This month the Ithaca Common Council and Mayor approved a budget to include blueprints for a complete redesign of The Commons, Ithaca’s downtown pedestrian mall. As a member of the Commons Advisory Board, I’ve spent the last two years listening to community members talk about the value and problems with this mixed use space. At its best, The Commons can be a cultural center, filled with locally owned businesses and restaurants; a place to shop, eat and connect with your community, in a unique outdoor space. At its worst, The Commons has been a depressing alley of struggling stores and vacant real estate.
But over the last two years, there has been a steady stream of successful new shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. New restaurants are opening all over the commons; Cinemapolis, Ithaca’s independent theater is thriving in their new location, The State Theater is attracting top musicians from all over the country, and now the Kitchen Theater opened doors at a brand new space off the commons. Over the past few months, I’ve overheard more and more return visitors talk about the transformation of our downtown in a positive (sometimes surprised) light. With the popular growth of local economies and the local food movement, this redesign and commitment from our community is the right move at the right time. Kudos to the Mayor and council for voting this through despite pressure under a weakened economy.
To read a brief highlight of the recommendations from Sasaki Associates, the firm that provided the preliminary concepts, click here.