Cornell plans to vastly redesign Schwartz Plaza in Collegetown — complete with benches, tables and chairs — in time for the fall semester, when open seats at Collegetown Bagels across the street are a hard find.
“We’ve been talking about this project for probably close to five or six years,” David Cutter ’85, campus landscape architect, told The Sun.
Construction on the plaza will begin in June, pending Planning Board approval, and Cornell expects the new gathering space to be completed in mid-August.
Schwartz Plaza, in front of The Schwartz Center and diagonally across from CTB, is currently surrounded by walls and rarely filled with students — or anyone.
“That space has been sitting essentially unused, behind a wall,” Cutter said. “The only way you can get in is [through] a little slot … and when you go in there, there really isn’t anything to do.”
Collegetown is the most dense area in Ithaca, Cutter said, adding to his desire to create a space where students and Ithacans can relax and study outside.
A frequent criticism of Collegetown is that there is no park or other sizable space for students to congregate outdoors.
The new “urban plaza,” as an Ithaca Planning Board member called it, would give students a place in Collegetown to work, chat or bring meals.
The project will need to be approved this month by Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board, which showed general support for the project on Tuesday.
Cutter, as well as members on the Planning Board, are hopeful that the project will serve as a catalyst for other enhancements near the intersection of Oak and College avenues.
“This is really kind of a first step toward a lot of different improvements in that corridor between College Ave. down to Eddy Street and along the gorge there,” Cutter said, adding that he hopes people notice the difference the plaza makes and support future projects.
The plaza, Cutter said, “is really part of a bigger effort that we have for looking at that whole corner,” from the stone arch bridge over Cascadilla Creek down to the Eddy Gate — the ornate gateway at the upper end of Eddy Street donated to the University by Andrew Dickson White.
Other potential projects include enhancing the walkway around The Schwartz Center, upgrading the octagonal pavilion with technology showing the next TCAT bus arrival, converting the intersection into a “T” intersection and expanding pedestrian and bicycle travel. None of those possibilities have been proposed yet.
The project, funded by Cornell and the Student Assembly Infrastructure Fund, is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, although a figure will not be known until the project is awarded to a company in the spring, pending Planning Board approval on March 28.
Landscape architecture firm Trowbridge Wolf Michaels has been working on the plaza’s design process, which began with a community design input session in Saint Luke Church in Collegetown.