City picks Court Street buildings for state money

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WATERTOWN — The city will seek about $900,000 in Restore NY grant money to renovate four Court Street buildings.

City Council members on Tuesday night unanimously selected the project proposed by businessman Stephen J. Bradley over two others, rehabilitating the Lamon Building at 122-134 Franklin St. and restoring a long-vacant building at 75 Public Square.

Mr. Bradley, who owns Abbey Carpet, was pleased that his project — consisting of work on all four buildings he owns — was chosen over the other two proposals.

“I’ve got a lot of work ahead though,” he said afterward.

Mr. Bradley is just finishing up renovating the storefront in the former Berow and Monroe shoe store building at 138 Court St. He recently purchased the Dr. Guitar building at 152 Court St. and the former Smith Restaurant Supply building at 170 Court St.

If the city’s grant application is successful, Mr. Bradley would create 18 market-rate loft apartments on the upper floors of the Smith Restaurant, Berow and Monroe, and Dr. Guitar buildings.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. said he was impressed with all three proposals, but Mr. Bradley’s stood out for “one reason.”

“I like the housing component,” he said.

Five years ago, Mr. Bradley completed similar work in the Abbey carpet building, where he has 10 loft apartments at 150 Court St.

The first-floor commercial space in the Smith Restaurant building also would be restored. The facades of the buildings also would be spruced up, improvements would be included to a parking lot behind the properties and sidewalks in front of them would be replaced.

In all, the four structure would consist of 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 25,000 square feet of residential space if the project is completed. Mr. Bradley estimated all of that work would cost $900,000.

Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso pointed out Mr. Bradley already has a proven track record on Court Street with the apartments in the Abbey Carpet building.

Councilman Mark C. Walczyk mentioned that Court Street is going through a renaissance with the nearby Empsall/Brighton apartments project and slated improvements to several other buildings.

“Court Street is where it’s at,” he said.

An initial application is due on Friday for the Restore NY grant and the final deadline is in December. The city could hear this spring if it is awarded. Mr. Bradley then hopes to start the $900,000 project next summer.

During the discussion, council members mentioned that downtown is on the move, especially with last week’s announcement of a $10 million award from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.

Councilman Stephen A. Jennings urged developers Brian H. Murray and Adam Brown to seek funding through the DRI program for their projects, even though their proposals were not selected on Tuesday night.

Mr. Murray proposed redoing the Lamon Building, which has been ignored for years and needs extensive repairs. The one-story building consists of five storefronts. He would request $600,000.

Mr. Murray originally proposed a project in the Lincoln Building on Public Square that would have included installing an elevator and a second stairwell.

But city officials determined that project was not eligible for the Restore NY program because it did not include improving blight. Mr. Murray and his partner, Purcell Construction, had already completed that kind of exterior work on the building.

Mr. Brown, who owns 15 units in the city, wants to restore the building at 75 Public Square, commonly known as the Wind and Wire music building. It would include possibly a bar/grill/restaurant on the J.B. Wise parking lot side, retail space on the Public Square side and professional office space and an apartment upstairs for a project that would cost $600,000.

The city has received four other Restore NY grants. Previously, the city received funding for the Woolworth, Riverview and Franklin buildings and the Masonic Temple through the program.

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