Character Code Charrette: June 3rd – 6th 2015
Eighty eight members of the public came out to share ideas, respond to drawings, and pose critical questions, which the charrette team integrated to create meaningful visualizations of development possibilities. The quality of input and conversation was invaluable to the success of the charrette. This kind of turnout signaled a high degree of concern and engagement among community members, and helped the charrette team lay the foundation for a code that will meet the needs of the community.
Charrette Schedule of Events – <1 MB file size
Form Ithaca Report – Part 2 – a complete summary of the event activities. 5.8 MB file size
Form Ithaca – Graphic Catalog – a complete record of diagrams and illustrations created in preparation for and during the charrette. 14 MB file size
Participants – 88 in total
Better! Cities & Towns
Robert Steuteville, CNU-A
Randall + West Planners
C.J. Randall, LEED AP ND
David West, LEED AP
Noah Demarest, AIA, RLA, LEED AP
Charrette designers, planners and artists:
Seth Harry, Principal – Seth Harry and Associates, Inc.
Ruth Landsman, Architect – Seth Harry and Associates, Inc.
Wade Walker, Principal – Alta Planning + Design
Lindsey Zefting, Senior Engineer – Alta Planning + Design
Barry Mahaffey, Architect, Urban Designer, and Graphic Designer – BSB Design
Wednesday June 3rd
9:00am Waterfront Walking Tour
Fourteen individuals participated in the waterfront walking tour of the areas surrounding the Northside neighborhood and its connections across Rt. 13/Meadow St. to the waterfront. David West, of Randall + West, headed up the tour, which began at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market (Steamboat Landing). The group stopped at various points along the way to discuss ways to better connect the neighborhood with the waterfront by improving safety and access. Participants also considered future development opportunities for the neighborhood, and how development could improve livability for residents.
1:00pm – 5:00pm Consultant Work Session: Building Types and Charrette Planning
The charrette consultants worked collaboratively each day in cross-disciplinary design sessions to turn ideas, visions, and feedback from charrette participants into visual representations. The charrette team was comprised of the local Form Ithaca team and invited architects, urban designers and planners.
7:30pm Kick-off Presentation
Forty-two members of the public attending the kick-off presentation at the Unitarian Church Sanctuary to learn more about the Form Ithaca initiative, hear updates on progress so far, to understand the goals of the charrette, and what to expect over the next few days. Herb Engman (Town of Ithaca Supervisor) welcomed the group and discussed the Town of Ithaca’s intention to adopt a form-based code in light of its new Comprehensive Plan which focuses on smart growth and sustainability. Form Ithaca team members Rob Steuteville and David West presented on the basics of a form-based code, the Form Ithaca initiative, the City and Town’s Comprehensive Plans, and the specifics of the work thus far, including potential building types for Ithaca.
8:15pm Public Workshop
About half of the forty-two attendees of the kick-off presentation participated in a follow-up workshop that included activities and discussions exploring how the City and Town of Ithaca could grow in ways that reflect their forward-thinking land-use goals and visions, and how regulations might help achieve those goals. Participants used trace paper to sketch specific ideas on maps, identified which buildings they wanted to see in each zone, and shared their visions. Each table then shared their ideas with the larger group. These ideas, sketches, and suggestions were turned over the charrette team and used the following day to begin sketching draft plans and designs.
Thursday June 4th
10:30am Development Stakeholders Meeting (1.5 hours)
Seven individuals representing local government, non-profit, and private developers attended an invite-only meeting to share information and insights with the Form Ithaca team. The group discussion was facilitated by Noah Demarest (STREAM Collaborative), who asked stakeholders about the specific hurdles and opportunities they see, how they see markets for different types of development, and the possible advantages of a form-based code. Participants discussed the importance of understanding the different markets in the City and Town (student, senior, low-income), the ongoing challenge of housing affordability, and how to best educate the public in order to build support for density and infill.
1:00pm Transportation Stakeholders Meeting (1.5 hours)
Seven individuals representing the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County Area Transit (TCAT), Way2Go of Cooperative Extension, the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC), and NYSDOT were present at an invite-only meeting to share information and to help the Form Ithaca team increase its understanding of transportation issues and challenges from an infrastructure perspective. Rob Steuteville (Better Cities and Towns) facilitated the conversation, and participants discussed various challenges and opportunities, including: 1) the disconnect between visions/plans and the funding/spending realities; 2) the need for a comprehensive transportation framework; 3) the need for more walkable/bikeable/transit-oriented development; and 4) how future development in areas like West Hill, South Hill, and the waterfront can enhance pedestrian access, mitigate traffic issues, and improve quality of life.
