News Tidbits 7/22/10: Collegetown Terrace Goes Back to the Drawing Board (UPDATED)

22 07 2010

UPDATED: A sketch rendering of the new design has been released. Small, house-like apartments have designed along East State Street in place of buildings 2 and 4. Building 3 is still one continuous building, but the exterior breaks into subsections to minimize bulk and give the impression of multiple strcutures. The Delano House is still under consideration for preservation, but is more of a suggestion at this point (unless the preservation committee and the Common Council give it historic designation). I actually like it more than I did the original design. 

Also, Ithaca is getting a BJ’s Wholesale Club next to the Shops at Ithaca Mall, and a Tim Horton’s/Cold Stone Creamery is planned to be built near Buttermilk Falls. Which makes me wonder how mainstream Ithaca is going to become over the next few years.  

So, for those who might’ve been following the news over the past few months, it’s been no big secret that Novarr-Mackesey Group’s Collegetown Terrace project has been rather contentious, drawing crowds of angry neighbors to planning board meetings who were upset with the sheer size and scale of the project. In response, the planning board voted to promote rezoning (which is done by the city council) the part of the property along East State Street, which would heavily alter the project. Plus, it was recommended that historic designation be sought for the Delano House, a former nurses’ dorm. Of course, if these actions were taken, then Novarr’s lawyers would be having a field day filing a lawsuit against the city.  

Well, it seems as if that potential issue has been averted. Talks between the board and John Novarr have resulted in something of a compromise. In exchange for not rezoning the area, Novarr will submit a redesign that will allow thirteen separate structures on East State Street. This has been one of the most contentious aspects on the original design, that the three structures that were originally proposed made State Street feel like “a wall”, “prison” or “fortress”.  The original design schematics and proposal can be found here, in a 645-page PDF.  


Delano House, photo property of Novarr-Mackesey Properties


Therefore, buildings 2 and 4 will be completely redesigned as designated by the agreement. Building 3 will also be redesigned, but only the north half is affected. To what extent the plans will change regarding the landscape of the development and the other buildings is uncertain. Also, some of the Ithaca preservationists might still be trying to push for special designation for Delano House, which is at 113-115 Valentine Place. That space would be occupied by buildings 6 and 7, so I don’t see the issue being completely settled just yet. But at least the two sides are willing to compromise. Personally, while I like some of the aspects of the project, I’ve kinda felt indifferent due to the sheer size, and the design hasn’t exactly won over my heart (for the record, I still don’t dislike it as much as I dislike anything by Thom Mayne, so I feel no urge to go on a rant like I did with Gates Hall). But trying to make it a smooth transition and trying to at least appease the neighbors while increasing density – I consider that a step in the right direction.  

Whatever Happened to the CU ERL Project? (UPDATED)

14 07 2010

Renderings have been released through the Ithaca Journal’s website:

For reference, Riley-Robb Hall is in the upper level. This rendering is looking to the northeast. The cryogenic facility is to the upper right. More renderings can be found in the document attached to the main article.


About two years ago, I wrote an entry discussing the proposal of the Cornell University Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) X-Ray machine and how it was sechduled to start operation in 2011. Well, things kinda stalled when the Great Recession reared its ugly head far above Cayuga. In between compiling at my work computer, I decided to look at the the town of Ithaca’s latest planning board agenda. Lo and behold, it appears the project is back on. From the agenda:

Consideration of a revised sketch plan for the proposed Cornell University Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) project located north of the Pine Tree Road and Dryden Road (NYS Route 366) intersection, Town of Ithaca Tax Parcel No.’s 63-1-8.2, 63-1-2.2, 63-1-12, 63-1-3.1 and 63-1-3.3, Low Density Residential Zone. The proposal involves construction of an underground accelerator tunnel (14-foot diameter and +/- 1 km long), a cryogenic facility, and an extension to the existing Wilson Laboratory (+/- 185,000 gross square feet of building space). The project will also involve new stormwater facilities, parking, outdoor lighting, and landscaping. The Planning Board may also discuss the draft scoping document for the Environmental Impact Statement.

