This column was written by Brian Crandall, who runs “Ithacating in Cornell Heights.”
Why I shop downtown — Marty
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Ithaca, N.Y. — Officially, the downtown Ithaca Marriott is underway with site prep.
Perhaps because it only just started, there was hardly anything to speak of on its site. An orange plastic construction fence blocks off the perimeter of the property, and there appear to be some pipes and concrete blocks on site. IPD had the parking lot blocked off, presumably to keep the lot closed to downtown patrons.
Binghamton-based William H. Lane Inc. was selected as contractor for the project, and opened an Ithaca office to oversee the operation. The $32 million, 10-story, 160-room hotel was designed by Cooper Carry Architecture and is being developed by Urgo Hotels out of Bethesda, Maryland.
Urgo’s nearest other hotels are the Whiteface Lodge in the Adirondacks, and several in the NYC area, so Ithaca is well outside their normal scope. I suppose the Marriott could be used as an example of how Ithaca is attracting the attention of out-of-town investors and developers.
This project really has had quite the drawn-out process, originally proposed as the Hotel Ithaca back in 2008.
At that point, it was a 9-story, 102-room hotel with a cost of $17 million, to be developed by Rimland Development and operated by boutique firm Gemstone Hotels. Well, a lot happened along the way.
The project was approved, the recession hit, the project stalled due to an inability to get financing, the cost kept going up from $17 million to $25 million to $27 million, and the number of rooms went from 102 to 125 to 140.
Then the Marriott version came into play in 2012 with a $19 million price tag, it was approved, it too failed to get financing, and went back to the board with a value-engineered design for the now $32 million project. With money from Ensemble Investments, the project has been able to launch. There have been three separate designs with ballooning price tags.
To actually have something underway is a welcome denouement to this saga.
The Marriott is one of only several hotels planned for Ithaca, with the new 123-room Canopy a couple blocks away intending to start construction shortly, and 76-room and 37-room hotels for Elmira Road. With high room rates and low vacancy rates, the market is expected to comfortably absorb at least two of those. All of them might cause an older suburban hotel to be closed.