News Tidbits 1/8/09: Miracles Do Happen

8 01 2009

All I can say is, it’s about time.

ITHACA – Cornell’s Milstein Hall project will benefit Cornell and the public while minimizing negative impacts, Ithaca’s Planning Board decided.

The Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to grant preliminary site plan approval to the $54 million project that includes a new, 59,000-square-foot building that will connect Rand and Sibley halls and stretch over University Avenue toward the Foundry.

A new Central Avenue Parking Garage will also provide 199 parking spaces on three levels, two of them underground.

The project has been delayed for at least five years with various designs and, most recently, a dispute between the university and the city’s Board of Public Works over the proposal to place part of the building over University Avenue.

After months of disagreement, the university decided to use a cantilever design rather than columns, which would have required an easement from the city. Separately, Cornell and the city later agreed that Cornell would pay to rebuild and maintain the badly deteriorated University Avenue in exchange for the city’s decision to give up its public right of way on the road.

The planning board has been reviewing an environmental impact statement on Milstein for the past two months and has heard comments from Ithacans and Art, Architecture and Planning faculty and students for and against the project.

Cornell and those in favor of the project have argued that the additional space is needed to maintain the Art, Architecture and Planning College’s accreditation and to programmatically connect the three buildings.

Planning Board Chairman John Schroeder said the existing conditions leave the Foundry disconnected and looking “like a maintenance building.” Milstein Hall would move the center of activity more toward the middle, better linking the buildings, he said.

Those against the project have argued that the very modern design of Milstein Hall will be jarring next to the historic Rand and Sibley halls.

Ithaca’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will review historic preservation concerns related to the project at their meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14 in City Hall, 108 E. Green St. The commission would have to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness for Milstein Hall to be built, Acting Planning Director JoAnn Cornish said by e-mail.

Cornell also needs final site plan approval from the Planning Board, which could come at its Jan. 27 meeting, Cornish said.

John Gutenberger, director of community relations at Cornell, said if the final approvals are granted, construction could start by early spring. Milstein Hall is not subject to the university’s construction pause, he said.

The project would be complete by December 2010, project manager Andrew Magre said.


In other news, the massive (by Ithaca standards) development called “Carrowmoor” continues to clear the political hurdles. From the town of Ithaca’s 1/6/09 minutes:

Consideration of designation of the Town of Ithaca Planning Board to act as Lead Agency, and the determination of a Positive Declaration of Environmental Significance for the proposed Carrowmoor development project located off Mecklenburg Road (NYS Route 79), north of Rachel Carson Way, Town of Ithaca Tax Parcel No. 27-1-14.2, Agricultural and Medium Density Residential Zones.  The proposal includes the development of 400 +/- residential condominium units, a community center complex, up to 36,000 square feet of neighborhood oriented commercial uses, up to 32 living units in an elderly residential building, a child care center, and other mixed-use development on 158 +/- acres.  The project will also include multiple new roads and walkways, open recreation areas, stormwater facilities, and community gardens.  Town of Ithaca actions also include consideration of adoption of a proposed local law to enact a Planned Development Zone in conjunction with the Carrowmoor proposal.  The Planning Board may also begin discussions of the draft scoping document for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  John Rancich, Owner/ Applicant; Steven Bauman, Agent; Mary Russell, Attorney.”

Still some hurdles left though. The Planning Board must approve both the environmental review and site plan review before Carrowmoor could be built. The Town Board also has to pass a local law changing the zoning to allow for the project’s development.


No entries for the next week, as I’ll be mostly internet-less at a conference. For those of you planning to attend Rush Week, good luck and have fun.



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