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Outfitting Ithaca's Urbanism

Sometimes it is hard to separate the forest from the trees. Consider the recent news that Urban Outfitters will be setting up shop in downtown Ithaca:

Duncan Anderson ’11, a native of nearby Trumansburg, thinks the retail store will be detrimental to the feeling of downtown Ithaca.

“It’s an awful idea,” he said. “It will ruin the atmosphere of the Commons. Right now downtown is a rustic, local place with a lot of character. Urban Outfitters is a big corporate chain, and it will completely change that.”

I suppose the Commons is quaint, but there are already two big corporate chains downtown -- the Holiday Inn and the Hilton -- and nobody seems to complain about the hotels, not to mention the Starbucks associated with the Seneca Place development.

But I actually think that the arrival of Urban Outfitters is fantastic news, if only because it will drive more students to the Commons, getting them outside of the Cornell bubble. The one-way Green Street is a bit less ideal than the Commons proper, but the mock-ups show that there will be easier access to the Commons now that the parking garage has been relocated.

Plus there will be a new movie house across the street. And more foot traffic to the Commons will mean that downtown Ithaca can start to offer the types of retail outlets -- drug stores and grocers -- that can make the area a viable retail district again, including all of those funky shops that Ithacans know and love. And reinvigorating downtown Ithaca can only help to attract more people to Cornell and Ithaca, bolstering the only economic bright spot Upstate.

I love this quote though:

“The reason I liked Yale so much is because there was an Urban Outfitters right in town,” Brooke Flohr ’12 said. “Now I have no regrets left about coming to Cornell.”

I'm glad that Yale's educational offerings weren't part of Brooke's decision making.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 30, 2009 (#)

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