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Legislature Approves Purchase of Trust Company Building for History Center Home

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Legislature Approves Purchase of Trust Company Building for History Center Home

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tompkins County will purchase the Tompkins Trust Company building on the Ithaca Commons to house the History Center, along with other non-profits co-located as a heritage education center. The Legislature, by unanimous vote, approved acquisition of the building, as recommended by its Facilities and Infrastructure and budget committees. The Trust Company will vacate the building in 2018 to move to its new downtown headquarters on Seneca Street—the same year that the History Center’s current County-paid lease expires. The goal is to have the building ready for History Center occupancy in January 2019.

The action authorizes the County Administrator to negotiate acquisition of the building for a cost not to exceed $2 million ($400,000 below market value) and to amend the County’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan to include Building acquisition and improvements, at a total cost of $2.9 million—reflecting approximately $900,000 in needed improvements needed to make it code-compliant and ready for tenant-funded renovations. The building and improvements will be paid for in cash, using unbudgeted revenue from the region’s two casinos, with potential cost reductions of $450,000 from the project’s private Capital Campaign and as much as $100,000 which could come from a Strategic Tourism Capital Grant.

Legislator Rich John, who has been involved in the review process over many months, said the proposal has been a long time coming, and represents a very good investment of public funds—taking money held in reserve and putting it into the building, “investing in a public-private partnership in the best sense.” Legislator Carol Chock noted that research has shown how investment in cultural and arts organization serves as an economic driver; and Legislator Anna Kelles observed that the investment fosters collaboration and consolidation of services. Many thanked Legislator John and County Administrator Joe Mareane for all their work to bring this to fruition, and Legislator Jim Dennis pointed out that it was Chair Michael Lane who had first suggested taking a look at the building for this purpose.

Chair Lane said the action is particularly fitting in this, the County’s Bicentennial year and the history the County is trying to celebrate through the Bicentennial. Part of the building complex was built in 1860 to house the County Clerk’s Office. What we are doing here can be looked at as something the County is doing in its Bicentennial year that will last a long time, he said, and represents an appropriate use of the one-time revenue from casino licensing fees. “We have this project for which our History Center will be a cornerstone,” Mr. Lane said, and he thanked the people of Tompkins Trust Company and Tompkins Financial Services for making a commitment to the county and the county seat by building their headquarters there, and for being willing to let the County acquire the building. “This is an important milestone for Tompkins County,” he said.