A mass of students returned to Ithaca last month to the pleasant surprise of the nearly completed Commons. Last weekend’s Commons Celebration Weekend formally welcomed the community to the free concerts, the local shops and restaurants, and the beautiful architecture and design that make downtown Ithaca special. However, while The Commons does look wonderful, its completion took far too long and hurt too many businesses in the process.
Nearly $6 million over budget, The Commons reconstruction project seems to have done more damage than good thus far. With the street smothered in debris and clogged by construction for a year longer than expected, the nearby shops and restaurants suffered tremendously. Because The Commons was so difficult to navigate, and in general just looked so unattractive, businesses lost customers, and many had to close or relocate, including The Potter’s Room, Natalia’s Boutique, Bloom in Ithaca, all of which closed, and Jabberwock head shop and The Art & Found clothing store, which were forced to change their location to somewhere off the Commons.
The construction delays have been blamed on unreasonable expectations for the project and how long it would take. But this reasoning does little to settle the storm that fell upon locals trying to run small businesses. The project managers should have taken more consideration for these small businesses when estimating the length of the reconstruction process and its efficiency.
Despite the painful wait, though, the new Commons is garnering the visits of many community members and tourists alike, especially since it opened right when students were coming back to school and families were in town. The Commons has a lot to make up for since its reconstruction began, so city planners and event managers should do whatever they can to reel in as many
people to the street as possible to allow the businesses that suffered to thrive once again.