ITHACA, N.Y. — Having sold its lakeshore digs, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce (Tompkins Chamber) has completed its search for a new main office, and chosen a space on the West End as its new place to call home.

A press release yesterday evening announced the Chamber of Commerce’s plan to move its main office and its Convention & Visitors Bureau operation to 124 Brindley Street, opening at the new location in late spring 2022.

The new Tompkins Chamber headquarters would be in part of the former hangar building for the Thomas-Morse Aeroplane Factory, which in more recent years has been redeveloped into boutique commercial and production space.

The Aeroplane Factory complex was purchased by local businessmen Gregar Brous, Robert Sparks and Jerry Dietz in 2019, and last year plans were submitted for an expansion of the complex, with approvals granted in July 2020 for a new four-story, 14,328 sqaure-foot mixed-use building and a 2,000 square-foot addition of office space to the hangar building.

In the press release, the Chamber stated “(t)here are big things happening on the West End, and the Tompkins Chamber and CVB are excited to help anchor that growth. Numerous upcoming developments and investments will revitalize and build community in this part of town – and it is also noteworthy that this exciting change is happening during our 125th Anniversary year.”

Along with the Aeroplane Factory redevelopment, the new main office and operations center is close to several projects in various stages of development. The Cherry Artspace performing arts venue recently completed an expansion, the just-opened Arthaus project by the Vecino Group brought 124 low-moderate income apartments and art gallery space to the West End, and Visum Development Group intends a large-scale mixed-use project along Cherry Street just south of the Chamber’s site. The Brindley Street bridge was recently replaced by a new vehicle bridge, allowing the old bridge to be converted to a pedestrian and bike bridge.

“We are thrilled to have found in 124 Brindley Street a location that offers us unique space for our current team but also allows for future growth; a space that offers us the storage and logistical access we need to service our operations needs and stakeholders county-wide; a space which offers outdoor recreation amenities and is located in the heart of an area of our community in transition; and a landlord like Jerry Dietz who truly understands our mission and who is proven himself a benevolent host to numerous community organizations,” stated Tompkins Chamber President & CEO Jennifer Tavares in the press release.

According to the release, the choice of locations by the Tompkins Chamber & CVB was the result of a months-long search process, which was led by an Ad-Hoc Relocation Committee, and also included input from staff and the Chamber’s Board of Directors. HOLT Architects and Warren Real Estate also consulted on the project, supporting the Chamber & CVB in determining their space needs and core criteria for the next location, surveying the market for commercial properties which matched those criteria, and narrowing the search to seven sites which were shown to the prospective tenants. Seven properties were under initial consideration, two were selected as finalists, and the Board of Directors unanimously approved the recommendation of the Brindley Street property last week.

While they prepare for the move, the Tompkins Chamber and CVB will keep regular business hours at their longtime home at 904 East Shore Drive. The Chamber decided the space no longer suited its needs and put the property up for sale in September 2020, and was sold to property investor Steven Wells last summer for $1.087 million. Wells intends to maintain the East Shore Drive property as rentable office space in the short-term, though redevelopment has been floated as a possibility further in the future.

As for the Tompkins Chamber, the Brindley Street space will be leased. Given the phrase “as the most well-suited home for the organization for the next decade”, the implication seems to be that the terms of the lease are for a ten-year period; plenty of time to see if other proposed developments in and around the West End become reality.

Brian Crandall

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