News Tidbits 4/29: Massive New Development Slated for Collegetown

29 04 2009

This is a very large project for this area. The proposed location is in southwest Collegetown, an area currently occupied by mostly student houses, with a couple small apartment complexes already in the area.


The Collegetown Terrace Apartment project would remove almost all buildings in the area bounded by Valentine Place, East State Street, Quarry Street and Six Mile Creek, and replace them with 1,100 new rental beds.

Developer John Novarr presented plans for the massive, 16-acre project at Tuesday night’s city Planning and Development Board meeting.


The historically designated Quarry Arms, Casa Roma and Boiler Works Apartments buildings would remain on the site, said Kathryn Wolf, principal with Trowbridge & Wolf. Every other building on the site would be removed, she said.

The area now houses 650 rental beds, and when completed, there would be 1,250 beds and 820 parking spaces, Novarr said.

Novarr explained his long history with East Hill, beginning with growing up in Collegetown, to his purchase of land from Ithaca College in 1982, to his decision in the last couple years to buy the last 14 properties in the site area.

Novarr said that by 2007, he had already purchased several properties on the 800 block of East State Street and planned to begin re-developing them into apartments when the city’s Collegetown moratorium went into effect.

The year-and-a-half moratorium forced him to think about long-term planning, resulting in the Collegetown Terrace Apartments concept, Novarr said.

The project will meet the four-story height limit required by zoning on East State Street, but the developer will seek height variances to allow taller buildings as the land slopes downward toward Six Mile Creek, Wolf said.

The project would “meet or exceed” existing parking requirements, she said.

Parking would be placed in one or two stories on the ground floor, with apartments above, based on drawings presented to the planning board.

Above-ground pedestrian walkways would connect some of the buildings.

The project will come before the Planning Board again in May.


The proposed location, with rough boundaries of the site in question.


Trowbridge and Wolf is the firm responsible for the design of West Campus and the Health and Science building at IC, so they’re a fairly reputable choice [1].

In other news, the Ithaca Hotel is up to 124 rooms and 12 stories, according to the April 28, 2009 Planning Board minutes. Two outparcels are to be built near Uncle Wally on the flats (a drive thru restauant and another retail parcel, totaling 11,00 sq. ft and 17,000 sq ft), a 25,000 Maine’s warehouse to be built at the south edge of the city on Commercial Drive, and an eco-friendly three-dwelling development off of the 500 block of Aurora Street that is to be marketed as a co-op.


Trouble At “The Castle on the Rock”?

20 04 2009


EDIT – So, they’re not going dry or closing, but they are reorganizing. Their Recruitment Chair was kind enough to offer an explanation on the validity of the rumors in the comments section.

Normally, I shy away from rumors, but this one has been persisting for some time, and so I’m going to address it now so that hopefully fact can be pulled from the fiction.

Naturally, this deals with the Greek system that has been the topic of many an entry. This is the story that rumor mill has supplied me, with little variation, from four seperate sources:

Beta Theta Pi will be either closing or going dry at Cornell University. Rumor mill claims that their alumni visited them on a Tuesday to find many of the brothers drunk, and they weren’t too happy. Apparently they were given the ultimatum to either go dry or disband. At this point, two sources said they’re going dry and half the brothers deactivated, and the other two sources said the fraternity is closing completely.

This vague passage from their website doesn’t help matters: [1]

“2009 marks a new chapter in the history of our great house. Reorganized, reenergized, and refocused, we are committed to developing worthy individuals to be the best that they can be.”

I think it’s a shame if their’s truth to the closing. Beta has been at Cornell uninterrupted since 1879 (it changed it name over after the original fraternity, Alpha Sigma Chi, merged with Beta Theta Pi [1]).

Not too surprisingly, the brothers I know in that house are staying fairly quiet about the whole situation, apart from saying that they have been having some problems lately that are being addressed. I s’pose is there was any truth to the rumors, I’d be keeping a low profile too.


News Tidbits 4/16/09: Little Ithaca Grows Up

17 04 2009

Looks like Ithaca’s downtown area is seeing some long awaited expansion.

Major downtown construction projects are slated to move forward this year, a sign of Ithaca’s relative resilience in troubled economic times, city officials say.

The Hotel Ithaca project at the eastern end of The Commons should break ground this fall, and construction is scheduled to start by summer on the Cayuga Green condominiums between the Cayuga garage and Six Mile Creek, Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said.

