Developer Michael A. Treanor said Wednesday that hes moving forward with his plans to restore the Woolworth Building and convert it into rental housing.
In recent months, city officials and area business leaders have been wondering about the status of the project since they had not heard from Mr. Treanor, and worried about losing a $1.82 million Restore NY grant to help pay for it.
But Mr. Treanor told the Times on Wednesday that he is committed to the Public Square project and has been working hard on it.
It takes time, he said, stressing that he has financing in place for the project to convert the landmark into 60 apartments on the upper floors and retail businesses on the ground floor.
Mr. Treanor said he and his partners are setting up a meeting with city officials within two weeks to discuss the projects progress.
Mr. Treanor said the two key factors to be discussed at the meeting will be acquiring the citys bus transfer station and acquiring some land across the street near the J.B. Wise parking lot that would be used for tenant parking. He has told the city in the past that obtaining the bus loop near the building and some green space on the other side of Public Square are requisite to going ahead with the $7.275 million Woolworth restoration.
Kenneth A. Mix, the citys planning and community development coordinator, said he and City Manager Mary M. Corriveau will meet with Mr. Treanor to talk about those issues.
Mr. Mix said it would be up to the Watertown City Council whether to agree to sell the bus loop and other city-owned land.
Its definitely positive news hes moving forward, Mr. Mix said, noting he talked to Mr. Treanor on Friday.
Mr. Treanor said city officials should not worry about the projects progress. He pointed out that the $10 million Franklin Building restoration project completed last March took several years to finish.
Its a big project, he said. Theres a lot to it.
Mr. Treanors partners and design team joined him recently for a tour of the six-story building to discuss the project, he said. He already has an architect on board and intends to hire another to help with the design work.
We were there doing our due diligence, and the building design people were taking notes, Mr. Treanor said.
TROUBLES AT THE ROXY
Besides having concerns about the Restore NY grant, some business leaders became worried after hearing about financial problems with the Roxy Hotel, the $2 million, 15-room hotel in the village of Cape Vincent that Mr. Treanor restored and opened last summer. That project obtained a $1.532 million Restore NY grant.
The state funding was awarded to renovate the 1894 building and construct six garden apartments on land behind it. Only one apartment has been completed, with about 90 percent of the work finished on the others, said John B. DeFrancesco, who handled the grant for the village of Cape Vincent. The other units will be completed this spring.
The Roxy Hotel closed in December for the season because Cape Vincent is a summer resort town and would not attract enough business in the winter, Mr. Treanor said. He plans to reopen it in April.
In addition, six mechanics liens, totaling $323,667.40, have been filed in the Jefferson County clerks office involving the construction of the project. Five were filed against the general contractor, Akey Enterprise, Lacona, and one against Mr. Treanor.
Companies filing liens were O.D. Greene Lumber, Adams, $237,019.74; Richard Spence Drywall, town of Mexico, $14,460; Sanford & Burtis Fire Equipment, Fulton, $4,970.40 against Mr. Treanor; Thousand Islands Heating & Air Conditioning, LaFargeville, $8,500; City Electric Co. Inc., Watertown, $9,117.26, and SRI Fire Sprinkler LLC, Albany, $49,600.
Mr. Treanor acknowledged the dispute with the contractor, saying the company no longer is involved in the project. He also stressed the liens will be resolved, declining to comment further. Shannon J. Akey, owner of Akey Enterprise, also declined to comment.
The Empire State Development Corp. will not distribute the remaining $573,248 Restore NY grant funding until the liens have been lifted and the remaining Roxy apartments are done, corporation spokeswoman Jola Szubielski said.
However, the issue over the Roxy grant has no bearing on the funding awarded to the Woolworth Building, she said.
Mr. Treanor said he is not concerned about losing the grant for the Woolworth Building, since he has every intention of moving forward with the project.
Mr. Treanor has several successful rehabilitation projects under his belt in Jefferson County, including converting the old Adams High School into apartments, the Buckley Building in Carthage into a mixed-use structure and turning Riverview Plaza on Newell Street in Watertown into a mix of apartments.
The state distributed Restore NY funds of $1 million in 2006 for the Buckley Building and another $1 million in 2008 for Riverview Plaza without a hitch, Ms. Szubielski said.