The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission discussed a plan to draft a proposal for landmark designation for The Nines building.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission discussed a plan to draft a proposal for landmark designation for The Nines building.

November 14, 2017

Ithaca Commission Sets Sights on The Nines, Considers Drafting Landmark Designation Proposal

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After the Ithaca Common Council struck down a proposal for the hotly-contested Chacona Block landmark designation, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission discussed a plan to draft a proposal for the same designation for The Nines building.

Tuesday’s meeting was the commission’s first since Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 broke the 5-5 tie against landmark designation for the Chacona Block, despite the ILPC’s recommendation to designate. “I’ve never seen people so torn,” said Common Council Liaison Seph Murtagh ’09, referring to the vote.

Though the Chacona Block will not receive historic designation, the fight for preservation for Collegetown buildings continues, this time with 311 College Ave., home to The Nines.

And leading this fight is the ILPC.

Fearing rampant development in Collegetown, ILPC members deliberated a plan to draft a proposal for The Nines building.

“Every new building is another death nail in the coffin of Ithaca’s uniqueness,” said ILPC member Prof. Katelin Olson, architecture, art and planning.

Common Council Liaison Joseph Murtaugh discusses landmark designation at the ILPC meeting.

Boris Tsang / Staff Photographer

Common Council Liaison Seph Murtagh discusses landmark designation at the ILPC meeting.

Though a project, proposed and presented to the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board earlier in the fall, could have led to demolition and renovation for The Nines building, the developer, Todd Fox of Visum Development withdrew from his prior redevelopment project in late October.

“To my mind there are five either institutional- or commercial-mixed use buildings that are historically significant,” said Ithaca resident John Schroeder ’74, alumni advisor for the Cornell Daily Sun Alumni Association, to the commission. This includes the building that currently houses The Nines.

Now, the ILPC is readying a push for historic designation status. However, the commission did not officially designate a member to write the proposal.

“My sense right now is that there is more support for landmarking The Nines than the Chacona Block,” Murtagh said. He explained that this is because The Nines is more immediately recognizable for its function and memories.

“We should have done it in 2012,” added Olson, referring to a preliminary look into designation, which determined that the building would be eligible.

ILPC Member Prof. Katelin Olson, architecture, art and planning says this designation proposal should have come long before ILPC's meeting.

Boris Tsang / Sun Staff Photographer

ILPC Member Prof. Katelin Olson, architecture, art and planning says this designation proposal should have come long before ILPC’s meeting.

As of Tuesday, no official proposal to landmark The Nines building has been drafted.

The ILPC believes they will find support, however, as The Nines building holds a combination of economic, historic and emotional relevance.

“People want to relive their glory days in Collegetown, the Collegetown they knew and loved,” Murtagh said. The Nines building, as well as others on College Avenue, have been visited by returning graduates for decades.

However, this tourism revenue could slow if alumni feel the town of their youth is no longer there, Olson said.

The commission concurred that, from an economic standpoint, preservation was a positive step for the future. “Historic buildings overwhelmingly support small businesses,” Murtagh said, describing the combination of history and commerce as an “economic driver.”

The Nines building on College Avenue includes both the original No. 9 Ithaca Fire Station, built in 1895, and a 1908 addition at its front, The Sun previously reported. In 1971, Ithaca sold the building, noting that it no longer served its needs, and the current fire station was built next door.

The ILPC recently designated another building on College Avenue, the Larkin building, before the fight over the Chacona Block. Ithaca Common Council voted 8 to 2 to designate the former Collegetown grocery store in early October.

“We’re blessed that we got Larkin,” Olsen said. “It’s going to be an uphill battle for every other one.”