Sunday, October 07, 2012

Member Mail is a monthly report on the activities of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance

Member Mail is a monthly report on the activities of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. You are receiving this email because of your membership or interest in the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District. We hope that this report will keep you abreast of the many projects and events going on in your Downtown.
From the Executive Director

This is a time of great anticipation here in downtown. As we describe below, downtown is embarking on a remarkable building and growth spurt that is unparalleled in the history of our community. A new Commons pedestrian mall and enhanced transit corridors connecting downtown to Cornell, Ithaca College, and the West End/waterfront will serve as catalysts for significant private investment over the next few years. Already, we have projects underway or in the planning stages that total well over $100,000,000. With the approval of a new incentive tax abatement program and the modification of downtown zoning to accommodate more density, we are planning for even more residential, lodging, and office development.
As a community we have long talked about creating a sustainable community... one where we value smart growth and public transit. We are committed to create such a place-here in downtown. As we rebuild downtown know that we are adhering to two key principles--- that downtown density is smart growth and that we will maintain and improve the street level character and charm of our downtown.
A new Commons, a new conference center, a new hotel, 200+ more new units of housing. This really is a time of great anticipation.
Gary Ferguson
Executive Director
Business Retention & Development

The Commons Rebuild project took a great leap forward with the announcement from Senators Gillibrand and Schumer that Ithaca had been awarded a Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) State of Good Repair grant for $4.5 million. This award was the result of the hard work of Mayor Svante Myrick, City Planning and DPW staff, County staff, and the DIA, all working together with Washington, D.C. consultants Sustainable Strategies DC to pursue a series of federal funding opportunities.
Funds from this grant will be used to help rebuild the Commons and to help fund the upgrading of the Downtown to Cornell transit corridor. Both of these items were key elements in the Downtown 2020 Plan.
On June 1, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance held a press conference to introduce the winners of its Race for the Space competition, an exciting new
initiative announced in February. Twenty-eight local entrepreneurs submitted proposals for new or expanded businesses, vying for an award package including free rent for one year in a prime downtown retail space. Those proposals were winnowed down to fourteen finalists, and finally to two grand prize winners: The Art and Found, a new eco-friendly clothing store owned by Olivia Royale and Heidi Brown, and Life's So Sweet Chocolates, an expansion of the beloved Trumansburg-based gourmet candy business owned by Darlynne Overbaugh. The Art in Found is set to open in Center Ithaca (171 The Commons) this month while Life's So Sweet, which will feature a fully-restored antique soda fountain, will open on the south side of the Ithaca Journal building (116 West Green Street) in September. This contest was made possible by the winning stores' landlords, Frost Travis of Travis Hyde and John Guttridge of Urban Core, who donated the free rent, as well as the Ithaca Times and John Snyder Architects, who will donate ad space and design services. Stay tuned at: and:
The City of Ithaca has submitted a formal proposal to the State of New York to provide funding to the Ithaca Commons Rebuild Project. The proposal was for $4.0 million that would be applied directly to Commons construction. In the proposal the City described how a rebuilt Commons would be an economic development generator not only for downtown, but for the entire community. A rebuilt Commons will leverage and stimulate new development and growth in and around downtown. Currently, there are plans for over $100 million in new private development surrounding the Commons. These projects will create and retain scores of jobs, over 200 new housing units, new office space, new hotels, and new retail. We believe that the Commons project will be a catalytic project and could be a poster child for the economic revitalization of upstate New York. A decision on the $4.0 million grant will come in October.
After hosting a downtown public meeting on the subject in early July, the DIA Board of Directors has voted to provide up to a half million dollars in capital funding to the Commons rebuild project, if there is a gap in the project. This commitment enabled the City's application to the State Consolidated Funding program (CFA) for $4.0 million to have the needed 1:1 match. The City had previously pledged up to $3.5 million for the Commons. While details on the mechanics of the transaction have yet to be determined, it is expected that this would be a ten year obligation from the DIA that could be bonded at the front end of the project.
Now that the funding strategy for the Commons project appears to be coming together, the question in everyone's mind is when will this project happen? Given the grant timetable, it is most probable that we are looking at a 2013 start date for the work. Sasaki Associates is completing its final cost estimate and will be preparing a phasing timetable in the next few weeks. City and County staff are hard at work attempting to create a cash flow schedule from the different funding sources that will allow the project to move forward as quickly as possible. As details become available, the DIA will share them with downtown stakeholders.
Recognizing that the rebuilding of the Commons pedestrian mall may have some impact on commerce, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance Board of Directors has committed to earmark $150,000 toward construction mitigation. This fund, which will leverage additional public and private resources, will be used to market and promote downtown during Commons construction, helping to attract and retain customers and visitors.
Serious growth is coming to downtown in the near future. Since 2008, the national recession has acted to delay and postpone projects. As the national economic picture improves, projects are now readying to move forward. Among them are:
Holiday Inn Expansion and Conference Center
Scheduled to break ground in November of next year, this project will demolish the old two story hotel buildings and replace them with a new 100 foot tower. Rooms in the original tower will also be refurbished. The new tower will sit on the southern end of the property and the ground floor at Cayuga and Clinton will contain the hotel restaurant with street/sidewalk access. In addition to the new tower, Hart Hotels will also build a new conference center with seating and break-out rooms for up to 400 people. The conference center will be located on the northern end of the property, closest to Green Street. This project will become a destination and key traffic generator for downtown, especially for mid-week conference business.
Hotel Ithaca
It is official. The long awaited and much anticipated Hotel Ithaca will be moving forward. Property owner Jeffrey Rimland has teamed up with Urgo Hotels to be the developer and operator of a 140 room full-service Marriott Hotel. Located at the east entrance to the Commons, the landmark project will provide a substantial economic boost to the downtown economy, providing a steady stream of new visitors to downtown on a daily basis. The project still needs to obtain a revision to its site plan approval and some final agreements with the City for tying into the Green Street parking garage.
Argos Inn
Located on East State Street (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) next to the Challenge Industries site, the Argos Inn is nearing completion. Owner/developer Avi Smith is opening a 13 room urban inn in this historic property. The building is being renovated to historic standards and will feature a ground floor pub that will be open to the public. A late fall 2012 opening is expected.
Seneca Way
The Newman Group and Brian Warren are collaborating on the development of a new mixed-use building that will replace the former Challenge Industries building on Seneca Way. This project will consist of 39 units of market rate housing plus 9,000 SF of office space. The project has received highly competitive federal New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) to assist with its funding. The project is expected to begin work this fall.
Breckenridge Place
The NW corner of Cayuga and Seneca Streets is undergoing a profound change. The former Women's Community Building has been demolished and work is underway on Breckenridge Place. This 50 unit affordable housing project is a joint project of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) and PathStone Corporation. The six-story LEED certified building will feature one and two bedroom units and is expected to be completed in 2013.
Cayuga Place II
Bloomfield/Schon Partners is preparing to undertake Cayuga Place II, a 39 unit apartment building that will be located along Six Mile Creek immediately behind the Cayuga parking garage. All of the units will be two story lofts, with 17 foot ceilings and bedroom lofts, a style that has been wildly popular in major metropolitan markets across the country. The project is receiving its final revised site plan approvals and is scheduled to begin construction in fall 2012.
The Downtown Ithaca Alliance has been notified by the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Corporation (STREDC) that it has been awarded a $500,000 Community Revitalization loan for 142-144 The Commons. The DIA applied for the funding on behalf of 142-144 The Commons. The property was recently purchased by local developer Jim Merod who plans to redevelop the building, creating five (5) new upper story housing units while retaining the two ground floor retail units. This $1.8 million project is made possible by the low interest loan from STREDC. Expect the project to be completed in 2013.
New Businesses

