News Tidbits 10/25/12: Harold Square Is Big, Boxy and…Big.

25 10 2012

Well, if I have any right to brag…I’m just going to leave this here. At least I have proven that I’m fairly good at what I write about.

Now, onto what’s actually important. This project is massive. There are few private non-institutional buildings to compare it to in Ithaca. Seneca Place is about as close as one gets dimensionally, but that building is retail, with office and hotel on the upper levels. Harold Square, with its $30 million price tag, will have 60 to 70 apartments, 126,000 sq ft of office space, and retail on the ground floor. At 11 floors and~135 feet, it is a rough tie with the other tallest non-campus building in the county, Titus Tower. As previously mentioned, a building that size would need a zoning variance.
The building would be situated on the Commons, and remove three under-utilized structures (red box): the former Race Office Supply Building, the Night and Day Building, and the former Harold’s Army-Navy Store between them. The developers’ father ran the Army-Navy store for over 30 years and renamed it after himself; and this is from which the project gets its name. The Home Dairy and Benchwarmers  (technically, the Sage Block and W.H. Miller Buildings; yellow box below) would be preserved and renovated.

The Commons Side of the building will be four stories of office, more conservatively designed to fit in with the other Commons structures. It’s fairly standard glassy box with a brick veneer, adding some interest by making the middle third 3 floors and the sides four floors. [Update 11/09] The low-res image below comes out of The Ithacan.

The other side…is something else. It would be easier to post renderings, but that’s not okay since the IJ became a subscribers-only site, and I’ll have to wait until a public/free outlet releases them. But I can offer one source – google “harold square ithaca”. The IJ was bound to let some image out for public eye, even if it isn’t for free access (Like with Cascadilla Landing, as soon as free use images become available, I will put them up here). Edit 11/08: And thanks again to the Ithacan for this rendering:

It’s…well, to me anyway…it’s not pretty. It’s big, certainly. But it’s a bit…out of place in Ithaca’s downtown, in my opinion. The design is by Chantreuil, Clark & Jensen of Rochester, who mostly do renovations, but do seem to get their blood flowing with the occasional modern new-build (most of their clients appear to be higher ed; no surprise here). It’s a little more avant-garde than the other modern boxes planned, like the Marriott, Holiday Inn and Cayuga Green. And I don’t know how well a box with a gigantic metal overhang above its top floor will age, let alone a giant exposed metal truss on the southeast corner.  The Commons side is appropriate enough, but I don’t find the south side, with the tower, especially eye-pleasing. Probably because it has misaligned windows, it’s already on my crap list. But, as anyone who’s followed this blog is aware, I’ve never been a huge of modern architecture. So, to each their own.

So, with regards to a time frame, the developer is looking to have the Commons side completed by summer 2014, and the tower at some date thereafter. The developer plans the construction of the building to coincide with the reconstruction of the Commons. That’s assuming it jumps through all the variances it needs, and the Planning Board appreciates modern architecture. If Collegetown Terrace was any indicator, this will not be the final design, so it’ll be worth seeing how this evolves before final site approval is granted.

A New Proposal For Ithaca’s Downtown?

18 10 2012

This month’s planning board agenda doesn’t cover anything I haven’t already mentioned…except for one item giving a sketch plan (the first stage of proposals):

F. Harold Square (Downtown Mixed‐Use Project), David Lubin ― Sketch Plan

Okay, technically two items, because Wal-Mart Plaza (South Meadow Sqaure) wants to add more retail space. But this Harold Square project is far, far more intriguing.

A thorough search for any online documents for this project reveals as much as closing your eyes. However, David Lubin does have an appropriate background – he sits on the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and is employed as the President and CEO of L Enterprises, a real estate development firm based out of Elmira. Google Maps indicates it’s an LLC (Limited-Liability Company, a common feature of development firms) based out of a suburban office building next to the Arnot Mall, and likely developed several green-friendly chain hotels in the Elmira area. So, one could sum this up as the head of a medium-sized, regional developer.

“Downtown mixed-use” is a pretty tempting phrase. Mixed-use would likely be commercial, with residential on upper floors. The commercial may be hotel, as the developer has previously had experience with, or office, with service/retail on the ground floor. Depending on location and size of parcel, the building could legitimately reach 120 feet / 10-12 floors, but given that most of downtown Ithaca’s zoning is a little shorter, 60-100 feet, 5-8 floors (taller floor plates for commercial applications) would be more likely. This is potentially big project for the city, and certainly one to keep an eye on as it goes before the planning board next week.

News Tidbits 10/11/12: Kappa Sigma Reopens its Doors

11 10 2012

Even though I’m old and way out of touch from Greek Life (apart from the overly sentimental newsletter I get each semester from my fraternal alma mater), I’m sharing this because it happened my last semester at Cornell. From the Cornell Daily Sun:

After being shut down for more than two years, the Cornell chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity was recently reinstated on campus.

