April 3, 2001

C.U. Delays Construction on Commons

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Cornell’s real estate office, responsible for choosing the developer who will own, construct and manage a new building on the Ithaca Commons, has narrowed its choice to three developers, but will not say when it will make a final decision.

“Once a developer’s picked, we don’t think we’re in a position to make a big announcement,” said John Majeroni, director of the University’s real estate office, who is overseeing the choice of the developer.

The decision had originally been expected at the end of March. Recently, however, University officials will not speculate on when they will announce their choice.

“Until the contract’s finalized, we don’t want to make a big announcement,” Majeroni said.

“You want to know everything you can possibly before making a firm commitment [to a developer],” agreed Richard W. McDaniel, associate vice president of University business services.

The plans for the new building, a joint project between the University and the City of Ithaca, were announced by Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Ithaca Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81 last September. Once complete, 70 percent of the building will house Cornell offices in the downtown section known as Bank Alley on the Commons.

The developers under consideration are the Syracuse-based Pioneer Company, the Ithaca-based Integrated Acquisition and Development Corporation, and the Buffalo-based Ciminelli Development Company.

“Each developer is coming to us with a specific program on a specific site,” Majeroni said.

He also explained that each project submitted will require the University either to acquire more property or to gain special permits and permission for construction to move forward.

“In all cases, there’s something else that has to happen,” Majeroni said.

“A design bid competition is always difficult,” said Michael Falcone, chief executive officer of Pioneer Corporation. He declined to comment on the details of his company’s proposal, but said that the building would have both office and residential space.

“I couldn’t say I support any of [the developers],” said Ed Richie, Tompkins County Building Trades Council president. “Of the three, none of them are in the habit of using a majority of union people.”

Falcone added that he was not concerned about labor issues affecting the University’s choice. “We’ve built in Ithaca before,” he said. “We try to use local labor whenever we can.”

Jennifer Bloom ’00, a member of the Common Good Coalition, wondered why the University has kept the deliberations over a developer so quiet over the past few months.

“I don’t understand the idea of keeping things secret,” Bloom said. “Why can’t we have a seat at the table?”

Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, downplayed the importance of the choice of a developer.

“The choice of the developer starts the process,” he said. “That doesn’t end the process.”

Archived article by Maggie Frank