This summer should also see the completion and opening of the new Cinemapolis in the ground-floor of the Green Street garage and Urban Outfitters on the ground-floor of the Cayuga Green apartment complex.

Hotel and condos

The $30 million, 100-room Hotel Ithaca project this month received city approval for zoning variances, and Common Council approval to jut several feet over the top of the Green Street garage. It’s scheduled to come for site plan review to the Planning and Development Board April 28.

The $12 million, 7-story Cayuga Green luxury apartment/condo project is the last piece of the years-long Cayuga Green downtown development. It already has needed approvals.

Ferguson said when he talks with fellow economic development planners around the state, “they’re just green with envy.”

“One, we’ve been planning them for some time so it’s not like these are just popping out of the ground. But secondly, while the economy’s been rough, this still is a very strong economy relative to other parts of the state, other parts of the country,” he said. “I think this malaise, if you will, is worse in a lot of other places and actually makes Ithaca look even more attractive to people.”

Bankers still seem to have faith in Ithaca, said Phyllisa DeSarno, deputy director for economic development for the city. This is evidenced by the fact that Cayuga Green developer Ken Schon has retained his financial backing.

“We were all crossing our fingers . . . because so many developers are losing their funding and banks are not going with projects,” she said. “But he said it does not look like that’s going to be his issue. He is moving ahead.”

The Hotel Ithaca was proposed to go up to the limit of 85 feet allowed by zoning, but the project developer received approval to go up an additional 21 feet, in order to enclose the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Under the city’s zoning, that kind of equipment is never considered part of a building’s height.

“This was a very, very major coup, really,” DeSarno said. “We were so thrilled that this happened because it sets a bar now I think for other developers, other builders to do something about mechanicals, which are really such a blight. When you’re coming off any of the hills, coming down from Ithaca College or Cornell (University), it’s going to be so much more aesthetically nice to have that screening there.”

The rooftop enclosure will also include meeting and conference space “to offset the cost of the structure,” according to information provided to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.


Construction continues on the future homes of Cinemapolis and Urban Outfitters on either side of Green Street.

Cinemapolis is scheduled to open in late May, potentially in conjunction with Ithaca Festival, said Lynne Cohen, one of the executive directors of Seventh Art, which oversees Cinemapolis.

Construction is scheduled to be complete in about a week, then all that will be left is to paint and install seating, projection equipment and refreshment equipment, Cohen said.

“With a little imagination, you can see what the theater’s going to look like,” she said.

Compared to the existing Cinemapolis theaters in Center Ithaca and at Fall Creek Pictures, the new location will have “fewer seats but better allocated,” Cohen said.

Cinemapolis’ contract at Fall Creek Pictures runs through the end of this year, but Seventh Art has not yet decided whether they’ll continue showing films there once the new location opens, said Rich Szanyi, Cohen’s husband and another Seventh Art executive director.

Tsvi Bokaer, founder of Fall Creek Pictures, could not be reached for comment.

Urban Outfitters, which will occupy the eastern half of the ground floor under the Cayuga Green apartments, is on schedule to open July 2, project architect David Levy said by email.

“Now obviously Urban Outfitters will be a big draw and all of the neighbors around Urban Outfitters, including The Commons, will benefit from them being here,” DeSarno said.

Ithaca will be the second Upstate New York location for college-age focused Urban Outfitters. The other is in Buffalo.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit also plans to rent space on the ground floor of the apartments, and Schon is in discussion with two local small businesses about filling the remaining area, DeSarno said.

“Obviously there are cuts throughout our city and the county in our businesses and in our employers,” she said. “But we certainly, like Bob Sweet from National Development Council always says to me, ‘(Ithaca is) an oasis amongst a muck and mire.’ ”

The Hotel Ithaca was proposed to go up to the limit of 85 feet allowed by zoning, but the project developer received approval to go up an additional 21 feet, in order to enclose the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Under the city’s zoning, that kind of equipment is never considered part of a building’s height.

“This was a very, very major coup, really,” DeSarno said. “We were so thrilled that this happened because it sets a bar now I think for other developers, other builders to do something about mechanicals, which are really such a blight. When you’re coming off any of the hills, coming down from Ithaca College or Cornell (University), it’s going to be so much more aesthetically nice to have that screening there.”

The rooftop enclosure will also include meeting and conference space “to offset the cost of the structure,” according to information provided to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.


