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Development Council approves transfer of $2 million grant for redevelopment of Mercy site

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The transformation of the former Mercy Hospital into a multiuse residential/commercial development in downtown Watertown took another step forward Tuesday as the North Country Regional Economic Development Council approved the transfer of a $2 million grant for the developer of the project.

COR Development Co., Fayetteville, previously had been awarded the money for a 364-unit apartment complex in West Carthage, part of a $90.2 million initiative to stimulate the region’s economy.

That project was scrapped after a market study made financiers leery of investing in the location, COR General Manager Steven F. Aiello said in April.

The urban revitalization and mixed-use opportunities presented by the Mercy development gave the new project a higher likelihood of success, Mr. Aiello said.

“This represents a continuation of housing strategies, including development of new housing as well as a change in direction toward the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of existing housing projects,” said James W. Wright, executive director of the Development Authority of the North Country who is a member of the council.

Mr. Wright was present at the meeting but abstained from voting on the Mercy project because of DANC’s involvement with the development.

The Community Rental Housing Program, a DANC-administered program that was created in 2006 in response to the announcement of an additional brigade at Fort Drum, provided an additional $2 million award for the Mercy redevelopment project, Mr. Wright said.

The Community Rental Housing Program also will contribute $250,000 to a $12.8 million restoration of the Lincoln Building and $250,000 to Neighbors of Watertown for use in rehabilitation projects within a 30-mile radius of Fort Drum.

Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham went to Malone, where the council held its meeting, to represent the city.

COR’s Mercy project, which is estimated to cost between $60 million and $70 million, is viewed as an important anchor for other proposed redevelopment projects in the city and it is important to show how important it is to area residents, Mr. Graham said.

After unveiling plans for the project over the weekend, Mr. Aiello told the Times that demolition and environmental remediation of the property could begin as early as this fall.

He said the company plans to use the $2 million grant previously earmarked for the West Carthage project for the demolition.

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