Ithaca Commons

Ithaca Commons

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The Ithaca Commons is a two-block pedestrian mall
Pedestrian mall
Pedestrian malls in the United States are also known as pedestrian streets and are the most common form of pedestrian zone in large cities in the United States. It is a street lined with storefronts and closed off to most automobile traffic...

 in downtown Ithaca
Ithaca, New York
The city of Ithaca, is a city in upstate New York and the county seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca-Tompkins County metropolitan area...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, built in 1974. Its boundaries are Green Street to the south, Cayuga Street to the west, Seneca Street to the north, and Aurora Street to the east. It sits at the intersection of Tioga and State Streets. Shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars line either side of the Commons, while the walkway is dotted with trees, benches and sculptures. It serves as the center of the central business district
Central business district
A central business district is the commercial and often geographic heart of a city. In North America this part of a city is commonly referred to as "downtown" or "city center"...

 for the Tompkins County
Tompkins County, New York
Tompkins County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, and comprises the whole of the Ithaca metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 101,564. The county seat is Ithaca, and the county is home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community...

 area.

The Commons is the center of Ithaca and Tompkins County civic life. The City and Town Hall abut the Commons, and the local state representatives have their offices on or adjacent to it. Many of the stores have apartments on their second and third floors. Ithaca's library
Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library Booksale
The Tompkins County Public Library, part of the Finger Lakes Library System, is the public library for Tompkins County, New York, a county which includes Ithaca, New York, where are Ithaca College and Cornell University...

 is within walking distance. During the summer months, local entertainers and theater groups put on free performances at the 3 covered pavilions on the Commons. The stages are also utilized for many politically inspired protests and speeches.

The Commons hosts several festivals throughout the year. The main festival, the Ithaca Festival in the summer, is centered on the Commons for 2 of its three days. Traditionally, the final day of the festival is at Stewart Park
Stewart Park
Stewart Park is in Ithaca, New York. Ithaca is located on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, the largest Finger Lake, and Stewart sits directly on that tip. The park is a popular place for barbecues, frisbee, tennis, baseball, and softball, as well as fishing and swimming on the lake. The park has a...

 on the Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake   is the longest of central New York's glacial Finger Lakes, and is the second largest in surface area and second largest in volume. It is just under 40 miles long. Its average width is 1.7 miles , and it is at its widest point near Aurora...

 waterfront. Two relatively new festivals which have found a home on the Commons are the Apple Harvest Festival in the Fall and Chili Cook-Off in the Winter.

The Sagan Planet Walk, named after famed Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 astronomer Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

, begins in the Commons and stretches 3/4 mile from the Commons through downtown Ithaca to the Sciencenter. The Planet Walk traces a to-scale path of the solar system, including colorful pictures and facts about the planets.

The Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc., usually referred to as TCAT, is a private, non-profit public transportation operator, created by Cornell University, Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca to serve Tompkins County, New York and the Towns of Richford, Berkshire & Newark Valley in Tioga County...

, or TCAT, bus network's main hub is located just off the south-west corner of The Commons on Green Street near the library. With few exceptions, most routes originate, terminate, or stop at Green Street, which is also a frequent connection point between the various routes.

See a live view of the "Bernie Milton Pavilion" in the center of the Commons on the Commons Cam website run by, local creative design agency, AWP.

The Ithaca Downtown Partnership


The Ithaca Downtown Partnership (IDP), also known as the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District (DIBID), is a State of New York chartered not-for-profit organization charged with the revitalization, development, promotion and management of downtown Ithaca.

The Ithaca Downtown Partnership has adopted the following vision statement to guide its work and operation:
“Downtown Ithaca is the economic, social, and cultural heart of Tompkins County. The Ithaca Downtown Partnership will strive to preserve and develop the central downtown core as the region’s center for banking and finance, business and professional offices, government and community services, downtown residences, and as a retail destination highlighted by specialty shops, restaurants, arts and entertainment. Downtown serves people who live and work downtown, city and county residents, college communities, area visitors and tourists."

The Ithaca Downtown Partnership (IDP) was founded in 1997 as the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District.
The IDP is governed by a 22 member Board of Directors. (see external links below). There are 19 voting members and 3 non-voting ex-officio members.

The IDP has prepared and approved a “Downtown Ithaca Ten-Year Development Strategy”. This strategic plan provide the blueprint and guidelines for downtown development from 2000 – 2010. Each annual work plan addresses a portion of this strategic plan.

