TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—A preliminary timeline from Tompkins County officials is forecasting that the county’s Center of Government could be constructed and occupied as early as spring 2028.

The Center of Government, a long discussed major construction project for a county office complex in the City of Ithaca, is meant to address the county’s shortage of office space. It is still in its early stages of planning. Schematic designs of the center aren’t projected to begin until summer 2024.

County legislators in the Downtown Facilities Special Committee were shown a preliminary timeline of the project stages on Tuesday by Arel LeMaro, the county’s director of facilities. 

The office complex, which is projected to have 43,000 to 51,000 square feet of floor space, is estimated to cost around $40 million to construct. Its development will bring down three existing buildings, reshaping the downtown Ithaca corner of E. Buffalo St. and N. Tioga St., where it is slated to be constructed. 

The former KeyBank Building, the county annex building currently housing the Tompkins County Board of Elections, and the Ithaca Professional Building, which houses law offices for various local attorneys, are projected to be deconstructed in late 2024 to make way for the Center of Government. However, deconstruction of some of the buildings could begin as soon as summer 2024 if county officials are able to fast track the process, LeMaro said. 

He said that the benefits of an earlier deconstruction process would allow for moving forward with geotechnical foundation work, like testing soils on the land to see if the building might require pilings. But working out the details of such a plan will have to wait until the county begins working with its consultants, who are yet to be identified. 

LeMaro said, “Those things are all, at this point, very difficult to forecast because we haven’t even — we don’t even have a consultant on board to discuss those possibilities.”

Some legislators are already voicing their desire to see the county invest in the aesthetic of the building, even if it brings the price tag of the project up.

Legislator Mike Lane said, “If we’re going to build a building for 100 years, it needs to be a building that makes a statement and not just a big-box office building.”

The Center of Government, Lane noted, will form a larger campus of government buildings when it is complete, such as the courthouse.

“It may cost a little bit more to have some historic or architectural features [added] to the building. But I think we’re building for not just us, but for future generations,” Lane said.

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn