Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer

ITHACA, N.Y. — “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

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Citing three difficult years of construction, Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson welcomed a new era for the Ithaca Commons on Friday as the pedestrian mall held its official reopening ceremony.

Mayor Svante Myrick, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and state Senator Tom O’Mara were among the local dignitaries in attendance.

Myrick thanked an array of people involved in the project and called it the best downtown in the country.

“I would not say we were the best if I did not believe it … Three years ago I did not believe it,” Myrick said.

Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer

He also credited the contractors who he said worked under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, as well as an “army” of planners, engineers and others who thought the project through and executed it.

He then began a speech that centered on a refrain — shifting between pointing out the Commons work that could be seen, like the bricks’ design and playground, and the work that couldn’t, like the subsurface pipes that had to be revamped.

For instance, Myrick noted that while the bustling activity on the Commons could be seen, the empty storefronts couldn’t. (He said the vacancy rate on the Commons has plummeted.)

“We’ve only been open for about two weeks. What we see is the people who believe; what we don’t see are the critics and the cynics … Who said five years ago that we should abandon the idea of a walkable urban center.”

“…What you see today is the best downtown in America … What you can’t see but you know in your heart is that you have sacrificed and built” a prosperous Commons, Myrick said.

“This is the most remarkable municipal achievement I’ve ever seen,” Myrick said.

We’ll be posting another update after the ceremony.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.