ITHACA, NY – The new Ithaca Commons, a subject of both praise and heavy criticism over its two-and-a-half year construction period, is one of the six sites awarded the annual “Pride of Ownership” award.

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The Pride of Ownership awards, now in their eighteenth year, are given to property owners who have “developed projects or taken care of their properties in ways that enhance the physical neighborhoods and commercial areas.” Check the link below to read about the other winners.

Related: Ithaca Pride of Ownership Award honors developers of exceptional properties

The award for the Commons will be presented to JoAnn Cornish, the city’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, and Mayor Svante Myrick.

The award committee lauded the new Commons for its open view, saying it allows people to see clearly across the space and enjoy the recently restored 19th century architecture, that helps “ground the Commons in its historic context.”

They also point to a busy first fall season and successful public events as signs of the new Commons “continued role as Ithaca’s central space, its point of energy.”

Related: Despite construction, Ithaca Commons vacancy rate plummets

The committee’s statement does acknowledge the difficulties the new Commons project faced, referring to the “often-tested patience and cooperation of our downtown workers and shoppers and merchants and businesses truly deserves our communal thanks.”

The redesign was the subject of a fair amount of controversy and criticism during the construction process, and some after as well.

During construction, dozens of business owners lobbied the Common Council, calling the repeatedly-delayed construction a “nightmare and a fiasco” and sharing tales of how the project had hurt their businesses and driven them into debt.

Related: Ithaca Commons business owners pack City Hall, lamenting construction

A report confirmed that 60% of businesses on the Commons had seen a drop in traffic. Three businesses went out of business in the process, with some of the owners citing the construction as a primary reason for their going under.

Even after the project was completed, the Commons saw it’s share of criticisms. The new sign for the area was partially covered up a nearby stoplight, an aesthetic concern that led Alderperson Ellen McCollister to label it “an embarrassment.”

More recently, Alderperson Cynthia Brock expressed disappointment with the Commons, saying, “There’s very little to do there.”

Despite the disagreements over the project, it’s easy to agree with the award committee’s final statement about the Commons redesign: “here’s to not having to go through it again, for at least a couple of decades!”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.