March 9, 2001

Commons Attracts New Business

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The Ithaca Commons is moving forward with its mission for growth. Several developments have taken place recently, leading to the creation of new businesses, while at the same time, many already established stores are experiencing major growth and expansion.

Cornell will have its own impact on the growth in the downtown area. “The new Cornell office building expected to be completed in 2004 will house 500 employees and undoubtedly will have a significant impact on the retail community. Extra employees will work downtown and patronize the retailers as part of this worthwhile investment,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership.

Expansion and movement have been the buzz words lately out of store owners’ mouths downtown.

“We are expanding Ithaca Books because customer demand has been so high,” said James Curran, president of Ithaca Books.

Along with expanding at the bookstore’s spot, Curran has purchased a 21,000 square foot building set to open in April on Trumansburg Road. It will house all Internet, mail order and warehouse operations for the store.

“The Commons attracts our target audience. It is really all about connections and having a strong sense of what is happening in the marketplace,” Curran said.

Logos Bookstore — under new ownership — has moved into the former McDonald’s lot and is scheduled to reopen at the end of March.

Customer demand is currently so high that it was necessary to expand to three and a half times the size of the original store, according to Curran. The new space will be able to accommodate an increase from 25,000 to 75,000 — the number of books the store hopes to accumulate over the next several months.

Autumn Leaves — a used bookstore — is occupying the former Logos Building and will triple its size by the first of April. Lost Dog Cafe on South Cayuga Street is near 80 percent complete and will open later in the spring, according to Ferguson.

The Commons is growing, but the type of businesses the Commons needs is up for debate.

“Since the city is planning for more development on the Southwest side, this will ultimately hurt the downtown area,” said Himat Patel, co-owner of Quiktex one-hour photo. Patel calls for a large department store chain compete with the Southwest development — which could include a Target and Pier 1 Imports — to provide customers with choice.

Dana Gerhart, the store manager of Morris’ Men’s Wear, disagrees. “The specialty retail stores make downtown Ithaca unique,” she said.

“The city is putting a good deal of money into the Commons and media attention will undoubtedly lead to more business interest,” said Josh Eckenrode, store manager of Beyond The Wall Posters.

Ferguson stressed that there is room to bring in a diverse group of stores to the Commons.

“The biggest objective is to bring more variety of stores to the commons and improve the physical environment. There are currently a half dozen spaces left on the commons. We are looking to evolve into a specialty center for housing, office space, tourism and the retail sector,” he said.

Archived article by Chris Westgate