This column was written by Brian Crandall, who runs “Ithacating in Cornell Heights.”

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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Back in August, I wrote a story about how a student competition was held in the early 1980s to design the mixed-use building currently standing at 409 College Avenue. It appears that someone liked the idea and decided to launch a competition of their own.

The property

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the competition is to design a replacement for 313-317 College Avenue, a property owned by local developer/landlord Lambrou Real Estate since the late 1970s. (Cornellians of my late 2000s vintage will remember this building for housing Dino’s Bar and Grill.)

In previous years, it’s also held a grocer (1920s), a furniture store (1950s), a record store (1970s), and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant (1990s). Finding the original construction date of the building has been difficult (I’d guess ca. 1910, since it’s missing from this 1906 photo but it’s definitely an older style), and it appears substantial renovations occurred in the mid 1970s, likely the porthole windows on the fourth floor.

Because of the heavy alterations borne by the storefronts and top floor over the years, the building has lost much of its historic value.

From a zoning standpoint, the building is in the densest Collegetown zone, MU-2. That entails a mandatory mixed-use component (usually interpreted as commercial space on the first floor), the building can occupy almost all the lot except for a rear setback of 10 feet, and no required parking.

The building must be between 4 and 6 floors, and 45′-80′ tall, with a flat roof. 313-317 College already occupies most of its lot footprint, so the area of the new building wouldn’t be a big change, but the addition of a few more floors would make for a greater visual impact. More likely than not, there will be student apartments from floors 2-(4 or 5 or 6).

The student competition

Speaking specifically about the competition, it’s open to any member of the Cornell community, student, faculty or staff, and has been underway for a couple weeks.

Sketch plans were due Wednesday, February 18th, final plans/schematics April 7th, and the winner will be announced May 17th. The call for proposals asks for sustainability as a design theme, so an emphasis on “green” features is expected in the submissions. The judges panel will consist of Lambrou Real Estate, AAP professors yet to be chosen, and Ithaca Student Housing, which is also staffed by the Lambrou Family (different branch maybe?). No word yet if there’s a cash prize for the winner.

Just like 409 College over 30 years ago, this is a win-win for everyone involved. The winner gets exposure and a pretty big project to claim on their resume. The Lambrous get a project at a fraction of the design cost of an architectural firm. I hope to see and share some of the proposals as they become available.

For more, this is from Ithaca Student Housing:

Collegetown is gross. Let’s fix that.

Here’s a chance to rebuild Collegetown the way YOU want it.

Ithaca Student Housing is hosting a campus-wide design competition, open to anyone affiliated with Cornell University. The winning design WILL be used for a new apartment complex near College Avenue and Dryden Road.

Our goal is to design the most eco-friendly and sustainable building that New York State has seen to date, and we are challenging the Cornell body to make it happen.

We’re encouraging architects, engineers, and business students (and faculty) alike to team up, and reinvent Cornell off-campus housing.

Courtesy of the design competition website

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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.