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Owner shows off refurbished retail space beneath Watertown’s Stream building

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The old name is gone for the former vacant mini-mall underneath Stream International.

And the refurbished retail area — known for years as City Center Plaza — is nearly full of businesses.

Members of Advantage Watertown, a group of business leaders who meet monthly to talk about city and downtown issues, on Thursday got a first look at the renovated mini-mall, which had sat idle for years.

Owner Brian H. Murray has turned it into a cluster of businesses.

“It looks great,” Advantage Watertown member Scott C. St. Joseph said.

Last year, Mr. Murray purchased the bottom half of the Stream building, 146 Arsenal St. He acquired 41,000 square feet of space for $2.1 million from GEJ Watertown LLC, a Tarrytown company that had owned the 3.69-acre site since 1994. An F.W. Woolworth store was the main tenant until it closed in 1997. The space includes an exterior facing strip plaza and an indoor mini-mall.

To eliminate confusion with a commercial development that contains the Hilton Garden Inn on Arsenal Street with the same name, Mr. Murray has decided it now will be called Top of the Square. An adjacent small retail center that he has long owned, where Ruyi Asian Fusion restaurant is situated, is called that now.

“It’s all going to have the same name,” he said. “The mall, the shopping center and the plaza, they’ll all be called Top of the Square.”

They all share the same parking lot, he noted.

Jiu Jitsu Nation, a mixed martial arts school, and Rhonda’s FooteWorks, a dance studio formerly in the Lincoln Building on Public Square, also are tenants. The BeyondNerd electronics store moved from its storefront location in the strip plaza into new space in the mini-mall.

And three people are opening a fitness business there. That space still is undergoing renovations and should open in about six weeks, Mr. Murray said. Several offices also are occupied. Pro Metric, a proctor testing company, will move in soon as well, Mr. Murray said.

The strip plaza, visible from both Court and Arsenal streets, contains a Family Dollar store, Carthage Savings & Loan, Papa John’s Pizza shop and New York Fashions clothing boutique. The bank underwent extensive interior and exterior remodeling and the women’s clothing store got an upgrade during the project. The building’s facade also received sprucing up.

The project included replacing flooring and ceilings, adding more windows for the retail space, installing new indoor and outdoor lighting and improving the Arsenal Street side entrance.

The main entrance on the Court Street side got a major overhaul. It now includes a bike rack for the many teens expected to come to the game shop and dance studio, he said.

The mall wing also features a mural of a replica of an artwork in Paris. It was created by Henderson artist Garrett McCarthy.

Mr. Murray was unable to provide a dollar figure on all the renovations, saying he did not have that information because “it was completed in stages.”

“It’s been an extensive project, but we’re excited,” he said.

Its anchor store, BeyondNerd electronics, reduced its space from the storefront it leased in the strip mall, but has added a number of services. A video and audio recording studio will open there soon.

The business sells comic books and board and video games, offers Web design and IT repairs and hosts gaming tournaments. With the move, its “pay and play” gaming lounge, featuring TV monitors and comfortable chains and couches, is larger, CEO Christopher L. Dillon said.

“It’s a better layout for us,” he said.

Since her move from the Lincoln Building on Public Square, Rhonda M. Foote said, enrollment in the dance studio has increased because she has more space, featuring a larger studio and a second room where classes are held for soloists and younger dancers.

“The kids love it here,” she said.

The top floor and the parking lots are owned by the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. The agency leases the upstairs space to Stream. When Stream moved there in 2002, the building and property were subdivided.

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