August 30, 2002

Architect Shows Scheme For Cayuga Green Plan

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The client committee appointed by the Ithaca Common Council to assess Cayuga Green met yesterday to review and discuss design concepts for the project which will include parking, apartments and retail space.

The committee is made up of members of the Common Council, members of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, architects, merchants and transportation specialists who will plan the development of the land behind Tompkins County Public Library. One of the key elements of Cayuga Green is the addition of a significant amount of residential space to downtown Ithaca.

Christopher Shears, a Denver architect who specializes in downtown development projects, and Highland Associates design firm presented plans for the several mixed-use buildings. “The intention is to redevelop the downtown area by providing parking and improved retail areas,” Shears explained.

Shears added that the Cayuga Street structure has both retail and residence use. It will also include parking.

“The design tries to introduce more people to downtown by introducing more housing. It would most likely be rental housing,” Shears said.

Dan Cogan M.S. ’95, chair of the Cayuga Green client committee agreed. “Residential development is the lynchpin. The way that you revitalize a downtown is to get people there,” he said. “The Cornell building gets people to work there, this will get people to live there.”

Planners see residential development as key to further retail development. “When you have people there all the time, you get retailers and restaurants opening — stores to serve the people who live in the area,” Cogan added. “It becomes lively in the evenings and on the weekends, instead of dead.”

Cayuga Green’s current designs include approximately 30,000 square feet of retail space. Neither Shears nor Cogan expect this additional space to have any negative impact on existing businesses.

“The additional parking and the residences could attract a grocery or mini big box store,” Cogan said. “We don’t know exactly what will fill the space yet, but we have discussed a wine center or a branch of the Johnson museum.”

Ithaca merchants have welcomed Cayuga Green.

“It has always been our position that it will be an extremely positive asset to downtown. We want to increase the mass of retail space available and the critical mass of people downtown all the time,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership.

Another integral part of the project, according to Shears, is the construction of an intermodal transportation center on Green Street adjacent to City Hall.

The intermodal transportation center serves as, “A facility that integrates local buses and intercity buses as well as buses out from out of town and cabs and vans,” Shears said.

“350,000 people embark and depart from TCAT buses at the Green Street bus stop every year — this provides a better facility for those who currently use public transportation and hopefully would entice more people to use public transportation,” Cogan said.

The Cayuga Green concept emerged from the City’s need to provide 500 parking spaces for the University’s building project by June of 2004. That project, located on the other side of the Commons at the intersection of Seneca and Tioga Streets, will bring many Cornell offices downtown as well as a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

“Cornell wanted the parking not to be adjacent to their building, but rather on the other side of the Commons in order to provide a better atmosphere for their employees and generate pedestrian traffic,” Cogan said.

“The city has a synergistic relationship with Cornell,” he added. “We don’t want to add 500 parking spaces, we want to add 1,000 as well as the new residential and commercial spaces.”

Financing for the construction of the parking structures will be procured through bonds, according to Cogan. Additionally, some of the residential and commercial development will be built by private developers.

Archived article by Chris Mitchell