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Black River Valley Club plans to reinvent building with rental apartments

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WATERTOWN — The Black River Valley Club plans to create rental apartments on the under-used upper floors of its historic downtown building, in a venture with Purcell Construction Co. that will be introduced to club members tonight.

In a recent letter to its membership, the club announced its plan to form a partnership with the Watertown construction company, which would build market-rate apartments on the second and third floors of the 131 Washington St. building.

The club’s operations would be consolidated on the ground floor, which would be dedicated to club member use under the plan, said Paul A. Luck, president of the club’s board of governors. The floor would be renovated to include a new kitchen, event space and dining and meeting rooms. The historic character of the club’s grand foyer and entranceway would remain the same.

Mark S. Purcell, president of Purcell Construction and a longtime club member, helped develop the plan to reconfigure the structure, Mr. Luck said. The club, which has about 150 members, has occupied the building since 1904.

“Much of the space in the club is currently underused, and we wanted to explore how we could more effectively use that space and also provide a new Black River Valley Club environment,” Mr. Luck said. “We are looking at alternative uses of our space. Market-rate apartments are part of the need for downtown apartments, and we would be excited to be part of the renaissance of what Watertown is becoming. We have a unique opportunity to consider something that could be much bigger, and that would give us an opportunity to be an icon of the north country.”

Mr. Luck said the ownership structure of the club would change under the plan, but he declined to provide further details. He said details about the project, such as how many apartments would be built, are not yet available.

The board will seek feedback on the proposal from its members at its annual membership meeting today at 6 p.m., Mr. Luck said.

“This is still in the informal stages, and one of the purposes of our meeting is to solicit input from our membership base — this is their club,” he said.

Construction inside the building could begin as early as October under the plan, according to the membership letter. That timeline would enable the project to be completed by the fall of 2015.

The proposal comes at a time when the club has been challenged to increase revenue to maintain its building. Last summer, the club revised its membership structure to set lower fees for young members.

Mr. Purcell did not return calls seeking comment Monday and Tuesday.

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