At the May 26 Newfield Planning Board meeting, Cornell University’s spring 2021 Design Connect class unveiled its plans to help progress the Newfield Hamlet Revitalization Plan (NEWHARP). “Every semester, [Cornell Design Connect] provides practical experience to students through cooperation with local municipalities and non-profit organizations while providing design and planning services for these groups that may not have the resources to hire professionals,” as stated on the Cornell Design Connect webpage.
The students provided a slideshow, which was broadcast across the board’s public Zoom call meeting, and presented their suggested plans to revitalize and beautify the hamlet. The plans culminated in the creation of a design proposal that the planning board is able to use for grant applications.
The plans focus on the commercial district sounding the intersection of Bridge Street and Shaffer Road at Main Street. Progress is split between two phases: Phase One is designed to make temporary changes but is quick to enact, while Phase Two adds its own features while also building on the foundation set by Phase One.
Plans in Phase One include reducing the space used by roads to allow for more pedestrian-safe areas, narrowing the neighborhood’s entrances and intersection to encourage slower vehicle speeds, and painting crosswalks in several locations to increase safety and allow for easier pedestrian mobility. This phase focuses on setting expectations for motorists and the new allotted road space, and increasing the walkability of the area.
Phase Two incorporates expanding the parking lot by Tioga State Bank to maintain the current level of parking, realigning Shaffer Road with Bridge Street to reduce the amount of road needed to make the crossing, and establishing a public seating area at the corner by the Covered Bridge Market that fosters a sense of community. Smaller changes, like including raised sidewalks and placing curbs at bump-outs, build upon the expectations and designs set forth by Phase One. The end result is to create a safer and more enjoyable space for pedestrians while encouraging safer driving habits in motorists.
Parklets, pocket parks, trees, and planters are also included in the plans, creating both a more walkable area but also a more pleasant and beautiful atmosphere in which people will want to reside. One such parklet—a small outcropping that stretches into the space of normal side-street parking and then filled with items such as grass, plants, and benches—is suggested for outside of the library. A pocket park—a small park—could possibly find its way onto the corner between the intersection and Tioga State Bank.
Studies and research conducted by the Design Connect group pointed out how Main Street was a heavily built-up street, yet it was only receiving a fraction of the traffic seen on similarly constructed roads. The group compared Ithaca’s E State Street, which sees 18,585 vehicles on an annual average, to Newfield’s Main Street, which sees only 2,114 vehicles during the same time span. This results in several missed opportunities along and surrounding the road. To solve these issues, the Design Connect group set out to find how to best repurpose the hamlet so the community was getting the most out of it.
Through the use of public opinion forms and directly conversing with local stakeholders, this semester’s Design Connect team was able to identify many of the pros and cons residents had to offer. Items like safety and enjoyment through use of crosswalks, better parking, and open and green spaces were among some of the most popularly requested features for the hamlet. A large portion of issues identified by residents were safety and beauty related, such as sidewalk conditions, pedestrian safety, beautification, and accessibility. There was also a noted desire for more dining options and for the hamlet to have everything needed by a Newfield resident, such as a grocery store. It was clearly identified that people enjoy spending time in the hamlet and want to spend more time there, but the conditions are not the best.
The proposed timeline for this plan was split into two segments: the first 12 months would be used to implement Phase One, while past one year would see the implementation of aspects from Phase Two. The estimated total cost of the improvements would range from $1.3 to 1.6 million.
Although the provided plan is costly, there is a long list of grants of which the town could make use. Community feedback during the meeting came across as mostly positive.