Tompkins County
New York


Authorize Acquisition and Improvement of the Tompkins Trust Building at 106-112 North Tioga Street on the Ithaca Commons to Serve as the Home for the History Center and Other Complementary Organizations and Amend 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Program to Incorporate the Tompkins Trust Building Acquisition and Improvement Project


Department:County AdministrationSponsors:
Category:Buildings and Facilities


  1. Printout
  2. Draft Memo to Legislature JMRJ.2.17 (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)

Resolution/Document Body

WHEREAS, Tompkins County is a long and steadfast supporter of The History Center (“Center”), which serves as the community’s museum of local history and the repository of historic materials and artifacts, and


WHEREAS, the County’s commitment to the History Center is reflected in a long-standing County annual appropriation to support the Center’s costs of occupancy, and


WHEREAS, the History Center’s 25-year lease of space in The Gateway Building will expire at the end of 2018, and the Center needs to relocate as a means to contain its cost of occupancy and increase its visibility, impact, and accessibility to the public, and


WHEREAS, as the traditional underwriter of the Center’s occupancy costs, and beneficiary of its ability to educate residents and attract tourists, the County has a direct fiscal and programmatic interest in identifying a suitable location for the Center, and


WHEREAS, as a part of its consideration of new locations, the History Center put forward and has continued to develop a plan to locate several complementary not-for-profit organizations into a common location, which it has called a “Heritage Education Center”, where residents and visitors can learn about and explore our unique community, and


WHEREAS, several local agencies have expressed strong interest in such a co-location plan, including the Historic Ithaca Library, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Visitor Center, the Community Arts Partnership, the Wharton Studio Museum, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, the Discovery Trail, the Sustainability Center, and the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation, and


WHEREAS, because of the size, character, and location of the Tompkins Trust Building (the “Building”) located at 106-112 North Tioga Street, and in light of the fact that the Building will be vacated in 2018 when the Trust Company relocates to a new downtown facility, the Building was identified as a preferred location by the History Center and other heritage education center participants, and


WHEREAS, Tompkins Trust has expressed a willingness to sell the building to the County at a cost of $2,000,000, subject to final approval by its Board of Directors, and has worked in good faith with the History Center and the County to allow both to undertake necessary due diligence, and


WHEREAS, by Resolution 2016-232, this Legislature authorized the County Administrator to explore the acquisition and re-use of the Building and, as a part of that exploration, to undertake an engineering assessment of the Building’s structural and mechanical systems and any code-related improvements that may be required to accommodate re-use of the Building, and


WHEREAS, the engineering assessment of the Building identified approximately $900,000 in improvements needed to make the Building code-compliant and ready for tenant renovations, and


WHEREAS, to help offset these costs, the County has received a $450,000 pledge from the leaders of the History Center/Heritage Education Center’s capital fundraising campaign and has also received assurances from the Strategic Tourism Planning Board that the project qualifies, and will be considered for, a $100,000 capital grant that would, together, reduce the County’s net cost to acquire and improve the building to $2,350,000, and


WHEREAS, it is understood that all costs of interior renovations, tenant improvements, and exhibits shall be borne by the tenants of the building, and that future structural repairs and maintenance shall be the responsibility of the County, and


WHEREAS, to support the costs of interior renovations, improvements, and exhibits, the History Center and other prospective tenants of the Building are collaborating to raise capital funds through a local fundraising campaign and are also working with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance to prepare an application for a $2.5 million grant from New York State, and  


WHEREAS, the projected cost to operate and maintain the building, and to generate a two percent return on the County’s investment in the building, can be fully recovered through competitive rents charged to the occupants of the Building, and


WHEREAS, it is the County’s intent to apply unanticipated 2016-2017 revenues from the Tioga Downs and del Lago Casinos to finance the acquisition and improvement of the Building, including $1.9 million in licensing fees already received plus additional unbudgeted casino revenue expected in 2017, now therefore be it


RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Facilities and Infrastructure and the Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committees, That the County’s 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Program be, and hereby is, amended to include the Acquisition and Improvement of the Tompkins Trust Building at a total cost of $2,900,000, with an expected net local cost of $2,350,000 after receipt of grants and contributions,


RESOLVED, further, That the County Administrator be and hereby is authorized to negotiate the acquisition of the Tompkins Trust Company Building at 106-112 North Tioga Street at a cost not to exceed $2,000,000 plus any associated closing costs, and on such other terms and conditions as the County Administrator may approve in his reasonable discretion and upon consultation with the County Attorney,


RESOLVED, further, That the Director of Finance be and hereby is authorized and directed to make the following budget adjustments:


A Fund-General Fund

Decrease Fund Balance              A30909000 - General Fund Unassigned Fund Balance              $2,900,000

Increase Expense Account A9576.54802 - Contribution to Construction                            $2,900,000


HB Fund-Building Improvements Fund

Increase Revenue Account HB1617.45031.16.17 - Interfund (A)                                          $2,900,000

Increase Expense Account HB1617.59239.16.17 - Heritage Education Center              $2,900,000


SEQR ACTION:  Unlisted

(Short Environmental Assessment Form on filed with the Clerk of the Legislature)


Meeting History

May 9, 2017 3:00 PM  Facilities and Infrastructure Committee Regular Meeting
MOVER:Michael Sigler, Member
SECONDER:Daniel Klein, Member
AYES:David McKenna, Glenn Morey, Michael Sigler, Daniel Klein, Peter Stein
May 31, 2017 4:00 PM  Budget, Capital and Personnel Committee Special Meeting

Mr. Mareane spoke to the proposed acquisition and improvement of the Tompkins Trust building to locate a collection of agencies and be the anchor of the History Center.

