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. 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.
 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/
The Design Connect team working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County on a heritage trail and trail center design had a meeting with community members from the village of Clyde last month on Sunday, October 14th. The proposed trail will loop through Blockhouse park, and connect to Heritage Park in downtown Clyde, where a visitor center with trail information, historical information, and visitor/recreational guides will be located. The project also includes a re-design of the Blockhouse park to accommodate new uses for the area.
The Design Connect team came to the meeting with preliminary designs, seeking feedback from the project partners and community members. The team had a successful dialogue about community needs, and the possible changes that can be made to the designs to fulfill those needs (i.e. handicap accessibility, trail routing, and design of the trail center to fit in with historical storefronts). The area girl scout troop provided great insight into other things they’d like to see in Blockhouse park: a playground and a dog park. They had some creative ideas for playground structures! Now the team is working to incorporate those changes into final designs for the trail, trail center, and signs.
Join us on Wednesday, October 24th from 6-8pm in Sibley 101 for Design Connect’s mid-semester review. This is a great opportunity to learn about each project, see each team’s work so far, and give feedback. Enjoy some free dinner while supporting each Design Connect team as they share their progress on this semester’s projects. This year, the format will be a little different to allow more student feedback and conversation with the project teams, so please invite your friends!
Hope to see you there!
Design Connect is requesting applications for project partnerships with municipal governments, neighborhood organizations, and other community development organizations for its Spring 2019 semester. Design Connect is a student run community design and planning organization at Cornell University. We are committed to partnering with communities to address significant planning and design issues through a participatory and multidisciplinary process. This process requires a meaningful commitment of time and resources from both the community and Design Connect Teams.
Not sure if your project fits? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
The application for Spring 2019 projects is now OPEN. Applications are due November 2, 2018. If you are considering a proposal for Spring 2019, please feel free to review the Request For Proposal and application below.
Design Connect RFP Spring 2019
Design Connect Application Spring 2019
Once applications are received, they will be reviewed by the Design Connect Board. For Spring 2019 proposals, applicants will be notified by the middle of November regarding next steps. Top applicants will be asked to join us for an interview and coordinate a site visit. Final project selections will be made by the middle of December.
Welcome back, students! If you are interested in participating in Design Connect this semester, or just want to find out more about what we do, please come to one of our info sessions next week! Info sessions will take place Wednesday, August 29 and Thursday, August 30 at 6:00 pm in Sibley 101. Free pizza!
In spring of 2017, the Design Connect team at Cornell University worked with Elmira’s Department of Community Development to develop a conceptual site plan for the redesign of Ernie Davis Park.
Ernie Davis Park is a three-acre city owned park located in a distressed census tract within the City of Elmira. The park has not received investment by the City in several decades. The Design Connect team sought to strengthen the connection between the park and its namesake, Ernie Davis, a resident of the neighborhood and the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy, college football’s highest honor. Also considered in the design process were elements to improve recreation, children’s play, and event space for Elmira’s annual Juneteenth celebration, all of great importance to the neighboring school and organizations that use the site.
I checked back in with Jenn Miller, Director of the Department of Community Development, and asked her to reflect on the city’s experience with Design Connect.
She writes: “A site visit was planned for early February 2017. From our very first meeting, on the coldest day of the year, the team showed genuine enthusiasm for the project. A project detail of deliverables were set into place to develop a plan for the park that will be unique to the neighborhood. As a client we were fully satisfied with all phases of the project, the team was creative and knowledgeable in all aspects of design. The outreach to the community residents and stakeholders was a high priority, communicating through surveys and community meetings resulted in positive feedback. The final conceptual plan presentation was professional and realistic to the vision our community has for the redesign of the Ernie Davis Park.”
What happens next? The city remains committed to a redesign of Ernie Davis Park. One major hurdle was recently cleared when the Vecino Group’s Libertad project, a residential redevelopment of the long-vacant Jones Court apartment building adjacent to the park, was awarded funding. The Libertad has a projected completion date of April 2019. Writes Jenn Miller, “Our goal is to begin park improvements spring of 2019.”
-Elizabeth Fabis, Project Manager, Spring 2017
The four Design Connect teams that have been working hard this semester will present their work to the campus community on May 11, beginning at 4:30 in Milstein Hall. Come see the designs for Watkins Glen Waste Water Treatment Plant reuse; Seneca Army Depot reuse; Hanover Square alley development in Horseheads, and Geneva City lot redesign. Conversation (and dinner!) will follow the presentations. Join us!
Cornell Design Connect was invited to investigate pedestrian conditions in the Town of Geneva beginning in January 2015. The team, a group of 9 undergraduate and graduate students, conducted research and outreach over the next 4 months, which culminated in a presentation to members of the Town of Geneva’s Comprehensive Plan Committee in May 2015, and a report, issued in July 2015. The report has been included in the Town of Geneva’s newly released comprehensive plan as Appendix 3: Pedestrian Infrastructure and NonAutomotive Transportation Analysis! The full comprehensive plan is available from the Town of Geneva’s website. Way to go, Design Connect team!
Design Connect is requesting applications for project partnerships with municipal governments, neighborhood organizations, and other community development organizations for its Fall 2016 semester. Design Connect is a student run community design and planning organization at Cornell University. We are committed to partnering with communities to address significant planning and design issues through a participatory and multidisciplinary process. This process requires a meaningful commitment of time and resources from both the community and Design Connect Teams.
Full RFP (Request for Proposals) available here (also available as .docx)
Application available here (also available as .docx)
Email completed applications to email@example.com by April 26, 2016.
Design Connect empowers students and citizens by advancing collaborative, democratic, and sustainable design and planning projects in local communities.
Apply to be a Project Manager next semester by filling out an application (also available as .docx). Submit applications via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by APRIL 18.
Interested in participating without being a project manager? Sign up for CRP 3348/ 5348 for 1-4 credits (1 credit is approximately equal to 3 hours of work each week) and join one of the project teams during our early fall meeting.