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emersonpowerHorseheads-based Unchained Properties, LLC (UP) announced today that it has finalized a purchase agreement for the former Emerson Power Transmission plant, located on South Aurora Street/Route 96B in Ithaca, New York, and concepts to redevelop the site. A public meeting will be held on April 10 at 5:30pm at Cinemapolis movie theatre (120 E. Green St., Ithaca), to introduce the project to the community and seek their involvement in the process.

The property had been an active manufacturing site since the early 1990's, attracting workers from around the globe seeking jobs in the thriving manufacturing business. From 1928 to 1982 the property was owned by BorgWarner. Emerson Power Transmission continued manufacturing at the site from 1983 until its closure in 2011.

UP plans to create The Chain Works District, an urban "live, work, play" mixed use neighborhood that will include apartments, office space, small business incubator and flex space; gardens and park, and areas devoted to manufacturing. Rather than clear the spectacular site and start anew, UP intends to repurpose most of the existing structures as a regional model for innovative design and sustainable adaptive use.

The agreement comes after two years of discussions between the parties and the preliminary review of existing New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Emerson-generated data covering the environmental and developmental complexities of the project. Emerson has made clear its intention to continue their cooperation with the developer and the DEC as it continues its environmental remediation plan intended to make site access safe and redevelopment feasible.

UP began its own environmental due diligence in July 2013 and will start the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) compliance process, prepare a draft of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement(GEIS) report, and the project Master Plan -- essentially a blueprint laying out the best use of the existing structures and surrounding land. UP believes community involvement will be critical in development of the plan, and intends to encourage participation through a series of public information sessions to hear the community's ideas and concerns. The first meeting on April 10 will define the project and outline initial plans for the site.

Given the scope of redeveloping the 95-acre site - including its 800,000 square feet of existing, highly flexible space - community and governmental involvement is considered a vital component of the work to be done. UP has committed $1.7 million in private funds to the first stage of the project, part of which involves complying with the State's environmental, historic and smart growth review requirements. The company has also been awarded a $344,000 grant from the Empire State Development (ESD) to assist in the process. Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, the Town of Ithaca and Unchained Properties all view the development of The Chain Works District as a pivotal regional force of economic and community development.

Moving forward, UP has set a timeframe to complete this critical starting phase of the project. If the decision is then made to take title to the property, it is expected that the overall project cost will be upwards of $100 million and take ten to fifteen years to complete.

"Ithaca is such a vibrant city where quality of life is taken seriously," said David Lubin, managing partner of UP. "The UP team of mostly Upstate professions including environmental engineers, architects, landscape architects and structural engineers is very sensitive to the site's importance to the community because of its history and its high visibility; we're intent on bringing it back to life in a responsible way."

Photo by David Burbank Photography
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