Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Before it closed its doors for good in October, The Nines occupied the building at 311 College Avenue, which once housed Ithaca Fire Station #9.

March 20, 2019

Historic Ithaca to Hold Community Conversation on Future Landmarks in the City of Ithaca

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Corrections appended.

While a wave of high-profile constructions that are taking place in the Commons, longtime structures like The Nines have put a period to its time in Ithaca. Every now and then, the city has appeared torn between accommodating growth and protecting its historic charm.

The difficulties of that balancing act will be brought to the fore this Thursday when Historic Ithaca — a non-profit organization founded in 1966 to promote the preservation of local buildings — invites the Ithaca Community to discuss the ongoing process of landmark and historic district designation with Bryan McCracken, the history preservation planner for the City of Ithaca.

Originally established as a “community response” to honor downtown Ithaca landmarks under threat, the society now provides consultations and site visits that assess a building’s problems and recommend “corrective or preventive measures,” according to its website.

The process of recognition is done by offering building assessments, advocating the benefits of historic preservation and maintaining the Library of the Built Environment, which hosts a collection of materials related to architecture, local history and conservation techniques.

Historic Ithaca has long been at the forefront of preservation efforts, most recently with the designation of the Ithaca Bus Terminal as a landmark. Built in 1912, the bus terminal served as the first stop in Ithaca for many Cornell students. Following the designation, a spot on Green Street has taken over its function.

However, not every historic building can be preserved as a landmark.

The Nines, formerly a staple of Collegetown dining, was the subject of a protracted battle between its owners — who were against designating it as a landmark — and a coalition of preservation focused organizations, which included Historic Ithaca.

Before it closed its doors for good in October, The Nines occupied the building at 311 College Avenue, which once housed Ithaca Fire Station #9.

“The #9 Fire Station served as a physical, social and residential connector between Cornell University and the neighborhood on East Hill,” said Christine O’Malley, preservation services coordinator for Historic Ithaca last year. “Not all fire stations have that history.”

While the Ithaca Landmark Preservation Comission, with the support of Historic Ithaca, voted to designate the building a historic property — Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 ultimately cast the deciding vote against landmark designation and allowed its owners to sell the property. Plans are now in place to develop the site into a multi-story apartment building.

However, this does not faze Historic Ithaca’s staff. In an interview with The Sun, O’Malley said that their purpose remains unchanged.

“There’s always going to be development, [and] preservation is about trying to manage change over time,” she said, citing the need to “seek input for building preservation” from the wider Ithaca community.

The Community Conversation is free and open to the public. The meeting will be held on Thursday, Mar. 21, from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. in the BorgWarner East Room at the Tompkins County Public Library.

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Bryan McCracken as a member of Historic Ithaca. In fact, he is a city employee. The article also incorrectly referred to the Ithaca Landmark Preservation Commission as the Ithaca Landmark Preservation Committee.