Cornell supports city effort for new Collegetown vision

February 21, 2008

Imagine a Collegetown with green space for picnics, lots of bike racks, attractive walkways and convenient public transportation. Imagine it clean, with attractive storefronts and safe housing. And shoppers and diners year-round.

That's a vision that a collaborative effort by the city of Ithaca, the Collegetown community and Cornell are trying to bring to reality.

Members of the Boston-based urban planning firm Goody Clancy met with community members and key stakeholders the week of Feb. 17 to discuss their roles in putting together an urban plan and design guidelines for Collegetown.

The meetings are part of a process put in motion in June 2007 when the Ithaca Common Council endorsed a vision statement to develop a vibrant Collegetown environment.

Common Council then established a Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee, chaired by Cornell senior extension associate and Collegetown resident Jennifer Wilkins and including Cornell Vice Presidents Stephen Golding and Susan Murphy and students Svante Myrick '09 and Kate Duch '09. Cornell contributed $90,000 toward implementation of the goals, matching the city's funding, which allowed the hiring of consultants to help design a viable plan.

"The integration of the Collegetown Vision Plan and the university's Comprehensive Master Plan for the Ithaca campus is essential to meet the long-term needs of Cornell's faculty, staff and students while ensuring the university remains a good neighbor," says Golding, the Samuel W. Bodman Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration. "Collegetown is one of the university's front doors and will be a critical linchpin in attracting and recruiting the next generation of faculty, staff and students to Ithaca and our campus in the coming years."

In October 2007, the city imposed a one-year moratorium on Collegetown construction to allow the city time for hiring a consultant and developing an urban plan and design guidelines.

Representatives from Goody Clancy, which has experience in planning urban design in other university towns, including Boston, Atlanta, Cincinnati and New Orleans, will return to Ithaca in March for another round of public education roundtables and a community workshop. They will deliver a draft urban plan and design guidelines in April for city and public input, with refinements of the plan over the next few months. The city wants the plan in place before the end of the moratorium this coming October.

"This is an important crossroads for Collegetown, our campus and the community at large," says Gary Stewart, assistant director for government and community relations at Cornell and co-chair of he Collegetown Neighborhood Council. He adds, "The task is to develop a collective, long-term practical strategy and wrap it around a special part of Ithaca. It'll take teamwork and resource sharing at many levels."

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