Tompkins County
New York


Making a Negative Determination of Environmental Significance in Relation to Resolution No. 98 of 2017, Approving the Acquisition and Improvement of Property Commonly Known as the Tompkins Trust Company Building Located at 106-112 North Tioga Street, Ithaca, New York


Department:County AdministrationSponsors:


  1. Printout
  2. Environmental Form

Resolution/Document Body

WHEREAS, Resolution No. 98 of 2017 would approve the purchase and improvement of property located at 106-112 North Tioga Street, commonly known as the Tompkins Trust Company Building, for use by the History Center and other complementary not-for-profit agencies, and


WHEREAS, while the project consists of the rehabilitation of an existing structure and comports with a SEQR Type II-2 classification, a Short Form Environmental Assessment Form was completed to ensure a thorough and diligent review of potential environmental impacts, and


WHEREAS, the Tompkins County Legislature has reviewed and accepted as adequate a Short Environmental Assessment Form, which finds no significant impacts associated with the Action, now therefore be it


RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Facilities and Infrastructure and the Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committees, That Resolution No.98 of 2017 is an Unlisted action,


RESOLVED, further, That the Tompkins County Legislature hereby determines that the acquisition of property at 106-112 North Tioga Street for use by the History Center and other agencies will not have a significant negative impact on the environment, requiring no further environmental review,


RESOLVED, further, That the Tompkins County Legislature hereby issues a “Negative Declaration of Environmental Significance” in accordance with SEQRA for Resolution No. 98 of 2017.

SEQR ACTION:  Unlisted

(Short Environmental Assessment Form and Negative Declaration on file with the Clerk of the Legislature)



Meeting History

May 9, 2017 3:00 PM  Facilities and Infrastructure Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Mareane provided background information on the proposal to acquire and improve the Tompkins Trust Company Building on the Commons and put it to use as a new home for The History Center and several related not-for-profit organizations who would also occupy the building to establish the Heritage Education Center. The proposal is financially viable and it is the appropriate thing to do for the taxpayers and the anticipated occupants of the building.

Mr. Klein arrived at this time.

Mr. Mareane explained the occupancy costs of The History Center have been underwritten by the County for approximately 20 to 25 years; the current annual cost is $110,000. He spoke of the current lease for The History Center expiring at the end of 2018 and the potential occupancy costs for that space increasing significantly.

Mr. Mareane said the cost to acquire the property is $2 million and improvements are estimated at $900,000; a total cost to the County of $2.9 million. He also spoke of possible sources to offset that amount including pledges from the leaders of the History Center/Heritage Education Center in the amount of $450,000 and an additional $100,000 from the Strategic Tourism Planning Board; a total offset cost of $550,000. The County's cost would be reduced to approximately $2,350,000.

Mr. Mareane spoke of several other non-profit organizations that have expressed interest in being occupants of the building and recently renewed their commitment to this project. The County would charge "rent" to these occupants that would cover operating and maintenance costs with a small return.

Mr. Stein arrived at this time.

Mr. Mareane explained the property could be purchased and improvements could be completed with unanticipated 2016-2017 revenues from the Tioga Downs and del Lago Casinos without having to finance or borrow money. The project could be adequately funded by using the $1.9 million in licensing fees already received plus the additional revenue expected in 2017 of which none of those funds have been budgeted to any other project or program.

Mr. Mareane said it has been made clear to the agencies interested in occupying the space that their exhibits, interior renovations, and fit ups will need to come from their own funding sources. Some of the funds raised from the Capital Campaign will be used by the County for initial improvements and the balance could be used for other interior finishes. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance will be applying for a grant to be able to support interior renovations and exhibits.

Mr. Mareane stated a Steering Committee has been formed to discuss how to manage and govern a building and situation like this. The Tompkins Trust bank will not be moving out until 2018 and there will need to be renovation work completed so there is plenty of time to iron things out as there are no plans on moving in until late 2018 or early 2019. He added that Tompkins Cortland Community College owns a neighboring building and there has been discussion with TC3 about including this building in their management operations. The History Center would be the anchor tenant and there is a desire for the County to become more prominent on The History Center board and that can also be worked out.

Mr. Mareane spoke of the challenges of managing a multi-agency facility and risks involved. He believes the worst case scenario would involve one or more of the proposed occupants getting cold feet and not joining the project. Part of the recommendations of this project includes periodic reports back to the Committee on how it is progressing and as milestones are reached. This would ensure the Legislature remains informed. Also, the current Steering Committee would continue to exist to assist in the governing issues and relationships over time.

Mr. Howe provided a short history of The History Center and the current area it is located in is an odd location and not very approachable. The Board is very excited about a Heritage Education Center being located on the Commons and all the opportunities this could bring. The building is a perfect fit for the project with its architectural character and its location.

