ITHACA, N.Y. — Mayor Svante Myrick is proposing that the City of Ithaca spend about $333,000 in the upcoming year for maintenance on the new Ithaca Commons.

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To date, the city has spent $12.4 million on the Ithaca Commons renovation project.

Before the renovation was completed, in the 2013-2014 year, the city spent about $176,000 on maintenance for the Commons. The new maintenance budget — an expected annual cost — comes close to doubling the prior expense .

The city has approved $13.8 million for the Commons overhaul. The new maintenance costs stand in addition to and outside of that authorization, according to City Controller Steve Thayer.

This year, the city spent about $300,000 in maintenance for the Ithaca Commons.

Myrick holding off on bigger increase of new Commons’ maintenance budget — for now

The new Commons maintenance budget may sound high. But it’s actually significantly lower than the amount requested by the Department of Public Works, which has asked the city increase maintenance spending on the Commons by an additional $145,000.

Mayor Svante Myrick is rejecting that request — at least for now.

“This was a hard one,” Myrick said at City Hall Thursday night during his budget presentation to Common Council. “If we overstaffed it, if we put too much staff on the Commons, we wouldn’t know if we were overstaffing it. And it’d be too hard to peel it back … we wanted to incrementally increase what we were spending on the Commons and watch what happened.”

Thayer, the city controller, explained that Myrick’s proposed budget for 2016 does not grant DPW’s request for added personnel for Commons maintenance.

“The mayor’s idea was: We spent a lot of money here, let’s see what the actual needs are as we go through the process before we throw a whole bunch of money on it,” Thayer said.

See related: Three cheers for brilliant, beautiful new Ithaca Commons

As a result, while DPW wants Commons maintenance spending increased by $145,000, Myrick is proposing that this cost go up by a far smaller $25,000. (The Common Council will ultimately vote to approve or reject the mayor’s request.)

“Right now, the Commons looks very good. With the current level of maintenance that is being put into it, it’s holding up,” Myrick said. “If we start low, we can always go up; if we start high, it’s very, very hard to ratchet it down.”

Thayer also said that the maintenance budget may need to be increased if the city decides to go forward with a proposed fountain on the Commons.

It’s too soon to tell whether the increased economic activity from the project will prove worth its cost, Thayer said. (As previously reported by the Ithaca Voice, the Commons’ vacancy rate has plummeted amid a rush of proposed developments and multi-million dollar building projects downtown.)

“Based on activity and discussions with some of the business owners on the Commons, they’ve had some very good activity there since it reopened,” Thayer said. “Hopefully, that continues.”

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Jeff Stein

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