Tompkins Center for History and Culture Construction Update, 7/2018

2 08 2018

I don’t usually spend much time covering renovations, but here’s a major project that deserves a good summary.

Let’s start this off with a little self-promotion by linking to the summary and project team interviews I did for the Voice pack in February. The History Center (THC) is a non-profit that celebrates Tompkins County’s past, with an eye towards improving its future. It’s a source for genealogists, historians, teachers, archivists, and many of the old-timey photos that the Voice, Times and other news outlets share with intrigued readers. The History Center has been renting space at 401 East State Street (Gateway Center) on a 25-year lease, due to expire this year.

When weighing their options, there were a couple of reasons why a move was looking better than a renewal of the lease. For one, it would give them a chance to find a more visible place to call home – a higher-profile location would give them more opportunity to be seen, and hopefully be heard. For two, the rent on their existing space was set to go up quite a bit, nearly doubling to $90,000/year.

It happened that Tompkins Trust was in the midst of building its new headquarters, so there was potentially some space opening up in the downtown area. A prime site availed itself in a pair of buildings along the pedestrian-only block of 100 North Tioga Street, better known as “Bank Alley” since nearly all the buildings along it were occupied by banks. 106 North Tioga Street, the shorter brick building, was the county clerk’s office when it was built back in 1863. Its neighbor at 112 is relatively young, built for the predecessors of Tompkins Financial in 1895. 106 was acquired by the bank in 1949, and various renovations from the 1950s through 1980s brought the buildings together as a bank complex with a modern connector space between them. After initial discussions in 2015, Tompkins Financial said it was open to a sale of the 18,826 square-foot space, and the county, who helps covers The History Center’s expenses, paid for a $15,000 feasibility study.

The first public discussion of the plan, then dubbed “The Tompkins County Heritage Education Center”, was in October 2016. The feasibility study checked out, so in January 2017, The History Center, in conjunction with other non-profits, requested $35,500 from the County Tourism Program for early stage development costs – a capital campaign, branding and marketing materials, and architectural drawings.

The project could be described as part “heritage tourism”, part visitor’s bureau and information center, and part non-profit office space. The Tompkins Center for History and Culture will house the CVB’s Downtown Visitors Center (part of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce) and The History Center on the first floor. The Wharton Studio Museum, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, and the Community Arts Partnership will also be major components of the project. Historic Ithaca and the Discovery Trail will also be affiliated with the Center, and a newly rebuilt “Tommy” bi-plane will be on permanent loan in the exhibit area. Most project partners will have office space on the second and third floors. The History Center is promoting the TCHC as a co-working space that would allow non-profit partner organizations to work together more efficiently, enabling them to share the costs of administrative functions, and tackle and divvy up larger grants and projects.

The Tompkins Center for History and Culture was a bit of an effort to name. It was initially turned down by the county legislature last summer because they wanted The History Center to do community outreach and make sure people were okay with the moniker. And two legislators still opposed the new name, one for not having the exact phrase of “Tompkins County” in it. To be honest, it’s a mouthful even now.

The project’s costs are estimated at about $3.75 million, but the enumerated amount is $3,345,100. Originally, the cost was $2.9 million. The county paid $2 million for the property, about $400,000 below assessment. The other $900,000 was for hard and soft costs related to the renovation itself. As for recuperating some those costs, $1.365 million is being paid for by a pair of NYS grants, a $1.06 million arts and culture grant, and a $305,000 economic development grant, which were awarded as part of the state’s economic development competition in December 2017. An earlier state grant gave $28,500 towards planning costs of the project. Another portion ($100,000) will be covered through some of the hotel room tax. Another $450,000 or so will come out of the $1.75 million being raised in the a capital campaign supported by individual and institutional private donors.

The county initially expected to be on the hook for $350,000. But in May, The TCHC requested and received an extra $445,100 in appropriations, which the county would have to cover in the short-term. The extra cost, raising the renovation’s price tag to $1,345,100, was attributed to bids coming in over projections and additional design costs. The legislature is hoping the expense is justified through the boost in tourism (30,000 visitors, a mix of local and non-local, will walk through its doors annually after it opens) as well as the modest rent it will charge the non-profits for the office space.

STREAM Collaborative is doing the design work, Tetra Tech did the structural engineering, New York’s Tessellate Studio is designing the new exhibit area and Iron Design developed the logo, website and marketing material. On the construction side, Marchuska Brothers Construction, LLC, of Endicott, has the the General Work Contract ($561,000); Johnson Controls, Inc., of Rochester, won the Mechanical Contract ($502,638); and Richardson Brothers Electrical Contractors, Inc., of Ithaca, earned the Electrical Contract ($135,550). Marchuska is a fairly recent addition to the Ithaca area, and just finished a gut renovation of a manufacturing facility into medical offices in Lansing village.

With Tompkins Financial now in its new HQ and out of Bank Alley, construction could proceed and the formal “groundbreaking” for renovation was last month, Tompkins Center for History and Culture is expected to open in early 2019. The website for TCHC can be found here.

At this point, asbestos removal by LCP Group has been finished, and some of the windows have been removed in 112 North Tioga while non-load bearing interior walls are removed and the interior space is reconfigured for its new tenants. Exterior work will generally be limited to murals, lighting and signage.

Render:

July 7th:

July 27th:


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