Ithaca Mayor-elect Svante Myrick and city officials are on the hunt for funds to begin redesigning the Commons.
Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the project is expected to cost $5-$8 million, and construction drawings by Sasaki Associates, the architectural firm directing the job, are expected to be completed by the summer of 2012.
The DIA’s plans for the new Commons include rebuilding the area to enhance its commercial and community functions as well as creating a transit hub with a streetcar or other form of enhanced transit to connect the plaza to Cornell University, Collegetown, Ithaca College and the West End.
Ferguson said he believes once the project comes to fruition the new Commons will be financially beneficial to the city.
“This is really and truly a great economic development project,” he said. “This project will generate new investment and tax revenue for the community. It will create new jobs for the community, and it will create new housing for the community because it provides a stimulus for other development around it.”
Myrick said he will hold public meetings and work with the Common Council on the project to show his support. He also said it is important to keep the future in mind during the redesign process.
“The infrastructure underneath the Commons needs to be replaced soon,” he said. “Maybe not right away, but soon. When infrastructure is replaced, we should redesign the Commons, first to make it a more welcoming and inviting place — and also to make sure that the next time we have to repair the Commons, we also don’t have to completely tear it up.”
He said the water pipes beneath the Commons have outlived their estimated lifespan.
“All the pipes down there are at, or well-past, what their rated useful life is,” he said. “For example, our water pipes are best estimated to last between 40 and 100 years. So they are now about 150 years old.”
A public informational session on the project was held to hear residents’ opinions earlier this month. Ferguson said the response toward the proposed redesign was generally positive.
“I think it’s very safe to say that, in listening to lots of people, the general reaction was ‘Yeah, let’s get on with it. This is a good thing’.’”
Tom Pine, the owner of Race Office Supply & Variety located on the Commons, said the revamp would be a welcome change.
“It’s been the way it is for quite some time and a new change bringing some fresh ideas would be welcome and a step forward.”