Downtown Ithaca may see major changes over the next 10 years to attract more business and integrate Ithaca College into the community, including making the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly and better transportation to the college.
The Downtown Ithaca Alliance has drawn up a 10-year plan, the “2020 Downtown Strategic Plan,” which outlines 11 objectives, including encouraging retail through buildings that serve as commercial and residential spaces and increasing sustainable practices.
The DIA previously drew up a 10-year strategic plan in 2000. According to Gary Ferguson, director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, the plan was successful.
“There’s been $110 million worth of investment downtown during the past decade,” he said. “Having a strategic plan helps people who make investments have confidence in the future.”
Ferguson said he estimates the 2020 plan’s cost will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Attracting investment is one of the key components of the plan,” he said.
The DIA will integrate some of the public’s feedback they receive from comments on their Web site and then redraft the plan. The final version will then be presented to the City Council this summer to be approved and incorporated into the city’s strategic plan.
“The response so far has been surprisingly good,” Ferguson said. “There are probably 10 or 15 ideas that we’re going to try to get into this plan that may not necessarily have been featured in it right away.”
The plan also focuses on local colleges and universities. Ferguson hopes that Ithaca College will invest in a project downtown, like Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Cornell rents space downtown for its Division of Alumni Affairs and Development, and TC3 has an extension center for classroom space to train students to serve local businesses.
“There’s a lot of possibilities [for the project] — the question is what will work best?” Ferguson said.
Another proposal is a shuttle between the college’s campus and downtown.
Freshman Kelly Millin said she would like better bus service.
“If we didn’t have to pay for the shuttle, that would be even better,” Millin said.
Kris Lewis, the operations manager for the DIA and owner of Morris’ Men’s and Ladies’ Wear on The Commons, said the plan is a step in the right direction for Ithaca.
Lewis also said she would like to see more retail in the area to help bolster the business stores.
Ferguson said he is excited about all aspects of the plan.
“A lot of upstate New York is struggling,” he said. “We have a few more vacancies [downtown], but we’ve seen a ton of investment, and we’re poised to see a lot more. There aren’t a lot of places that are growing, but we are, and we can grow some more.”