March 7, 2003

Commons Gets Brighter Lights

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The Ithaca Commons started undergoing lighting renovations this week. The overhaul is projected to continue until June.

“[Thomas Associates] did a lighting study about two or three years ago and the study found that the lighting levels were insufficient,” said Kate Mance, Ithaca’s environmental and landscape planner. “Forty-foot-tall lights were initially installed, but the trees have grown up since then, so they block out most of the light. So it was decided that we should rectify this for safety reasons.”

The construction, which is projected to cost approximately $500,000, is on a phased construction schedule. According to Mance, “Most of the heavy construction is expected to be done by mid-May. After that we may have people out there still inserting poles, but that should not be quite as disruptive. That part should be finished by June.”

Mance noted that initially, the construction was on a strict schedule, but due to the severe weather conditions, there have already been delays. “We are still working with [the contractor] to come up with ways that they can still meet the set dates,” she added.

Some business owners on the Commons have acknowledged the necessity for the new lights.

“The lights that we have right now are towards the end of their life. We’re going to have to replace them anyway, so let’s make it more appropriate and move on,” said Joe Wetmore, owner of Autumn Leaves, a store on the Commons.

The construction will be on a limited scale since the crew will be working on an area of 150 linear feet at a time. Mance noted that the objective of this procedure was to allay the concerns of the merchants. Many merchants in the Commons have expressed concern about the construction, but at the same time, they recognize its importance.

“Construction is always disruptive. It’s just a matter of how disruptive it will be,” said Tony Johnson ’80, owner of Alphabet Soup, a store in the Commons. “I’m assuming that when it’s all said and done, the Commons will be a better and more attractive place, and therefore it’s worth doing.”

Mance noted that the limited approach to the construction did affect the budget but not in a large way.

“The contractors knew that they were going to be held to a very tight schedule and they also knew the scope of the work,” she said. “It is difficult to work quickly in a small space. I don’t think that it has extraordinarily affected the cost; all the bids were more or less the same.”

One possible outcome of the construction is causing the businesses to remain open longer.

“We hope that it would make it more hospitable to the restaurants and bars that would stay open past six and also for the people who live there,” Mance said. “We hope to make it a nice place to be in the evening, and we hope the merchants will respond.”

Many businesses on the Commons are yet unsure about staying open later at night.

“I would consider being open longer if there are more customers coming down later, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Johnson said.

Archived article by David Hillis