Downtown Ithaca Conference Center project awarded $5 million

People dining outdoor on Aurora Street in downtown Ithaca. Ithaca is a college town in Tompkins County, where the Ivy League University Cornell is located. Almost half of the population in Ithaca are college students.

Project will fulfill longtime community need for meeting space

Downtown Ithaca is steps closer to gaining a conference center in the heart of its community.

Earlier this week, the State’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awarded the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Foundation $5 million to apply towards the construction of a 49,000 square foot meeting space, a community project that the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) has been strongly advocating for during the past two decades.

“This grant award represents an important milestone in the development of this key community project. This show of confidence and support for the conference center project from New York State and the Southern Tier REDC is a significant contribution towards moving this project forward. We now have a tremendous opportunity to fulfill a long quest to build a key piece of community and civic infrastructure,” says DIA Executive Director Gary Ferguson. “This conference center will meet a longstanding community need to have a large indoor space to meet and assemble. It will support hundreds of local jobs filled by people who live throughout Tompkins County.”

While the DIA took a prominent role in drafting the grant application, the organization also appreciates the leadership and dedication of the other members of the Conference Center Steering Committee including Tom Knipe, deputy director for City of Ithaca Economic Development; Jennifer Tavares, president and CEO of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce; Peggy Coleman, VP, Tourism & Community Relations at Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau; Nick Helmholdt, Tompkins County principal planner and Tourism Program director; and Nels Bohn, director of Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA).

In addition, considerable help and support came from Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino and Tompkins County Planning Commissioner Katie Borgella, Tompkins County Area Development President Heather McDaniel, County Legislators Martha Robertson and Anna Kelles, Hilton Garden Inn General Manager Teri Tarshus, and Ithaca Marriott Downtown General Manager Cathy Hart.

“Thank you to Gov. Cuomo, the Southern Tier REDC and the many people here in Ithaca and Tompkins County who worked to get us to this point,” says Ferguson.

The project also received strong backing from two studies conducted by Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners. The pair of conference center studies were funded by the Tompkins County Room Tax Program.

For additional information regarding the grant award or the conference center project, contact the DIA at (607) 277-8679 or email

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