Finger Lakes Community Design Center Opens

Rendering of Proposed Stormwater Planters Around Town & Country Plaza Geneva, NY

­­The Finger Lakes Institute based at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, has created a community design center, dubbed the FLI-CDC, which strives to provide Finger Lakes communities with innovative, creative, and sustainable design solutions that improve the built environment and quality of life, while protecting the natural environment. Support for the FLI-CDC has been generously provided by the Isabel Foundation.

To support the efforts to improve the quality of life for all citizens in the region, be good stewards of natural resources, and fostering the responsible growth of the built environment the FLI-CDC offers comprehensive sustainable community development planning and design services to the communities in the Finger Lakes region. Under the direction of Cari Varner, instructor of Architectural Studies at HWS, five student interns from Architectural Studies and Environmental Studies programs at HWS were hired to support the program; Chelsea Encababian WS ’14, Jamal Combs H ’13, Audrey Yifei Li WS ’15, Joellen Mauch WS ’15, and Margret Markham WS ’14.

In the final weeks of the summer, the team is in full presentation mode as they work to compile all of the information that they gathered on their projects into respective reports.

For the first project, in partnership with the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council (GFLRPC), the team researched instances of historic infrastructure to inform the reimplementation of various green infrastructure techniques into the historic districts in Ontario County. The team surveyed each district, mapping ideal locations for the infrastructure techniques: bio-swale, filter strip, roof garden, cistern, permeable paving, storm water planters, drain marking, rain barrel, rain garden, green roof, shared driveway, ribbon driveway, and stream day-lighting. Best practices manuals and brochures were made to help property owners implement the recommended techniques. In a public presentation, the team presented their findings and summarized the applicable techniques to municipal officials and local historians.

In partnership with the Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center (GNRC), the team looked into four issues identified along the corridor of Routes 5 & 20: aesthetics, walkability, storm water collection, and parking. In the parking occupancy, survey it was found that six of the seven lots surveyed reached a maximum of 40 percent occupancy during both weekday and weekend hours. Stormwater collection points were found throughout the business parking lots, with the largest collection at the Hamilton Plaza where a four-inch deep puddle was found. The walkability survey showed a decrease in quality and appearance of sidewalks the farther west one travels on the corridor. Cowpaths were present, demonstrating a need for additional sidewalks. Renderings were created showing the reuse of a vacant bank lot, the implementation of a parklet in an unused portion of a parking lot, the addition of more street trees to various properties, and a new welcome sign. A public presentation was given proposing a joint committee and new overlay district between the Town and City of Geneva. The team also discussed some examples from the recommended design guidelines that if adopted by the joint committee would be utilized by property owners to guide any renovations or new construction on their property. Both the City and Town of Geneva’s planning officials requested for the team to present their findings and recommendations to their supervisors to work to implement the proposals.

For more information on the FLI-CDC, please contact Cari Varner at



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