increases and affordability, according to Anna Waymack, a voting member of GPSA.

Resetco explained that the four main goals of the project are “affordability, walkability, sustainability and community.”

“Affordability is at the top of Cornell’s list, so we are working closely with the school to make sure the rents are increasing at an agreeable rate,” Resetco said. “We agreed that there will be an escalation cap. We are sensitive to the fact that graduate stipends are set and that’s definitely in our thinking and awareness.”

Resetco noted that rent prices are still being finalized with the firms and Cornell.

“It’s complicated,” Resetco said. “We need to have a closer look at the affordability. When we look at the peers, we do feel like this is below the market for some of the off campus houses.”