Courtesy of Cornell University

The construction will add 1,200 freshmen beds and 800 sophomore beds to the existing residential facilities on North Campus.

August 27, 2018

University Releases Full Plan to Expand North Campus to House ‘100 Percent’ of Freshmen and Sophomores

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Correction appended:

The City of Ithaca released in July the University’s full site plan for the expansion of North Campus housing, including construction and renovation plans for buildings and facilities, as well as changes in on-campus living requirements and potential increases in class size.

Slated to begin in 2019 and complete in 2022, the North Campus expansion intends to build two new housing sites on the fields north of Appel Commons, which will provide housing to an additional 1,200 freshmen and 800 sophomore students. There will also be 75 new beds for resident advisors, staff and live-in faculty members.

The construction will add to North Campus several new on-campus residential facilities — such as an outdoor amphitheater, cafe, multipurpose field and basketball court — as part of the first-year student housing site. Meanwhile, the sophomore housing areas will include a new fitness center, as well as a new 1,200 seat dining hall that will replace Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery.

Design elements of the new housing facilities will include “green” open spaces, outdoor plazas, lawns and “groves of large shade trees,” according to the site plan.

The expansion in residential facilities will allow Cornell to house “100 percent of its first-year students in developmentally appropriate campus housing and 100 percent of its sophomores in campus residence halls, co-ops and Greek housing,” the site plan reads. According to a survey conducted in 2016, only 56 percent of student respondents lived on campus.

Beginning Fall 2021, all incoming first-year students will be required to spend two years in university-affiliated housing, including on-campus residences, the cooperative houses and Greek residential houses.

First-year housing for all freshmen and sophomores is currently “guaranteed” but not required, according to the University’s housing website.

The expansion plan also includes reassignment of residential halls on North Campus from mostly first-year students to sophomore students.

Clara Dickson Hall, the largest North Campus residence, and the North Campus townhouses will be used as sophomore housing, according to the site plan. A new facility for sophomores will also be constructed on what is currently the C.C. Lot. In total, 800 sophomore beds will be available on North Campus.

65 percent of sophomores currently reside on West Campus, according to the University’s website. The completion of the North Campus construction will raise Cornell’s on-campus bed count from 8,400 to 10,400, a nearly 24 percent increase according to the site plan.

The expansion of housing will also allow for a 250-student increase in incoming class size, according to the site plan. Cornell currently anticipates enrollment of around 3,400 new students per year, according to demographic data from the class of 2021.

As part of the renovation and construction plan, deferred maintenance — including upkeep and ADA-compliant renovations — will be performed on Balch Hall, Clara Dickson Hall, Risley Residential College and the West Campus gothics.

The sophomore housing will open in 2021, and the first-year housing will open in 2022.

The lottery system for determining housing will not be altered and the new housing will simply be added to the lottery pool, The Sun previously reported.

The site plan also includes the demolition of the Cornell-owned Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house at 10 Sisson Pl., the C.C. parking lot and the fields above Appel Commons, according to the 250-page site application published on the website of the Ithaca government.

Sigma Alpha Mu brothers have vacated the house on the University’s dime this semester and moved into temporary housing at 122 McGraw Pl. on West Campus, the prior site of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, according to the spring 2018 Sigma Alpha Mu news bulletin. 

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was suspended by the University for a period of five years in 2011, after George Desdunes ’13 died in a hazing-related pledge incident, The Sun previously reported. 122 McGraw Pl. reopened as a residential housing facility later that year, The Sun previously reported.

The construction will be overseen by the firms of ikon.5 architects and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects, LLC. ikon.5 architects were responsible for the construction of Collegetown Terrace and Mews and Court-Kay-Bauer Halls on North Campus, while Trowbridge Wolf Michaels managed the Schwartz Center remodel and are currently working on the  construction of apartments at 119-125 College Ave., according to prior reporting by The Sun.

The University recently received pushback from local labor groups over their failure to hire local tradesmen for the construction of the Maplewood Housing area for graduate students, inconveniencing over 100 students slated to move in at the beginning of the fall semester, according to reporting by The Sun.

While ikon.5 is not based in Ithaca, TWLA is. Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, previously told The Sun that the University will “make maximum use of our skilled and highly valued local labor community” for the North Campus Expansion Project, as per the University’s standing agreement with the Building & Construction Trades Council.

The land proposed for the new facilities is owned by the University and located in both the town and city of Ithaca, and the boards of both will be allowed input into the construction process.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the University intended to increase its freshman class size by 900 students. In fact, the University intends to increase its total undergraduate enrollment by 900 students, and its freshman class size by around 250 students.