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Local developer adds Washington Street apartment building to portfolio

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The former owner of the defunct Fort Drum Vehicle Storage company has lost her last rental housing building.

The apartment building that JoAnn Sanchez-Norquist owned at 505 Washington St. was sold at a public auction on Jan. 7. Local businessman and developer Brian H. Murray purchased it for $556,352.17. It is assessed at $758,400. City National Bank, California, foreclosed on the property after the owner failed to pay on its mortgage, still owing $ 958,158.65, Mr. Murray said.

Previously, Ms. Sanchez-Norquist relinquished four other properties because of back taxes after her business went belly-up last summer.

Ms. Sanchez-Norquist then abruptly left the area and was believed to be living in Las Vegas until she was spotted in City Hall in December. With her current whereabouts unknown, she could not be reached for comment.

Despite the former owner’s notoriety, Mr. Murray, who has acquired several area properties in recent years, was intrigued by the building, noting its location and its historical features.

“I just think it’s so much potential,” he said. “It’s in a great neighborhood, just a couple blocks from the hospital and a short walk to downtown.”

Mr. Murray intends to refurbish the 28-unit, three-story building that has a mixture of studio to two-bedroom apartments.

Although it needs a thorough cleaning out because of several years of neglect, it is “in surprising good condition,” Mr. Murray said. He plans to keep hardwood floors and clawfoot bathtubs intact but add new fixtures and finishes.

Work is slated to begin in April and apartments should be ready for leasing this summer, he said. Now known as Sanquist Apartments, it will be renamed Washington Manor Apartments.

Calling them high-end apartments, Mr. Murray said they will be offered “at a reasonable rent.”

In recent years, Mr. Murray has purchased a number of buildings in and around Watertown. They include: the lower level of the building that houses Stream International on Arsenal Street; the Lincoln Building on Public Square; the Solar Building at 200-212 Franklin St.; the former Hospice Foundation of Jefferson County Inc. building at 425 Washington St.; the Top of the Square plaza; and the Palmer Street and College Heights apartments.

City Assessor Brian S. Phelps figured that Mr. Murray acquired the apartment building after hearing it sold.

“I was pretty sure it was him,” he said. “He got another one.”

As for Ms. Sanchez-Norquist, the only remaining commercial property she owns is Fort Drum Storage, a series of small storage units at 22271 Teal Drive in Pamelia.

Fort Drum Vehicle Storage was formed in 2005 mainly to serve deploying soldiers in need of a place to store their vehicles. The company went through tumultuous financial times after losing its West Main Street warehouse, where it stored vehicles, to back taxes in 2012.

Last summer, Fort Drum Vehicle Storage made headlines when dozens of soldiers came home from deployment and were unable to retrieve their vehicles because they had been moved to Oswego and Lacona without their knowledge.

The state attorney general’s office intervened to help soldiers get their vehicles returned.

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