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What is the City and Town approval process? How long will it take?

The site has preliminary Site Plan Approval from the City of Ithaca. The applications went through State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) which produced the General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS). The Draft GEIS was open to public comments resulting in a Final GEIS and a Finding Statement by the designated Lead Agency, the City Planning Board.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Record of Decision (ROD) amendment to allow the property to be used for residential and commercial purposes in Fall 2021. 


The City and Town approval processes are somewhat different but by the end of the process it is anticipated that each municipality will have approved a rezoning to allow mixed use redevelopment of the site with individual site plan approvals to occur prior to redevelopment of existing buildings and prior to development of any proposed new buildings.

For more information on SEQR click here 

What is a PUD or PDZ? How will they work to help our community get the best redevelopment of this important site?

A Planned Unit Development Zone (PUD – City of Ithaca) or a Planned Development Zone (PDZ – Town of Ithaca) will allow the site to be used for a variety of purposes rather than just being designated for one purpose. This isn’t allowed under present zoning which restricts the use of the property to industrial. Under the PUD/PDZ, a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial development will be allowed on the site. For a property of this size (95 acres), it makes sense to have the ability to allow multiple land uses.

What types of space will be available at the site?

The District will include residential, commercial, and industrial spaces plus public spaces and trails.

Does it make sense to repurpose the existing structures? Is this a green project? Will the Project promote sustainability, energy independence, conservation and smart growth?

Repurposing the existing structures and materials is a better environmental approach. Sustainable design principles such as repurposing, replenishing, and restoring will be implemented. The structures on the site are unique and well built. Some of the structures will be removed to create better circulation within the District. Materials will be reused to the extent feasible. We will be exploring sustainable energy sources for the property including district heating/cooling and solar. The overarching goal of the Project is to use LEED objectives to create a sustainable neighborhood, promoting sustainable design with clean and healthy buildings.

Can the site be cleaned up to a level that allows safe residential and commercial uses?

The property has a long industrial history and some contaminants remain. Unchained Properties, Emerson, and the DEC continue to work on remediation and mitigation strategies for the site. After our initial testing however, we have determined with a certain level of confidence that the site can be cleaned to allow for residential use. We wouldn’t be purchasing the site if we believed that it couldn’t be done with the care needed to make it cleaner and better than it is today. In fact, remediation of properties with similar issues has occurred and will continue to take place without health concerns. Although we believe that it can be cleaned to allow for residential use, the State makes the final determination.

You can login and receive the Chain Works District Phase I and II Environmental Reports HERE

Who is responsible for the clean-up of the site?

Emerson Power Transmission is currently responsible to clean, remove, or mitigate any hazardous wastes or sources of contamination at the property to safe levels.

Are the mixed uses proposed by the Development team actually compatible with the site?

The site has multi-story buildings that are able to be converted to office or residential. The site has a large single story building that can be used for industrial uses, warehousing, lab space, incubator space for start ups, and artist/maker spaces for workshops and presentations. Commercial spaces could be used for a coffee shop, restaurant space, workout space, mail room with shipping and receiving of packages, and other spaces that will support the District.

Will the Project be a private community with access only to those who live there?

The District will be open to the public. As the site will contain commercial, residential, and manufacturing space, it will also have businesses that support these uses including places to eat and be entertained. Some areas may be limited to certain times of the day and evening and some buildings may be locked with access only provided to residents and guests. It will be possible for the general public to access the trail systems and drive through the property.

How will the Project connect to downtown, public transit, and the universities?

It is hard in Ithaca to have a Project that is not connected to downtown and the universities. Our immediate neighbor for this property is Ithaca College (IC), and trail access and public transportation allows an easy connection to both downtown and Cornell. We have given tours to both Cornell and IC administrators and they have been made aware of our plans to date. It will be up to them as to how involved they wish to become in the Project. We will work with TCAT to expand their routes to the District and pedestrian and bicycle access will be available from Turner, Danby Road and the proposed Gateway Trail System.

We hope that Cornell’s Urban Planning group will be involved with ideas for the District, and the Engineering school will help with energy conservation, distribution, and production of energy. With Ithaca being labeled a great place for tech start-ups, we hope to retain some of these companies here in Ithaca, and this site will provide that much needed space.

How will the site connect to walking trails? What is the timeline for access to the trails?

We anticipate that the Gateway trail will transverse the property. There will be several points to access the trail from the property and we intend to have access from Danby Rd to the Gateway trail through the property. The trail path will be turned over to the City and Town once Unchained Properties owns the property. This won’t occur till the approval process is complete next summer. The City/Town will be responsible for when the trail can be accessed to the public after it is turned over to them.

Are the City and Town supportive of the Project? Does the Project promote the key tenants of the City and Town’s long term master plans?

The project meets the goals of both the City of Ithaca Master Plan Town of Ithaca Master Plan. The principles of these plans include sustainable development while also ensuring the quality and livability of the business and residential districts. 

What is the estimated economic benefit to the area? Will the Project create new jobs and economic opportunities for the area and the region?

The Chain Works District will preserve some industrial space which is in short supply in the City. It will bring people back to work in an area that has been vibrant in the past. History shows us that 10% of the City’s population used to be employed there. Employment opportunities are naturally a part of this formula. The Project will also add new residential to an area that hasn’t been residential or commercial in the past. With a shortage of housing in the Ithaca market, many people have had to commute in from other counties. An increase in housing, of any type, will add to the inventory helping to level out a 1% vacancy rate.

Is the Project team from the area? What experience does the team have?

The Project team is mostly based in Ithaca, Elmira, or Rochester.
You can learn about the members of the team HERE 

Will local and minority labor be used for the Project?

Development of the Project will be put out to bid to get the most competitive pricing. The Project phases will be announced and posted locally and local businesses will be encouraged to submit proposals. Local labor has an advantage on these bids as they are local and don’t have to travel long distances to get to the job. The Project will seek out applications from as broad a population as possible including woman and minority owned businesses.

How will it impact traffic? Transportation? How will the traffic impact the surrounding neighborhoods?

A full Traffic Impact Study was completed for the property. Unchained Properties engaged traffic engineers to count the traffic around the City and Town to answer these questions. Our initial traffic projections indicate that the CWD will generate less traffic than when Emerson was at its peak employment. 

Will there be public meetings and input? How can I make suggestions or recommendations on how to improve the development ideas for the redevelopment of this site?

There have been two public meetings for the Project to date – April 10, 2014 and August 5, 2014. You can see the presentations and videos from these meetings HERE. Our goal is to work with the community and be transparent. We will continue to have public meetings to make sure the public is aware of our plans and actions. We have developed this website as well as Twitter and Facebook pages so that we can keep you up to date with where we are with the Project. You can send us a message through the website or to

When will the site be available for leasing? How can I locate my business at the site?

The Project will be available for leasing after site plan approval is granted in both the City of Ithaca and Town of Ithaca. In the mean time, we will be compiling a list of interested parties. To receive notices and updates to the Project join our mailing list or send your information to us at or through this website HERE

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