Eateries on Ithaca’s east hill, especially in Collegetown, are used to an annual summer drop in student business, but this summer a crazy array of road closures is keeping many community members from other parts of town from coming in for a meal.
The summer-long road closures of Pine Tree Road north of East Hill Plaza and the intersection of College Avenue and Dryden Road, as well as construction projects adding congestion on Eddy Street and further down College Ave, are making some area residents avoid venturing into Collegetown or up to East Hill eateries at all.
City of Ithaca Common Council member Stephen Smith, who represents the Fourth Ward (which includes Collegetown), worked with merchants on College Avenue to put together a “pop-up park” on the completely closed 400 block. While still leaving room for work crew vehicles and emergency responders, the park offers additional outdoor seating, planters, and games, a green oasis in the midst of the mess.
The outdoor seating is a boon for those grabbing lunch or dinner at eateries that lend themselves to take-out, like Little Thai House, Jack’s Grill, or Oishi Bowl, but who don’t have their own outdoor seating. It’s also a nice alternative for Collegetown Bagels customers who find the CTB patio is too full (or too noisy). We’ve also seen people relaxing with a cup of coffee, a book, or a laptop.
Smith says the pop-up park could also be used for other activities, like live music or movie nights, after the construction crews head home at the end of the afternoon.
In the meantime, eateries in the area are trying new things, like weekly beverage pairing dinners at Rulloff’s or last Saturday’s punk band reunion show at the Nines. CTB and Agava both made an effort to draw customers up the hill with tempting Bite of Ithaca specials. Carriage House Café on Stewart Avenue has a great $2 cappuccino “Cappy Hour” special from 10am-noon on Tuesday through Thursday, and of course a shorter wait for brunch during the summer than when classes are in session. The Coal Yard Café on Maple Avenue has a brand new menu and expanded summer hours.
The road closures are also affecting decades-old Collegetown businesses like Classic Optical and the Bike Rack. Gary at the Bike Rack tells us summer is usually one of his best seasons, since cycling’s such a warm-weather activity. (Keep in mind that the Bike Rack will pay for an hour of parking at the Dryden Road parking garage, which is open, below the road closure, and a short walk away.)
Ithaca Farmers Market is continuing its Wednesday afternoon market on Pine Tree Road, too, just south of the road closure. They have farms, prepared food vendors, and more each Wednesday through the summer from 4-7pm, near Rite Aid and Agava.
Visiting these Collegetown and East Hill businesses this summer may take a little extra planning, but there’s plenty of free parking at East Hill Plaza, at the Farmers Market, and at Agava, and there’s still metered parking available in Collegetown during the day (all free at night) and you can get to the Dryden Road parking garage from the bottom of Dryden Road. Make the effort! Our friends and neighbors who own and work in these businesses will appreciate it.