ITHACA, N.Y.—It’s been in the works for a couple of years, and the plans are finally making their big debut. In a release Wednesday morning, Cornell’s revealed its newest Computer and Information Science (CIS) academic building to the public.

The new building, unnamed but intended for use by the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, would be built on what is currently the site of Hoy Field. A new baseball diamond is under construction in the town of Ithaca near East Hill Plaza.

The university has allocated $100 million towards the project according to its 2021-22 Fiscal Year Budget. It states in the report that the amount is covered entirely by private donations. In 2020, Bowers, a 1959 Cornell graduate, donated $100 million to the school that now bears her name. Bowers was an early executive of now-software giant Intel and was one of Apple’s first vice presidents in the 1980s.

Readers may be curious as to why another building is needed, as Bill and Melinda Gates Hall, the current CIS building, isn’t that old — the building was completed in 2014. The simple answer is that the program has been growing by leaps and bounds. According to the university, the program has experienced a six-fold increase in enrollment over the past decade, and recently passed the milestone of 2,000 student majors

The new four-story, “L”-shaped building will be located to the south of Gates Hall, and the two building will be attached by a structural bridge. Cornell plans to create an open landscaped green space around the building that will provide a place for gathering and events, effectively creating a mini-quad for the Bowers CIS school. Rhodes Hall, which houses parts of Bowers CIS program, as well as the engineering school’s Upson and Duffield halls, will be visible from the building and its landscaped areas.

The ground floor of the new building will contain multiple entrances and relocate Gimme! Coffee from Gates to the new building. The ground floor will also host a large common area for gatherings, large classrooms, and labs. The upper floors will house research and administrative offices, more research labs, collaboration spaces and meeting rooms.

Plans have yet to be reviewed by the City of Ithaca, but the project falls within the U-1 University Zoning, which gives Cornell a large degree of flexibility in designing new academic additions to its campus. Being towards the middle of the campus and away from neighboring property owners helps to limit the aesthetic and historical resource debates that sometimes pop up during Site Plan Review.

With a relatively smooth review process in mind, Cornell hopes to have approvals for the new building in time to start construction in early 2023, with the buildout occurring over a two-year period.

Cornell has tapped Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Architects to design the new building. Landscape architecture firm Olin Studio of Philadelphia will handle the landscaping and exterior public spaces.

Brian Crandall

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