April 20, 2016

Collegetown Neighborhood Council Discusses Impact of City Construction

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The Collegetown Neighborhood Council discussed the impact of increased construction on the Collegetown community and local businesses at its meeting Tuesday.

Collegetown business owners expressed concern that the recent swell in construction has led to road closures and reduced parking — factors that have inconvenienced their customers and hurt their businesses, according to Chuck Cooley, owner of Classic Optical.

Ithaca Public Works Department employees said that although construction decreases accessibility to storefronts, construction projects are oftentimes impossible to complete without taking up sidewalk and parking spaces.

“Although I am all for development, we as residents and business owners operate under a model that is hugely impacted by construction,” Cooley said.

Cooley explained that — unlike many of Collegetown businesses — his clientele consists primarily of Ithaca locals who drive to his shop from downtown, making parking a prerogative.

IPD employees said that many construction projects are now transitioning from exterior construction to interior work and workers will need to occupy commercial street parking unless they sublet private spaces.

“Pretty soon, we’re going to see an influx of people and their personal vehicles in Collegetown on top of the big machinery that we’re seeing to erect the buildings,” said Michael Thorne, IPD superintendent.

Thorne added that the IPD is currently “brainstorming other places that people might be able to park if the on-street parking is going to be disrupted by the construction.”

A number of Ithaca residents also voiced concern about the safety of pedestrians trying to access stores where the sidewalks have been obstructed.

While business owners agreed that new buildings in Collegetown will ultimately benefit their businesses, they expressed concern that their concern about the construction-heavy transition period increased following the closing of Kraftees — a local business that shut down mere months after construction started next door.

Thorne said the City of Ithaca plans to close the intersection of College and Dryden for the month of July to fix the underground pipe system that has exceeded capacity.

“They’re 100 year old pipes,” Thorne said. “We need to get them fixed.”

He added that the city decided to fix the pipes in the midst of construction to minimize negative impacts on businesses.

Collegetown business owners voiced concern that closing off a busy intersection, in addition to the current road closure on Dryden, will negatively impact traffic and parking.

Business owners also expressed their desire for a liaison between local businesses, government entities and construction companies to mitigate the impacts of development on local business, saying that such a liaison helped during the construction period in the Commons.

However, Ithaca city officials said they were only able to create the position for the Commons construction because it was a public project, but said they are unable to do so for private development projects.

Business owners concluded they plan to work in tandem with construction companies and Collegetown landowners to sublet summer parking spaces to construction workers, an endeavor that would make commercial parking more readily available and curtail construction’s impact on business.