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Work on new JCLDC site to begin

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Site work has started on converting manufacturing space in the business incubator on Starbuck Avenue into the new headquarters for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp.

On Tuesday morning, Watertown Center for Business and Industry board members took a tour of the JCLDC’s new administrative offices. The estimated $475,000 project should be completed next fall.

The 4,563-square-foot space most recently was occupied by Environmental Spill Products, which is relocating in Building A. Construction is slated to begin in May.

“It’s bringing back lots of memories,” said WIC board member J. Paul Morgan, the former plant manager when the mammoth complex was still a part of New York Air Brake.

The space, where workers have recently started cleaning out scrap metal, is now mostly dark inside. Demolition of an existing entrance should start next week. Bids will go out soon after that, and a contractor is expected to be selected next month.

The corporation will move from an adjacent section of the Starbuck Avenue facility into the addition. The agency has agreed on a 10-year lease with the WIC, which owns and manages the corporate park and intends to finance the project.

The new headquarters will include enough new offices for expansion, separate conference and meeting rooms and a work room. It also will share a new entrance with neighbor Converse Labs. The WIC eventually will lease the JCLDC’s abandoned office space to a new tenant.

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers & Land Surveyors PLLC has designed the project.

As part of the nearly three-hour meeting, board members also went through the entire complex, where small businesses move in, grow and presumably move out on their own.

William J. Soluri, the industrial center’s site manager, showed the space where Environmental Spill Products, the environmental containment product company, will move. WIC maintenance workers are constructing its new office and manufacturing space.

Board members also got to see the large stock of abandoned inventory of auto stereo equipment, custom tire rims, furniture and other items that Junction Boyz left behind after being evicted. The company did custom body work, collision repairs and paint jobs before it was forced out in October.

WIC officials are working with M&T Bank and Homeline Furniture, a furniture manufacturer and distributor, on removing the items, so the space can be marketed for a new tenant. The WIC also hopes to recoup money that Junction Boyz still owes it by selling remaining inventory.

So far, a couple of prospective tenants have looked at the space, Mr. Soluri said.

Before the tour, the WIC board approved a $655,627 budget for 2014-15. Before the vote, board members expressed concerns about the WIC’s National Grid bills, suggesting that tenants should be charged for electricity in common areas.

Mr. Soluri said he hoped that the WIC would end up making a small profit in the coming year. If an additional 7,000-square-foot space could be leased out, he projected the WIC would make about $40,000, which could be used to make improvements at the facility. Otherwise, the WIC would break even, he said.

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