ITHACA, N.Y. — Following public meetings this week about East Hill Village plans, the walls of the Space @ GreenStar were covered in papers full of notes and input from the community and design sketches. On a table, there were blocks and materials arranged to show a model of the proposed neighborhood. It was the sight of a neighborhood plan in progress.

The Space was packed Thursday for the final presentation, which was a culmination of week-long “design charrette,” a concentrated planning and brainstorming event. On Monday, there was a community forum and on Tuesday a design open house.

East Hill Plaza is considered an important gateway to Cornell. In its 2008 “Cornell Master Plan for the Ithaca Campus,” the university writes that the area was “developed in a piecemeal, auto-oriented fashion and lacks an identity and attractive image.” Much of the area is owned by Cornell. Located off of Pine Tree Road in Ithaca, the plaza contains a grocery store, laundromat, liquor store, cafe and antique shop. Agava and Rite Aid are also nearby.

During the week, members of the community expressed their wants and concerns. Some of the key principles include making sure pedestrians and bicycles are as important as cars, that there is quality public open space and that the project is for all of Ithaca.

The community also shared a number of concerns for the project this week, such as traffic, parking, childcare, scale of buildings, green space, senior housing and middle class and affordable housing.

With the community’s input, the team (including about 20 people this week) collaborated intensely to create the first draft plan of a new East Hill neighborhood. It will add about 200 apartments in the first phase, up to 400 more in later phases and 20 townhouses. Over the three phases, the project will also add up to 20,000 square feet of commercial space, adding to the 80,000 square feet already there.

The team working on East Hill Village is big. For developers, it includes LeylandAlliance, EdR, Charter Realty & Development, with assistance from Urban Design Associates, Whitham Planning & Design and Brous Consulting.

It is at least a couple years yet until the project gets going.

Howard Kaufman, CEO and principal of LeylandAlliance, said they hope to begin the approval process in the next 60 days, and that process could take a year to a year and a half. Ideally, they could get started on Phase 1 of the project in 2020, he said.

Draft site plan for East Hill Village. Provided photo.

There will be three phases to the project. The first will be focused on the southern end of the site, Paul Ostergaard, senior managing principal at Urban Design Associates said. This phase would include fixing up Pine Tree Road, developing frontage, relocating the gas station, building a farmer’s market and improving the front of Agava to create an outdoor square.

An important part of the neighborhood planning, Ostergaard said, was to create a network of pedestrian paths. In addition to connecting residents and workers to retail space and other areas, the paths will also connect to nature trails.

There are some unique features included in the design, such as 40-foot shipping containers that will could be used for little shops and restaurants. By the end of the project, Christiana Moss, principal at Studio Ma said, there will be buildings unique to the neighborhood not found anywhere else.

Below are a few illustrations of what parts of the neighborhood could look like.

(Illustration provided by David Csont/Urban Design Associates)
(Illustration provided by David Csont/Urban Design Associates)
(Illustration provided by David Csont/Urban Design Associates)
(Illustration provided by David Csont/Urban Design Associates)

To follow updates and learn more about East Hill Village, visit the project website.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.