ITHACA, N.Y.—Plans to redevelop the Ithaca Gun site into housing are hoping for some help from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Authority (TCIDA).

“The Breeze” is a 77-unit apartment proposal by Ithaca’s Visum Development Group and is on the verge of project approval pending Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Board’ approval’s sign-off. It’s the closest any proposal has come to cleaning up and redeveloping the site since plans were first floated in the early 2000s, with at least three different proposals, and by extension, three failed attempts prior to Visum buying the site in December 2021.

Former Ithaca Gun Factory Site – Report Recommends Cleanup of Contamination

The crucial component of any proposal with the Ithaca Gun site is cleaning it up. From the use of toxic chemicals during the manufacturing of guns, to the test firing of lead shot into the Fall Creek gorge, the site is considered an inactive hazardous waste disposal site. However, the site is only required to be cleaned up to the extent that it’s used. A workplace use requires further cleanup to eight-hour per day exposure standards, while a residential use requires further cleanup to 24/7 exposure standards. 

Now, if you’re living downstream of Ithaca Gun in the Fall Creek or Northside neighborhoods, the ideal result would be to have it cleaned up to that 24/7 standard. The current state of affairs is that the site isn’t being used for anything, so as long as it isn’t actively producing contamination downstream (passively contaminating through erosion and downstream flow being a very different question), that’s all that is required unless someone proposes to do something more with the land. That might sound ridiculous, but that’s the legal precedent. 

Another fly in the ointment is who pays for cleanup. At least in the case of SouthWorks/ChainWorks project, Emerson Power will pay for the site remediation, as it is the previous owner and still exists as a corporate entity. Ithaca Gun no longer exists, and its intellectual property and trademarks were sold to an Ohio company years ago. Long story short, whoever wants to do something with the Ithaca Gun land, whether apartments, public facilities or otherwise, is on the hook to pay for the cleanup. 

It’s that cleanup cost that Visum cites as a primary motivation for its application to the IDA. “The clean-up piece of the development adds an additional $3 million to a project that is already constrained by the high cost of borrowing and a 20% increase in residential construction costs in just one year,” Visum states in its application.

The project is seeking the enhanced 10-year tax property tax abatement from the City of Ithaca under the CIITAP density incentive program, as well as the usual complement of sales tax exemption on the purchase of construction materials and mortgage tax filing exemption. The property tax abatement is valued at $4,076,111, the sales tax exemption at $960,346 and the mortgage tax filing exemption at $64,891, for a total of $5,101,398 in requested savings on the $38.63 million project.

In exchange for the savings, Visum offers not just the project, but a publicly-accessible bridge and island overlook constructed and paid for by Visum that will provide residents and community members access to view Ithaca Falls from above. The project would pay an additional $3.57 million in property tax on top of the current site assessment over the next 10 years, even with the abatement, and provide approximately 100 construction jobs. The building will be all-electric and designed to comply with Ithaca Green Building Policy standards. 

One potential controversy likely to be discussed is that all 77 apartments are market-rate units — there is no affordable housing component within the building itself. Visum proposes a $385,000 payment into the Community Housing Development Fund in compensation for the lack of affordable units in the housing itself. For comparison’s sake, the 55-unit Beacon affordable housing project that The Ithaca Voice shared earlier this week is seeking $300,000 from the CHDF. 

The Breeze is to be discussed at the IDA’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Votes won’t occur until after a public hearing, meaning that no decision will be made until March at the earliest. The meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube here, and written comments can be sent to Ithaca Area Economic Development’s Ina Arthur.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at