Now, long story short, the project consists of a massive extension to the Wilson Synchrotron and a large addition to the Wilson Lab, illustrated in the diagram (which I am virtually certain sure was designed by Munier Salem, as it shares similarities to his previous works and it’s part of an article he wrote for the Daily Sun back in the fall of 2008):

The article also goes into much greater detail about how it’s supposed to work; much more detail than I am going to go into here. Economically speaking, the project has considerable potential for the region: the University and project affiliates estimate over 200 jobs would be created and the facility would bring nearly a billion dollars in economic contribution in the five years of construction and ten years of operation. It’s certainly much better than the alternative, which would be the Synchrotron unit shutting down and taking away 200 jobs.

So, it’s good to see things are moving forward once again. Let’s hope that things can stay on track from here on out.

News Tidbits 7/9/10: Thom Mayne to Design Gates Hall

9 07 2010

I consider this a very bad sign.

According to the Chronicle, Gates Hall will be located on the parking lot north of Hoy Field. This may or may not include demolition of the Grumman Squash Courts, as the article doesn’t clarify that. It will also be about 100,000 square feet and have a construction cost around $60 million. So, among other things, this means I shouldn’t pay attention to Cornell’s budget statements as they relate to building size, since it suggested 70,000 sq ft. More importantly, the site has been moved from its original location behind Thurston Hall. Schematic designs are expected by December, with completion by early 2014.

Now, Thom Mayne is another “starchitect”; which is nice, but shouldn’t be the big idea that’s being touted. Mayne’s firm is a rather small but highly respected company named Morphosis Architects. Morphosis has made their name doing really edgy, deconstructivist designs.

Uh oh.

For those unfamiliar with architecture, here’s the proposal that Morphosis submitted for Milstein Hall:

 That’s Lincoln Hall on the left. This proposal called for the demolition of Rand Hall and this…monstrosity to be built in its place. This isn’t pretty. It won’t even grow on you. This is outright hideous. It reminds me of Lady Gaga’s outfits — screams for attention, but wholly lacking in taste and functionality. This building actually makes me like Uris Hall.

Some might argue that they were purposely edgy since it was an architecture school building they were designing. I would love to believe that, but unfortunately that’s untrue.


This is one of their tamest designs, the Cahill Center for Astrophysics at Caltech. It’s bearable maybe. It sure as hell isn’t attractive. I wouldn’t dare point this out to prospective students and visitors if I were a tour guide. At least Weill and Milstein are inoffensive. This is analogous to mooning a bus full of orphans.

The San Francisco Federal Building? Another statement-maker of the unattractive kind. Thom Mayne is a great architect, but his designs are more for making statements than for being attractive. I want to know why Cornell thinks edgy design is the way to go. Many people have a strong avoidance of deconstructivism, and if MIT’s Stata Center is any clue, these buildings are so much more prone to rapid deterioration. To each their own I suppose. But I have a sinking feeling that Gates Hall is going to be a architectural blight onto the campus.

The Keyword Bar VIII

2 07 2010

Don’t mind me, I’ve just been plodding away in a lab with mounds of satellite data and computer code. In the meanwhile, I decided to do another keyword bar update. In what could be described as a “math fail”, I somehow managed to go from VI to V in the past two keyword bar entries; apparently 6 is the new 4. I make blunders quite a bit in writing up entries; there’s probably not a single entry of decent length where there isn’t a typo or grammatical error. Most importantly, though, is that the subject material remains as accurate as possible. So, without further ado…

1. ” ‘quill and dagger’ spring 2002″ (7/1/10)

The best bet to finding who was in their Spring ’02 tapping class would be to find the archived version of the Daily Sun papers from that semester and digging through them. Sucks, but that’s the only “legal” way of going about it. The graduation paper from that May would list who graduated from Q&D in 2002, so if you can’t find it in the normal paper, the graduation issue from 2003 (because Spring classes are generally comprised of juniors) might also be useful.

