News Tidbits 5/6/14: INHS Wants “Woonerfs”

6 05 2014


I have to be honest, up to last night, I had no freaking clue what a woonerf was. It sounds like a children’s made-up word (ex. thingamigjig or doohickey; my brother used “pedewa”). But apparently, it’s a legit urban planning concept. Woonerf is Dutch for “living yard”, and is a type of “living street” where equal priority is given to cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians (the speed limit is no more than about 10-12 mph). They’ve seen substantial implementation in Western Europe since their introduction in the 1970s. The more I read about them, the more I get the impression that it’s a curious blend of a thoroughfare and a courtyard, or Ithaca Commons with vehicle traffic.

Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

I’m not inclined to look up new words without a purpose, and the reason this time around comes courtesy of the planning board of the town of Ithaca, with the following project up for review at the meeting on May 20th:

Consideration of a sketch plan for the proposed Greenways project located off Sunnyhill Lane and Strawberry Hill Road, Town of Ithaca, Tax Parcel No.’s 60-1-34.2 and 60.1-1-46.22, Medium Density Residential (MDR) and Multiple Residence Zones (MR). The proposal involves the development of 46 townhouse units west of Eastwood Commons, fronting woonerf-style roads that will connect Sunnyhill Lane and Strawberry Hill Road.The project will also include new parking areas, open space, recreation areas, trails, walkways, landscaping, outdoor lighting, and stormwater facilities. Cornell University, Owner; Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, Applicant; Peter Trowbridge, Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects, Agent.

Regular readers will recognize the name Greenways because I’ve latched onto this project and followed it with interest since first proposed about 18 months ago (one could argue I’ve beaten a dead horse here). The project was originally proposed with 67 units, but then dropped to 46 by the time updated specs were submitted in February. The site is still the same, seeking to use woonerfs to connect Sunnyhill Drive and Strawberry Hill Circle. Note that google is not correct here, the street labels are all botched up. An accurate map with the parcels outlined (copied from the county tax map) is included in the lede for this post. Given a preferred completion in October 2015, and that this project consists of 46 units of townhouse-style housing, it makes sense that it would be seeking planning board approvals now.

Image property of Greenways at Eastwood Commons

Image property of Greenways at Eastwood Commons

So make way for the woonerfs, I suppose.

EDIT 5/15: Now we have renders and site plans. It looks like the project will be built in three phases, and access to “Greenways Lane” will be primarily through Strawberry Hill Toad and Sunnyhill Lane. The “woonerfs” seem rather gimmicky in this context.








3 responses

6 05 2014
Cornell PhD

I like woonerfs as a concept, but is there even a point here? It’s not like these streets will be experiencing very much traffic. Seems like Ithaca is always after the latest progressive planning fad without realizing many of them were developed because they would be viable and/or necessary in much larger, denser cities. Just look at that Dutch city in the photo. Anyway, this isn’t really a problem with this proposal (the woonerfs here will really just be superfluous) but it is when people claim to want things like “walkability” but not with the residential and commercial density that really makes it possible.

Oh yeah, and also, the architecture in that rendering is hideous. I hope the architects up their game even a little bit here.

8 05 2014
B. C.

I’m going to take a guess that it has less to do with the traffic, and more to do with placating the surrounding landowners. People on Eastwood Avenue (the street directly west of the parcel) have vocally opposed any development of this property, as the original proposal had a tie-in to their dead-end road, and they did not want to be used as a thoroughfare (I’m aware of similar complaints coming out of Eastwood Commons, the neighboring townhome project). One of the arguments was that people would drive fast on their street and damage their quality of life. Without seeing any plans, my guess it that this reworked proposal still has a connection to that street, but the woonerfs are an a attempt to mitigate some of the complaint.

The rendering is from the first rendition, so the design may have changed. But it does look very similar to Claudia Brenner’s style, and she does a lot of work with INHS.

4 04 2015
News Tidbits 4/4/15: And They Called It “PlanIthaca” | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] have first dibs on the units as they hit the market. The property also makes use of “woonerfs“, so-called living streets that are shared by bikers, pedestrians and vehicles, and typically […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: