Target representatives announced Friday that, after months of delays, the superstore would not be moving into Ithaca. Instead, they plan to start construction at the Pyramid Mall in Lansing tomorrow.
“We certainly wanted to have Target in the City and we think it’s unfortunate that they’re going to be in Lansing,” said Mattys Van Cort, the director of the Ithaca Planning and Development Department.
Local government members were not surprised by Target’s decision.
“We knew Pyramid was going after [Target], and we knew it was up to [them] how long they would hang in there,” said Ed Hershey, City of Ithaca Common Council member and director of communication strategies at Cornell.
“I knew [Target] was looking at Lansing. They were ready to locate in whatever municipality could accommodate them sooner,” said Mayor Alan Cohen ’81.
Target was supposed to be one of the main stores in a development project on Elmira Road led by the Widewaters Development group. Hershey blamed the Widewaters group for Target’s decision.
“[Target] got out of the Widewaters deal back in October,” said James Tull, Pyramid Mall general manager.
“I honestly believe that if Widewaters had taken a different approach, Target would already be open,” Hershey said.
Widewaters representatives were unavailable for comment.
Ithaca residents have also faced blame for scaring Target away. Various community groups sued the City over the development plans, and Widewaters also sued Ithaca over various procedural disputes.
“The unending string of lawsuits by the people opposed to the project has done the city no good,” Van Cort said. “The consequences of these many challenges to Widewaters and to Target were not to make the development go away, but to make it go to Lansing. The result is that the City does not get the sales tax from this development.”
When the Widewaters development was first proposed, many Ithacans objected largely because the planned site is across from the Buttermilk Falls State Park.
Paul Sayvetz, a member of the Citizens’ Planning Alliance hoped that losing Target will force the City to rethink its plans about developing the area on Elmira Road.
“The best outcome would be if City Hall would quit acting in the interest of developers who want to build the tallest building possible right in view of a state park,” he said.
According to Cohen, however, “City Hall is working in the best interests of all of Ithaca. Most of the people in Ithaca want the developments to take place. We are doing our best to balance development with the need to protect the environment and neighborhoods.”
Currently, the City plans to go ahead with the development project.
“We’re still hoping to get that area developed,” Cohen said. “But losing Target is a big disappointment.”
Hershey also said that while not having Target posed a problem, it is not the end of the world.
“Ithaca needs the diversity of shopping, and the city needs the money, but I’m not going to mourn. It’s just a store. The way people are talking you’d think Target was a cross between Neimann Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom,” he said.
But Widewaters has not yet given up on Target.
“Widewaters is still committed to the site, and we continue to have a dialogue with Target and others in an attempt to convince them that the City of Ithaca is a really good place in which to do business,” Marco Marzocchi, Widewaters’ general counsel for real estate development, told The Ithaca Journal on Saturday.
As to whether or not the City will continue to work with Widewaters, however, Cohen said, “We will work with anyone who walks in the door.”
Archived article by Freda Ready