2. “apartments above urban outfitters ithaca” (6/31/10)

Yup, about 68 of them. Kinda funny, the story behind those. If you google the same phrase as the user who came to this site, one of the first articles you come across is Jason Fane’s editorial that Cayuga Green will fail. The article was written while the apartment building was still in the proposal phases, in November of 2005. He said, in short: 1)There is no demand for nicer housing, 2)parking is too far, contributing to 3)no retail will want to locate there and the project will fail. Note that this is coming from the same guy who owns upwards of a thousand units of housing in the Ithaca area, including most of the larger buildings in Collegetown (Jason Fane is the owner of the Ithaca Renting Company). More importantly, note that this is a man who had just renovated and opened an 85-unit apartment building (the Cityview, which opened in 2004) right across the creek from the site. This is a man who had every reason to want the project to fail, because it could take away potential renters.

Not everything went to plan for the Cayuga Green project. The cinema was reduced to a five-screen and Cinemapolis signed in to the project, thus avoiding a movie theater glut in the area. The bus stop helps with retail, but there’s always been a bus stop near the site so that’s a moot point. The Palmer Pharmacy, the Gimme! Coffee shop, and Urban Outfitters, which is considered a huge score for a project in any city let alone Ithaca — were not supposed to happen, according to Jason Fane. Also, Gateway Commons just down the street is a luxury apartment building that was built in 2006/07. That should have failed as well if we follow Fane’s logic, but as far as I know it’s doing just fine. So here’s hoping he feels just a little burned by his own words right now. The condos have yet to start construction due to the recession market, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll start sometime in the near future.

3.  how to grow ivy frat house (6/30/10)

Speaking as someone who grew up in a house that has a large amount of ivy on and around it (not really as charming as you might think since my family lives in a little ranch house), it really just grows well enough in . The older the leaves the darker they usually are. Trellises of some sort along the wall definitely help it climb but they are not necessary. It’s a low-maitenence plants that in warm, moist conditions (like a summer in the northeast) grows like a weed. A climbing weed.

4. “ithaca record cold” (6/30/2010)

This one has been covered before, but it seems a bit buried within google. The record low in Ithaca is -25 F (-32 C), set twice — Jan. 16 1957, and February 2, 1961. Record cold varies; the lowest July temperature, for instance, was a brisk 38 F, set on July 8, 1963. The last of the coldest colds for a month was set in March 1993 (-17 F, on the 19th and during the epic blizzard of 1993) and the last of the warmest warms was 69 F on December 7, 1998.  Note this is not the same as average warmth; but just google the “northeast regional climate center” for more information.

5. ” cornell cals reputation” (6/29/10)

For most of its (24?) programs, it’s among the top ten in the country. For a few, such as atmospheric science, plant science and entomology, it’s in the top three. That’s from the Gourman Report, which is published by the Princeton Review. So academically it’s well respected.

Within Cornell, CALS tends to be downcast for being a bit more state school and a bit less cosmopolitan than the other colleges. But then, every school has their negative stereotypes (we all know about engineers hiding themselves away or how easy the hotel school is).

6. “oliver s. schaufelberger cause of death”


…Without meaning disrespect, I never wrote about how a student and three members of her family were killed in a car accident at the beginning of June, but that’s because it was a busy time period and I didn’t want to draw more attention to this blog for being a “list of death”, as one email put it.

EDIT: Someone asked that I take down the links and information that suggested a probable answer to the search query. I am only removing the statement out of politeness. But frankly, just because it’s no longer on this blog doesn’t make it any less plausible.

7. “gates hall 2012” (6-29-2010)

As a starting date maybe. Certainly not for completion. The reason for this is that a 70,000 sq ft building whose design hasn’t even been finalized, let alone approved by the city, would take, arguably, 12 to 18 months minimum (site prep is needed, and it’s a specialized building with sophisticated high tech components, so construction wouldn’t move all that fast). There’s nothing on the city’s planning board agenda that suggests this has come up to the board, and the building would take at least three months to get approvals. It won’t be starting anytime soon, so there’s unlikely to be completion by 2012. A start date during that year, however, is quite possible.