Northern New York Newspapers
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Fri., Aug. 28
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Downtown focus


Brian Murray, the JCC business professor and entrepreneur who has invested to provide quality office space in the city’s core, has embarked on an interesting effort to revitalize the Lincoln Building on Public Square to include space for business startups.

With Mark Purcell as a partner, Mr. Murray’s embryonic concept is perfectly suited to define a high-technology city center from the east end of the Square along Arsenal Street to the Mercy complex. In this area, some of the city’s largest employers are home to hundreds of employees. Development of the Mercy project, the Woolworth Apartments and the Lincoln Building would transform downtown Watertown.

In the middle of the corridor from the Lincoln Building to Mercy, Stream has about 700 workers and plans to add several hundred more, most of whom are technologically savvy, utilizing advanced computer equipment integrated with the world through very high capacity fiber-optic networks. Stream depends upon the Development Authority of the North Country fiber-optic network and Westelcom’s high-speed telecom ring to make downtown a technological center.

When Stream first considered Watertown, a wave of enthusiasm embraced the community, which saw an opportunity if Stream employees ventured off on their own to set up spinoff businesses. Mr. Murray and Mr. Purcell’s idea will provide an ideal setting for these ideas to come true.

At the same time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s North Country Regional Economic Development Council has directed investment in the core of Watertown. Funds are directed to converting the Woolworth Building to apartments and to the Hot Spot initiative to create and leverage special expertise. The North Country Hot Spot will most likely be centered at Clarkson University in Potsdam. The Lincoln Building is the ideal site for a linkage between the Clarkson Hot Spot and the governor’s tax-free zone initiative, which Jefferson Community College President Carole McCoy has enthusiastically endorsed.

We live in an era when more and more jobs are created by investors using high-speed computer connectivity to satisfy worldwide demand. And the fertile minds that create these businesses choose to live and work in city environments.

The place in Watertown that fulfills the prerequisites for high-tech development is downtown, where millions of dollars have been and will be invested to provide an attractive living and working environment. Tying JCC and Clarkson into a corridor that has the most high-tech jobs in the north country and which will soon have new market rate housing available makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is to create a hot spot at the airport that is a car ride away from everything but a flight to Chicago. Or to use one of the buildings abandoned by the New York Air Brake, miles away from new housing and high-speed computer technology, is even less thoughtful. The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency appears to be more interested in finding a way to put a new roof on its property than helping to create appropriate green, efficient incubator space in the city’s center.

Mrs. McCoy sees the value of the tax-free development zones and she continues to pursue delivery of allied health care education in Watertown by Upstate Medical University of Syracuse. A consortium of JCC, Mr. Murray, Mr. Purcell and Clarkson, along with the regional development council’s commitment to downtown Watertown, ensures a first-class project that will enhance the lives of future generations of Watertown citizens.

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