According to Brett Musco ’13, the fraternity president, Kappa Sigma lost its charter from its national chapter in Spring 2010 after violating sanctions that the chapter imposed on them.

A year and a half before it was shut down, the Cornell chapter of Kappa Sigma was found in violation of its national organization’s “risk management policy” and told that it could no longer host events with alcohol, Associate Dean of Students for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Travis Apgar told The Sun in May 2010.    The fraternity was also required to have any events approved by a regional manager from the national organization, according to Apgar.

When it was discovered that the fraternity hosted an unregistered party with alcohol, the chapter was shut down by the national organization for breaking Kappa Sigma sanctions.

The fraternity house, a property on 600 University Ave., is owned by Cornell and was renovated and turned into student housing by the University for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years. However, it was agreed that if Kappa Sigma were ever reinstated on campus, fraternity members could occupy the building again, Musco said.

As part of the process of rebuilding the chapter, Kappa Sigma brothers petitioned for members of the classes of 2012 and 2013 –– who had been expelled from the fraternity –– to be reinstated as brothers.

“Once we got those core guys from those two years reinstated, we could become an interest group,” Musco said. “And then, from an interest group you become a colony, and we became a colony [in] July of 2011.”

According to Musco, while the chapter was not recognized by the IFC or the University, it still participated in rush events and informed potential members of their status.

Though it was not a chapter at the time, the Kappa Sigma colony –– or probationary body of brothers –– participated in formal rush in 2012, according to Musco.

After Rush Week, the members had to follow certain guidelines and submit a petition to regain its status as a chapter.

“A lot came down to learning from the mistakes that the older guys had made and the former chapter had made,” Musco said. “And a lot came down to recruitment and getting new guys to carry the fraternity.”

As a result of Rush Week, the majority of the fraternity’s membership comes from the Class of 2015, Musco said. Kappa Sigma will be participating in Rush Week in January 2013, he added.


So, this is an unusual case in the world of GLOs. The chapter was shut down by their national and lost recognition from Cornell. But, they were allowed to recolonize and petition for reinstatement. They also regained their house, because their agreement with Cornell allows them to move back in once they are reinstated (I like to imagine a closet in the dorm where they hid all the lettering and regalia). Now from here, it could go two ways – they fade into obscurity and failure a la Theta Chi in the early 2000s, or they build themselves back up and move on, like Psi Upsilon in 1979.

Speaking personally, about two-thirds of the people I’ve stayed in close contact with post-undergrad have been my old fraternity brothers. And I know that when something happens to the chapter that we don’t like, for instance a poor rush, we try and write it off as “it’s their house to run now”, but it still casts a bittersweet pall over our memories. So from an alumni perspective, I’m glad for their graduated brethren, and I wish them the best.

A “Nobel” Accolade

4 10 2012

In the proverbial confidence-measuring that is academia, one of the things that colleges and universities like to throw out there is the breadth and depth of their Nobel laureates. The reasoning is simple enough; it’s a measurement of prestige, and the caliber of alumni and faculty.

Cornell lays claim to 41 such folks, according to a fall 2009 issue of the Cornell Chronicle, and according to wikpedia, that number has held steady. Within those 41, 3 are current faculty, 13 are alumni, and the other 25 are former faculty (moved, retired or otherwise). The last recipient was Jack Szostak Ph. D ’77, who won the Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2009.

So let’s take a brief look at how Cornell stacks up against its peers: First, the top 20 schools, as compiled by U.S. News and World Report, since that tends to be the most commonly used ranking system:

U. Chicago
U. Mich
Johns Hopkins
UC Berkeley
Carnegie Mellon

Now their Nobel laureates:

Columbia 80 (or 97, depending on your definition)
U. Chicago 87
MIT 77
Stanford 54
Yale 49
UC Berkeley 47
Harvard 46
Cornell 41
NYU 36
Johns Hopkins 36
Princeton 35
Caltech 32
Penn 28
UW-Madison 19
U. Mich 19
Carnegie Mellon 18
Duke 12
Northwestern 8
Brown 7

Interestingly, U. Illinois-Urbana-Champaign has 26, but doesn’t appear in the top schools list from USNWR. International students may be annoyed at me for leaving of non-U.S. schools, and granted, there’s a few that have similarly high rankings and accolades. Forgive my blatant nationalism for the moment.

This exercise proves to me, on a very general level, that universities with Nobel affiliates tend to be more prestigious. However, there are some obvious issues- schools with large research programs tend to have more laureates, and we haven’t even explored the Nobel laureates per capita at each institution (an exercise in futility, since I would also require historical enrollement figures I don’t feel like digging for at the moment).

But whatever floats your boat Cornell P.R., and keep your fingers crosses at the next Nobel award ceremony.