Design Connect Teams Hold Final Review of their Projects

group of people pose around a poster

Amsterdam-Food Security and Food Justice team photo. photo / William Staffeld

Students who took part in Design Connect showcased their semester-long projects at their final review last night. Through the organization, students engage in practical experience through cooperation with local municipalities and non-profit organizations while supplying design and planning services for these groups, which may not have the resources to hire professionals. Three teams presented their New York-based projects.

Brighton Complete Streets Redesign

This team collaborated with Reconnect Rochester, a bike/pedestrian/transit advocacy organization, as well as the Town of Brighton, to address safety and accessibility improvements along a one-mile section of Monroe Avenue. The team  worked with the community to redesign five intersections along the corridor to better meet the needs of Brighton residents and provided research and analysis for the Town to use to make its case for the improved street designs to NYSDOT.

Amsterdam-Food Security and Food Justice

Working with Centro Civico and the City of Amsterdam’s Department of Community and Economic Development, this team built on a previous semester of work in alleviating food insecurity in the east end of Amsterdam, NY. The team built upon earlier work determining feasibility for a community kitchen and food-related business incubation, participated in the public process around determining food-related programming for a new community center, and worked with community partners on a design-build project for a demonstration garden.

Montezuma Heritage Park

This team worked with the Montezuma Heritage Park to further develop a trailhead entrance. The final design layout included an ADA parking area and walkway and offered alternatives that reinforced the connection between this park entry and adjacent historic sites.


Design Connect proposal for Binghamton park gets warm reception from city officials

The Loop Trail Plan (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

The Loop Trail Plan. (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

This week students in Cornell CRP’s Design Connect workshop presented their scheme for a Binghamton park to the city’s Parks Committee to favorable reviews. The group, led by Carolyn Gimbal (H.P.P ’19), proposed a looping trail to connect different programs in Ross Park, which is home to Binghamton’s zoo and children’s science museum.

The proposal is a key part of Design Connect, a class open to graduate and undergraduate students from AAP, as well as the university at large. The course pairs student design teams with local  clients to improve public spaces the clients steward or manage.

“It can be a really affordable way for cities and nonprofits to develop plans for things like parks,” Gimbal told WBNG, which first reported the story.

For Ross Park, students conducted a site analysis and outreached park users to determine what would make the park more user-friendly. Park-goers told the group that the park’s roadways were confusing to navigate, and that park paths posed dangers to pedestrians.

Proposal for downtown Binghamton viewshed. (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

Viewshed today. (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

To address these concerns, the team thought it would be a good idea to revamp trails through the park’s woodlands, and connect the main entrance with the zoo’s carousel. They also presented plans to add public art and new plantings, enhance traffic control via bollards near the main entrance, and slice a view of downtown through the trees.

Proposal for downtown Binghamton viewshed. (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

Proposal for downtown Binghamton viewshed. (Image via Carolyn Gimbal and WBNG)

The Parks Committee will forward the project to the whole city council once funds are secured, perhaps this spring.

Funding for the project could come from state grants and historic preservation funds. Gimbal stated that the total estimated cost of the improvements comes out to about $677,000.

Design Connect Team Transforms Historic Collegetown Site

The Andrew D. White Gate, commonly known as “Eddy Gate,” transformed this past weekend, parading with students and members of the Ithaca community. Eddy Gate became a vibrant public space, furnished with new seating and table arrangements and several lighting and art installations.

The project is one of the four Design Connect projects this semester, in collaboration with Cornell University’s Campus Planning Office, aiming to inspire and support the idea of improving the once prominent entry-way into Cornell’s campus. The office spent years thinking about what to do with the site, considering its prominent location between the campus, Collegetown neighborhood, and the Cascadilla Gorge all in close proximity. The Design Connect team moved forward with the idea of a “tactical urbanism” project that would temporarily transform the Eddy Gate location to a pop-up park.

Months of preparation involved an array of tasks for the Design Connect team. Group member Rhea Lopes (M.R.P. ’19) commented, “The work was surely very hands on and collaborative…involved coordinating and negotiating with different student groups and commercial stakeholders on and off campus, managing tight budgets, and spreading the word about the event through creative means. Eddy Gate is no longer a product from a team, but rather a network.”

Members of the Design Connect group spent nights prior to the opening weekend creating the materials for the project. On the night before the first day of Project Eddy Gate, group members arranged the set up accordingly to “zones”, indicated by the team’s master plan document. The modular component of the zones allowed the team to be flexible, in the events of an adjusted budget that would impact the resources that could be purchased. These zones comprised of a park, decorative entrance from College Town, floating lantern path, interactive art pieces, and a bazaar.

On its second day, Project Eddy Gate bustled with students and Ithaca residents. Community members were eager to see how transformative the site became through the intervention. “Throughout the event, people were asking us when we were going to do it again. Residents and students flocked to the space this weekend and we couldn’t have been happier with the turnout,” team member Elyse Belarge (M.R.P. ’19) stated.

