May 12, 2007

Is strengthening Varna possible?

I've criticized the Route 13/366 Corridor Study for ignoring the existing Varna node in favor of looking further east, around NYSEG. Based on conversations I had at their April presentation, it seems pretty clear that the planners automatically removed all Cornell-owned lands from consideration for development.

Varna has some basic geographical problems: it's trapped between a hill and a creek, with a heavily-traveled road going down the middle. Its other problem is that the remaining usable land is owned by Cornell, as research fields and nature preserves. While I don't have any great desire to obliterate Cornell's "outdoor classrooms", it's very strange to me that a plan supposedly about strengthening nodal development would ignore these properties completely.

The map below shows the 13/366 planners' original development thoughts, plus some additions reflecting open space around Varna. Blue is the planners' thoughts on new residential, green is new commercial, and pink is industrial. The bright yellow is opportunities I think they should consider.

Re-examining the Varna area.
Re-examining the Varna area.

Not all of those opportunities are delighful. The one to the north of Fall Creek, west of Freese Road, includes some difficult terrain and some Plantations areas, but it does include some flat areas that could be used. It's also on the inconvenient side of a one-lane bridge. The one immediately north of 366 would need a road where the current driveway is, and I don't know that the lot line is identical to the Nature Preserve boundary, but there's a lot of space there. The lot on Game Farm Road seems wide open. (I also marked a smaller non-Cornell space right near the F.H. Fox bridge, which I've heard talk of developing in the future.)

Should all this be developed? I don't think it's necessarily a great idea, and I'm sure the neighbors would have a lot to say about how it should be developed if it were to happen. Still, this could be a great option for pedestrian-oriented development with enough critical mass to create commercial opportunities, if it was done right.

At the same time, though, I think any plan that claims to be strengthening nodal development needs to consider these options seriously. Cornell seems quite capable of standing up for itself, and if these plans are really only theoretical anyway.... why not?

Posted by simon at May 12, 2007 12:04 PM in , ,
Note on photos