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Property owner who fixed up Union Street buys State Street building

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WATERTOWN — Charles E. Bates wanted to protect his investment in the seven rental properties along Union Street he purchased during the past three years.

So on his birthday in December, he purchased a commercial property at 320 State St. that housed the former Northern Health Care Linen Services Co. Inc. Soon he will convert the two upper floors into seven apartments.

They will join 27 units he already owns on Union Street downtown. Since acquiring them, Mr. Bates has renovated the six apartment buildings and a single-family house along a block-long section of Union Street.

Mr. Bates said he was concerned about who might buy the property that previously housed the industrial laundry business, and worried that a buyer would not put in the investment it deserved.

“It was out of necessity,” he said Tuesday outside the 94-year-old, 35,000-square-foot building that he bought for $107,500. “I wanted to protect my properties.”

The four two-bedroom and three one-bedroom apartments have been vacant for decades. Work is slated to begin Monday and should be finished by the end of the year, Mr. Bates said.

The general contractor is ARH Construction, Watertown. On Thursday, the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, approved a $16,000 loan Mr. Bates intends to use as gap funding for the $737,000 project. He also was awarded a $16,000 facade improvement grant.

“It’s a good project,” WLDC CEO Donald W. Rutherford said before the vote.

Mr. Bates also received help from Neighbors of Watertown Inc. and the city of Watertown to arrange $320,000 in state funding to finance the work. The project also will be completed through bank and private financing. The building is assessed for $297,300.

So far, Mr. Bates has no specific plans for the storefront, which housed an Asian market years ago. The back of the building, where the laundry business operated for 20 years, will be used for vehicle storage. Last month, Mr. Bates opened a gun shop in a 1,500-square-foot room in the building.

Deputy Director of Neighbors of Watertown Inc. Reginald J. Schweitzer Jr. said the project will be a good addition to downtown and the Union Street neighborhood. Several boarded-up windows will be repaired in the process. “It’ll be a nice look coming into downtown and coming down State Street,” he said.

By all accounts, Mr. Bates cleaned up a troublesome neighborhood after acquiring these properties. After fixing up the buildings, he sought out desirable tenants, he said. “I wanted it to be nice,” he said.

Mr. Bates acquired the State Street property through CL Property Management of NNY LLC, which he owns with his wife, Lynn.

This year, Neighbors of Watertown and the city are working with two other downtown property owners on projects to add upper-floor apartments. They include seven units on the third floor of 259 J.B. Wise Place and four more at 81 Public Square.

Since the downtown program began several years ago, 22 upper-floor apartments have been created, said Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and urban development coordinator. Dozens of new apartments also will be generated by the Woolworth Building and Mercy redevelopment projects.

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