The New York Times reported on the official opening of the Sasaki-designed Ithaca Commons in an article published last week. The pedestrian mall runs for 22 blocks through the heart of downtown Ithaca, connecting the city's two main bus stations and creating a friendly, civic feel for citizens and visitors alike. This project represents a major facelift for the Commons "which had not changed much in the 40 years since its creation."
While many larger cities have struggled to implement successful pedestrian malls over the years, Sasaki principal Gina Ford, ASLA, the lead designer for the Commons, writes in a recent piece that pedestrian malls in college towns such as Ithaca "often becom[e] a central, character-defining part of both the experience of the institution and an integral part of civic identity." Ithaca is reaping the benefits of an enlivened downtown that is steadily populated by students of Cornell and Ithaca College, and is, according to the Times article, "a darling of Best Places to Live Lists."
The city is also realizing significant development goals through smart policy strategies, such as rezoning to allow for taller buildings, and offering businesses a phased-increase tax abatement program. These strategies are proving to be successful. "Over the last two years, the 22-block district has received $50 million in new investment," says the article, adding that "an additional $143 million has been approved. All told, the new projects are adding 240 apartments and more than 300 hotel rooms."
Click here to read the full article, and here to read an examination of pedestrian malls, written by Sasaki Principal Gina Ford, ALSA.
The Ithaca Commons is a two-block pedestrian mall that serves as the social and economic heart of Ithaca. Sasaki worked closely with city leadership and the community in a multi-year process to renovate...