February 27, 2004

C-Town Tries to Improve

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Collegetown property owners may unite to improve their area in the future, if Greg Silverman’s vision succeeds.

Silverman, co-owner of Stella’s, hopes to establish a Business Improvement District in Collegetown, connecting property and business owners together in a cooperative effort.

Silverman said he hopes to create a BID because he thinks the city overlooks the area and Ithaca residents purposely avoid it. Because the University provides a great deal for the city, and Collegetown is an outgrowth of the University, Silverman thinks that the city should respect and appreciate the area much more than they currently do.

“It’s the roots and the base of the city. If you don’t water the roots, the tree is going to die,” he said.

Silverman said he thinks the name itself carries a stigma, since it implies that it is a place only for students. He would rather the area be called “uptown” to complement residents seeing the Commons as downtown.

“Collegetown — the word itself has a negative connotation,” he said.

In particular, he said that the area could really use support during its down times of winter and summer breaks, when the students are away.

The proposed Collegetown BID, although different in content, would be similar to the Ithaca Downtown Partnership in concept.

In part, the Ithaca Downtown Partnership states its purpose is to “preserve and develop the central downtown core as the region’s center” for housing, banking, offices and retail.

“BIDs are very useful,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership. “They’re useful when property owners feel like they’d like to go the extra step.”

In a practical sense, property owners in the downtown area each contribute money based on their holdings, which is then used to improve and generally promote the area. For the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, these efforts range from formulating a 10-year strategic plan to displaying outdoor art on the Commons. They work on some of these projects jointly with the city and others independently.

In Collegetown, projects might include increasing parking or creating a small farmer’s market, ideas mentioned by Silverman.

Although he hasn’t formally organized property owners yet, Silverman has received positive feedback from some business owners.

Sam Schuepbach, owner of Aladdin’s Natural Eatery, said that he would support the idea and is also disappointed by how the city treats the area.

“I think it helps if all of the merchants are helping out,” he said. “We are sometimes frustrated with the way Collegetown is treated, second to downtown.”

Other business people in Collegetown, including Katie Church, owner of Sweetwater Market, and Dana Lee, manager of Miyake, expressed interest in the idea.

Downtown Partnership

“I’ve seen some good things come out of [the Ithaca Downtown Partnership] and I think Collegetown has lots of potential,” Church said.

Although the Collegetown Neighborhood Council is not directly involved in business development, co-chair Gary Stewart, who is also Cornell’s assistant director for community relations, said that the Council would cooperate with property owners if they decided to create a BID.

The main role of the council in the BID would be to strengthen its connection to the neighborhood and keep the community informed on the project, he said. To this end, he said that they would most likely organize meetings where residents could get information and ask questions.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher