ITHACA, N.Y — It might seem a little strange given our current circumstances. After all, we’re still in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The service industries, leisure and hospitality included, have been figuratively taking a beating as people stay away from crowds or shared spaces that could put one at risk of catching the virus.

This article is not going to sugarcoat that. That said, there are vaccines that are steadily if haphazardly being administered to the population. Sooner or later, there will be a day where COVID has been brought under control, and when that day comes, people will be looking to make up for lost time and experiences – leisure travel will eventually return.

While it may be an easier time for some hotels and inns than others, it’s hard to doubt that the one hotel perhaps most likely to make a resurgence post-COVID is the one at the heart of Cornell’s campus, staffed by its own Hotel School students to give them that hands-on experience. (This Voice staffer was one of them, albeit non-Hotelie; the Cornell Store had its own staff run the gift shop, and it was the only time dress clothes were required.)

The 153-room hotel, built in the mid-1980s and renovated in piecemeal fashion every few years to keep up with the latest hospitality trends, is already planning their latest updates. Heading before the city of Ithaca’s Planning Board will be plans that focus primarily on the exterior, a $1.8 million project to update the circular access driveway, entry canopy (technically known as a porte-cochere canopy), and associated landscaping and lighting improvements. New York City-based Handel Architects, which has also designed building for Cornell Tech down on New York’s Roosevelt Island, is in charge of design.

To be accurate, technically the project is not 100% set in stone, and could go two ways – a base proposal, or the alternate plan. The base proposal only consists of the removal of the existing porte-cochere canopy, with minor required repairs to the paving for accessibility. The more expensive alternate plan to Cornell’s project, which depends on the cost estimates in construction bids submitted, includes the full gamut, with the demolition of the existing porte-cochere canopy, the construction of a new 1,600 SF steel and glass canopy, new building entry doors and windows, new sidewalks, driveway, stormwater facilities and landscaped median of approximately 15,000 SF in total area.

For those unfamiliar with Cornell’s construction process, several construction firms they have experience with and have expertise in a certain kind of work (for instance lab renovations, utilities, or full-service construction management) are invited to submit sealed bids, Cornell reviews those bids, and decides the winning bid based on cost and experience, but mostly cost. That means if someone comes in with what Cornell considers a good price on the alternate, full proposal, that’s what they’ll pursue. Otherwise, if the bids are uncomfortably high, they’ll pursue only the base bid with the demolition. But in case Cornell does pursue the full buildout, they’ll need to already have the Planning Board’s approval to get the building permits.

Regardless of whichever plan Cornell ultimately decides to pursue, the plan is to have the renovations complete in time for student orientation in August, in what Cornell hopes will be a hotel packed with parents helping their progeny move in, and what we all hope will be a less COVID-dominated world.

Correction: The article originally stated “In fact, some local hotels have shut their doors permanently, for instance the Ramada-turned-Clarion next to the Ithaca Mall.” According to general manager Becky Darling, the Clarion is permanently closed, but the hotel itself is planning to reopen as an independent hotel. The Voice apologizes for the confusion.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.