February 6, 2004

Ciminelli Project Breaks Ground

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Ithacans who have been navigating the narrowed lanes and closed sidewalks around the construction site at Seneca and Tioga Streets for the last several weeks might be interested — and surprised — to learn that ground has finally been broken. City and University officials were present Monday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the new $25 million office building.

Construction on the site began at the end of last year, but the groundbreaking ceremony itself was scheduled for Monday. According to John Majeroni, director of the Cornell Real estate Office, the delay was due to buildings on the site which had to be demolished before the ceremony. Majeroni also said that since construction had started just prior to the holiday season, it was decided that a later date would be more convenient.

Among those present at the ceremony were President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, Mayor Carolyn Peterson, and Paul Ciminelli, president of the Ciminelli Development Company, which Cornell chose to develop the building.

The project, which has been in planning since 2001, is estimated to cost about $25 million, said David Chiazza, vice president of development at Ciminelli. Chiazza said that construction is expected to be completed in late spring 2005.

The project was delayed by troubles in obtaining all of the land needed. The original location for the building was where the Tompkins County Trust Company stands, but size concerns forced developers to change locations.

“We had to find a new site,” Chiazza said, explaining what accounted for most of the time in the project’s extended time frame.

Another problem was gathering the parcels of land for the current location. One of the previous owners of the property, A. Thomas Pine, was reluctant to sell his portion of land, but eventually agreed. Majeroni reported that Pine, who now owns a new business on the Commons, had been present at the groundbreaking ceremony and offered Ciminelli representatives a bottle of wine as a show of good faith. Majeroni added that Pine has publicly declared that he is happy with the new business.

Doug McDonald, director of Ithaca’s Department of Economic Development, estimated that roughly 50-100 construction workers, both local and non-local, will be employed in the construction of the site. He further estimated that the project will increase the jobs on the Commons by about 10 percent.

“It’s very positive,” McDonald said when asked how this fits in with the University’s long-term relationship with the city. “It’s a big deal for downtown,” he said.

McDonald added that Seneca Street has been narrowed to accommodate the construction, backing traffic up somewhat. However, this has not had any significant effect on other businesses on the Commons.

The finished building will be nine stories high and will include about 175,000 feet of space, including office and retail space and a Hilton hotel. McDonald said that the city has been involved in the development process, but that Ciminelli is in charge of leasing out the building’s space. Cornell intends to station roughly 300 of its workers at the new site.

“It’s a big project. It’s a complicated project,” Majeroni said. “We think when it’s all done, it’s going to be worth the wait.”

Archived article by Yuval Shavit