FAQs

Why is Cornell pursuing this project?
In Cornell’s 2008 Campus Master Plan, the East Hill area was identified as a key location for redevelopment due to its proximity to campus. Initial ideas for the area would see the enhancement of the existing retail and offices on site with the potential addition of new housing, retail, and other commercial activities. East Hill Plaza and its surroundings are at the important southern gateway to Cornell. The area, however, has developed in a piecemeal, auto-oriented fashion and lacks an identity and attractive image. Given that much of the area is owned by Cornell and is close to the central campus, it has the potential to become a unique place for neighbors to shop and enjoy dynamic public spaces while enhancing surrounding neighborhoods.

Where can I see plans for what is proposed?
Although the 2008 Master Plan contained sketches of plans for the area, these were conceptual, are a decade old, and were not intended for implementation or submission. Some additional concept sketches were produced while assessing feasibility for the project, so there are currently no fixed plans for the site. Although the goals identified by Cornell University still stand, this public process including design charrettes, identification of goals and needs, and future public meetings with the Town of Ithaca, will determine the use of the property and actual plans that will be developed. 

During the review of the Maplewood Project, there was a concern that East Hill was not reviewed as part of the environmental review. Why didn’t Cornell show us their planning then?
The Maplewood Project was a separate project, on property not connected to East Hill Plaza, with a different goal to supply much-needed graduate student housing. The Maplewood site was identified independently as a prime site for increased density due to the aging formerly existing housing and single story buildings. As the current planning process had not yet begun for the East Hill Plaza area, plans were not available during the Maplewood review.  What the team did learn from the Maplewood process is that neighbors, the Town, and other community members would like to have more input in shaping the future of the neighborhoods in and around East Hill. The planned public meetings and working sessions have been organized to collect public ideas and design input prior to the preparation and submission of any formal project documents.

Will the current buildings at East Hill be torn down? Will the existing stores and businesses remain?
The plans have not been developed for the area. However, the team is aware that the existing retail tenants at the plaza are community amenities. Current thinking is that the existing businesses at East Hill Plaza will remain in place, as the building is structurally sound and quite successful. There may be a need to provide a pass-through to other parts of the redeveloped neighborhood, and some redesign of the surface parking to make it more attractive for residents and visitors.

Will the project pay taxes?
Cornell currently pays property taxes on the non-academic property at East Hill Plaza -those with commercial uses. It is anticipated that the taxes will grow considerably with the redevelopment contemplated. This will help to offset growing infrastructure costs in the county and alleviate the current tax burden on the community. Some form of tax incentives for new development may be considered as construction/development costs are determined. 

What kind of housing will be proposed? For whom? Will it be affordable? How will it impact resident commutes?
At this point, no decisions have been made about housing or types of housing as part of the project, however the intent is to make the housing at East Hill Village available to the general public. Cornell University has examined its housing priorities, and housing needs are strong for graduate students and working professionals who are currently unable to live close to campus. It is unknown what the proposed unit and building type mix will be, including the cost of various housing types.  The team intends to explore whether affordable or workforce housing can be a component of East Hill Village. The density, building heights, and architectural style of East Hill Village will be designed to fit within its neighborhood context. 
The firms that have been hired for this project are proponents of design that promotes environmentally friendly, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods containing a wide range of housing, commercial and civic uses, as well as opportunities for employment. Housing close to campus will reduce transportation costs and impacts by allowing a walkable commute for most residents. Ithaca still has a less than 1% vacancy rate for housing. Any new housing will help to alleviate the high costs of rentals and property purchases. 

When will the project be built?
The planning process is being kicked off with a public meeting on May 17th. Current thinking is that the team will reconvene for additional meetings and design charrettes during the summer of 2017. From these meetings, concepts will be developed and brought back to the public and Town in the fall of 2017. Development and construction will be phased for a project of this size, with a projected construction start date in 2019.

When the project is done, will it compete with downtown?
The project will not likely compete with downtown, but will provide a range of amenities that are desired by the neighborhoods that surround it. The development will increase tax revenues for the Town of Ithaca and City of Ithaca, including the City of Ithaca School District, and Tompkins County. 

How will the project team reach out to and communicate with the Public? 
The team has created a website at www.easthillvillage.com and will be updating this site with meetings, presentations, news articles, and opportunities for public comment. The Town of Ithaca planning process will also ensure that the public is notified of any decisions to be made. Whitham Planning & Design, in collaboration with Urban Design Associates and Brous Consulting, will be responsible for collecting and answering questions from the public. Cornell will assist with this process so that information is communicated transparently.  

