Ribbon cutting Monday for leaky half million dollar Ithaca Commons fountain

Work is finished on a new granite fountain on the Ithaca Commons that’s said to have cost $464,000, and it’s being dedicated in a ribbon cutting ceremony with Ithaca officials at noon on Monday.

The finished fountain ready for its dedication. 14850 photo.

Some of the fountain project was paid for by funds donated by Roberto DiVincentis, president of Vacri Construction Corporation. (Vacri is the primary construction company that rebuilt and upgraded the Ithaca Commons.)

Mr. DiVincentis donated the money “in honor of his father, Raimondo DiVincentis.” Officials won’t say how much of the cost of the fountain is being covered by the donation.

The fountain was supposed to be part of the original Ithaca Commons project, and should have been done two years ago along with the rest of the Commons, but cost projections ballooned beyond the $450,000 that had been budgeted.

“When the project was conceived there was strong community support for a water feature,” Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance tells us. “Most public plazas and prominent places have some water element and the folks of this community also believed the Commons would benefit from one.”

Designers said the water was supposed to stay on the fountain to avoid wasting water. Photo courtesy of Augusto Luiz Facchini.

Designed to evoke the area’s gorges and waterfalls, the fountain is supposed to recirculate nearly all of the water it uses, losing only a little to evaporation. When it was turned on a few weeks ago before the fencing around the site was removed, water leakage raised concerns that the expensive brickwork of the new Commons could be damaged by constant water. (Of course the brick walkway is designed to handle water from rain, just not a constant flow.)

“The fountain was actually divided into two parts: above ground and underground,” Mr. Ferguson tells us. “While we see and celebrate the above ground part, much work on the underground portion took place several years ago during the actual Commons construction. What you see today is a scaled down version of the original.”

A local canine resident checking out the fountain. Photo courtesy of Noah Drew.

The stark granite fountain leaking water inspired a demotivational-style meme on Facebook that said “Failure – 464k never looked so underwhelming,” followed by a series of pictures of other fountains that would have been better, like two bronze men peeing in a pool.

Mr. Ferguson couldn’t comment on the costs, whether projected or actual, or how much money for the fountain came from what sources. He referred us to City of Ithaca officials, who haven’t answered any of our questions about the fountain.

The design comes from Sasaki Associates, who also designed the new Commons. Sasaki said the “inspiration for this masterpiece comes from Ithaca’s landscape and is meant to help the public appreciate how water plays a role in the community.”

Some area residents have raised concerns that the sharp-edged slabs of rock right in the middle of Bank Alley, which fills up with spectators and participants many times a year for concerts, festivals, demonstrations, and other gatherings, could pose a risk of injury to kids who’ll naturally want to walk on it or climb on it.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance officials tell us the fountain will be controlled with a timer so it will operate during the day from May through October.

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Editor’s note: This article originally included photos we had not secured permission to use. We apologize for this error.