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City Council approve agreements with Woolworth developers

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Three for three.

After making a series of changes Monday night, the Watertown City Council unanimously agreed to pass three resolutions to deal with the $15.4 million project to convert the vacant Woolworth building into rental housing.

Council members agreed that the project should include a tax-abatement package, but they also amended the original resolution.

They ended up stipulating that the tax break package should not be longer than 15 years, it should start at about the same amount as the current property tax payments of $8,000 and the payments should then increase gradually during years five to 10, depending on how much tenants are charged and some other factors.

They also agreed to give the developers a three-year option on some green space across the street for $1, instead of just selling the Iron Block/Woodruff II site to them. The property will be turned into tenant parking unless the project fails to go forward. At that point, the land will be reverted back to the city. It needed four votes to pass.

Council members and developers David Gallo and Erich H. Seber compromised on the third resolution. The city agreed to waive 75 percent of the approximately $18,000 building permit fee for the developers. The developers would pay between $4,000 and $6,000 for the building permit fee, depending on the final amount of the construction costs.

After the meeting, both sides seemed satisfied with the series of changes that were accepted Monday night.

“It’s a good starting point,” said Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr., who pushed for the changes in the original resolutions Monday night after talking to the developers earlier in the day.

And the two developers said they were relieved to get the agreements in place with the city. They can now focus their efforts on getting a crucial application completed by a Jan. 8 deadline for tax credits from the state Empire Development Corp.

The developers also will have to start negotiating a payment-in-lieu-of-tax package with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. The City Council, Jefferson County Board of Legislators and Watertown City School District all have to agree to the PILOT.

The project would be financed through a $2.5 million Restore NY grant, $8 million in tax credits and loans from a commercial bank.

The developers want to convert the Public Square landmark into about 50 apartments on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor. Recently, they took over the project from Long Island developer Michael A. Treanor, who agreed to sell the building to them for $400,000.

To take advantage of state tax credits, the two men have decided that all 50 apartment units would be offered as affordable housing.

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