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Woolworth Building project in Watertown on track to enhance city’s downtown

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Community leaders took a glimpse Wednesday into the future of downtown Watertown, and it’s looking brighter.

They toured the $17 million renovation project being done on the Woolworth Building at Public Square and Washington Street. The work that began in November is now about 25 percent completed.

Builder Mark S. Purcell has partnered with LeCesse Construction to convert the six-story abandoned building into a mixed-use site. The ground floor will offer space for commercial uses while the upper floors will be turned into 50 apartments.

Co-developers Erich H. Seber and David J. Gallo own the landmark building, which housed a F.W. Woolworth’s store for decades. The 11,000 square feet of space on the ground floor could be a combination of office and retail uses.

The residential part of the building, taking up the second through sixth floors, will offer 35 one-bedroom units and 15 two-bedroom units with rents ranging from $600 to $700 per month. A 31-space lot for tenant parking will be developed on some green space across the street off Public Square, between Cam’s Pizzeria and the Woodruff Professional Building.

“The project is being funded by private investment, state Homes and Community Renewal housing tax credits, a $2.5 million Restore NY grant and other state funding,” according to a story Thursday in the Watertown Daily Times. “To avoid changes to the housing tax credit program, co-developer Erich H. Seber guaranteed the project will be completed by the end of the year, with the apartments ready for occupancy early next year.”

This project will satisfy several critical needs for the city.

It will provide affordable housing in a residential market in need of more units to drive down monthly rents everywhere. It also will enhance the downtown by filling a vacant space with viable businesses. Lastly, it will locate more residents — who all will be potential customers of surrounding merchants — in the heart of the Public Square.

We cannot bring back the glory days of the Woolworth’s store that once stood there, but we can turn this space into a vibrant mix of commercial space and residential housing. This project is but one of the new exciting developments occurring in Watertown, a sign of a new era of prosperity on the horizon.

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