Courtesy of the Ithaca Planning Board

The plaza in front of Kennedy Hall will be modified in coming months.

March 23, 2016

Ithaca Planning Board Approves Hughes Hall, Ag Quad Renovations

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The City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board voted unanimously to approve renovations for Hughes Hall and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Quad at its Tuesday meeting.

Hughes Hall renovations — which will begin this summer — will add a courtyard entryway and glass stair tower to the building, enclose an open-air loggia and, if funds, allow repave the Fork and Gavel Café’s dining terrace, according to the board’s resolution.

The project will also modify the existing lower Hughes courtyard “to include new paving, seating, lighting, walkway, bike racks, landscaping and drainage improvements,” the resolution said.

As a result of renovations, Hughes Hall will no longer be used as a residence hall for first-year J.D. law students, The Sun previously reported. The building’s lower floors will become administrative offices and event spaces, and the upper floors will become faculty offices.

The board also discussed renovations to the Ag Quad, which will take place alongside planned utility maintenance work.

“A fair amount of utility work needs to happen in the Ag Quad, and because of that we have the opportunity to revitalize the quad’s aesthetic,” university architect Gilbert Delgado said at a previous planning board meeting.

The renovations will remove all existing hardscape and add new pedestrian paths, plazas in front of Mann Library and Roberts Hall and a large bioretention area east of Kennedy Hall, according to the proposal.

Prof. Jack Elliott, design and environmental analysis, raised concerns about the Cornellian cherry trees just south of the quad, which he said would be removed in the renovation process.

“We need to maintain the legacy of those trees,” Elliott said. “They are the first to leaf out in spring and the last to lose their leaves in the fall. They have significance on that site.”

Project manager Davies Orinda maintained that the trees must be removed in order to provide a safe exit path from the Plant Sciences Building, but assured the board that renovators would attempt to preserve the trees and replant them after construction is completed.

“We have some very strong proponents of preserving the trees at Cornell, and we considered all the factors that we could,” Orinda said. “The concern [about the trees] was that we could try to do as much as we could to not displace them, but that the impact and their age was going to be too detrimental to their survival.”

The Board resolution called for an attempt to be made to preserve those trees.

Renovations will begin within the next month and cost $7.8 million, according to Orinda.