For the record:


Red box is part of the Hotel Ithaca site, green box is the Cayuga Green Condos site. Cayuga Green Apts, shown as under construction in this map, are where Cinemapolis and Urban Outfitters are going to be located. As Mr. Nagowski noted, Cinemapolis will be in the garage side of the construction area. Urban Outfitters is on the first floor of the apartment building.

Hotel Ithaca proposal:

Cayuga Condos

For reference, the height of Seneca Place is 121 feet, according to Emporis. The new apartment building on Green Street is 60 feet.

The Essentials of Campus, Part I

10 04 2009

I decided to do a blog piece on some of the more important assets to our campus because I was working on a project yesterday and discovered that I had no entry that really discussed Bailey Hall. I figured I might fix that now.


Liberty Hyde Bailey Hall. The building was designed by Edward M. Green, Class of 1878 [1]. The building was first opened in June 1913 and intended for use by state college students, and for Farmer’s Week gatherings. It’s namesake, L.H. Bailey (1856-1954) was the first dean of the College of Agriculture at Cornell [2].

One if the original centerpieces of the building was a luxurious organ that was paid for largely by Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist [1]. The organ was mostly a gift for A.D. White’s 80th birthday in 1912.

One story from Bishop’s work concerning the history of the building might strike a note with some passionate politicos today. Back during WWI, an Austrian violinist named Fritz Kreisler played at Bailey. Unfortunately for him, the citizens of Ithaca weren’t as willing as the university to let him play a performance:

“The Hill prided itself on its broad-mindedness, its humanity above all nations and nationalisms. Fritz Kreisler, the Austrian violinist (who had played in Bailey Hall in October 1917, before an enthusiastic capacity audience), was again invited for a concert on 11 December 1919. But downtown a fervid patriotism reigned. The American Legion had condemned in national convention the appearance of any German or Austrian performer. Ithaca’s Mayor called on all patriotic citizens to stay away from the concert. Nevertheless Bailey Hall was packed, the front seats being conspicuously occupied by the football team. In mid-concert about eighty hoodlums, as the Sun termed them, cut the lighting circuit and tried to invade the hall. The students rose and fought. A large band returning from a basketball game took the invaders in the rear. Kreisler, unperturbed, played on in the din of the Battle of Bailey Hall. President Schurman took his stand beside the performer. A volunteer leaped to the stage with a flashlight for the accompanist. The invaders were magnificantly repelled, to the strains of Viotti’s Concerto in A minor. No tumult since Nero’s time has had such a fine violin accompaniment.” (433-34) [1 , 2]

The building has also had some other uses apart from an auditorium. Plant pathology was taught in the basement in the 1920s [2]. A CFCU branch used to be located in the back of the building. Today, since it’s the only academic building that has the size to host it, Prof. Maas’s PSYCH 101 is taught within its vast walls.

As originally configured, Bailey seated 1,948 people. However, as a result of wider seats and handicap access was installed during the renovation, that number shrank to 1,324 [3].

The plaza was installed only about a year and a half ago, a nice complement to the building. Originally, the Minns Garden was up here, and then that was replaced with a full parking lot towards the mid 20th century.



Yes, both photos are mine…taken about five months apart. That tells you how hesitant I was to write up the history of Sage Hall. For this, much of the information will be pulled from Bishop’s history of Cornell, with page citations in parentheses.

The best place to start, of course, is at the beginning. The building was originally known as Sage College, and it was an all women’s dorm. The building was the architectural pride of campus when it was completed in 1875 (98), designed by Charles Babcock, an architecture professor at Cornell. Prior to that, campus was the Old Stone Row, Casca and West Sibley; gray stone buildings that, while imposing, were utilitarian; Goldwin Smith once remarked “nothing can redeem them but dynamite”.  The proposal for the building came while A.D. White was debating whether or not to accept a government post in Greece; the plan for Sage to endow this grandiose structure led him to reconsider (103).

The original endowment by Sage was in the amount of $250,000. The building’s design allowed for all the living needs of 150 to 200 lady students (148). Originally, the Botany and Horticulture department were to be housed here as well, since they were a subject that was “so suitable for young ladies”. The proposal for Sage was formally launched on February 13, 1872. Also that fall, sixteen women applied to Cornell, and our first female graduate, Emma S. Eastman, graduated in June 1873 (she married a classmate and went on to become a famous suffrage lecturer). By 1874, there were 37 women.

