Editor’s Note: The following is an opinion column submitted by Joanne Lamoureux, who has owned The Pack ‘n Ship Store in downtown Ithaca for 15 years.
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It has been all about perseverance. Many of the businesses on and along the Commons have been around for a good long while. We have experienced good times that set the benchmark for what we are capable of. And we have experienced hardships that have tested our every resource.
Nationally, the economy tanked in ’08. Ithaca really felt that downturn in ’10. We struggled with the lull in the economy for the next couple of years, and then, the construction started on The Commons. We planned for two years of construction, and it took nearly three.
Nearly five years of perseverance.
There have been no concessions for the small business owners – no rent reductions, no tax breaks. Marketing campaigns and parking subsidies felt hollow, and it was disheartening to hear people announce their intention to stay away until the construction was over.
It has been an exhausting run. We have all taken steps to hunker down – cut staff, reduce expenditures, forfeit paying ourselves, borrow money. We would talk among ourselves about the emotional cost of worry on our families, and our health. Later, we began to talk about the hope and expectation that things would turn around when the project was done. And our hearts would break for those who couldn’t hold on.
We have appreciated the words of our Mayor, acknowledging the sacrifices we have made. We have hoped, prayed, and gambled our futures that the outcome would be the renewal of a vital downtown that is once again the heart of the city. So far, it seems that the “if you build it, they will come” adage might hold. The removal of the barriers heralded a remarkable influx of people. It is wonderful to see people walking The Commons, sitting at the tables, playing in the play space, going in the stores.
This weekend will be the beginning of the celebration of the completion of the construction. Join us, residents of Ithaca and the surrounding communities. Revel in the beautiful open design of The Commons. Visit the shops and restaurants.
Make plans to come again, and again. Support the small local businesses. Choose Downtown Ithaca. We are open for business!
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