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December 04, 2016
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Ithaca mayor impresses and entertains; Turning around a city

Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, NY, addresses the audience as the keynote speaker at the Sullivan Renaissance annual Conference, Expo and Local Market on March 8.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

In coming up with a plan to rebuild the commons, he said, “We recruited 40 of the crankiest downtown stakeholders, and invited them to design the new commons.” They worked for eight months, and the people who were most likely to criticize the plan had ownership of it.

In applying for a federal grant to help pay for the building, he said, “We decided to become the squeakiest little wheel.” They sent 300 letters to various officials. Myrick also personally lobbied senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and then-congressman Maurice Hinchey, and the city was ultimately successful in acquiring a $4.5 million grant. That led to a $2 million grant from the state.

To keep businesses from closing during the two-year renovation of the commons, the city worked with landlords to create a competition to lure new businesses with free rent for a year, for three months and for six months, and that effort resulted in 12 new businesses moving into the commons before construction ever started.