Meanwhile, in May 1873, the cornerstone was laid for Sage College by Mrs. Sage. The cornerstone is particularly interesting because of a commotion caused during Sage’s renovation in 1997. Workers were renovating near the cornerstone when they discovered  a heavy metal box with letter placed inside it, bearing Ezra Cornell’s opinion on the status and future of coeducation [4]. Naturally, this discovery, while somehwat expected, raised quite a commotion on the campus, because no one had ever read the letter except Ezra Cornell himself. The full text of the letter can be found in the link. Long story short, he supported women’s education.  Cornell had never shared his opinions about educating women before he passed away in 1874, so no one ever knew how he particularly felt until that letter was opened 124 years later.

To quote Morris Bishop (who wrote his book in 1962): “When at length the day of Sage College is done, may some historian remember these words and rescue the tin box from the demolishers!” (149)

Sage opened in 1875 to about 30 female occupants. The building rented out to fifty male boarders its first year, who often ate with the women, striing up trouble in the process (the Sage College manager makes special note of the extremely demanding gentlemen boarders from Psi Upsilon). Between 60 and 70 women live there for each year for the rest of the decade (208), and dropped back down to 30 by the early 1880s (246). Sage closed its doors to visitors at 10 PM, and flirtatious dances were highly frowned upon. The first panty raid took place in 1878, when men broke into the Sage laundry, snatched the ladies’ underclothing and threw it from the steeple of nearby Sage Chapel (209).

By 1881, the decline in numbers at the ladies’ dorm had caused Sage to doubt whether it should continue to exist. In letters to A.D, White, he floated the idea of turning it into an art museum, libary, or engineering building (247). Fortunately for women, Sage was completely full by 1891 (300), and women were no longer required to live in Sage. Many of our sororities, such as Delta Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta, had their starts in Sage College.

Alas, by the mid 1990s the building had worn down with time. The last dorm residents (co-ed since the 1930s) moved out in 1995, and the building was given to the Johnson School for renovation in 1996. The renovation and addition was desinged by Alan Chimacoff, a Cornell alumnus [5]. The $38 million renovation was completed in August 1998.

Today, The Johnson Graduate School of Management resides in the building, with an atrium, class space, meeting areas, and Sphinx Head’s meeting room (supposedly).




[1] History of Cornell, Morris Bishop, P. 362





The Case of Two Different Fraternities of the Same Name

5 04 2009

So, I’ll open up this topic by saying that while some of the work is my own, a lot of the research was done by a friend of mine  named A.C., so I’ll start by giving him credit for going through some of the research and sharing it with me so that it could be published onto this blog.

First of all, the case is really old. This dates back to over one hundred years ago, in the 1890s. The fraternity in question is the Alpha Zeta fraternity on Thurston Avenue. According to their website, the Cornell Chapter was established in 1901.

Then we have the following article from a Daily Sun blurb in 1890:


That’s discrepency number one. Number two is that the current Alpha Zeta at Cornell is a co-ed aggie house. There’s nothing about being limited to western hemisphere non-European speakers of Spanish and Portugese (essentially, Latin America).

The following is a list of fraternities on Cornell Campus published in the Sun in May 1892:



Apparently, this ethnic Alpha Zeta lived at Cascadilla Place. Also, a few side comments – Huestis Street is now College Avenue, women lived in Sage College and as a result all the sororities were based there, and most of the houses were in the Collegetown-State Street corridor because that was between the campus and the boarding houses in the city where most male students lived.

Now, here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received from A.C.


“Hello B.,

Here’s some information on the other Alpha Zeta.

From the Cornellian, it was active from January 1st 1890 to at least 1893.
It likely ended in 1894 when their youngest members graduated and they did
not have any new initiates.”


Therefore, we can make a logical conclusion. In 1890, an Alpha Zeta was founded at Cornell for non-European spanish and portugese speakers, perhaps a predecessor to the modern Latino fraternities of Lambda Upsilon Lambda and Lambda Theta Phi. However, if it closed in the mid 1890s, then there were no more Alpha Zetas in existence, and the name was free to be use. A few years later, the Cornell Chapter of the agricultural Alpha Zeta was opened, and we end up where we are today.

So, with regards to a incident happening where they were both on campus at the same time, that would not have been permitted. However, if there are local fraternities that lay claim to the name before a national tries to move in, then the national would probably have to negotiate a name change for the local.