Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

October 24, 2017

Cornell Announces Next Stage of Housing Master Plan

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Cornell’s commitment to tackle the lack of student housing now comes with a concrete vision. The University announced that is in the “early conceptual design phase” of sophomore village on North Campus.

The project, which is part of Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi’s multi-year Housing Master Plan, will guarantee on-campus housing to all freshmen, sophomores and transfer students.

The renovations on North Campus should be completed by 2021 and will feature the addition of 2,000 new beds, the creation of a new dining facility and possibly the inclusion of new outdoor recreation fields.

Cornell Media Relations declined The Sun an interview regarding specific details of the proposal.

At the Joint Annual Meeting and State of the University Address on Friday, Cornell Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Harrison ’76 acknowledged that the motivations behind this plan were the problems of a housing shortage on-campus and “poor housing conditions” off-campus.

Cornell has the capacity to house less than half of its undergraduates and just 10 percent of its graduate and professional students, according to the Housing Master Plan Overview.

For undergraduates, this has meant that there is a competitive lottery system that “that creates intense anxiety” for first and second year students looking for options on-campus. For off-campus options, students are faced with “upward pressure on rents in Collegetown without a corresponding increase in the quality of housing,” according to the Housing Master Plan.

In addition to alleviating the housing shortage for current students, the North Campus expansion will lead to an increase in new student enrollment by up to 1,100 over the course of four years.

In her State of the University address, President Martha E. Pollack said that this increase in enrollment will provide a “richer extracurricular environment” and enable Cornell to “keep up with the incredible demand in some of our programs.”

Provost Michael Kotlikoff also argued that increasing enrollment will enrich the student experience. He added that “the new housing will also coincide with curricular initiatives seeking to enhance educational innovation and the student experience, particularly in our larger, gateway courses.”

Lombardi said that because Cornell is one of a few Ivy League institutions not located in a major metropolitan environment, it provides students with a unique sense of community.

“That, in turn, helps students new to campus develop a broad support network, of which the residential experience is foundational,” he said. “The expansion project will build upon our strong legacy in this area by expanding these opportunities for many more students than we are able to accommodate today.”

Furthermore, by providing more on-campus living opportunities, the initiative should also reduce tension for finding off-campus housing in Collegetown.

Harrison referred to Collegetown as an “important gateway to the campus, but one that simply does not live up to its prominent position or potential,” and described initiatives to ensure well-maintained housing and student safety in off-campus housing.

In this vein, the University is working with the City of Ithaca to create an online “safety-rating” database for all properties, regardless of whether or not they advertise on Cornell’s “Off-Campus Living” website.

“Our not-so-subtle goal here is to apply market pressure on those landlords who — while meeting minimum fire and safety codes — can and should do more to make their properties as safe as possible for their tenants — our students,” Harrison said.

In the long run, Harrison said that the University is working with the City of Ithaca and with local real estate developers to spur development in Collegetown’s infrastructure, attract retail activities and improve the appearance of the area.

“As a Cornell parent whose oldest daughter spent her senior year living in a ‘questionable’ address, and whose youngest daughter may need to consider it also in Collegetown, I am personally thrilled that President Pollack and her team are giving much-needed attention to conditions there,” Harrison said.