ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell University has announced plans to move forward with a new neighborhood at East Hill Plaza, in what could be one of the largest projects the Ithaca area has ever seen.

In tandem with today’s formal groundbreaking ceremony for its 872-bed Maplewood Park housing development, Cornell and their project team have stated plans to start hosting public information sessions for their long-awaited redevelopment of East Hill Plaza into “East Hill Village”. The first Community Forum will be held on Wednesday, May 17th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the East Hill Office Building at 395 Pine Tree Rd located behind the East Hill Plaza.

cornell east hill village concept 2008

As previously covered on the Voice, East Hill Village is a grand plan to turn the East Hill Plaza shopping center and neighboring Cornell-owned properties into a mixed-use walkable neighborhood. The 35-acre project would feature housing geared towards graduate/professional Cornell students, faculty and staff, as well as new retail and office space.

Cornell has owned East Hill Plaza since 1984, and conceptual plans for East Hill Village have been floated for over a decade. The concept was briefed in the 2008 Cornell Master Plan, and the university has commissioned multiple studies on how and what to incorporate into the neighborhood. Concept plans have shown multi-story mixed-use buildings closer to the intersection of Pine Tree Road and Mitchell Street/Ellis Hollow Road, and townhouses and smaller-sized apartments and homes further out.

Redevelopment would include the shopping center, hotel, and outparcels like Rite Aid and Burger King. The apartment complexes east of the plaza are privately owned and would not be redeveloped by Cornell, but the university owns the fields further east and north, and they may be incorporated into the project. The university pays taxes for East Hill Plaza.

Storrs Center. Image courtesy of Leyland Alliance.

The project team, “East Hill Village Partners”, consists of several major real estate players from across the country. Among them are Leyland Alliance, a mixed-use neighborhood developer from downstate, and Charter Realty & Development, a large-scale retail developer. EdR Trust, who is working with Cornell on Maplewood, will once again partner with the university for this project as a housing specialist. The three firms previously partnered on another large project, the 600-unit Storrs Center new urban neighborhood near the University of Connecticut.

Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh will coordinate the neighborhood planning and zoning, and local firm Whitham Planning and Design will serve as the local architectural consultant as the proposal navigates the town of Ithaca’s review process. Ithaca’s Brous Consulting will work on public relations and engagement.

A copy of the press release is included below:

COMMUNITY FORUM TO DISCUSS FUTURE OF EAST HILL DEVELOPMENT

ITHACA, N.Y. –The community is invited to attend a public meeting to discuss future development of the East Hill area in Ithaca on Wednesday, May 17th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the East Hill Office Building at 395 Pine Tree Rd (behind the East Hill Plaza).

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 successful team, 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.  

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. Cornell is the major land owner in the area with more than 35 acres of commercial and residential space.

“We believe that the East Hill area can address both Cornell’s and the community’s needs by adding quality housing, creating livable places, while reducing transportation demand throughout the county by locating a great new community next door to campus,” said Cornell’s Senior Director for Real Estate Jeremy Thomas.

The meeting, the first in a series of planned public sessions, will include a presentation by the development team from 5:30-6 p.m., and a discussion of potential uses and visions for the site. This will be followed by sessions and activities to allow for the community to express their ideas and concerns. Refreshments will be served and all materials will be provided. Parking is available on site.

“It was clear throughout the Maplewood Project process that residents of the Belle Sherman and East Hill areas would like to play more of a role in the development and design of their neighborhood, to be able to have input, and express their concerns right from the beginning of the process” said Scott Whitham, of Whitham Planning & Design, the Landscape Architecture and Project Coordination firm for the project.  “This input helped to make the Maplewood Project a better fit for the area, so moving forward we would like to see that same level of collaboration for the East Hill Village neighborhood, and we are hoping to engage the community now, before plans have been developed.”

For more information visit the project blogsite at www.easthillvillage.com, or contact Whitham Planning & Design at (607) 272-1290. For those who are unable to attend the meeting, a survey and mailing list will be made available through the website.

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