Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial written by Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice.
As always, we’re eager to print alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To do so, contact me today at email@example.com.
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Tompkins County Public Library
The 21st Century Library Campaign
Ithaca, N.Y. — A skateboarder hopped a curb. Two lawyers argued about Hillary Clinton. A few teenagers pushed each other as they shuffled along.
I was trying to relax Wednesday after a long day of running the Ithaca Voice. But then … I saw them, mirage-like, appear on the southern end of the pavilion. I rubbed my eyes. But this was no ruse, no William Metro-style magic trick.
There they were: Shoppers. On the Ithaca Commons. In the flesh.
It wasn’t a huge group — maybe four middle-aged women, carrying handbags like a high school football team wears its varsity jackets. But they were there, and a quick interview confirmed that they were out to shop. The weather was perfect — 68 degrees (!) — and they’d heard the construction was wrapping up. They wanted to go to a jewelry store they hadn’t been to in months.
At this point, it’s impossible to dispute that the construction has decreased pedestrian traffic downtown to at least some extent.
A recent story in the Ithaca Voice detailed that three area shops are closing, and another revealed that a large percentage of Commons businesses said they’ve suffered during the construction season.
So let’s acknowledge the following: Business have suffered, and merchants have been hurt, by the over-budget and much-delayed project. A large number of shops continue to struggle with low pedestrian traffic. By any fair accounting of the evidence, that much is certainly true.
But here is what’s also true: On Wednesday, I left my office a block east of the Commons, stopped in for some food at the Commons Market, cashed a check at the M&T Bank, bought a book at Autumn Leaves, and then sat down to enjoy the new Bank Alley.
Bank Alley is the part of the Commons that stretches from Center Ithaca to Seneca Street. Construction crews put all but the finishing touches on the area last week, though substantial work remains to be done on the 100 and 200 blocks of the Commons (which run east to west).
Still, if the completed Bank Alley is any indication of what’s to come for the rest of the Commons, Ithaca should get excited.
First, there’s the planters — two of them already done — that give the block a park-like feel. Then there’s the neatly-placed, gently-sloping brick surface, and the admirable commemorative plaque recently dedicated by Cornell President David Skorton and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick outside the Tompkins Trust Company building.
The Commons construction project has been painful, and devastatingly so, for many.
But as I left Bank Alley on Wednesday, I heard the Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky” playing gently out a nearby window. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, downtown Ithaca has finally turned the corner — and that the Commons’ best days are coming sooner than we think.
Previous Ithaca Voice coverage of the new Commons
3 Ithaca Commons shops going out of business; construction blamed – Three downtown Ithaca shops are going out of business — and at least two of their owners say the over-budget and delayed Commons construction project is to blame. Ithaca Voice
New report: Over 60 percent of downtown Ithaca retailers saw sales, foot traffic drop in 2014 – A new report shows that more than 60 percent of retailers in downtown Ithaca saw foot traffic and sales decline both during the last holiday season and throughout 2014. Ithaca VOice
After Commons crews break window, Ithaca merchant picks humor over anger – Stacey Payette was with her mother last Friday morning when she got a call from an unknown number. Ithaca Voice
Officials: Simeon’s crash, other factors again delay completion date for Commons redesign – The completion date for the Ithaca Commons redesign has been pushed into next year. Ithaca Voice
In sweeping speech, Mayor Myrick says new Commons will be best downtown in U.S. – In an address that drew from sources ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Fyodor Dostoevsky. Ithaca Voice
Mayor Myrick on 4 big issues, including the Commons, truck safety, and Cornell – “This problem happens often enough with tragic enough consequences that we have to act on it. But we have to be careful not to overreact,” Myrick says of truck safety. Ithaca Voice
Amid construction, Commons hot dog vendor asks for old spot back – Louis “Lou” Cassaniti wheeled out his equipment Wednesday morning for another day of grilling. Ithaca Voice
Ithaca Commons business owners pack City Hall, lamenting construction – A few dozen people, including many Ithaca Commons business owners, packed City Hall on Wednesday to express dissatisfaction with the Commons construction project. Ithaca Voice
Ithaca delays completion date for part of Commons construction project – Unexpected delays have pushed back the projected completion date for the surface of the western stretch of the Commons into the spring. Ithaca Voice
Reopening festivities for Ithaca Commons scheduled for Aug. 28-29 – Ithacans have earned their stripes this year, putting up with frigid weather and snow. Key West we aren’t. Ithaca Voice
New balconies considered for rebuilt Simeon’s on Ithaca Commons – Could the rebuilt Simeon’s Restaurant include two new balconies? Ithaca Voice
Reference to Greek myth proves unconvincing as Ithaca rejects dogs on Commons – Seth Sicroff reached far into the literary canon Wednesday night as he tried to persuade Ithaca’s council to allow dogs to walk on the newly renovated Commons. Ithaca Voice
After 17 years, Jabberwock head shop moving off Ithaca Commons – The head shop Jabberwock is moving off of the Ithaca Commons after 17 years, according to the store’s staff. Ithaca Voice