ITHACA, N.Y.—Longtime Planning, Building and Economic Development Department staff member Lisa Nicholas has been promoted to lead that arm of the city, a move officially announced Thursday after being approved by Common Council earlier this month.

Nicholas had served as the acting director of the department since late last year, after a previous five years as deputy director. Overall, the city notes that Nicholas has worked for the city for 16 years.

Lisa Nicholas (Photo from Cornell AAP)

“Ithaca is fortunate to see a substantial level of growth and development, and we are thrilled to have Lisa at the helm leading this continued progress,” said Acting Mayor Laura Lewis in an announcement. “Her experience and tenacity in navigating complex projects, and her collaborative management style have produced tremendous results within the community and make her an invaluable member of the City’s leadership team.”

Nicholas, a fixture at city meetings on planning matters, takes over for JoAnn Cornish, who led the planning department until her retirement last year.  The Planning, Building and Economic Development Department is one of the more influential in the city, working with developers for private sector development in a variety of ways throughout the city.

“Ithaca is an amazing community with so many opportunities ahead of it,” Nicholas said. “I look forward to working alongside my staff to achieve our mission of managing growth and change in accordance with the community’s vision, and creating a safe, sustainable, equitable, and economically diverse, community for everyone who lives, works, plays, or otherwise visits our beautiful City.”

The city’s Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development includes practice areas of planning, zoning, economic development, sustainability, historic preservation, building and housing codes.

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at