He said the County has been affiliated with the History Center for many years and has paid its occupancy costs; in 2016 the cost was $110,000. The History Center rent will double in 2019 if it remains in its current location; the County has historically covered its occupancy so it is in the best interest of the County to search for alternatives. He said a search quickly zeroed in on the Tompkins Trust building because of convenience, availability, correct character, size, and location. As the search was going forward, Rod Howe, who runs the History Center, began to conceive and discuss a potential Heritage Education Center that would include a collection of non-profits that have similar goals and interests.

Mr. Mareane reviewed the narrative in a memo to Legislators dated May 2, 2017, contained in the agenda packet. The following are highlights provided:

· Building is $2 million, $400,000 less than the property's assessment; the cost to make it code compliant are estimated to be $900,000;

· Intention is to pay cash for the building and will come from new casino revenue;

· Asset will appreciate quicker than cash would generate interest in a bank;

· Sources of funding for $2.5 million will come from Capital Campaign ($350,000 to 375,000); Strategic Tourism Planning Board - $100,000;

· The County will own the building and will rent space in the Center to cover the operating costs of the building;

· The County will not pay for the renovation costs of the building;

· Improvements would begin in May when the bank leaves the building. Goal is to get the History Center into the building by 2019.

Mr. Mareane said the County's relationship with the History Center needs to continue to be strong. There is a risk that the County won't be able to meet the cost needed to make this a spectacular building, which may pose a risk that some tenants won't come over but there are others he thinks would.

In the worst case, the County's acquisition of the property will result in the History Center relocating to the Tompkins Trust Building without achieving the vision of a Heritage Education Center. If that occurred, the County would expect to spend $152,000 to operate and maintain the building and forego a cash return on its $2.35 million investment. However, the building's value would continue to appreciate.

Mr. Mareane spoke of many benefits that he and Mr. Howe believe it would have and said it would be a tremendous asset, noting there are tremendous challenges to the existing building. Programming would include a hub, a center, a place for both visitors and county residents, position the County well to be a player for tourism in the region, and economic impacts. Although it is hard to estimate the numbers that can be expected, he said significant visitors are expected and work will be done to develop themes that would be embedded in the exhibit space.

Mr. Dennis said this is a very interesting project and believes the Legislature greatly appreciates the work Mr. Howe and Mr. Mareane have done. Having seen other things happen in the County it is good to see the name associated with this. It is the kind of thing that happens here and appreciates the work that has gone into bringing it to this point.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne asked what future costs other than maintenance and repairs would be and gave an example of cleaning. Mr. Mareane said those kinds of ordinary costs are included in the rent and he expects to see only ordinary costs.

MOVER:Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Member
SECONDER:Daniel Klein, Member
AYES:James Dennis, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Glenn Morey, Daniel Klein
ABSENT:Michael Sigler
Jun 6, 2017 5:30 PM Media Tompkins County Legislature Regular Meeting

Ms. Robertson thanked all the members of the public who spoke this evening and for all of the work that went into this project. She recognized Mr. John for his work and particularly acknowledged Mr. Mareane for having this vision and for the enormous amount of work he put into it.

At this time Ms. Robertson was provided assurance that there would be continued involvement of the Tourism Director with the Center. She said although she is concerned from a financial standpoint she will support the resolution.

Mr. John said this represents a well-thought through proposal that is a result of many meetings. The proposal was done and risk mitigated to the greatest extent possible. Most of what the County does is vital, essential, and boring. However, this is an investment of public funds; it is taking money from reserves and investing in something that will increase in value. Ithaca and Tompkins County deserves something that is really spectacular. Where it could be challenging is the private side of this, but he believes it will be successful.

Ms. Chock spoke of her support for cultural and arts organizations in communities and believes it can be an economic driver.

Ms. Kelles also thanked Mr. John and Mr. Mareane for their work on this proposal. This is an investment, not an expense, and what needs to be remembered is that this is a consolidation of services. There are several organizations that we currently support that will now be housed in the same building. It is an opportunity for several different tiers of government to collaborate and to show how it works. Governments have tried to merge entities and it is exceptionally difficult, but we are going to show that it is possible.

Mr. Dennis acknowledged individuals who have been committed to continued work to make the History Center a reality and who would have a presence in the building. He also acknowledged Mr. Lane who initially asked that this building be looked at.

Mr. Sigler spoke in support of the proposal and said he has supported this from the beginning.

Ms. Kiefer spoke of the importance in the Legislature being able to be provided with the governance model upon development. Ms. Robertson said the Legislature would not have any role in approving any governance models.

Mr. Lane spoke of it being the County’s Bicentennial year and doesn’t believe this action would have happened without having received the licensing fees from the casinos. It is one-time money being used for a one-time project. The History Center has been supported by the County since its inception, it is the repository of the County’s records, the education and preservation area for the history of Tompkins County. Having it central in Ithaca makes it accessible to everyone. He also spoke in appreciation of the Tompkins Trust Company. The building was built in the 1860s and is two buildings put together of which one was the County Clerk’s office at one time.

This resolution was adopted by a roll call vote.

MOVER:David McKenna, Member
SECONDER:Anna Kelles, Member
AYES:Will Burbank, Carol Chock, James Dennis, Rich John, Anna Kelles, Dooley Kiefer, Daniel Klein, Michael Lane, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Martha Robertson, David McKenna, Glenn Morey, Michael Sigler, Peter Stein