Collegetown: What to Expect in 2017


On Tuesday afternoon, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council (CNC) met at St. Luke’s on Oak Avenue in Collegetown.


The CNC is a group of Collegetown business owners, landlords, residents, and officials from the City of Ithaca and Cornell University. The purpose of its meetings are to share news about what’s going on on campus and in the neighborhood and to have an open discussion on how members of the community can collaborate and make the area shine.


The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to learn what to expect in 2017 as far as Collegetown development, City of Ithaca, and Cornell projects. As we all know, Collegetown has been a whirlwind of private development, NYSEG, and municipal utility projects these past two years, and there is much more to come!


The first presenter was David Cutter, Campus Landscape Architect for Cornell, who shared plans for the new Schwartz Center Plaza. The new, more porous design will include beautiful granite stones–some topped with wood to act as benches–interspersed with greenery in an open-concept multi-use space. There will be moveable tables so the area can serve as outdoor seating as well as performance and gathering space. The concept will complement the Schwartz Center with new greenery on the trellises, safety lighting, and small details that make the overall look quite stunning and appropriate for the neighborhood. The existing wall will be torn down this summer when the 10-11 week project starts after commencement, with anticipated completion before the fall semester starts. College Avenue, the sidewalk, and bus routes should not be affected by this project.


Up next to present was JoAnn Cornish, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Ithaca, who presented an update on current, planned, and anticipated development in 2017 and the next few years. The largest development area seems to be between Linden and College Avenues, mostly demolition of older wood-framed structures and replacing them with modern, up-to-code, fire-safe structures … and that’s a big deal and a big goal for the City of Ithaca.


JoAnn reminded us that, at the end of the day, we will all be very happy with the results of all of this development, and she again shared her and the City’s concern over the impact all of this happening at once has had on the neighborhood, its residents, and its businesses. What’s happening in Collegetown is unprecedented, and most cities would do anything to see this much interest in development in their area; we’re living in a very exciting time of tremendous growth in Ithaca.


After JoAnn spoke and answered questions, a number of other City of Ithaca representatives shared the floor, including Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, Deputy Director of Economic Development Philly DeSarno, Superintendent of Public Works Mike Thorne, Director of Parking Frank Nagy, and the new Collegetown Construction Coordinator Lynne Yost.


Mayor Myrick acknowledged that much could have been done differently with current and recently completed projects, especially as they impacted local businesses, pedestrian, and vehicle access. He reiterated that he and his staff are committed to making improvements for projects this coming year, and that is shown in the creation of a brand new City of Ithaca Collegetown Construction Coordinator position, recently filled by Lynne Yost.


Mike Thorne answered a question as to why Dryden Road is still closed most of the time. There’s a lot to it, but a portion of it has to do with street and sidewalk permits, which the City of Ithaca just increased significantly. The new, higher rates will encourage contractors to get off of the streets as soon as possible and whenever possible.


Updates on what to expect regarding municipal and utility projects were also shared. NYSEG will be working on gas and electric lines underneath College Avenue this summer, on both the east and west sides between Dryden Road and Mitchell Street. They haven’t said yet which end they’ll start at, nor have they provided a start date, but Mike said he expects the work to start in June … though that could change. Water and sewer work will also have to happen on College Avenue, but that likely won’t be until 2019/2020 because the lines from Mitchell Street to The Commons have to be upgraded first to support College Avenue upgrades.


The Stewart Avenue bridge will be closed for about three months this summer. There’s work needed on it that can’t be postponed. Traffic will be detoured, which will mean increased traffic on the College Avenue bridge.


To wrap up the meeting, Michele Pothen, Chair of the City and Local Affairs Committee for Cornell’s Student Assembly, presented information on the Summer in Ithaca Fair, designed to connect students with opportunities in Ithaca to encourage them to spend summers here.  She also talked about the Homeplate Program which connects students with local families to give them some familiarity while they’re away from home … and maybe a home cooked meal now and then.


Copies of the handouts, including maps of anticipated development, details on new projects coming soon, and the new fee schedule for road and sidewalk permits, are available at Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, 206A Dryden Road in Collegetown. 


When it’s all said and done, we have to remember that all of this development and related infrastructure improvement in Collegetown is going to lead to truly amazing, wonderful things for our area. The growing pains are difficult, and sometimes it’s difficult to see the tremendous potential through the overwhelming dust. But we are well on our way to becoming an urban destination once again–the hot ticket neighborhood in a hoppin’ city full of amazing people.


Our profound gratitude goes to everyone who presented and participated in Tuesday’s Collegetown Neighborhood Council meeting, with special thanks to the council’s organizers and to St. Luke’s for graciously hosting. Collegetown is full of great people, incredible small businesses, and unlimited potential; we encourage everyone to visit soon, have dinner at one of the delectable restaurants, get your hair done at one of the fabulous salons and barber shops, ship a package, buy a greeting card, grab a coffee, munch on a bagel, and see for yourself the progress happening on every corner.


#Collegetown #Ithaca #HereWeGrowAgain

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