Decorum-Too in Dewitt Mall is Alan Nemeck's latest venture. Alan has returned downtown selling Turkish, Persian and Afghani rugs hand-picked himself during his travels to Istanbul. The shop also carries furniture from the Copeland and Hallagan companies. Decorum-Too will play host to a bimonthly exhibition of works by local artists.
The Art and Found, located in Center Ithaca, specializes in sustainable clothing, intimates, and accessories. Stop by and meet the crew who won the Race for the Space and have made their store a reality!
F. Oliver's Oils and Vinegars, 154 The Commons. F. Oliver's carries an extensive selection of exceptionally fresh oils and aged balsamic vinegars that customers are always welcome to taste before making a selection based on their culinary needs. Owner Penelope Pankow has stores in both Canandaigua and Rochester.
The Center Café in Center Ithaca is owned and operated by Terry Little and his wife, Theresa Brace. Serving breakfast and lunch with daily specials, the café features homemade muffins and desserts.
The Bangkok Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar, 118 W. State St.
General Manager Todd Unzel and his wife fell in love with Ithaca on a trip from Rhode Island to Niagara Falls. Featuring homemade fresh dumplings as well as more traditional Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine as well as sushi, this new restaurant is a welcome addition to West State Street.
Gorgers, a new sandwich shop, is located at 116 W. State St. Gorgers brings fresh, fast subs to the West side of the Commons. Owner Matthew Diamond and his brother renovated the former Prize Diner which closed due to a fire. The sub rolls will be baked on site and the sauces will be homemade as well. Other menu items include soups and salads.
Carshare has relocated to the Dewitt Mall, down the hall across from Moosewood.
Carshare has just added two more cars and two more locations bringing the number in their fleet to 21.
Musicians for World Harmony
Samite Mulondo has founded Musicians for World Harmony, a non-profit organization that brings the healing power of music to AIDS orphans, former child soldiers, and those living in refugee camps in war-torn regions of the world. They are located at 123 S. Cayuga St, 302B
Chiang O'Brien Architects is operated by Principals Grace Chiang and BobO'Brien who together bring six decades of experience leading creative teams of professionals and providing architectural and planning expertise to small and large organizations. Their office is located at 217 N. Aurora St.
Special Events

