February 13, 2001

Plans Continue for Building

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Cornell is moving downtown. If all the pieces are in place on schedule, the construction of a $17 million office building on the Commons will begin in 2002.

Construction will begin “after all municipal and environmental approvals,” according to John Majeroni, University director of real estate. “We hope that allows us to begin next year.”

The proposed building will be constructed where The Tompkins County Trust Company presently stands. The current building will be demolished and a 130,000 square foot building will be erected in its place. The new building will house over 300 University employees; Cornell has not yet released a more specific explanation of how the space will be utilized.

When first proposed, the project sparked debate on whether the original building should be destroyed. It is considered by some to be a historical landmark. As a result there was talk of maintaining the facade of the original building.

According to Majeroni there has been no further discourse on the historical question. “There is nothing to respond to until a specific design is put forward,” he said.

“The building will respect the architecture on The Commons. We’re not planning on some modern, steel and glass thing to make a statement. It will look like it’s always been a part of downtown and maintain the great character of The Commons,” Majeroni said.

Cornell is still choosing a developer. Currently the three choices are the Ciminelli Development Company, based in Buffalo; the Pioneer Development Company, located in Syracuse; and Integrated Acquisitions and Development, Inc., a local Ithaca construction company.

The three developers will present their proposals for consideration on March 1 to Cornell’s real estate department.

The construction will take anywhere from 18 to 24 months. In the meantime, the main office of The Tompkins County Trust Company must relocate its business and at least 55 branch employees. A place for their temporary relocation has not been disclosed.

Not everyone in the community feels the proposed building will be a positive addition to Ithaca, nor that it will improve town-gown relations.

“This seems somewhat wasteful,” said Amanda Smith grad. “Cornell is spreading its tentacles into the town. Some universities tend to sprawl out and it gets excessive.”

Hugh Ryan ’00 expressed concern about the reaction of the downtown community. “Have they done focus groups downtown?” he asked.

Lemmi Wolff ’03 agreed. “Cornell doesn’t need to invade downtown,” she said.

However, according to Majeroni, the Commons was chosen explicitly because “it is the heart of the community. The whole purpose of the project is to strengthen [relations]. It sets the tone for all the outlying towns and villages.”

Ron Stiehl, owner of Stiehl’s Body Modification Station, feels the building will be a welcome edition to the downtown area. “It sounds great for business. I view the whole thing as very positive. It’s our bread and butter,” he said.

“A strong, vibrant Ithaca is very important to Cornell as it competes in attracting students,” Majeroni said. “It promotes the general reputation of the University.”

Archived article by Christen Eddy