Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

Residents discuss upcoming construction at this semester's first Collegetown Council Meeting at St. Luke’s Church on Tuesday evening.

September 13, 2016

Developers Unveil Plans for Revitalized Schwartz Center, Maplewood Housing

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Regardless of what proposals for Collegetown construction are approved or completed, City of Ithaca planner Joanne Cornish says it is certain that “the face of Collegetown is going to change.”

The Collegetown Neighborhood Council held its first meeting of the semester Tuesday, in which speakers detailed Collegetown redevelopment, focusing on the Schwartz Center and the Maplewood Park Apartments.

At the meeting, Cornish also highlighted projects that have recently been completed or are still in progress.

“Over the years, Collegetown has become a little bit run down, and we really thought it deserves as much attention as we’ve given downtown,” Cornish said. “It needs to be upgraded to have that real attractiveness to lead into the University.”

She added that one of the council’s goals is to make neighborhoods where many students live more affordable and accessible.

“We really want get back to being able to provide homes at a price people can afford — whatever their income level,” Cornish said.

Scott Whitham — who is currently heading a project to restore housing to what used to be Maplewood Park Apartments — said contractors must respond to high demand for “quality housing” close to campus.

“We’ve done a lot of surveys of our students, and we learned that 40 percent of graduate and professional students live more than a 30 minute walk from Cornell’s campus,” Whitham said. “The needs of the undergraduate population are significantly different from those of the graduate and professional students. Graduate students really seek a quiet, neighborhood kind of setting. They don’t want the Collegetown party scene, they want as far away from that as possible.”

University planner Leslie Shield also discussed developments in the area between the Schwartz Center, Eisner Pavilion and Sheldon Court Plaza, which she called a “focus area” for Cornell.

“[The University] is very excited [to] have actually come up with funding to make some major improvements at the Schwartz Center plaza area,” Shield said. “We recognize that the Schwartz Center is here, front and center.”

Cornell considers the Schwartz Center the “gateway” to campus and plans to utilize an allocated $500,000 budget to renovate the building’s exterior, according to Shield.

“We’ve got the wall, [and] we want to have a big Berlin Day — ‘take down the wall,’” she said. “All it serves right now is to hide bike parking behind it and for people to put coffee while they wait for the bus, but we can imagine something better.”

One attendee shared his hope that structural renovations at the Schwartz Center would be accompanied by a revitalization of the programs it previously offered.

“The community has suffered from the cutbacks that have been made in the arts program, and I really want to emphasize that this hopefully becomes an impetus for restoring some of that,” he said. “There are events there, but it is nothing like what it used to be for the community.”