A Downtown Worth Preserving

The Landmarks Advisory Committee has a proposition for the City: create an historic Central Business District.

Published April 3, 2015 12:03 PM
2 min read

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The Landmarks Advisory Committee has a proposition for the City: create an historic Central Business District.

By Robin Jovanovich

The Landmarks Advisory Committee has a proposition for the City: create an historic Central Business District.

The upsides of the idea are many, explained Landmarks chair Jack Zahringer in an interview last week. By doing so, it will provide incentives for business owners to renovate, not demolish the many late 19th and early 20th century buildings up and down Purchase, Purdy, and Locust avenues; Smith and School streets; and Elm Place, from the train station to the Square House.

“The idea began germinating in 2013 when the community overwhelmingly came out to save The Smoke Shop,” said Zahringer. Hundreds signed their names to a petition. In December of that year, the City Council enacted local law 4-2013, a real property exemption for historic property. “The intent of the law is provide owners of properties with historical significance a concrete incentive [in the form of a tax exemption] to restore or improve those properties while maintaining the character of the original construction.”

When committee members Vicki Farrington and Paula Gamache started knocking on the doors of owner-operated businesses in town, they were “surprised that the owners were not aware of the Ithaca Law [which encourages investment in historic preservation and rehabilitation] and the benefits involved. Farrington said, “We supplied them with information and their responses were overwhelmingly supportive, even if the owner had no plans of renovating in the future.”

Committee member Maurio Sax explained that all of the buildings, no matter their age, would be included in the historic district. “The City would not lose anything by approving the proposal and, in the end, it would create jobs and preserve the character of our old and charming downtown.”

The Chamber of Commerce has written a letter endorsing the plan, which is on the agenda for the April 22 City Council meeting.

The longer-term goal of the LAC is to extend preservation into the residential community, said Zahringer, where he and so many other longtime residents, feel so much of the architectural fabric is being lost to redevelopment.

 

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