ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s been a while since Cornell’s massive East Hill Village project has been on anyone’s radar, but it looks like concept plans are moving forward.

Readers may recall that East Hill Village is Cornell’s plan to reconfigure and expand East Hill Plaza into an entire community of homes, shops and offices. The 35-acre shopping center and surrounding properties would be redeveloped into a walkable neighborhood, with an eye towards Cornell faculty, staff and graduate/professional students.

The last community meeting was held back in May 2017. More than a hundred people attended to event, which was used to flesh out ideas, goals, and concerns to be addressed. People wanted to maintain the conveniences of the exiting plaza (the grocery store, local businesses), but also pressed to make better use of the large parking plot, better traffic flow and the addition of green features like solar panels. Other suggestions included family-friendly components like a playground, a wider variety of businesses (though attendees were lukewarm or opposed to chain stores), affordable housing, and housing accessible to those with special needs.

The current plans call for a week with informal discussions, formal presentations, and design meetings, called “charrettes”. On the evening of Monday April 9th will be an update on what Cornell and its partners have been doing over the past year with regards to the project, and a public discussion to refine its goals and objectives. A design open house intended to solicit feedback is planned for the evening of Wednesday April 11th. Thursday April 12th will present each design plan for the site, asking the public to weigh in on the pros and cons of each in order to establish a preferred choice.

People can attend one event, or all the events. All of the week’s activitieswill take place at The Space @ Greenstar at 700 West Buffalo Street. A schedule is also listed on the project website here.

On the one hand, Cornell and its partners have their goals – housing, financial returns on investment, and so on. But for what it’s worth, they have been willing to take community input and put forth something residents nearby are more comfortable with. It worked for Maplewood, at least. Larger, blockier apartment buildings were replaced with smaller and/or more traditional designs along Mitchell Street and next to the Belle Sherman Cottages.

The project team, “East Hill Village Partners”, consists of several major real estate players from across the country. Among them are Leyland Alliance, a mixed-use neighborhood developer from downstate, and Charter Realty & Development, a large-scale retail developer. EdR Trust, who is working with Cornell on Maplewood, will once again partner with the university for this project as a housing specialist. The three firms previously partnered on another large project, the 600-unit Storrs Center new urban neighborhood near the University of Connecticut.

Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh will coordinate the neighborhood planning and zoning, and local firm Whitham Planning and Design will serve as the local architectural consultant as the proposal navigates the town of Ithaca’s review process. Ithaca’s Brous Consulting will work on public relations and engagement.

Storrs Center, another project by members of the development team. Image courtesy of Leyland Alliance.

A copy of the text from the press release is included below:

COMMUNITY INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN DESIGN CHARRETTE FOR EAST HILL VILLAGE

ITHACA, N.Y. – The community is invited to attend a series of public sessions to continue conversations about the redevelopment of the East Hill Plaza area in Ithaca. The first public meeting was held on May 17th, 2017 and attracted over 140 community members who came together to learn about the process and to express their opinions about the East Hill Plaza area and the potential redevelopment.

Since May’s meeting the team has been studying the site, considering what we’ve heard, and preparing
to come back for a series of productive public sessions.

The project team is delighted to recommence with a week-long design charrette and invites
participation during public meetings and a design Open House. The charrette is a concentrated planning and brainstorming event with a design team, and involves intensive planning sessions, meetings, and production time.

The schedule includes:

Monday, April 9th from 6 to 8pm: This Public Meeting will provide an update based on the May 17th meeting, and will seek public input to establish design objectives for the project.

Wednesday, April 11th from 6 to 8pm: Studio Open House for the public to observe the work in progress and discuss ideas with members of the design team.

Thursday, April 12th, from 6 to 8pm: The Charrette Conclusion will include a presentation and summary of alternatives for the site created during the charrette, with an interactive discussion of the merits of each.

All events will take place at The Space at Greenstar at 700 West Buffalo Street.

Cornell University selected a team of developers, architects, and planners to begin the process for the
development of East Hill Village, with the goal of incorporating university, Town of Ithaca, and
community long-term visions for the area. The team, East Hill Village Partners (EHVP), is comprised of LeylandAlliance, EdR Collegiate Housing, and Charter Realty & Development, working with Urban Design Associates and Whitham Planning & Design. Cornell is the major land owner in the area with more than 35 acres of commercial and residential land potentially available for redevelopment.

Refreshments will be served at all events and parking is available. For more information, visit the project blogsite at www.easthillvillage.com, or contact Whitham Planning & Design at (607) 272-1290.

Brian Crandall

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