August 28, 2013

New Development, Harold’s Square, Will Rise Above the Ithaca Commons

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A major $30-million building will  soon join an ongoing redesign of the Commons in transforming the City of Ithaca’s downtown space.

On Tuesday, the city’s Planning and Development Board unanimously approved plans for Harold’s Square, a multi-use building that will add retail, office and residential space to the Commons. Plans for Harold’s Square have been met with praise from both the community and local politicians, who say it will help revitalize the downtown area and attract businesses to Ithaca.

The building, which will be 11 stories high on its back side, will be located  between the Commons and Green Street and sandwiched between Maté Factor and Trader K’s. The former Benchwarmers building will be renovated as part of the project.

Harold’s Square will have a four-story facade that faces the Commons, with the rest of the tower set back 62 feet and facing Green Street. An atrium will connect the Green Street and Commons entrances, according to the project’s plan.

The development process of Harold’s Square was aided by a recent zoning code change made by the Common Council in early June allowing buildings that would previously violate maximum building height to move forward in the development process. Prior to that change, the project would have required a height zoning variance — an exception from the City’s zoning code — in order for the project to come to fruition.

John Schroeder ’74, a member of the Planning and Development Board and the production manager for The Sun, said the board was very pleased with the work done by David Lubin, president and co-owner of L Enterprises with city officials.

“The designers worked very closely with the Design Review Committee of the Planning Board to increase the compatibility of the new construction with the rhythm and texture of the historic buildings on the Commons, which are part of a National Register historic district,” Schroeder said.

Many members of the community gave their support for the Harold’s Square project at the board meeting Tuesday. Doug Levine, executive director of the State Theatre of Ithaca, said he gave his full support for the project.

“I think it’s a well thought out plan,” he said, lauding the amount of traffic and new business he said it will bring to downtown Ithaca.

Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance,  also gave his support for the project at Tuesday’s meeting. He said the project will add “badly needed office space” and “modern retail space” to downtown Ithaca.

Levine also said the timing of the Harold’s Square project could not be better.

“With the Commons currently under construction, I think the timing is excellent to begin a project like this,” Levine said.

Tyler Alicea is a Sun senior writer. He can be reached at [email protected] and

Original Author: Tyler Alicea