Summer Concert Series
The Summer Concert Series wrapped up its final show on September 7 with the Jeff Love Band. The 2012 season included 14 shows with bands from Latin Jazz to Roots Rock. Attendance at the concerts was high with unusually dry weather for the summer.
Fall and Winter Events
To get involved in the events below, contact
30th Annual Apple Harvest Festival
September 28-30, 2012 on the Commons and surrounding streets
The Apple Festival is a celebration of food, fun and the fall. The three day event attracts an audience of around 30,000 people to downtown Ithaca. The event features farmers, wineries, breweries, bakeries, crafters, food vendors, and apple pie eating competition, apples, apples, and more apples. There's music, dancing, street performers, plus a new family fun zone.
October 27 - 12noon to 6pm
Downtown Ithaca Alliance is working with Kilpatrick's Publick House on a new event to the Central Commons of Downtown Ithaca with beer, wine and food tastings. Come and sample Finger Lakes wines and beers, and tasty morsels from your favorite local restaurants and food vendors.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Join in the Halloween Parade! The parade meets at GIAC at 3:45pm and parades to the Commons while trick or treating. There will be music, games, hot cider, and chili inside of Center Ithaca. Kids can Trick or Treat on the Commons from 4-7pm.
Downtown Living Tour
Sunday, November 4 -- 1-5pm
The Downtown Living Tour is a self-guided tour of apartments and attractions in the downtown area. For those who have ever wondered what it would be like to live downtown, the Downtown Living Tour offers a new opportunity to get a sneak peek into a range of apartments in the downtown area. Participants will be able to tour up to six apartments at this "open house" of urban living. Register in advance by emailing or by calling (607) 277-8679, or register on the day of the event at the Downtown Visitors & Ticket Center at Center Ithaca starting at 1pm. Participants will receive a lanyard pass, map, coupons, and discounts to downtown attractions, and will also be entered to win prizes including a $100 Downtown Gift Card.
Winter Festival 2012 - December 1-9, 2012
Visit Downtown Ithaca's Winter Festival with special culinary events including Restaurant Week and a Chowder Cook-off, plus an artist market, gallery night, and the 3rd Annual Ice Wars Ice Carving Competition.
December 1 - Santa's Arrival to Downtown
Santa will visit Downtown Ithaca at Noon on Saturday, December 1st. The elves and Santa arrive from the sky and rappel onto the Ithaca Commons. This is followed by photos with Santa, games, music and dance in Center Ithaca.
December 1 - Wing Walk Benefit for Ithaca Youth Bureau
This new event will feature wings from Thai to traditional Buffalo. Patrons will be able to visit restaurant locations and vote for their favorites.
December 1 - 9 - Restaurant Week in Ithaca
Ithaca's Second Annual Restaurant Week will take place from Saturday, December 1st to Sunday, December 9. Restaurants will offer specials and fixed price menus.
December 6-8 - Ice Wars Ice Carving Competition
Ithaca's Ice Wars Ice Carving Competition is a National Ice Carving Association sanctioned event and will take place from December 6-8. Sixteen acclaimed national and international level ice carvers will compete in three competitions to win prize money and trophies.
December 7 - Special Holiday Gallery Night - A walkable tour of downtown galleries with special events and giveaways for the holidays.
December 8 - 3rd Annual Downtown Ithaca Chowder Cook-off
Twenty restaurants will compete for the coveted Chowder Cup. Tickets are $10 for 10 tastings and include vegetarian, seafood, and meat chowders.
Saturday, December 8 - 16 - Hanukkah (Chanukah) - Menorah lighting
Saturday, December 8 - Holiday Artists Market - 11am to 5pm
A juried fine art market featuring local painters, photographers, printmakers, sculptors, and more! Free admission. Bring your holiday shopping list!! A program of the Community Arts Partnership. For more information, visit or call 273-5072, ext. 20
Save the Date - Winter/Spring 2013
Chili Cook-off - Saturday, February 16 (Thundersnow date February 17)
Ithaca Festival - Thursday, May 30 - Sunday, June 2
For more information on these or other downtown events, visit, or call the Downtown Ithaca Alliance at 607-277-8679.
Government Relations & Infrastructure

