ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s been a while since the Voice has done a traditional construction update photo gallery. That’s largely my fault – after last fall’s car accident, I became rather gun shy about driving around to take large quantities of construction photos.

However, time stops for no one, and nor does the construction taking place in and around Ithaca. This month will focus just on Ithaca, and will be broken into three parts. Part one will focus on Cornell.

Being a rainy day, take a few minutes out for yourself, pour yourself your comfortable beverage of choice, and dive in below.

Cornell Hoy Baseball Field (Ellis Hollow and Game Farm Roads)

It’s not much to look at right now, but to be frank, most of the construction here is arguably a form of landscaping. Cornell’s new Hoy Baseball Field is underway in the town of Ithaca near the intersection of Ellis Hollow and Game Farm Roads. The university has been planning for several years to develop most of the lands northwest of the intersection into a multi-sport athletic complex.

The project calls for the construction of a new baseball stadium with a synthetic turf field, dugouts, scorecard, and bleachers with seating for up to 500 visitors. The project also includes a 15,160 square-foot support building. The support building will contain team rooms, locker rooms, bathrooms and showers, a coach’s office, an umpire’s room, batting cages, storage space and a press box. A small 590 square-foot building will be built for spectator bathrooms. Landscaping includes lighting, parking for 80 vehicles, an entry driveway and stormwater facilities.

What’s underway right now could largely be described as site grading and prep. A baseball field needs to be level, after all, and bulldozers and grader are on site. The current Hoy Field was historically infamous for not being level. The photos above are from the direction of the soccer field, but over on the eLynah website, someone snapped the Ellis Hollow angle a few days earlier.

The plan is to have the new field ready for use in time for the 2023 baseball season. Stantec Consulting Services is assisting Cornell with the civil engineering work on the project, and the design work is by Philadelphia-based EwingCole, which has a specialty in designing athletic facilities. LeChase Construction is the general contractor in charge of buildout.

Wilson Lab / CHESS Synchrotron Expansion

Cornell’s high-energy particle research facility is building an addition. The state-of-the-art synchrotron and operating facility, collectively called the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), is constructing new lines for x-ray beams. Meanwhile, a new above-ground facility would house High-Magnetic Field (HMF) technology and be the first of its kind in an x-ray facility. You can read more about the science behind the plans in the Voice’s July 2021 writeup here.

The expansion project will add a two-story, 17,420 square-foot building, called the “New Experimental Hall”, next to the west wall of the existing laboratory, but still connecting to the existing synchrotron. Inside will be high-bay research space housing three new experimental x-ray beamlines with associated research hutches, and an overhead bridge crane. The site would also include the usual complement of access paths for pedestrians and vehicles, lighting, bioretention/stormwater facilities, bicycle racks and landscaping with native plantings. The project will also create about a dozen or so new permanent positions at the facility, which currently employs around 150.

As cutting-edge scientific research often is, the project doesn’t come cheap – construction and outfitting the expanded CHESS facility will clock in with a price tag of about $32.6 million. The site has been excavated and from the photos, foundation rebar with caps can be clearly seen, and the concrete foundation slab pour has just taken place. Cornell notes on its own webpages that they’re also deep drilling support piers given the largely subterranean nature of the synchrotron ring. In the webcam, you can see the particle accelerator tube next to the new building’s foundation.

The project is set to be operational by October 2023. SWBR Architecture, Engineering & Landscape Architecture is in charge of project design, and Streeter Associates is the project’s general contractor.

Cornell North Campus Residential Expansion

Cornell’s massive North Campus Residential Expansion has taken a large step forward with the opening of its three brand new dormitories. Located on what were previously athletic fields are Hu Shih Hall (429 beds), Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall (504 beds) and Barbara McClintock Hall (311 beds). These join Toni Morrison Hall (314 beds) and Ganędagǫ: Hall (pronounced Gah-NEH-dah-go, 577 beds), which opened last year. In case you’re wondering, these photos were taken the day before freshman move-in started.

The total clocks in at 2,135 beds, but those totals are from Welliver and differ slightly from Cornell’s – for instance, Cornell states Ganędagǫ: Hall has 564 beds and Toni Morrison Hall has 306 beds. Some of this could be because of Residence Hall Directors and faculty-in-residence, or, Occam’s Razor in action, perhaps one of the two sources is outdated. Secondly, note that 2,135 is a gross number, not net; about 32 or so beds were lost as the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house at 104 Sisson Place was bulldozed to make way for the project.

