Print Edition

  Email News Updates

Longtime Downtown Ithaca Alliance leader retiring at end of June

By Eric Reinhardt (


Gary Ferguson, who has served as executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance since 1999, plans to retire at the end of June. (PHOTO CREDIT: DOWNTOWN ITHACA ALLIANCE)

ITHACA, N.Y. — The man who has led the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) since 1999 has plans to retire in June.

Gary Ferguson has helped lead revitalization efforts in downtown Ithaca for more than two decades, per a DIA announcement.

“I have been honored and privileged to lead the Downtown Ithaca Alliance for nearly a quarter century,” Ferguson said in announcing his upcoming retirement. “During that time, we have fundamentally transformed Downtown Ithaca into one of the most dynamic and vibrant city centers in New York ... We have shepherded Downtown through monumental change and tremendous challenges. I am proud of our work and believe we have made a lasting and measurable impact on this Downtown and our community. But it is now time to move on to a new chapter and bring in a new leader to guide Downtown through the decades ahead.”

During Ferguson’s 24 years of service with DIA, downtown Ithaca tripled its size in total built square feet, growing from around 1 million square feet to an estimated 3 million square feet by next year, the organization said.

The growth included three new hotels, a rebuilt Commons pedestrian mall, and the addition of about 1,000 new housing units. 

Ferguson served as the author of several 10-year strategic plans and oversaw the economic development portion of DIA’s “downtown renaissance” work, the DIA said.

During his tenure, the DIA grew from a two-person operation with a budget of $200,000 to an organization with 12 office staff and eight ambassadors with an annual budget exceeding $1.4 million.

Ferguson also noted that guiding downtown Ithaca through the coronavirus pandemic was the “most challenging part” of his 45-year career in downtown management and development.

“Gary Ferguson’s visionary leadership of the DIA for more than 20 years has played a decisive role in making downtown Ithaca the wonderful place it is today,” Ashley Cake, DIA board president, said in a statement. “Downtown Ithaca is entering a new chapter, becoming a highly desirable place where more people than ever want to live, work, and play. The board of directors looks forward to building on Gary’s legacy with a new executive director to turn that page with the community and us.”