Kinda outside the normal coverage, but an important project nevertheless. Cornell is currently undertaking a major rehabilitation of the CALS Quadrangle, better known as the “Ag Quad”. The $9.6 million “Ag Quad Utility Infrastructure Upgrades and Landscape Revitalization Project” (originally $7.8 million) began during the summer, and is scheduled for a completion before the 2017-18 academic year. Most of the construction is planned during the summer months of 2016 and 2017, when the ground is easier to work with and impact on campus activities is at a minimum.
According to university landscape architect David Cutter, the work has planned for at least a decade, but was a lower priority vs. other projects such as the Mann Library and Warren Hall renovations, which used the quad as a staging area. With the bulk of building renovations complete (a new academic building on the south side of the quad, but it’s just a hazy concept at this time), and with infrastructure approaching 100 years old, the university decided now was as good a time as any to get the rehab underway. Plans were approved by the Ithaca city Planning Board in February.
The first phase is what’s underway now. That involves the replacement of underground utilities infrastructure. In that catch-all are water pipes, sewer pipes, steam pipes, and a new ductbank (electrical conduit grouping) for telecommunications from the CIT Building. Several walkways have been excavated to make way for new or improved underground utilities corridors. The second phase is refreshed landscaping. Along with new permeable pavement walkways and entrance plazas in front of Roberts Hall and Mann Library come 54 new tree plantings, a rain garden, and upgraded lighting (from two poles to twenty). The plazas will come with movable tables and chairs, traditional benches and concrete slab benches (rough-hewn sides, cut/thermally-finished tops). For additional safety, the rehabbed quad will host collapsible bollards, an increased number of blue light security phones, and a new emergency vehicle path. Primary walkways will be 12′ wide, and secondary walkways 8′ wide. Some of the new garden spaces and landscaping will be done by students in various CALS programs.
The project has been the subject of relatively little controversy compared to most. Some consternation was expressed that four Cornellian cherry trees next to the west side of the Plant Science Building would be cut down for “infrastructure changes”, but other than that, there wasn’t much else in the way of concern or opposition. Eleven other trees are also or are being removed, so the net gain is 39.
The $9.6 million is coming mostly out of the university’s budget (CALS and Utilities), with some private funds. MKW & Associates LLC of New Jersey is the lead landscape architect, Over & Under Piping Contractors Inc. of Auburn is the GC, and Albany-based CHA Consulting Inc. is providing civil engineering expertise.
In the photos below, the new sanitary and steam pipes are being fed through a protective concrete threader, and new cobbled pavers being paid out in front of Mann. The rebar sticking out of the curved concrete in front of Mann is part of a bi-level concrete stairwall that will be capped with cut stone – my guess is the rebar is there to strengthen the concrete, and will be trimmed down once the concrete is fully cured and the project team is ready to move on to the next step. The metal tool on the left side of the last photo is a portable trench shield used for pipe installation.