News Tidbits 3/9/09: It’s Just An Olive Garden

9 03 2010

Let’s be honest – Ithaca is maybe, ever so slightly, insulated from much of the world around it. The joke of “Ten square miles surrounded by reality” has just a little truth supporting it.

Well, down by Wal-Mart (the benignly named “South Meadow Square”) two outparcels are currently being developed. One is slated to be a Panera Bread. The other is going to be an Olive Garden.

That’s fine and all, but people are just getting too damned excited over this. By people, I mean locals who have lived an worked in the area for much of their lives. My boss and her full-time staffers just about did a tap dance on the counter when the Journal confirmed an Olive Garden was coming (in an exclusive story no less). I was shopping at Tops and the topic du jour was “when’s the Olive Garden gonna open up?”

Really? Endless salad and breadsticks are nice, but you can get the same at Joe’s further up the road near Inlet Island. I’ve been to Olive Gardens before, the last one being in Virginia back in July of last year. The food was decent, certainly nothing I’d write home about. Not exactly the most bang for the buck either (for that, there’s a mildly sketchy Chinese buffet next to the Ithaca Mall in Lansing). Getting all worked up over an Olive Garden planning to open in late summer/early fall is about as worthy an event to get excited for as a buy one get one sale on yogurt at Wegman’s.

Yeah it’s nice. You can sit down now.





The (All Too Late) Ithaca Projects Update

24 11 2010

Since I have no life as a grad student, following progress in the Ithaca has been a little difficult. But, I figured it was time to do an updated brief list. Ithaca has made it through the recession largely unscathed (thankfully), thanks to the stable college-based economy, and various projects are in various planning and development stages throughout the area. For the purposes of this entry, I’m ignoring the projects going on at Cornell and IC.

First off, most of the larger projects are delayed. The Hotel Ithaca is waiting for a bank loan, but given the market that could take a good year or two before a loan is secured for the 10-story hotel.  In a similar boat, the 7-story Cayuga Green condos are delayed until sales pick up and financing is secured.  The six-story, 52-unit apartment building planned for the site of the Women’s Community Building is also delayed, having failed to get a grant from the state. It will be at least one year before financing is secured and construction can begin for that project.About the only going on in the heart of the city right now are the redevelopment of the Petrune Building and the starting phases of a renovation of the Ithaca Commons.

Land remediation and site prep is still underway for the Ithaca Gun condos, which are slowly (barely) progressing towards construction of what may now be either 33 units, or increased to 45 units of “market-rate” housing. On the 600 block of West Seneca Street, a 24-unit, 3-story apartment building has been approved and site prep is to begin in the near future.The Kitchen Theatre finished construction and moved into their new digs on West State Street.

Over in Collegetown, works continues on the 589-unit Collegetown Terrace proposal, which is still making its rounds after agreeing to preserve the Williams House on State Street in exchange for getting permission to demolish the old nurse’s dormitory (Delano House). Even if the project starts this summer, full build-out will take 22 months, so expect no earlier than a mid-2013 completion.  Over on Eddy Street, plans have been approved for a24-unit, 41-bedroom 5-story apartment building next to the Souvlaki House, and construction will begin next summer. A 5-story building on the 300 block of College Avenue remains in the proposal stages. Closer to East Hill, the 4-story Coal Yard Apartments expansion is in site prep, and the now-approved Vine Street Cottages project removed three homes from its plan, leaving 19 houses and 10 townhouse units for the parcel near Mitchell Street.

Down in big-box land, Walmart has finished their expansion into a Supercenter, and Tim Horton’s is seeking approval for a store on what is now a parking lot near Buttermilk Falls.The parcel where Olive Garden was proposed is once again up for grabs. Local rumor mill had it that the land was still contaminated (it was once the site of an auto repair shop, and gas and oil and other hazardous compounds might’ve seeped into the soil deeper than first thought).

Out in the West Hill area and the town, Ecovillage is in the home stretch for approval for their third 30-unit village (TREE), and 106 townhome units (Holochuck Homes site) are approved for Route 96 near the medical center. A couple of suburban subdivisions (the Goldenrod 30-unit division, and a 22-unit INHS project called Holly Creek) are planned/approved. 22 units of senior housing are to be built near Ithaca College, and it was confirmed that the 82-unit, rather terrifying and Soviet-looking Maple Hill Apartments on Maple Avenue will be demolished when the property is returned to Cornell in 2013. Cornell has long-term goals to redevelop the site into mixed use, according to its master plan.