Student organizations from Cornell sponsored the event through providing live performances at the pop-up stage. Music groups included performances by Cornell Samba, Jazz Voices, and Yamatai. Solo musicians also performed throughout the Saturday programming.

Photo: Facebook page for Project Eddy Gate

The main objective of the installation focused to collect data from the College Town community. “This project will allow for input from citizens as they traverse or use the space, with the intent of making data gathering a collaborative and democratic process, as well as a creative one,” the master plan document stated. In addition to surveys being handed out, installations also gathered visual feedback from people on what they envisioned Eddy Gate should be.

The Design Connect team hopes that data collected from the weekend will aid the Campus Planning Office to gather and garner support for more physical improvement and restore community investment in the Eddy Gate location.







Project Eddy Gate Brings New Life to a Historic Site

By Elyse Belarge, M.R.P. ’19

In an effort to revitalize one of the last public spaces in Collegetown, a group of Cornell students will host a weekend-long event and design charette at the Eddy Street Gate in Collegetown. The event will start at 5pm on May 4th and run through the morning of May 6th.

These students are members of Design Connect, a student-led planning organization that provides design services to clients in the Finger Lakes region. The project’s client is the Cornell Planning Office, which will be using the results of the charrette to inform future capital investments in the space.

The charrette will include performances, interactive installations, public art and more. The event will allow participants to experience Eddy Gate in a new way and contribute to shaping the space in the future.

Project Manager Alec Martinez envisions the event as a way to “bring the planning process to the people – as opposed to the other way around – to get the most diverse input as possible. In this sense, this is a democratic, citizen-led revision of public space by the community and for the community.”

Hannah Plummer, Design Connect’s current board chair, sees this event as “a way for Cornell students and the broader Ithaca community to share their ideas for this space and build community with one another.”

We would also like to take an opportunity to thank those who helped sponsor the event; the Women’s Resource Center, the Department of City and Regional Planning, the Organization for Cornell Planners, and the Cornell Council for the Arts.

To find more information about the event schedule and the project, please visit



Design Connect Spring 2018 Projects

This semester, Design Connect is taking on the following projects:

  • Midtown Utica Community Center Masterplan in Utica, New York
  • Hamilton Towpath Wayfinding Design in Hamilton, New York
  • Penn Yan Parks and Recreation Plan in Penn Yan, New York
  • Eddy Gate Tactical Placemaking in Ithaca, New York

Midtown Utica Community Center Masterplan

40 Faxton Street, formerly All Saints Episcopal Churh.

The focus of this project is to develop a master plan and needs assessment for the recently purchased Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC) property. As a post-resettlement community organization, MUCC works to fill the gaps in services provided to refugees. MUCC’s mission is to foster inclusive community participation by providing an environmentally-sound facility for arts, recreation, celebration, and locally-based human services in order to increase opportunities for personal and collective growth in our community.

The site, 40 Faxton Street, is formerly All Saints Episcopal Church. Although MUCC has been using the space for last three years, the organization purchased the property this last year and can now begin physical work on the property. We hope to produce a master plan which includes all the vast and diverse groups that call Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC) home—incorporating space which serves many different areas from civic to religious and everything in between.

Contact Anna Callahan,, with questions and interest in the project!

Hamilton Towpath Wayfinding Design

Existing signage for the Chenango Canal Towpath Trail.

The Hamilton Partnership for Community Development (also known as PCD) is partnering with Design Connect to design and update their signage system along their 7 mile long bike trail, also known as the Chenango Canal Towpath Trail. The towpath was first opened as a recreational trail in 2009, after its long abandonment as a path used by vehicles and animals that towed the boats through the Chenango canal. The PCD’s aim is to create a trail that promotes the organization’s brand and which gives the users a unique experience that guides visitors to other tourist destination around the region.

Penn Yan Parks and Recreation Plan

Students visiting a park in Penn Yan, New York.

The Design Connect Team will be updating the Penn Yan’s Parks and Recreation Plan. The team will be confirming the need for parks and recreation facilities and will be identifying new opportunities for the enhancement of the village’s recreation resources. The team will be working closely with the community and the village board to make recommendations for parks and green spaces in the area including Indian Pines Park, Elm St. Sports Complex, Red Jacket Park, the and Keuka Outlet Trail.

Eddy Gate Tactical Placemaking

Eddy Gate nearby the entrance to Cornell from Collegetown.(Source: Architart)

Eddy Gate, one of Collegetown’s most historic landmarks, has not received much attention since its construction in 1896. Despite its central location in the heart of the Cornell-Collegetown area, plans for the space have stalled, leaving Eddy Gate to be underutilized and underappreciated.

The Campus Planning Office is working with Design Connect to change that. Using tactical urbanist principles, the Eddy Gate team will temporarily transform the urban fabric of the space from thoroughfare to public plaza. The project will reimagine the purpose of Eddy Gate, exchanging the mundane for the whimsical, and the absence of street life to the celebration of it.
Though this temporary intervention, the team hopes to generate public support and ideas that will inspire a more permanent improvement to the Eddy Gate passageway.
Descriptions for each of the Design Connect projects were taken from the Design Connect blog page.



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