A 2017 Design Connect Project in the City of Elmira will begin to be implemented this spring! This project demonstrates another successful partnership between Cornell students and NY municipalities, in this case to collaboratively create a new vision for an underutilized park.

In the spring of 2017, a Design Connect team worked with the city of Elmira to create a conceptual site plan for the redesign of Ernie Davis Park.  Ernie Davis was an Elmira resident and the first African American to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy for outstanding college football performance in 1961.  The park bearing his name is located in the former Slabtown neighborhood, which traces its origins to the 1840s when African Americans fleeing slavery settled there.  The name Slabtown is said to derive from residents’ use of 1-foot-wide wooden boards to construct their houses.[1]  The neighborhood was demolished in the 1950s to build the Jones Court Apartment building, which is currently being redeveloped.  The City of Elmira reached out to Design Connect seeking assistance with a redesign of the park as a way to spur investment in the area.

After getting feedback from community members, the Design Connect team created a plan for the park that will encourage multi-generational use, while acknowledging its history.  A walking trail, playground, pavilion, and a memorial statue are some of the features of the redesign.

The City of Elmira decided to split the project up into two phases, and will begin Phase I this spring.  This will “give us the opportunity to leverage more funding (local & entitlement grants) to make a greater impact on the park’s final outcome”, Linda Sowers of Elmira’s Department of Community Development commented.  The first phase of this project involves general site improvements, while Phase II will include playground construction.

[1] Janowski, Diane. “Elmira History: The Stories behind Neighborhood Names.” Elmira Star-Gazette, 15 Oct. 2014, https://www.stargazette.com/story/news/local/twin-tiers-roots/2014/10/11/elmira-history-place-names/16654275/