Group Project Ithaca Urban Design Workshop Fall 2019

  • Akhila Arakkal, M.S. AAD 2020
    Katharine Guan, M.R.P/M.L.A. 2020
    Xinyu He, M.R.P. 2021
    Quinn Kelly, M.R.P. 2021
    Yixuan Li, M.L.A. 2019
    Nathan Revor, B.S. URS 2020
    Karim Shaltout, M.R.P. 2021
    Akshay Yeleswarapu, M.S. AAD 2020
    Xiuying Zhan, M.L.A. 2021
  • Class

    CRP 5072 Land Use, Environmental Planning, and Urban Design Workshop
  • Instructor

    Mitch Glass

For the past two decades, retail sales and activity at regional suburban shopping malls have generally been on the decline, thanks to a combination of retail saturation and the impact of Amazon (circa 1994) and other online retailers. Although exceptions remain (e.g. Destiny Mall in Syracuse, NY), some analysts estimate that up to one-third of America's shopping malls will close their doors in the next several years. Others – like The Shops at Ithaca Mall – will continue to struggle along, perpetually buoyed by one or two national chains but undermined (in part) by out-of-town owners focused solely on investment bottom lines, the continued success of online retail, and in Ithaca's case other shopping centers like downtown and Route 13/Meadow Street.

These trends continue to impact thousands of acres of land across the U.S. that are currently occupied by suburban shopping malls, characterized by cheaply constructed, big-box buildings surrounded by acres of generic surface parking lots. As the suburban mall continues its downward spiral in its current composition, it begs the question as to what these places might become in the next 10, 15, or 20 years. Can an argument be made to save them as is? Can or should they be partially saved and adapted into mixed-use environments with improved infrastructure and public space? Or do we start over and build anew? How does each of these models serve local social, economic, and environmental goals in Lansing and Ithaca, while being politically and economically viable and contributing to the well-being of nearby communities? What does a successful mall retrofit look like and what models exist nationally? The course explores these questions and more.

CRP 5072 is designed to provide students with real-world urban design analyses, problem and topic identification, methodologies, and outcomes. The course is therefore modeled on a professional consulting scope-of-work (albeit abbreviated), with an actual client, set of deliverables, milestones, and formal presentations. For this course, the Village of Lansing Planning Board and Tompkins County Legislature were the project clients.

Working in small teams, students brainstormed critical urban design issues facing Lansing today and in the future (e.g. zoning/land use, socio-economics, traffic/transportation/infrastructure, local/regional retail, and market demand among others). Site visits and sketching occurred early in the semester (and later, given the site's proximity to Cornell) followed by analysis workshops, client conversations, and initial student presentations in the first half of the semester. The second half of the semester focused on plan conceptualization, concept development, renderings and narratives, and a final client presentation at Lansing City Hall.

To view the report, please contact the Department of City and Regional Planning.

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