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New entrance planned for Brighton Apartments in Watertown

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WATERTOWN — Plans are underway to create a new main entrance for the Brighton Apartments that will bring tenants into the building from the J.B. Wise parking lot side.

The new entrance and 14-space parking lot will go with plans for Neighbors of Watertown Inc. to renovate Empsall Plaza on Court Street. The local housing organization on Dec. 18 purchased 30,000 square feet of space, most recently occupied by Velocity from Psychedelic Entertainment LLC, Englewood, Calif., for $130,000.

Neighbors plans to turn that section of Empsall Plaza into commercial space and the floor above into some additional units for the Brighton. That space, at 122-30 Court St., is actually two separate properties.

A third property at the back of the building also was sold recently, in a separate transaction, to Vina Aileen C. Bonner, a local businesswoman who wants to open a children’s fun center there. A small hallway connecting the Neighbors property with the proposed fun center will be demolished.

With all that happening, Neighbors Executive Director Gary C. Beasley said it made sense to redo the entrance and add a U-shaped driveway. He gave an update on the Empsall Plaza at an Advantage Watertown meeting Thursday morning.

The new entrance and driveway “would tie in nicely” with an adjacent parking lot that the developers of the Woolworth Building are installing for tenants of the 50 units in that Public Square landmark, Mr. Beasley said.

On Tuesday, the city’s Planning Board unanimously approved the U-shaped drive and Empsall Plaza parking lot. Work should begin soon, Watertown planner Andrew T. Nichols said.

Neighbors plans to apply for state funding to fix up the Empsall Plaza facade and do the interior renovations.

The floor above the Velocity space will be converted into 13 or 14 apartments, Mr. Beasley said. Plans also call for a second elevator because the existing one is so old, it’s difficult to find replacement parts for. It would give tenants of the Brighton access to an exit that leads to the J.B. Wise parking lot. The lobby also will get an upgrade.

In 1992, the agency completed renovation of the Brighton Hotel, which was developed into a 36-apartment subsidized complex.

Opened in 2006, Velocity closed suddenly last July. Velocity offered laser tag, a soft-play gym and arcade games, mainly for children.

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