Ithaca, N.Y. — Gary Ferguson calls it “Phase 3” of the Ithaca Commons construction project.


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“You’re going to see a lot of activity happening because everything is above ground now,” says Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. “You’re seeing very tangible things taking shape everyday.”

The Ithaca Commons construction project has come in for significant criticism for being over-budget and delayed. (See here for the Ithaca Voice report on a subsequent decline in foot traffic and business for many local merchants.) Several Ithaca officials have blamed unexpectedly complicated utility work for the setbacks.

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Now that this work has been completed, Ferguson says, crews are able to move onto ground-level construction — work that is easily viewed by the public.

“You’re looking at this tangible stuff getting done and you say, ‘Wow, okay,’” Ferguson says. “It does feel like we’re in the homestretch.”

The official reopening celebration for the Commons has been slated for August 28-29. Among the work Ferguson cited as going on right now:

1 — Entrance arches

“Entrance arches” that will stand on the east end of the Commons have begun being set into place. The columns for the structure — which will welcome people from East Hill onto the Commons — have been installed, with high maroon polls visible from a few blocks away.

There will also be lettering on the arches, saying the “Ithaca Commons,” according to Ferguson. The crews spent some time recently measuring the columns in preparation for fitting the other pieces of the entrance arches, Ferguson said.

Entrance arches (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)
Entrance arches (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)

2 — Pavers on the 200 block

The 200 block of the Ithaca Commons — which stretches from Center Ithaca to Aurora Street — will see the installation of pavers on Monday, according to the Ithaca Commons Project Updates blog.

“It looks to me like it will take a week or two weeks to go down the one side and a week to two weeks to do the other side,” Ferguson said of the pavers. “It could go faster … That’s my best guess.”

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3 — Bank Alley

Bank Alley, which stretches from Center Ithaca to the M&T at the end of the block, is set to be open completely sometime in May, according to Ferguson.

Ferguson said the City of Ithaca has decided against letting the Ithaca Festival organizers use Bank Alley, fearing that the section of the Commons won’t be completed in time.

“We’re waiting with baited breath for them to say: ‘It’s substantially done, now you can do things on it,’” Ferguson says, “But I think we’re close.”

Adds the blog site: By Thursday, several plants, shrubs and red bud trees will be placed in the three planters. The current chain-link fence will be removed at that time as well.

Additionally, something called the “green screen” planting area — which planners also call the “vertical garden” — will be in place on the east side of the pavilion by Thursday, according to the blog.

4 — Coming obstruction from Green Street to Commons

On Wednesday, the sidewalk by Home Dairy Alley will be removed, according to the Commons blog.

That means those looking to access the Commons from Green Street will have to go through the back door of Center Ithaca or the side door of the Mate Factor. That’s only for a short period, maybe a day or two, according to Ferguson.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.