Mr. Howe stated The History Center has contracted with Iron Design to assist with its vision statement and goal language to be used in the Capital Campaign.

Draft Vision Statement:

“The Center is a portal place/hub to explore Ithaca and Tompkins County’s history/ heritage/culture to better understand the past, experience the present, and imagine the future. This collaborative space opens the portal for all visitors a vision of our landscapes and communities that enables historical narratives and community engagement. It is a captivating space that educates and inspires our visitors, conveying our rich history.”

Proposed Goal Statement:

“To build community by offering opportunities to deepen connections among County residents through a sharing of narratives and place based initiatives and engage the public in a vibrant exploration of our unique community through a history/heritage functional lens and orient visitors to local tourism opportunities”.

Mr. Howe spoke of the community and economic impacts and plans to include a retail space within the building and the building itself is being seen as a “destination place” with multiple opportunities that is able to generate additional grant opportunities. No exact estimations have been produced at this point, but a substantial increase in attendance is expected.

Mr. Howe stated this is also being viewed as a portal to the broader Finger Lakes Region. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has proposed the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage area and this could be an entry point to that corridor.

Mr. Howe said a mosaic of perspectives involving history and art that could incorporate and any number of viewpoints could be involved with this project. Opportunities to connect could be made with the educational institutions in the County as the students could visit the center to obtain an orientation of the community and partnerships could then be established. He spoke of one idea at how and where people lived in the 1850s and compare it to how housing and housing needs have changed through the years. An interpretation of the history of the Tompkins Trust Company could be explored also due to their long history in the community and the building itself.

Mr. Howe spoke of the three funding sources being sought through the State grant process: the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process where there are also New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) funds. The Capital Campaign Committee has everything in place to begin their campaign and views this as a dynamic augmentation for Tompkins County.

Mr. John thanked Mr. Mareane for allowing him to participate in the project process and stated there are risks and challenges involved with any real estate investment and project. He is confident this is a good investment. Instead of paying rent, the County will be investing in the building. This has been a lengthy process and the input involved in this project has been very impressive. The not-for-profits have indicated their interest and have remained interested with a steady commitment. The project is a public-private partnership and a good example of how government can work with the private entities to make something extraordinary.

This project works from an economic standpoint and is an efficient manner to support history and arts while also supporting multiple non-for-profit organizations in a concentrated space including the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). In addition, there will be efficiency that cannot be obtained with the agencies being in their own offices and being spread out. The number of organizations involved and the broad based community support and multiple ways this project will work will be beneficial to the Commons and an economic engine as it will be an attractive place to visit.

Mr. John spoke of the fundraising campaign as being a risk as the funds are not known until you have actually raised the money. He said this is a solid building, with the need of some code work, but it will last. This is a great use for the casino funds and believes there will be dividends returned from this. The project is a platform for growth and the future will thank us for this decision.

Mr. Stein inquired as to how many people are going to visit and also stated his concerns about the not-for-profit organizations deciding not to participate in this endeavor. Mr. Howe responded that the current figures are available for the individual organization but with all the organizations together in one place on the Commons the numbers are expected to increase significantly.

Mr. Mareane has tried to identify all the risks involved but there are always those unknowns. In regard to other occupants, the County needs to be careful due to the tax-exempt status of the property and the occupants need to be not-for-profit. If all the interested organizations were to back out, the cost of occupancy would be comparable to what is being funded for The History Center currently and a 2% return on the investment would not be gained but the building would still continue to appreciate.

Mr. John believes the worst case scenario from a real estate stand point would be that the County turn around and sell the building and if there was a loss it would be very minimal.

Mr. McKenna likes the idea of using "free money" to purchase the property and the only contingency cost would be maintenance. He is concerned about the Capital Campaign that will ultimately affect what can and cannot be done in the building and that may affect who would be in that building but overall is supportive of the project.

Mr. Morey complimented Mr. Mareane, Mr. John, and Mr. Howe on the work they have done on this proposal and supports the project. He inquired if Mr. Howe liked the space The History Center was occupying currently. Mr. Howe stated the space was adequate but not ideal for what they want to do. The arrangement and lease was great for the 23-year period they were located there.

In response to a question from Mr. Morey, Mr. Mareane clarified the occupancy cost would be covered by the tenants through rent. Also, built into the rent projection is a $40,000 annual return-on-investment in addition to the building appreciating over time.

Mr. Mareane stated the project could be completed and open for operations in early 2019.

MOVER:Daniel Klein, Member
SECONDER:Michael Sigler, 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
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

In response to Ms. Kiefer, Mr. Mareane said the Strategic Tourism Planning Board may provide a source of funding; the full amount of funding has been put in the resolution but advised the Legislature that funding efforts will be made to explore additional funds. The resolution is not contingent upon receipt of those funds.

MOVER:David McKenna, Member
SECONDER:Carol Chock, 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