Over in suburban Lansing, there’s some small housing developments and a new locally-owned supermarket planned, but the big thing out there is the proposal for an 82,000 sq ft BJ’s Wholesale Club next to the mall, with 12 units of senior housing and a bird sanctuary on adjacent property (basically because the project is seeking tax-exempt status and need to offer a community benefit to get the break). The 69-unit Woodland Park project doesn’t look like it will be approved anytime in the near future.

Hopefully I’ll have more and more substantial news to write about in the tidbits entries in the upcoming months. I need a distraction from my life. Especially when I grade exams and a student thinks it’s cute to bubble “C” 40 times (he received a 15%).

 





The Blessing and Curse of Anonymity: CollegeACB

20 11 2010

It seems increasingly common these days to read editorials and columns in the Daily Sun that reference the extremely controversial website CollegeACB (Anonymous Confession Board). That and the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko seem to be the two things that dominate the collegiate news articles this semester (personally, all the news I hear about the drink just makes me more tempted to try it, but I don’t find myself at convenience stores often enough to remember to do so). Reading through the threads on the CollegeACB Cornell page is like a lesson in everything that is “wrong” with people; the website is well-known for its tirades that seem to know no ethical bounds, which include posts that are racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, classist, fetishist and all sorts of other comments that play up the darker side of human character.

I think most people who are on the internet these days have seen something like this before. Before CollegeACB, it was Juicy Campus, before the internet people made use of public spaces; I think there was a stump that used to be near Olin Libe on the Arts Quad in the late 60s and early 70s that was used extensively for spray-painted or paper-posted anonymous messages. Anonymity gives people the guise of security; their comments can hardly be traced to them unless they write something that clearly indicates it was them, or someone sees them typing and posting onto a forum. The sex columnists (the people may change, but the pattern is familiar) go by initials or self-created nicknames so as to avoid the coming up on the radar of potential employers and put up an extra barrier to protect against unwanted attention. Sure, a lot of folks might have a pretty good idea who the writer is, but unless it can be concretely proven, they can feel somewhat secure.

CollegeACB is a site that I can despise, and in some perverse sense, understand at the same time. I think ad hominem attacks on certain individuals is wrong, but censoring those opinions isn’t exactly the right thing to do either, since people value the concept of “personal freedom” so much. It’s a moral gray area to me; I would never do it myself, but I wouldn’t necessarily take away people’s ability to do it for a site that advertises anonymity as its big asset (I am being a bit hypocritical here; I have prevented a couple offensive comments, both of which were personal attacks because I mocked the now-cancelled Ithaca Olive Garden, from being published here on the blog; I initially okayed them, but I wasn’t comfortable leaving them on the blog and deleted them within hours).

Yet, sometimes that anonymity is what it takes for someone to take their guard down and see what they really think. People at Cornell are just as capable of being racist and homophobic and sexist as anyone else, and while those posts are offensive, and some of them are just grotesque attempts at grabbing attention, I can’t help but think there’s at least an ounce of someone’s personal beliefs in there. Objectionable as those posts may be, they demonstrate that Cornell is not a perfect world, and a lot of the tension that gets swept under the rug publicly will rear its ignorant head if given the opportunity.

In a previous post, I compared finding useful information on that site to finding a diamond in a pile of crap. Occasionally, the guise of anonymity can be helpful, and an honest, valuable opinion that would otherwise been kept silent is voiced. But you never know how much truth there is in a post, so the “diamonds” might just turn out to be pebbles of glass. I think a statement and a little research can go a long way in proving a comment right, but that’s not always possible.

I guess the topic really sticks out to me because of Ithacating in Cornell Heights. This blog is written semi-anonymously, in that although I’ve never written my name once, there’s enough information out there that I write as if the posts had by name on the top of each entry…which defeats the purpose of anonymity. My major reasons for continuing it like this are partly because of routine and partly because I prefer what I write to be dissociated from me.

The posts that make up the site are unpleasant, certainly. But I think it’s more a reflection of the people writing anonymously than the existence of the site itself. Maybe people just hold themselves to a low standard. Maybe I’m holding people, myself included, to a low standard because although I don’t condone it, I accept it.  My view is pessimist because I don’t expect people to hold themselves to higher standards, which that website proves every inflammatory day.

I’m too much of a curmudgeon to put a smiley face on this and write how we should behave better. It would be nice, perhaps, but I think it would be unrealistic as well.