Tompkins Center for History and Culture Renovation Update, 3/2019

25 03 2019

The Tompkins Center for History and Culture is on track to open in a few weeks. I have not seen a specific date, but it will be sometime in April.

I stopped by to take a few quick photos, when The History Center’s Executive Director (and candidate for town of Ithaca supervisor) Rod Howe opened the door and asked if I wanted a tour. Unfortunately, it was not going to work with my schedule that day. Luckily, a sneak peak of the interior can be found on the TCHC’s Facebook page.

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Throwback time. This photo comes courtesy of Terry Harbin. This was once the 100 Block of North Tioga (across the street from the TCHC. The Blood Building, 109-113 North Tioga, was built in 1870 and also known as the Old Masonic Block.

This photo appears to come from the mid 1960s. For one, the Cornell library to the north (left) has been demolished, and that happened in 1960. For two, the car in the foreground is a 1963 Plymouth Fury, which had a unique slantback front end (growing up in a family of mechanics had to come in handy for something). The car behind it is a 1963 Chevrolet, since most Chevy models upgraded to three tail lights on each side for 1964, and that body style was ’62-’64 only. The truck, eh, not so good with, I don’t remember so many of those in my family’s shops. It’s a Chevy in the same mid 1960s time frame.

Even in Ithaca’s salty winters, the cars probably outlived the building. It would come down in 1966 and, several years later, be replaced by the new Bank Tower addition, which was built from 1974-75. The little third-floor addition on top of that came along in the early 1980s. You can still its outline on Bank Tower’s north face.

Also, note the building that once stood where the Seneca Garage is. It was a last ditch effort to revive downtown, but Urban Renewal removed a lot of tired but attractive buildings that Ithaca and many other communities are trying to recreate (in form if not necessarily style) today.





Tompkins Center for History and Culture Renovation Update, 12/2018

28 12 2018

The new Tompkins Center for History and Culture is progressing towards its April 2019 opening. There’s not much to see from t he outside, since this is an interior renovation, albeit a major, to-the-studs renovation. Some non-load bearing walls have been removed and the interior has been opened up. Back in October, the History Center spearheaded a community effort, called “Moving History Forward”, to move its thousands of historical artifacts from their old location in Gateway Center to the new TCHC a couple blocks away. Not only did it engage the community (the move required 330 volunteers), it also saved about $40,000 in moving expenses.

According to the building permit from October, LeChase Construction is on board as the general contractor for the $1.8 million project. Although based out of Rochester, LeChase maintains offices throughout the state – the firm opened an office in Ithaca, but the company website does not suggest it’s full-service, if it’s still used at all. Most Ithaca work is overseen by the Syracuse office. Matco Electric Corporation of Vestal is in charge of electrical work and rewiring, Lansing’s DFM Mechanical is doing the plumbing, and Eagle Mechanical of Wolcott (Wayne County) is doing the general mechanical work. Local firm Hayes Strategy is serving as the construction project manager, and STREAM Collaborative is designing the interior renovation. New York’s Tessellate Studio is designing the new exhibit area within the renovated space, and some of those images are included below. From Tessellate’s website:

“The intent of the exhibits at the History Center in Tompkins County is to connect audiences to meaningful history and narratives about the past, present and future of the region through the use of interactive, immersive, media and object-based experiences. For this project, Tessellate designed a flexible series of modular Story Pods to work as a physical, visual, and technical system to accommodate current and future needs of the museum. This allows for an open floor plan, use of vertical space and height, dynamic header text/images, visitor seating, accommodating for groups, and the blend of physical, interactive and media design offered an optimal storytelling experience.”

Quick aside, Marchuska Brothers Construction was the county’s general contractor, Johnson Controls had the mechanical contract and Richardson Brothers the electrical contract for the initial renovation work. Not sure why there was a switch. The switch was because the History Center hired their own set of contractors for their buildout needs. From the architect, Noah Demarest: “The county owns the building so they had a contract to deal with some core facilities issues. Now the History Center is using their own contractors for the tenant build out. So it wasn’t a change, just the result of the open bidding process of two different entities working in the same space.”

A project description and development timeline can be found here.





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: