November 8, 2002

Cayuga Green Project Plans Progress

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Last night, Cayuga Green Client Committee chair Dan Cogan M.S. ’95, in conjunction with Ithaca Mayor Allen Cohen ’81, held a meeting at City Hall to discuss the Cayuga Green Project, a plan designed to revitalize downtown Ithaca through the addition of retail stores, housing, and parking space.

The meeting began with a brief introduction during which Cogan stated that the meeting’s purpose was “largely to bring members of the Cayuga Green Client Committee up to speed on where we are on the project.” Cogan then followed with a brief synopsis of the project during which he described, with the aid of a visual site plan, the planned construction of a new garage south of the Tompkins County Community Library near the Ithaca Commons.

Phase one includes the building of the Cayuga garage at the northeast corner of Cayuga and Clinton Streets which “will provide 700 [parking] spaces and room on the ground floor for retail or something else,” Cogan said.

Phase two of the project will consist of the construction of a much larger garage that will replace the smaller, existing parking structure on the north side of Green Street.

Following Cogan’s review, members of the committee asked questions and voiced their opinions regarding the future of the project.

A chief concern dealt with its $12 million cost.

“I don’t understand where these kind of numbers are coming from,” said David Kay, economist and committee member.

Cogan responded by stating that “building just one garage is affordable because existing parking is subsidizing the cost.”

Cohen then explained that the first phase of the project is financially feasible.

Rather, the second phase will increase city costs and whether Ithaca can afford the project will depend on the amount of state funding.

“Phase two of the project that will depend on the budget put out by the state,” Cohen said. “If the state has to make a large reduction in the $1.5 million it gives to the city of Ithaca each year, phase two of the Cayuga Green project will become financially less feasible.”

However, the mayor said that the budget reductions would only slow the implementation of phase two, not prevent it.

“It is not a question of if, but a question of when,” he said.

Additionally, members of the committee discussed plans to place retail space on the ground floor of the Cayuga garage. Some insisted that retail space is “what this community wants.” Another committee member suggested that the allocated retail space be designated for one large retail store that would serve various consumer needs.

The meeting culminated in a question and answer session during which members of the audience were allowed to communicate with members of the committee. Afterwards, a few members of the audience expressed their thoughts concerning the project and the effectiveness of the meeting.

“A concern of mine that was not addressed is that the National Development Council operates the garage on behalf of the city,” said Kevin McLaughlim.

“Questions were kind of answered,” said Joe Wetmore a downtown merchant. “We still don’t know if the parking spaces [in the garage] will be open to everyone or reserved for a special group.”

Such a group may be Cornell employees working in the Ciminelli office building for which the city is providing the additional parking space.

The Common Council plans to hold a vote on whether or not to approve the project.

“If the Council says go ahead and do this,” Cogan said, “phase one of the project can be begun, at earliest, in the spring of next year which would have it done by spring of 2004.”

Archived article by David Andrade