ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s not much to look at the moment – a vast dirt lot with a gravel drive and some infrastructure equipment strewn about. But Maplewood Park, currently Ithaca and Tompkins County’s largest construction project, is only just beginning.

Cornell and EdR Trust’s $80 million Maplewood Park redevelopment is fully permitted and site preparation for the 441-unit, 872-bed project is underway. To put in perspective, it’s about two-thirds the size of Novarr-Mackesey’s Collegetown Terrace.

Not only is this project big and expensive, it will be moving at a fairly fast pace, with all structures intended for an August 2018 occupancy. Given that the alternative would be housing hundreds of graduate and professional students in spare dorm rooms and hotels, that’s a pretty firm deadline, and a potential challenge for a huge project like this. For the sake of comparison, Collegetown Terrace was built over a period of six years; Maplewood’s build-out will be completed within 18 months.

maplewood site model

Rather than spending pages going over all the details, but let’s focus on the rest of Ithaca, and what will happen. The first apartment buildings to start construction are going to be ones on Mitchell, and those will begin during April and May, and be finished by late fall. While those are underway, the buildings on Maple Avenue will start construction during the summer, as will some of the interior strings of townhouses. The community center begins construction next fall, and the last townhouses will begin around Christmas, and a few weeks into 2018. Key takeaway – there are 27 buildings, and not everything is going up at once. Some buildings will be complete as others are only just starting construction.

Another detail – during the real meat of the construction period, there will be hundreds of workers on site. Some will be directly employed by general contractor LeChase Construction of Rochester, but many will be subcontractors, including several local firms. Most will be parking behind the Rite Aid at East Hill Plaza, and the crew will walk over to the site. Use extra caution when driving down Mitchell Street, especially around 7 AM and 3 PM. The Farmer’s Market at East Hill Plaza should be unaffected.

There’s also the possibility of getting stuck behind truck traffic. Most of the trucks will be coming westbound down Mitchell Street, either from the south via Route 79 and Pine Tree Road, or from the north via Game Farm Road and Ellis Hollow Road. Maple Avenue is a secondary route and won’t be used as often for the trucks, so if you’re looking to avoid tractor trailers coming in and out, consider it as an alternative. Very little truck traffic will be coming from the west of Maplewood, since they’d have to go through the city of Ithaca.

It’ll be the source of many gripes over the next year or so, but as a product, it checks off a lot of local desires – local construction labor, heat pumps and off-site solar, walkable environment, and unlike the old Maplewood, it’ll pay property taxes, over $2 million annually. For-profit EdR and non-profit Cornell have a deal where Cornell still owns the land, but EdR owns all improvements to the land. After discussion among themselves and with local officials, it was agreed that Maplewood would pay full property taxes.

Let’s finish this with a random fact – along with a new Veteran’s Place roadway, the new streets will be called “East Sylvan Mews”, “James Lane”, and “Lena Street’. James and Lena Mitchell were the original owners of the land and started farming it back in 1802. They are buried in the family cemetery plot near the northeast corner of the site, and the small burial plot will be preserved.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at