History



The Commons was created in 1974, in part to counteract a proposed mall
Shopping mall
A shopping mall, shopping centre, shopping arcade, shopping precinct or simply mall is one or more buildings forming a complex of shops representing merchandisers, with interconnecting walkways enabling visitors to easily walk from unit to unit, along with a parking area — a modern, indoor version...

 to have been located where the Wegmans and Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , branded as Walmart since 2008 and Wal-Mart before then, is an American public multinational corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's 18th largest public corporation, according to the Forbes Global 2000...

 plazas are located approximately 2 miles southwest of the Commons .The name The Commons was the winning entry in a community-wide “name the mall” contest, and a prize of $1,000 in cash and gift certificates went to Ithaca High School senior Bill Ryan who had entered the name after a visit to the Boston Common. This was a time that many small towns in the United States were experimenting with creating pedestrian malls. The Ithaca Commons is one of the few such experiments that remains. It faced immediate competition, with the Ithaca area's first mall opening the same decade in the neighboring village of Lansing
Lansing (village), New York
Lansing is a village in Tompkins County, New York, United States. The population was 3,417 at the 2000 census.The Village of Lansing is in the Town of Lansing and is north of Ithaca....

.

Together with the rest of Upstate New York
Upstate New York
Upstate New York is the region of the U.S. state of New York that is located north of the core of the New York metropolitan area.-Definition:There is no clear or official boundary between Upstate New York and Downstate New York...

, the Commons suffered in the late 1990s with many empty storefronts, and former Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen (owner of a restaurant located on the Commons) proposed removing the Commons and opening up the two-block portion of State Street to automobile traffic once more.

In recent years, however, the Commons has been relatively prosperous, perhaps due to the growing county
Tompkins County, New York
Tompkins County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, and comprises the whole of the Ithaca metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 101,564. The county seat is Ithaca, and the county is home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community...

 economy, one of the few growing economies in Upstate New York. Thanks in part to a controversial density incentive program, much of the new development in Ithaca has centered on a small radius around the Commons. One of the most recent projects completed was Seneca Place, a multistory mixed use building, incorporating retail, office space, and a Hilton Garden Inn hotel. The Cayuga Green project has brought the Commons area a new multi-level parking garage, and phase two of the project will bring a luxury apartment complex and a multiplex movie theater. Another luxury apartment building, Gateway Apartments, was recently completed.

The Commons has managed to survive despite the lack of a traditional retail anchor. After Rothschilds (a local department store) closed in the early 1980s, the closing of the McCurdy's
McCurdy's
McCurdy's was a Rochester, New York-based department store. Founded in 1901, the company was acquired by May Department Stores in 1994, but as a result of an antitrust settlement due to both McCurdy's and May's Kaufmann's stores being the predominant anchors in the area shopping malls, its stores...

 store in the same location in the mid 1990s, the closing of a Woolworths
F. W. Woolworth Company
The F. W. Woolworth Company was a retail company that was one of the original American five-and-dime stores. The first successful Woolworth store was opened on July 18, 1879 by Frank Winfield Woolworth in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store"...

 store one block away in the late 1990s, and again after a CVS
CVS Corporation
CVS Pharmacy, or simply CVS, is the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States , with over 7,000 stores in 41 states and Puerto Rico...

 store closed a decade later, the Commons' demise was predicted. While the demise has not happened, it remains an eclectic mix of small businesses, mostly specialty stores, bars, used book stores and restaurants, while everyday retail stores have located to a commercial strip on the southwest edge of the city. The Commons and the immediate area once hosted department stores, but all closed by the late 1990s. While the Commons has, off and on, been the location for chain stores, it remains mostly independent. The former McDonalds in the center of the Commons closed in the early 1990s and remained vacant for almost a decade (it now hosts a sports bar). However, in 2006, the Ithaca area's first Starbucks
Starbucks
Starbucks Corporation is an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 17,009 stores in 55 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States, over 1,000 in Canada, over 700 in the United Kingdom, and...

 opened adjacent to the Commons, and a Subway opened as well. The Commons also hosts a Ten Thousand Villages, a smaller chain store selling only fair-trade gifts. In early 2009, A Gimme! coffee opened up opposing Starbucks
Starbucks
Starbucks Corporation is an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 17,009 stores in 55 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States, over 1,000 in Canada, over 700 in the United Kingdom, and...

for a fierce competition of the business coffee market.

External links