Ithaca city officials and Cornell representatives presented several plans to substantially redevelop on-campus student housing, the Collegetown neighborhood and the Schwartz Performing Arts Center plaza at a town hall Tuesday.
Martie Rauker, senior director of strategic initiative for student and campus life, elaborated on the Student Housing Master Plan — a comprehensive plan spanning the next 25 years that aims to build more on-campus housing on North Campus, primarily for sophomores.
“This is really a 25 years view of things, but we aim to reconfigure North Campus to create a sophomore village,” Rauker said. “We have 800 sophomores living under North Campus now, but we aim to create a critical mass … Without a critical mass, sophomores feel they are sometime outside of things.”
Rauker explained that the SHMP focuses on sophomore on-campus housing to help the University uphold its promise to guarantee second-year housing.
“Sophomores do not see their housing guarantees as genuine,” he said. “West Campus can only accommodate half of the sophomore class.”
Joann Cornish, director of planning and development for the City of Ithaca, discussed the ongoing plan to redevelop Collegetown into a more student-friendly environment.
“After the Collegetown redevelopment, the face of Collegetown will transform,” she said. “The city’s goal was to create a diverse, commercially viable community with good urban design, mostly for students.”
Although the plan revolves around improving student life in Collegetown, Cornish stressed that the plan aims to balance the interests of students and permanent residents in Collegetown, which she called “a very difficult balance.”
Cornish said she hopes the Collegetown renovation will address both the near-campus and city-wide housing shortage.
“There is a shortage of affordable housing citywide,” she said. “We hope providing student housing on or near campus will open up other property for families that want to live in Ithaca.”
Campus landscape architect Daniel Cutter described his vision for the new plaza space in front of the Schwartz Performing Arts Center. He said he hopes to make the area more accessible, tear down the wall in front of the Schwartz Center and build a series of seating steps similar to an amphitheatre.
“We hope that we can enhance all of the spaces we have … that can provide relief to the increasing [population] density of Collegetown,” he said. “Because of the value of Collegetown property, it will become increasingly difficult for anyone else to give up building spaces for public realm space.”