With East Green Street becoming a hotspot for a series of large-scale developments set to transform downtown Ithaca, there is one beloved business back on the ground facing some uncertainty—Cinemapolis. Since the new Asteri Ithaca development would be located practically on top of them, the construction could disrupt their business. However, Brett Bossard, executive director of Cinemapolis said there is a lot that remains to be seen.
“We’re going to stay here in the long term, that’s part of the plan and is part of the RFP [request for proposal] that all interested developers were given to make their proposals for the project,” Bossard said. “The city, from the get-go, made sure we were something that remained regardless of how the project took shape, and that we’d be able to operate during the project—the process of completing the project. Right now, we’re talking with Vecino and there’s still a lot of unknowns as to the way the project is going to progress, the exact timeline and, at this point, the construction methods that are going to be used, particularly in the expansion of the parking lot which will be going directly above us.”
One possibility that has been discussed is temporary relocation, though Bossard said he’s not sure where they would move to should this be the only option to consider. The relocation would only last, at minimum, five months during the early stages of development, such as demolishing the west side of the garage and adding four more levels of parking. In order to avoid this, Vecino has been looking into other construction methods that would limit Cinemapolis’ hours instead of forcing them to move entirely. However, there is one question Bossard has planned for in advance—how do you move a movie theatre?
“The business would move but the equipment here would have to stay in place,” Bossard said. “We couldn’t pull up the seats or anything like that. Luckily, there are businesses that do just that; set up temporary screening rooms for film festivals and other uses all around the world. We’re lucky that Boston Light and Sound is one of the top in that industry and they’re certainly not next door, but they are closer than California. They do that kind of work for the Sundance Film Festival, the Trevor City Film Festival in Michigan. They’re really well equipped to consult and do that actual engineering for setting up some temporary screening rooms somewhere in town.”
Some of the variables that have to be determined for this are the number of seats needed, spaces with the best ceiling height to display a movie, and other factors that could be limiting for Cinemapolis. He’s looking to get a more stable plan prepared as the construction talks continue over the next few months. For now, Bossard does know he wants the Cinemapolis screening rooms to remain downtown. He is, though, looking at the glass half full, eyeing the new development as a way to increase the number of customers coming to Cinemapolis.
“I think it’s going to be a huge boom for both us and the rest of downtown,” Bossard said. “I mean, having housing that I feel is going to be really focused on the workforce that we have downtown. A significant number of service industry workers that make up a big segment of the workforce in the Commons areas having the opportunity to live right where they work is really important for the success of downtown. The vibrancy and variety of offerings we have for residents downtown and I’m looking forward to a lot of new customers 15 ft. from my door.”
Molly Chiang, a developer with the Vecino Group, said there isn’t a great deal of information about the construction methods at this time. This is due in part to the decision of whether or not a conference center will be included in the development. Until that is determined, Chiang said, any information or knowledge needed to develop a mitigation plan remains unknown. A better timeline of the project with some plans and collaboration with Cinemapolis will be made after the conference center decision is made in January 2020.