Ganędagǫ: Hall and Toni Morrison Hall have transitioned to sophomore housing, part of the university’s plans to house all sophomores on campus within the next couple of years. The three new dormitories serve as freshman units. Also included in the buildout is a 1,000 person dining hall in Toni Morrison, two cafés, (Crossings Café in Toni Morrison, and Novick’s in RBG, named for high finance bigwig and Class of 1982 alumna Barbara Novick), and any number of lounges, study areas, shared kitchen spaces, music practice rooms, and laundry facilities.  In total, it’s about 776,000 square-feet, about four times the space in Downtown Ithaca’s City Centre.

All five buildings share a generally similar architectural motif. Designed by ikon.5 Architects, they’re all boxy modern designs that use varying shades of terra cotta as well as some precast concrete and high-quality glazing in the connectors and entry areas. They also make use of a number of exterior courtyards, plazas and athletic facilities for the few months of the year that both classes are in session and winter and winter-lite aren’t upon us. Cornell intends to seek LEED Gold certification for all five buildings.

The $175 million project was built out by Montour Falls-based Welliver. By its estimate, Welliver’s crew put in 1,191,522 hours on the project.

A concept rendering of a new lounge space in Balch Hall.

Balch Hall Renovation

Not all of the North Campus Residential Expansion involved new buildings. Also in the works is a gut renovation of Balch Hall, Cornell’s all-women freshman dorm. While Balch is under renovation, the new Toni Morrison Hall served as the all-women’s dorm last year, and Barbara McClintock Hall is serving as the women’s dorm this year.

The “full-gut renovation” of Balch, which opened all the way back in 1929, includes replacing all the windows, replacing and rebuilding some gutters and non-structural exterior walls, general masonry repair new accessible walkways, landscaping and lighting improvements. On the inside will be four new elevators and modernized mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems. The interior reconfiguration would increase Balch’s student capacity from 436 to 470 beds, and the university hopes to obtain LEED Gold certification with the improvements in energy efficiency.

Along with the reorganization of rooms and the removal of outdated sink rooms and other bathroom fixtures, new lounges will be built onto each floor while preserving the existing lounge spaces, for a total of sixteen in the dormitory. The beloved Balch Arch, site of a thousand a cappella concerts, will be landscaped to allow for a sloped access path for improved accessibility, in addition to the stairs.

Goody Clancy Architects of Boston is in charge of design work, with local firm T.G. Miller providing the civil engineering work, and Cornell favorite Thornton Tomasetti of New York is serving as the sustainable design consultant. IBI Placemarking of Boston will be the landscape architect and The Whiting Turner Contracting Company is the construction manager. The project will wrap up in time for the Fall 2023 semester.

An artist’s rendering of Atkinson Hall, to be built on the north side of Tower Road overlooking the Cornell Botanic Gardens

What’s Coming Next

The next series of projects to get underway at Cornell include a series of new or expanded academic buildings. The new 104,000 square-foot Atkinson Hall, to be built east of the Ag Quad on Tower Road, will host several disciplines, including research space for environmental sustainability, public health, cancer biology, immunology and computational biology. Space for faculty and staff of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and a new Master of Public Health program are included in the building’s program components. A 2022-2024 construction timeframe is planned.

Meanwhile, the $30 million expansion to the Engineering Quad’s Thurston Hall is expected to get underway by January, also for a late 2024 completion. That 50,550 square-foot project has received approvals and is out for construction bids. The new modular Sprint Football facility has also been approved by the city, but appears to have missed its initial timeframe, having yet to begin construction.

Still in the review stages are plans for the 133,000 square-foot Ann S. Bowers Computer and Information Science Building. The project, part of a $100 million expansion of the program, will replace the current Hoy Field on Cornell’s Central Campus. Meanwhile, the exploratory borehole for Cornell’s Earth Source Heating project has reached its desired depth, about 9,800 feet underground. Tests are underway to determine the properties of the rock nearly two miles down to determine the feasibility of institutional-scale geothermal heating.

Brian Crandall

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