Project Eddy Gate, led by a team of 13 graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, will transform the alley near Eddy Gate in Collegetown into a “pop up park” with food trucks, games and live music from May 4 to May 6.
Project manager Alec Martinez ’18 and project coordinator Elyse Belarge ’19 became involved with this project through the architecture college’s Design Connect program, which doubles as a class in the department of city and regional planning and as a student organization dedicated to bringing design projects to local communities.
Project Eddy Gate, which has partnered with the campus planning office for this event, is a “democratic, bottom-up, citizen-led return of public space to people,” according to the project’s website.
Martinez emphasized the importance of the democratic component of this initiative, especially in terms of deciding what to do with the area near Eddy Gate in the future.
“Instead of asking people to come to the planning process, we’re taking the planning process to the people in order to get the most diverse audience as possible. All the data that we collect, all the information and everything we observe will serve as the foundation for the long term capital investments,” he said.
Belarge also said that the project is meant to be “inclusive,” “interactive” and “an opportunity for literally anyone and everyone to participate in creating a space for themselves.”
Project Eddy Gate was funded in part by the Ithaca community via the personal fundraising platform GoFundMe, raising $1,200 over the course of one month.
“People understand that this is a space that could be so much more than what it is, and really love the idea that it’s not some firm out of Manhattan that is going to tell us how we should enjoy the space. We get to decide that, and I think that clicks with a lot of people,” Martinez said.
Even though the team originally applied for a grant which they did not receive, Belarge said that a GoFundMe ended up being an “obvious” way to include the people who will benefit from the space in the funding process.
Eddy Gate, which Martinez called the “last public space in Collegetown,” was originally supposed to be the grand entrance into Cornell. Martinez said that it has now lost its relevance in the community and that hopes the project changes this.
“Right now, Collegetown doesn’t really have a heart. There’s no sort of beating core of the neighborhood,” he said.
“Eddy Gate is sort of this dark, scary alley, so another thing we wanted to address is the loneliness that is pervasive at Cornell, and so we’re kind of throwing it all in there in a way that hopefully fosters community and fosters thoughtfulness about what that space could be for all of us,” he added.
Belarge said the community should participate in the event because it will be “fun and important” and Martinez believes the community has a “duty” to contribute to conversations about “what the space was and what it could become.”
Martinez hopes that the community will see the project as a “lighting of a torch” that will carry the conversation about this space forward into the future.
“Every citizen has a right to the city, but we have to practice those rights and the opportunity to do that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “We literally have the opportunity to decide what this place will be for the future of the existence of Cornell. It’s an incredibly unique responsibility and a beautiful gift.”