Ithaca Builds

Mapping, photos and information for Ithaca construction and development projects

A Peek Inside the Future Chain Works District

March 1, 2015 // by Jason Henderson

emerson-shot

800,000 square feet is a lot to comprehend, especially when separated into a total of 26 buildings, built in various interlocking shapes, at different times, with various building systems, and various ceiling heights, as is the case with the Emerson site on South Hill. Including the end zones, a football field is about 57,000 square feet, so the existing structures constitute around 14 football fields of enclosed space. These photos are from a site visit taken a couple weeks ago.

For a brief history, Morse Chain first built and occupied the site from 1906 until 1928 when they were acquired by BorgWarner, which owned the property from 1928 to 1982. In 1982, BorgWarner sold the property to Emerson Power Transmission, which continued manufacturing at the site from 1983 until its closure in 2011. Unchained Properties, LLC has negotiated with Emerson for several years and obtained an agreement to acquire the site for redevelopment. The 95-acre site is being re-named the Chain Works District, with the intention of developing the site into a “live, work, play” mixed-use district.

For development rights, the project is utilizing PUD/PDZ (planned-unit development/planned development zone) zoning to fit the zoning requirements with the redevelopment site plans, and is currently in the process of writing a Draft GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) for municipal and state review. For more information about the process, see the planning page here. Some further remediation will be required on the site, but major portions have been remediated in the past few decades, and the updated environmental studies for the redevelopment project are extensive (the combined Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments go over 60,000 pages of documentation). There was an Ithaca Times article last November on the topic.

For starters, it’s easy to forget how close the site is to downtown. The building behind this shot is building 24, slated for Mixed-Use:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201565

 

The current plan involves select demolition of the structures between the long corridor buildings (the original factory is one of them) and the newer structures to the southeast:

chain-works-removals

07_11_14_Chain_Works_PUD_Application_and_Attachments (dragged)

 

Here’s the northern end of Building 13B, slated for workshop space (23,200 square feet). It has a 3-Ton rack crane and loading bays:

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This shot is looking northeast in Building 3/3A. Buildings 11A, 10A, 3A, 8A, 9, and 6A are being demolished to open-up the interior space on the site. Buildings 2, 3, and 4 are slated for multi-level residential with the ground floor as parking:

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Here’s another shot in 3/3A looking the other direction (southwest) down the really long interior corridor. You can see all the way to building 6:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201501

 
Moving south, here’s a shot of Building 34, slated for manufacturing. It’s massive- Buildings 33 and 34 make up 170,000 square feet, with a clear ceiling height of about 30 feet:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201551
 

If I remember correctly, this is an upper-level of Building 6/6A, at the southwest end of the long corridor:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201543
 

The wood floor planks are about a foot thick, since they were required to hold the weight of lots of heavy machinery:

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Upper-level of Building 4:

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The views are fantastic: windows on Buildings 2 through 6 lining the hillside provide a panorama from the Southwest Area, across Downtown and the lake in the background, then up to Cornell:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201525

Emerson-Ithaca-02201530
 

This is the NYSEG substation for South Hill:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201535
 

Upper-level of Building 8:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201521
 

Building 35, very high ceiling, and two 6-ton rack cranes:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201517
 

Shot looking the other way, Building 35 and 15:

Emerson-Ithaca-02201515
 

Ground level of Building 4, which would be used for a parking level, stretching from 2 to 4:

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Here’s the overall use-concept from the presentation materials:

chain-works-use-concept

For more information about the site, the project website and Facebook page contain public meeting agendas and presentation materials.

 

  • Ex-Ithacan

    Thanks for the tour and info.

  • Kathleen Halton

    Thank you! I have lived most of my life on West Hill looking directly across town to “Morris Chain”. I really want to live in one of the Condos there when I retire! Such a gorgeous view!

  • Funktapus

    They just got $1.5 million from Cuomo! Woot woot!