ITHACA, N.Y. — Most of the institution construction projects tend to be on East Hill, but Ithaca College has some plans of its own — the college is planning a major reconstruction of its Campus Center, which may take the form of a “gut” renovation, or a new campus center entirely.

The 120,000 square-foot building houses many of Ithaca College’s student services, amenities and campus community spaces, such as event rooms and dining facilities. The structure first opened in 1965 as the Egbert Union, after college founder and president W. Grant Egbert, and was expanded with the addition of Phillips Hall and rededicated in October 1987 as Campus Center.

However, in the 30 or so years since its last major renovation, the facility has grown outdated. The campus serves well over 1,000 more students than it did in 1987. The facility has poor internal circulation, and has experienced issues with overcrowding and heavy demand for its group spaces, and the dining facilities are filled to the brim. Along with program needs, the building’s windows, mechanical and roofing systems are nearing the end of their useful lives in the older wing of the facility. These systems are typically designed to last about 50 years, meaning that these utilities have degraded enough that they are at risk of functionally failing, and could create additional costs and safety risks until they are replaced. This doesn’t include cases beyond normal wear and tear – for instance, when students nearly bring the second floor down during a wild concert.

Ithaca College appears to have decided the time has come to bring its services and structural features into the 21st century, with a reconfigured interior to better support student-centered services and extracurricular groups, as well as a greater emphasis on structural sustainability. A Design Study for a potential Campus Center renovation was formally launched last fall. To help with this effort, the college has hired architectural firm QPK Design of Syracuse to engage with the campus community and formulate plans for what a reinvigorated Campus Center would look like.

The Ithacan reports that at the latest campus community meeting, the architects presented two plans, similar in scope but with different interior layouts. These plans called for the demolition of the existing building, and replacing it with a completely new structure, the argument being that the scale of renovations sought makes it more financially efficient to build a new Campus Center rather than doing a gut renovation of the existing facility.

The decision on whether or not to do a deep renovation to the current structure, or to build fresh and new, has not been made by the Ithaca College administration. Cost estimates and timelines also have yet to be explicitly defined. Any major structural changes, renovation or new construction, will need to be reviewed and approved by the town of Ithaca Planning Board.

The Design Study is expected to wrap up in the next few months, after which QPK will present their findings and schematic designs for the college’s administration, faculty and students to review before committing to any next steps in the process. It’s not clear if construction here will occur at the same time as the new Presidential Mansion, which has been in the works since the college decided to sell off the former mansion on Fountain Place in the East Hill neighborhood. That building is slated to become a Bed and Breakfast lodge.

Featured image by Rae Harris/The Ithaca Voice.

Brian Crandall

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