What kind of energy will be used for the development? 
It is not known now what sustainable strategies will be implemented at the site. As a large property, it should be anticipated that multiple sources will be considered. This could include use of one or more of the following approaches: 
•    Photovoltaic (PV) systems or geothermal systems
•    Certification according to sustainability metrics, including LEED certification (LEED Neighborhood Development or LEED Building Design and Construction)
•    Passive House or Net- Zero construction
•    Energy Star certification for utilities
•    Sustainable Sites certification for green infrastructure and open space; or other programs.
•    Pervious surfaces for storm water management/mitigation of storm water runoff
•    Enhancing biodiversity, encouraging health and well-being, and carbon sequestration
•    Green roofs
•    Graywater systems
•    Landscaping/Eco-scaping
•    Open Space to serve East Hill Village residents and neighbors 

What kinds of commercial businesses will be sought out for the project? 
Existing leases at East Hill Plaza will be respected, and it is the team’s intention to work with all of the these businesses in a cooperative and productive fashion.  It is a little too early to determine what new retail or other commercial uses will be added to this neighborhood. Part of the public outreach process will be to get input on the types of uses most desired by the community.  It will largely depend on consumer demand and businesses that can be attracted and retained to address those needs. 

How will infrastructure and community services be impacted by the expansion of the neighborhood? 
There are many factors that need to be reviewed as part of the development, including addressing whether existing water, sewer, electrical, transportation, and other infrastructure can support the proposed East Hill Village project. In-depth studies, required as part of the SEQR process, will forecast the project’s impact to existing infrastructure and community services. As these are completed, the project team will respond, in coordination with local municipalities, to the findings of these reports. 

How will transportation be enhanced in the area? 
The goal of the project will be to support connectivity to the surrounding community and campus. Items to be considered include: 
•    Multimodal access between the site, Cornell University, and Downtown Ithaca
•    Auto-oriented mobility, including the design of roadways and parking areas
•    Improved walkability within and around the development
•    Active transportation, including bike and walking routes and bike parking stations
•    Public transportation, including bus routes and bus stops
•    Traffic calming measures
•    Service access to buildings
•    Charging stations for Electronic Vehicles
•    Traffic impacts and patterns, including the intersection at Route 79 and Pine Tree Road

How will construction traffic and parking be affected in the area? 
A construction management plan will be developed. Construction traffic, including employee parking and flow, will be determined as the plans for the site are developed. Staging will be considered so that it does not impact the existing neighborhoods and has consideration for commercial establishments operating in the area. Work days, times of construction, parking, and transit will be considered as part of these plans.  

Who is leading the planning for this project? Who is on the team?
Cornell University has selected a team of developers, architects, and planners to begin the process for the development of East Hill Village, with the goal of incorporating university, Town of Ithaca, and community long-term visions for the area. The team selected, East Hill Village Partners (EHVP), is comprised of LeylandAlliance, EdR Collegiate Housing, and Charter Realty & Development, working with Urban Design Associates and Whitham Planning & Design. The team was designated ahead of the public meeting process so that they would be able to take part in the process and comment periods. 

The following are descriptions of team members: 

LeylandAlliance – is a real estate development company focused on the creation of mixed-use, highly sustainable neighborhoods founded upon the principles of New Urbanism. Their work has led to the creation of award-winning traditional neighborhoods within some of America's most desirable communities.

EdR - is one of the largest developers, owners and managers of high-quality collegiate housing communities. They are known for innovative solutions, financing and design as well as quality, long-lasting construction, sustainable buildings and successful management programs for their communities. 

Charter Realty & Development - is a real estate investment, development, and leasing company specializing in retail properties. They have the ability to work through complex ground-up development and redevelopment scenarios to create successful retail properties.

With assistance from - 

Urban Design Associates – is an architecture firm that designs sustainable and resilient neighborhoods, towns, districts, villages, places, and buildings. Their firm concentrates on the revitalization of established cities and expansion of new towns and cities worldwide.

Whitham Planning & Design - is a landscape architecture, planning, and project management firm. They act as a project design consultant, project landscape architect, and coordinate review and permitting aspects of site and building development projects.

Brous Consulting - is a marketing, events, and public information/relations firm located in Ithaca, New York.

For more information on the East Hill Village project contact: 

Jeremy Thomas - Cornell University Real Estate Department, Senior Director
Email: jeremy.thomas@cornell.edu Phone: (607) 266-7869

Scott Whitham - Whitham Planning & Design, LLC, Principal
Email: whitham@whithamdesign.com Phone (607) 272-1290