March 22, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 57°F


Downtown renovation under way

Demolition of the Green Street parking garage is expected to begin tomorrow, marking the first steps of construction of a new garage that will eventually house a five-screen art house movie theater.
Matthys Van Cort, director of planning and development for the city of Ithaca, said the new garage will be essentially the same, but its ramps will be internal and no longer visible from the street. He said the garage’s internal, more traditional ramping system will be comparable to the one in the Cayuga Garage, which was completed last year.
Construction of the theater, which will combine Cinemapolis and Fall Creek Pictures into one building, will not begin until the new garage is complete. The theater will be located on the north side of Green Street, across from the current location of the helix structure and on the first floor of the new garage. Van Cort said he predicts construction of the theater will begin in about a year.
The movie theater complex is part of the second phase of Cayuga Green, a series of projects that began in 2003 with the goal of bringing more pedestrian traffic, businesses and housing opportunities to the downtown area. The second phase also includes plans for a building with retail businesses on the first floor and 68 units of rental apartments on the upper levels. Van Cort said he expects to see construction of this building, which will be located across the street from the new theater, to begin within the next couple of months.
Van Cort said the public has debated the Cayuga Green projects for a long time, and he is happy to see the projects moving forward.
“I’m very pleased that we’re at the point that we are now,” he said.
The first phase of Cayuga Green, the 700-car Cayuga Garage, was completed in June 2005. Plans for the third and final phase include a building, with 30 to 35 condominium units, to be constructed at the rear of the Cayuga Garage.
Gateway Commons, another downtown project, is now nearing completion. Van Cort said he expects the building, located at the intersection of Green and State streets and home to 25 new luxury apartments, to be finished within the next couple of months.
Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, said he is still hopeful about the success of the future theater, even though it won’t be the first-run, 12-theater multiplex that was originally part of the Cayuga Green plan. He said when the city was unable to secure a first-run, commercial theater operator, officials began to talk this summer with 7th Art Corporation, the nonprofit group that runs Cinemapolis and Fall Creek Pictures, about the possibility of 7th Art running a new five-screen art house theater.
“We wanted to build on our entertainment sector, [which is] one reason why Cayuga Green is so important to us,” he said.
Plans for the theater were further finalized Nov. 9 when the Ithaca Common Council voted 7–3 in favor of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency subleasing the proposed location, under the future garage, to the project’s developers, Bloomfield, Schon and Partners. In a letter of intent signed by 7th Art with Bloomfield, Schon and Partners, the nonprofit corporation established that they will rent from the developers. The letter also states that the rent paid by the developer to the IURA will be reduced if 7th Art fails to pay its rent to the developer, Van Cort said.
Jodi Cohen, president of the board of directors of 7th Art Corporation and professor of speech communication, said the new theater will still show independent films but will provide audiences with a better viewing experience. The theaters, which will have stadium seating, will have larger screens and better sound quality than what Cinemapolis and Fall Creek Pictures now offer, she said.
Cohen said the consolidation will also make the theater more visible, with a marquee facing Green Street. She said the present locations of Cinemapolis and Fall Creek Pictures can often be difficult to find or get to.
Still, not everyone agrees with the future of these theaters. Tsvi Bokaer, owner of the Fall Creek Pictures building, has publicly said he wants to continue to show independent films in the building, even after 7th Art leaves.
Cohen said 7th Art will continue to show movies at the two separate theaters until the new multiplex opens, in what she said she hopes will be early 2008 or late 2009.