7:00pm Draft Ideas Review and Public Feedback
Thirty-one citizens gathered to hear the team present draft parameters of the zones, and to review drawings and designs based on ideas from Wednesday and Thursday work sessions. Drawings were displayed on the walls, and participants spent the first portion of the session looking at and discussing the designs before charrette team members presented on their work (individuals focused on specific focus areas such as improving the waterfront and its connection to the neighborhood across Rt. 13, and the development of a hamlet at Rt. 96/Danby Rd. and King Rd.). Participants shared feedback verbally and in writing on a large easel, both of which were incorporated into the next day’s work session.
Friday June 5th
12:00pm-2:00pm Open Office
Twenty-one members of the public visited Open Office hours during which conceptual plans that had been created based on public feedback were hung on the wall, and participants used post-it notes to comment on and question what they saw before the material was shared during the final presentation.
Saturday June 6th
5:00pm Final Presentation
Mayor Svante Myrick welcomed the public to the final event of the four-day charrette with opening remarks. The Mayor shared his enthusiasm for the Form Ithaca initiative, and expressed his gratitude for the leadership demonstrated by the Form Ithaca team. Seth Harry (Seth Harry & Associates), presented a cohesive vision of zoning for the City and Town of Ithaca, discussed next steps, and took questions and comments from the public. This information and feedback was used to help create the second report of the Form Ithaca initiative, entitled, “Applying the Character Code.” Twenty-one members of the public attended this event, including the Mayor, Town Supervisor, Herb Engman, and Deputy Town Supervisor, Bill Goodman.
Public feedback during charrette
Feedback and participation from the public guided the design process during the charrette, and will continue to inform the development of the draft form based code over the coming months.
Themes emerged around the importance of preserving neighborhood character and historical integrity; creating a safe, attractive, and accessible connection between the City and the Waterfront, starting with improvements to Route 13; making the Waterfront a true destination by enhancing connections and creating places where people want to be; improving streetscapes and road conditions in favor of promoting walk- and bikeability; creating real places along the Waterfront and removing the barrier between the City and the Waterfront to ensure people are connecting to one of the most important assets in the community – the lake; placing energy considerations at the forefront of planning and development decisions; and the desire to create smart urban development that fosters vibrancy in areas of the City that are languishing.
Here are some things people told us:
- Use form based/character zoning to establish a street level “language” of form and materials that create comfortable human scale, authenticity, timelessness, texture, depth, alcoves…a pattern that invites pedestrian/human connections and space for time to linger.
- How will form based zoning impact what’s already there? How will it impact historic preservation?
- Will a form based code allow for more commercial/retail in walkable neighborhoods?
- Ask the question: Will children feel at home in the form based neighborhood?
- A handsome pedestrian bridge over Route 13 to Willow Avenue would make visits to the Farmers’ Market, the Haunt, and Waterfront less harrowing.
- Consider connecting the waterfront at MLK St./State St.. This would connect the Commons with the Waterfront, revitalizing commerce. Waterfront could be a boardwalk.
- Build bridge over Route 13 to better connect neighborhoods to waterfront.
- Create small, pockets of gathering places along waterfront, spaces that encourage people to get together and be together, “third places,” a mix of uses should surround this public space.
- Energy generation and use in the built environment needs to be considered and integrated into the code. Sites well suited for solar should require orientation and rooftypes to support PV. Energy efficiency is key with new development. Remember energy!
- When planning for new development, energy considerations should be of paramount importance. All new buildings need to be oriented to allow, at a minimum, rooftop solar and ideally, passive solar gain. While community solar may be desirable for some existing development, PV on buildings is a much better solution.
- Use code to enhance connections between people and the natural assets of the community.
- In rethinking traffic corridor design, consider bringing back trolley/cable car transportation on Rt. 96B, Rt. 13, 96, Green St., Cayuga St. (see New Orleans streetcar expansion as example).
- Rebrand the highway as an urban street, make Meadow St. safe for walking and biking, make it more accessible and reclaim shoulders for street trees.
- Things that make places more accessible for people with disabilities make them more accessible for everyone.
- Really like the focus on pedestrians and biking. Everything I don’t like about Ithaca is related to areas where it is less pleasant to walk. Would like to see better pedestrian connections and access to Wegmans, where I shop often.
- Make Rt. 13/Meadow St. a boulevard and build up the corners at Third St. and Meadow St. to narrow the street and give a more pedestrian-friendly feel.
- Creating a two-way cycle track on Route 13 makes a statement! Creating physical barriers and planting strip in median is crucial for safe crossing.
- People appreciate the addition of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail (which is expanding), but area still feels very car-oriented, water feels hard to get to.
- How could zoning change the shape of Rt. 13? Can we have a boulevard?
- Need to tip the culture towards more walking and less driving.
- Barriers between biking and driving lanes along Route 13 are essential – planters, medians, etc. – otherwise no one will really feel safe riding along there on a bike (painted lanes do not really make people feel safe).
- We need greater density along Third St. leading down to waterfront.
- Infill development for DMV plaza, Franklin Market, ICC Roasters/All Tile areas, so much parking that’s never full, improve into retail, commercial amenities for the neighborhood; could be a great gateway to the waterfront.