April 9th marked the beginning of collecting community input for the design of the East Hill Plaza redevelopment project. Following a year after the first public engagement meeting, the East Hill Village Partners gathered stakeholders, including Cornell University, on its first night of a week-long public engagement process that attracted a huge turnout. Guests of the meeting were introduced with the conceptual plans for the plaza. The charrette included physical models and drawings of the conceptual designs, created by the partners.
The stakeholders comprise of a large cohort of development and consulting firms, including the Ithaca-based Whitman Planning and Design firm. Additionally, the team also recruited assistance from Urban Design Associates (UDA), a renown urban design firm from Pittsburgh. The UDA team provided insight on how to reallocate existing properties to meet some of the community’s input, and emphasizing development along Pine Tree Road, a main corridor in the area.
Following the first community forum, the second night opened with the opportunity for community members to comment and provide input on the design. This brainstorming event brought up conversations on the intensity of the development, the type of programmings, such as housing and retail. Stakeholders were able to interact and provide input through a variety of mediums, such as sketches, to other technologically-based tactics to provide stakeholders with a better understanding of the existing property.
M.R.P. student Anna Callahan was impressed by the tools that were used during the charrette, which inspired her to consider new ideas for her own future design charrettes throughout the career. “From a planning student perspective, it was interesting to see the current tools and technology used by the industry,” she commented.
Following the design charrette meeting, the last night of the community engagement closed with remarks on the ideas discussed throughout the week and presented the next steps for the project. The meetings confirmed the aesthetic issues with the property, such as the lack of landscaping and green space amenities for passive leisure.
This redevelopment project follows a trend of suburban retrofit projects that are common throughout the country. Suburban retrofit all share the challenges of typical suburban properties that are designed at the scale for automobiles, mainly emphasizing existing sites with large parking lots.
Ideas for redeveloping the East Hill Village Plaza began after the area was marked as a potential site for Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND) redevelopment. Cornell believes the area is a crucial location for redevelopment, due to the close proximity the site has to campus.
The East Hill Village area has undergone some changes in the recent years, particularly with the new development of the Maplewood Apartments, exclusively for graduate and professional students.