President’s Letter: About Perseverance

Jennifer Tavares, CEcD, President

About a year ago, we worked closely with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and others to host a “Commons Cash Mob.” The purpose of the event was to draw the support of a community which had been avoiding the Commons, its businesses and restaurants. The response was good, and over 100 people spent over $5,000 that afternoon, at a time when the Commons and downtown really needed steady customer flow.

All year long (and for two years prior, I hear) we listened to and read comments from locals who shared that they were “avoiding the Commons” or downtown. We (collectively) complained about and tripped over the construction as businesses felt the very real impact of the project and the lack of foot traffic. There was criticism for every single component of the project the moment it was completed (the sign, the décor, the play spaces, the catenary suspended lighting — “what are those, alien spacecraft?!”). The City and Downtown Ithaca Alliance staffs are to be commended for, well, just about everything they’ve endured.

We’re happy to say that last weekend, for at least two whole days, we didn’t pay attention to any complaints about the Commons. The beautiful, incredible, finished Commons — a fantastic new highlight of all things Ithaca and Tompkins County — would never have been completed without the vision, tenacity, and drive of Mayor Svante Myrick, his staff, local leaders, and support from numerous funding sources who believed in the project from day one.

At the Chamber, we’re also so ecstatic that last Sunday marked the completion of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. A fantastic Ribbon Cutting Celebration was held at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, bookended by musical accompaniment from Cass Park and Stewart Park as the community enjoyed the trail beforehand, and Watermusic along the trail afterwards. While the Trail work impacted many along the way, a very grateful community is already expressing glowing reviews and sincere thanks for the ability to access Ithaca’s waterfront as it never has before.

The Trail is another phenomenal example of municipal collaborations, business and private donor support via the Chamber’s Foundation, and the implementation of a project held dear for over a decade by a handful of community leaders and visionaries, most notably project coordinator Rick Manning and former Chamber president Jean McPheeters. The Chamber’s Foundation Trustees and its Board of Directors are so proud of the time and money invested over the last 15 years to bring this quality of life enhancing project to fruition for the community. Jean, Rick, and City of Ithaca partners — thank you!

September, 2015