The Community Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in Tompkins County through enduring philanthropy, has enabled the funding of three major public amenities for the redesigned Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall.
The Ridenour Family Fund of the Community Foundation in memory of Layel and Nan Ridenour provided funding for a planter and bench area. The new Commons will feature twelve different stand-alone clusters of public amenities, trees, and greenery. Each area has a sixteen-foot-long ground level planter, new shade trees, and a large public bench. Some will also have movable chairs and public art. These areas are a core part of the Commons project and will be built into phase three this winter and spring, with trees being planted in the spring based on weather and growing conditions.
The Hartnett Fund of the Community Foundation provided funding for an outdoor reading room on the new Commons. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) was inspired by an intriguing and dynamic project located in the heart of New York City: Bryan Park’s HSBC Reading Room. The DIA will create a similar, albeit smaller, version of this reading room. Utilizing one of the planter and bench areas, the DIA will install umbrellas, moveable racks and shelves with books and periodicals, and signage to help residents and visitors enjoy this uniquely urban experience. The DIA will host an annual opening reception.
The Community Foundation’s Myrtle Dee Nash Fund provided funding for animal tracks as well as an additional planter and bench area. Families and children are important users of the Ithaca Commons. The new Commons has been designed to include a scattered site attraction for children and families: animal footprints colorized and engraved into paving tiles as a permanent installation. Each set of footprints will have an identifying plaque (rabbit, raccoon, deer, fox, bear, etc.) and the project will have a central sign near the playground urging families to explore the Commons to look for each set.
When the City of Ithaca opened bids for the Commons redesign project, the phase three construction package was substantially over budget. In response, the City proposed to eliminate several planned elements, including the above items as well as the community playground, interactive touchscreen kiosks, and holiday lighting. The City and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance agreed to work together to seek to restore as many of these deleted items as possible through a private-sector “Enhancing the Commons” donor campaign. The campaign has raised a total of $161,500 and has successfully re-secured these desired public amenities.