21 Boxes: An Electrical Box Mural Project 21 boxes
In collaboration with the City of Ithaca Public Arts Commission and the
Community Arts Partnership, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance has been
facilitating a novel public art project with the mission to beautify the community's urban core. Twenty-one local artists were invited to transform the same number of nondescript city-owned electrical boxes into inspiring works of art while preserving the boxes' functionality. Selected artists
include Kadie Salfi, Ryan Curtis, Alice Muhlback, and Rob Licht. Compositions range from playful flora and fauna and trompe l'oeil to dreamy pop and psychedelia, but they are all notable for their vivid colors which stand in marked contrast to their utilitarian surroundings. The 21 Boxes project was made possible by a grant from the Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund and by support from Standard Art and Supply and Ithaca Paint and Decorating. The process of transformation is being thoroughly documented on the project's Facebook page:

Dogs on the Commons
In response to complaints from tourists and locals alike that the Ithaca Commons is not "dog-friendly," the Downtown Ithaca Alliance conducted a survey to determine if there was broad support for lifting the ban on dogs that has been in place since 1975. Of nearly one thousand respondents, 80% said they would favor a trial period where dogs were allowed; among tourists who have visited in the last year, the number was 90%. The Alliance brought the results of this survey to the Commons Advisory Board, and new legislation is now being discussed by the Government Performance and Accountability Committee. Such legislation would likely regulate leash length, tethering, and number of dogs allowed per person, and would stipulate fines for owners who fail to clean up after their pets. The Alliance is also looking into the feasibility of providing waste stations and designated tethering poles on the Commons.
Martin Luther King Statue Unveiled on the Ithaca Commons West End
On June 22, the Martin Luther King Freedom Walkway Committee unveiled the first statue on its planned walkway. The event included speeches from former Mayor Peterson, Dorothy Cotton, the sculptor Rob Licht and other dignitaries. The sculpture is an abstraction of a waterfall combined with the portrait bust of Martin Luther King, Jr, on a stone base etched with the quote "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream". Funding was provided through private donors through a fund established with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.
Art in the Heart of the City
Art in the Heart, Downtown Ithaca's annual outdoor art exhibition, returned
for the thirteenth year this July with fifteen new sculptures by seven
different artists of local and international renown. Returning artists Jay
Seaman and Liz Sibley Fletcher were joined by first-time exhibitors Sam
Castner, Glenn Zweygardt, Barron Naegel, Bob Turan, and Mary C. Angers.
Several of the works on display were conceived and fabricated expressly for
Art in the Heart 2012, including Cosmos - Castner's imposing tower of
weathered iron orbs, poles, and ribbons that stands near Madeline's - and
Spirit of the Trees - Naegel's colorful mosaic sculpture creatively sited in
the middle of the fountain planter surrounded by vibrant canna flowers. Art
in the Heart is an annual program of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance made
possible through cooperation with the City of Ithaca and grant support from
the Community Arts Partnership. Look for a complete listing and map at our
Marketing & Member Services

Back to School
The Downtown Ithaca Alliance conducted a "Back To School" radio and print campaign containing information about retail, restaurants and special events airing across 8 radio stations and in print. The goal was to introduce newcomers to downtown and the website for more information.
Employee Appreciation Week
July 30 to August 3
Downtown Ithaca hosted another successful employee appreciation week with daily giveaways, the office Olympics, hot dog eating competition and distribution of the Downtown Employee Discount Card. Over 1,000 cards were distributed during the week. If you have yet to receive yours, contact for more information.
Sidewalk Sales
The Downtown Ithaca Sidewalk Sales took place August 2 - 5 with over 20 participating businesses. A survey has been circulated to gain feedback about the sales and whether they should continue.
Fall Guide and Kiosks
The Downtown Ithaca Fall Guide is now at the printer and will be ready for the Apple Harvest Festival. New signs will be installed on the clock towers at the end of the Commons with a take away brochure holder to house the guides at each location. The guide now contains cross referenced business numbers and a map for exact locations.
Holiday Radio & TV Coop
The DIA marketing team is pricing both radio and television cooperative campaigns for November and December. If you are interested in participating and would like more information, contact Vicki at
Looking for Block Captains & Member Networking Event
The DIA is looking to improve communications with our members and would like to resurrect the block captain system. If you are interested in helping to get the word out including important notices, events information, special meetings, and deadlines for participating in programs, email The Member Services committee will also be hosting a member networking event in October so keep an eye out for the event notice.
About the DIA
The Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District (DIBID), is a State of New York chartered not-for-profit organization charged with the revitalization, development, promotion and management of downtown Ithaca.

The Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District has adopted the following vision statement to guide its work and operation:

"Downtown Ithaca is the economic, social, and cultural heart of Tompkins County. The Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District will strive to preserve and develop the central downtown core as the region's center for banking and finance, business and professional offices, government and community services, downtown residences, and as a retail destination highlighted by specialty shops, restaurants, arts and entertainment. Downtown serves people who live and work downtown, city and county residents, college communities, area visitors and tourists".

For more information visit or call 607-277-8679.

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