Cornell North Campus Residential Expansion Construction Update, 10/2019

31 10 2019

I’ve been intended to do a formal introduction piece for Cornell’s enormous North Campus Residential Expansion, but the sheer breadth of it makes it an arduous task – I’ve estimated the full write-up will push about 10-12 pages, and it’s one of the reasons why the blog has gone quiet. For now, here are monthly photo updates from the site. For now, background reading and history can be found by reading the Voice archive here and here.

The sophomore village (Site 1) will have four residential buildings with 800 new beds and associated program space totaling 299,900 SF, and a 1,200 seat, 66,300 SF dining facility.This is being built on what was the CC Parking Lot and the former Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity on Sisson Place, now Northcross Road. All buildings in the sophomore village are in the City of Ithaca. The bounds of the sophomore village extend into the village of Cayuga Heights, but only the landscaping.

The freshman village (Site 2) will have three new residential buildings (spanning the City and Town line), with a total of 401,200 SF and 1,200 new beds and associated program space. Site Plan Review Documents indicate about 223,400 SF is in the City, and 177,800 SF is in the Town. At both sites, the buildings will be between two and six stories using a modern aesthetic. The project has an estimated price tag of $175 million and will result in the disturbance of about 25.6 acres at the two sites. The 250-page Site Plan Review (SPR) application can be found here, with supplemental reports here.

As previously noted, Cornell has grown substantially while its housing options have not. The application provides further insight by saying that one of the goals isn’t just to have housing available to 100% of freshman and sophomores, it’s to mandate they live on campus – currently, there is no requirement to live on campus, though freshmen are strongly urged to do so. 800 beds will be sophomores, 1,200 beds for freshmen, and 75 beds for live-in faculty, RAs and support staff. The growth in campus housing from 8,400 beds to 10,400 will also allow Cornell to address long-deferred maintenance to older residential halls and increase its undergraduate enrollment by another 900 (the current undergraduate enrollment is 14,900).

Water will come to the new dorms via Fall Creek and the Cornell filtration plant, sewer sustems will connect to joint city/town/village facilities, and the loss of 396 parking spaces is mitigated in part by the observation that the CC’s Lot inconvenient location and expensive parking permits meant only about 110 spaces were regularly used, and a surplus of parking in other North Campus parking lots means users will be assigned spaces nearby, with enough spaces left over for the few hundred additional vehicles 2,000 on-campus students may bring.

The dorms will tie into Cornell’s centralized energy system, which is primarily fed by the Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP), which is powered primarily by natural gas and reuses waste heat, as well as an increasing set of renewable energy resources, like solar arrays and the lake source cooling program. Since the CHP system relies on natural gas as its primary energy source, it became a major source of contention during review. Cornell has stressed that more renewable sources are in the pipeline and the plan is to have all their energy be renewable by 2035, but that far-flung timeline has not been welcome news to many local environmental advocates.

The project falls in three municipalities and in three zoning districts: the U-I zoning district in the City in which the proposed 5 stories and 55 feet are allowed; the Low Density Residential District (LDR) in the Town, which allows for the proposed two-story residence halls (with a special permit); and the Multiple Housing District within Cayuga Heights, but only for landscaped areas. Technically, any one of six governmental bodies could have been lead agency – the city, the village, the town, the NYS Dormitory Authority, the Tompkins County Department of Health, or the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. However, for the sake of coordination, the others consented to allowing the city to be Lead Agency for the project with decision-making authority on the environmental review, while offering their concurring critiques and subordinate reviews.

The buildings are being designed by ikon.5 Architects, the general contractor is Welliver of Montour Falls, and TWMLA is handling the landscape architecture. T.G. Miller is the civil engineer for the project, and Thornton Tomasetti is doing the structural engineering. Taitem Engineering served as an energy consultant for the project, which is pursuing LEED Gold Certification. Canadian firm WSP Global Inc. is in charge of the design of fire protection and mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems, and Ricca Design Studios will handle the interior design and fitting out of the food service areas within the new dining hall. SRF & Associates of Rochester did the traffic study, and John P. Stopen Engineering of Syracuse did the geotechnical work. Intergrated Acquisition and Development (IAD) is the co-developer (non-owner) with Cornell.

Since receiving approval in late June 2019, the project has progressed at a quick pace, with the sophomore village underway just a few weeks later. As of this week, the excavation work and concrete footer pours are already underway. Wood forms are in place to hold the concrete in place as it cures, and rebar, for structural strength, is ready for the pour, capped with orange plastic toppers for safety reasons. Underground utilities installations and excavation work are ongoing at the freshman village site, which started a little later in the fall.

Plans are to have the sophomore village open by August 2021, and the freshman village by August 2022. A project of this size will require a sizable number of workers. The project team expects that 75-100 construction workers will be employed at any one time, 140 on average, and 280 at peak construction periods. The new dorms would create 85-110 jobs after opening, mostly in maintenance and program support roles.

August 4th:

Freshman village site:

Exterior wall mock-up:

September 6th / Sophomore Village Only

 

October 27th: Freshman village

Sophomore village:

 


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