February 25, 2008

Ithaca Commons May Be Home to $17 Million Hotel

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Ithaca may be home to a new 102-room hotel if plans for the development on the corner of Green St. and Aurora St. go through. Jeffrey Rimland, a developer for Ithaca Properties L.L.C., along with architect Scott Whitham of Thomas Associates, has proposed the initiative as a means of “expansion and diversification of the economic base of the community,” according to a letter from Whitham to Mayor Carolyn Peterson dated Feb. 5. The hotel would cost approximately $17 million and be leased by a chain.
Rimland is also the owner of the Rothschild’s Building, which sits adjacent to the proposed site. The lot has remained empty since the buildings which once occupied the lot were torn down 42 years ago.
The letter estimates that the hotel would generate over $250,000 in tax revenue for the City of Ithaca each year, but unlike some previous projects, the developers are not asking for any tax breaks. However, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency has not passed the project, which has been in the works for over two years. According to the Ithaca Journal, the IURA must sell 2,000 square feet of public land to the developers in order for the project to continue. The IURA will vote on the sale at a Feb. 28 meeting. The vote will also have to be confirmed by the Common Council.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has also asked Rimland — who has currently agreed to pay all housekeepers living wage — to extend his salary offer to all future hotel employees.
In Whitham’s letter to Peterson, he outlined a number of benefits that the hotel would bring to the City of Ithaca. Among them, he sited the Tompkins County Visitors and Conventions Bureau’s estimate that the hotel would bring an additional $2.5 million in food and beverage sales to the Commons. He also said that the project would create 51 new jobs for local Ithacans, as well as make the city a nicer and more attractive place to live.
The last hotel development on the Commons — called Seneca Place and located on the corners of East Seneca and Tioga Streets — opened for business in July 2005. It houses 71,000 square feet of office space for 300 Cornell employees, as well as the Hilton Garden Inn hotel. According to John Gutenberger, director of Cornell’s Office of Community Relations and former mayor of Ithaca, the development has helped to spur business on the Commons.