Last night, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) honored several individuals and institutions that have made a special impact in our community in the last year. DIA Executive Director Gary Ferguson, DIA Board President Steve Headrick, and City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick presented the awards at a gala dinner held at Hotel Ithaca, which was attended by over 130 people. Gary Ferguson gave a year in review presentation and Mayor Myrick delivered a keynote speech.
The Public Employee of the Year award was given to Officer Alex Pape. Said Steve Headrick, “Alex Pape knows Ithaca. An alum of Ithaca High School who grew up here in Ithaca, Alex got to know downtown Ithaca and all its quirks and personalities long before he was appointed a police officer. Alex became Officer Pape eight years ago and volunteered for the Downtown Commons assignment some four years ago. Ever since. Alex is a familiar and friendly face to the entire Downtown community- from shopkeepers and office workers to residents and anyone who regularly makes downtown a part of their lives. In his years of service Downtown, Alex has mastered the art of blending patience and persistence with providing exemplary public safety service to the community. When he was injured for three months in 2014, his absence was universally felt by all.”
The Board Member of the Year award was given to Fred Schoeps. “On the DIA Board of Directors, everyone is busy. Everyone is working and/or living somewhere in downtown- managing property, running a business, being a public servant, or helping out the community. Each year we recognize one person from the Board who exhibits extra-ordinary service- and this year that person is Fred Schoeps. Fred has stepped forward to assist the DIA and the community with a most important issue-transportation demand management. Besides chairing the DIA’s transportation committee, Fred has taken a leadership role in helping to broker a soon to be released emergency ride home program. This program will help overcome one of the major concerns raised by some people about regularly using public transportation-that that they will find themselves stranded downtown in a time of need. Even now, Fred is working on another key aspect of transportation demand management-setting up a remote parking program to encourage and entice downtown residents to move their vehicles out of downtown garages.”
The Nonprofit Organization of the Year award was given to The State Theatre. “Downtown is blessed with a host of exciting and dynamic nonprofit organizations. In a time when nonprofits are laboring to meet payrolls and deliver services to our community, we want to recognize one organization that has made and will continue to make a major and significant impact on downtown-the State Theatre. It was not too long ago when there was a real concern about the future of this treasured community resource– the last remaining historic performance theater left in our community. Nurtured for nearly a decade by Historic Ithaca, the State Theatre faced daunting financial hurdles and actually closed its doors. A group of community leaders and theater proponents, led by Mack Travis, Dan Smalls, and others, convened to create State Theatre, Inc., a nonprofit organization charged solely with the mission to restore, manage and promote this beautiful and rare community treasure. The results have been astonishing. This past year the theatre attracted over 60,000 patrons, hosted some 70 events, and has once again become a key part of the life of downtown Ithaca. When the theatre is open, restaurants and bars feel its presence.”
The Emerging Downtown Business of the Year award was given to the Ithaca Voice. “Starting a new business is not for everyone. The allure of running your own operation and being your own boss almost immediately runs head long into the realities of funding an operation, paying staff, and working long, long hours to achieve your dream. Yet, Downtown Ithaca is blessed with many individuals who have done just that-starting new businesses of all types-retail, service, professional, office, tech, hospitality, and media. This year we recognize one of these businesses -The Ithaca Voice, as an outstanding example of an emerging business that is poised to grow and become a strong member of the Ithaca community. In a time when the media is in such a state of flux and local news reporting is becoming more and more challenging, it is exciting to see the Ithaca Voice rise up to become a vital and appreciated source of local news. In just a short time, the Voice has demonstrated an uncanny ability to cover and report stories of note-adding a needed extra dimension to the fourth estate here in Ithaca. In fact, the Ithaca Voice is now part of the REV downtown incubator program.”
The Retailer of the Year award was given to 15 STEPS. “Retailers are the heart and soul of the downtown district. They are the street level businesses that the public sees and interacts with every day. Each year we honor one retail business that goes above and beyond to provide an example of excellence to other merchants and to our community. This year that business is 15 STEPS. Owners Ken Jupiter and Bettsie Park are not rookies in the retail field. 15 STEPS was born some 33 years ago and has evolved over a most tumultuous era for retailing, ever adapting to meet the needs of an evolving local and national marketplace. In 2014, retailing in Ithaca faced the challenge not only of internet sales, big box competition, and national consumer trepidation, but also the ongoing construction of the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall. 15 STEPS rose to the occasion, investing in new products and tweaking their operations. The result was a strong year of growth. But this business’s notoriety extends beyond successful sales. They have adopted three charities to promote with their store- Tompkins SPCA, the Tompkins Health Care Alliance, and Hospicare. Ken is a board member and leader of the County’s Strategic Tourism Planning Board and has worked to ensure downtown is a key part of the County’s tourism strategy. Bettsie has been active in the Community Arts Partnership and the Rotary Club.”
An Economic Development Project of the Year award was given to Coltivare. “Each year the DIA recognizes developers and investors who have completed exemplary projects that benefit downtown Ithaca and the entire community. This year we have selected two such projects. The first is Coltivare. Located in the Cayuga parking Garage building on Cayuga Street, Coltivare is a visually stunning and creative project that was the brainchild of TC3 President Carl Haynes. Guided by his Board of Directors, his TC3 Foundation, and a special Coltivare Advisory Committee, this project was officially opened in November 2014. The facility blends education and commerce. Housed in Coltivare is TC3’s new culinary arts program, as well as elements of the schools Hospitality and Wine marketing programs. The new culinary arts farm to bistro program sold out in its first year and offers students a one of a kind opportunity to hone skills and prepare for the growing culinary marketplace – here in Ithaca and elsewhere. The facility is also a major working restaurant, which has received excellent reviews as it blends education and commerce together into a seamless enterprise. Coltivare has already become a downtown icon and will rapidly become a destination for culinary tourists as well.”
A second Economic Development Project of the Year award was given to Press Bay Alley. “What happens when a 100 plus year old industry downsizes and consolidates much of its operations in another city. In this case- something exciting for downtown Ithaca. Investors John Guttridge and David Kuckuk joined together to purchase the Ithaca Journal building, retaining the local news component of the Gannett organization and repurposing the buildings of the complex for new uses. Where others saw a tired old building, John and David visualized a new neighborhood, with repurposed space that activated the State Theatre block and created a new destination for the west side of downtown. Press Bay Alley is just that. The main building houses Brightworks Computer Consulting and the Ithaca Journal plus our community maker space- The Ithaca Generator as well as Cooperative Extension’s urban meat locker program. The former printer room on Green Street became Life So Sweet Chocolates, and the nondescript storage sheds were converted into mini-retail spaces- now 100% leased and filled. The alley was re-paved and decorative lights have converted the space into a popular gathering place for events such as art shows, car shows, and farmers’ markets.”