Gov. Cuomo announces 14 transformational projects for downtown Watertown as apart of $10M state award

Additional $4 Million Awarded Through SUNY 2020 to Support Jefferson Community College Expansion Downtown

WATERTOWN, NY — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced 14 transformational projects for Watertown as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award. In addition to the DRI funding, $4 million has been awarded through SUNY 2020 to support a Jefferson Community College expansion project downtown. The strategic investments in downtown Watertown will drive further economic growth and capitalize on the city’s historic buildings and culture. The investments are part of the Governor’s ongoing efforts to revitalize the upstate economy and create more opportunities for the North Country.

“Watertown is growing its economy around the strong culture, beautiful architecture and community spirit found across the North Country,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this investment, the city can build upon its success and drive further growth downtown while providing more opportunities for residents and businesses to lead a quality life across the region.”

Watertown was named a DRI Round 2 winner in October. The city’s downtown is a compact, intact 19th Century central business district centered on an historic Public Square with a mix of retail and professional services, offices, civic buildings, and cultural and recreational destinations. It also contains a variety of housing types at different levels of affordability. The projects announced today will amplify the city’s ongoing efforts to enhance its downtown through place making and adaptive reuse of historic and architecturally significant properties; improving walkability; and increasing opportunities for commerce. The city will strengthen its position as the primary hub of commerce and culture for Jefferson and neighboring counties, drawing residents from surrounding areas to its downtown assets and attracting visitor spending from seasonal residents and tourists.

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:

Masonic Temple Performing Arts Center Development: Make necessary improvements to the historic Masonic Temple, an anchor building in the downtown, to facilitate its conversion into a Performing Arts Center and public event space. The façade of the historic Masonic Temple will be restored, thereby enhancing the downtown aesthetic and community character, and accessibility will be addressed through a new ADA compliant entrance and the addition of an elevator that will provide universal access to both commercial and performance space. ($2,200,000)

Historic Lincoln Building Co-Working Innovation Center: Renovate the Lincoln Building to create a centrally-located co-working space. The project will attract entrepreneurs and artists by providing collaborative co-working space, dedicated desks, private furnished offices, and a conference room, studio, and kitchenette. Renovations will also include a new event space on the fifth floor, and a new elevator and stair tower to improve access to all floors. ($825,000)

Franklin Street Façade Enhancement: Restore the façades of three key historic buildings on Franklin Street in the downtown core. The buildings include the Commerce Building, Lamon Building, and Solar Building, which comprise of more than 700 feet of historic street frontage and include 25 storefronts. Planned improvements will augment public perception of the corridor and create an inviting space for merchants, residents, and visitors. ($1,243,500)

Community Café and Grocery Initiative: Build-out and outfit the Community Café and Grocery at 138 Court St., the site of the Court Street Commons redevelopment project. The project will support the local food and farm-to-table movements and augment community health and nutrition programming. ($149,568)

Paddock Arcade Building Housing Renovation: Rehabilitate the upper stories of the historic Paddock Arcade Building to create five market-rate apartment units in the overlooking the Public Square. Creating new housing downtown meets intergenerational demand and encourages walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. ($123,000)

Upgrade Paddock Arcade Public Space: Enhance the 167-year-old Paddock Arcade by improving the glass roof structure, installing radiant in-floor heat and air conditioning in the “covered street,” and improving the interior streetscape. Funds will also be used to remodel the second-floor commercial space, install a new elevator to provide ADA accessibility to upper floors, as well as improve the function and appearance of the south side exterior. These upgrades will improve a historic public space in the downtown area and attract new businesses and events. ($435,000)

Jefferson County Historical Society Museum Modernization: Make improvements to the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum building and exhibit space, including the installation of an elevator for improved access and exhibit rotation, development new interactive exhibits utilizing tablets and touch screens, and installation a new HVAC system to help preserve artifacts and remove a roadblock to museum accreditation. ($506,600)

Jefferson Community College Downtown TechSpace Creation in Conjunction with SUNY2020: Rehabilitate a downtown building to house the Jefferson Community College (JCC) TechSpace, which will support entrepreneurs and offer workforce training and applied learning opportunities. Corporate training space will accommodate heavy equipment training, two classrooms, locker rooms, and office space. A fabrication lab will provide space for students and entrepreneurs to design and test new ideas using metalworking equipment, 3-D printers, and CNC machines. ($1,212,332). SUNY2020 is contributing an additional $4 million toward the project.

Strauss Memorial Walkway Beautification and Public Art Project: Enhance the Strauss Memorial Walkway to provide a more inviting and safe pedestrian connection between Public Square, the JB Wise parking lot, and JB Wise Place. Improvements will include new lighting, plantings, repairs to building walls, and a painted mural or other public art. ($375,000)

Public Square Fountain Enhancement: Improve the vicinity of the Public Square Fountain by installing a replica of the wrought-iron decorative fence that once surrounded the fountain and repainting the fountain itself. The project recognizes the integral role of the fountain in one of Watertown’s premier public spaces by undertaking necessary aesthetic improvements. ($55,000)

Streetscaping for Downtown Walkability: Design and install enhancements to Franklin Street, Court Street and Coffeen Street to make the public realm more inviting to pedestrians and strengthen the downtown business environment. ($1,500,000)

Small Business Revolving Loan and Grant Fund: Create a fund to provide matching grants to property owners for downtown façade improvements and to support small businesses. The program will enhance the downtown and help attract small business owners to Public Square. ($600,000)

Wayfinding Signage and Branding Initiative: Create a branded and coordinated wayfinding signage system to provide direction to downtown attractions and parking facilities. The project includes brand development, location strategizing, and fabrication and installation of the signage. ($320,000)

Coordinated Public Art Installations: Partner with local arts organizations to conceptualize and develop a cohesive group of sculpture projects to be installed in a manner which highlights pedestrian paths throughout the downtown and waterfront area. ($155,000)

Watertown developed a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders led the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan for downtown Watertown examined local assets and opportunities and identified economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.

“The City of Watertown is an epicenter for Jefferson County and will drive economic growth with transformative projects as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “With Fort Drum being just a few miles away, Watertown continues to bring spirit to upstate New York. With a focus on creative and structural innovations, we are making the city more connected and enhancing the lives of residents. Our investment in cities like Watertown is helping to revitalize the upstate economy and build a stronger New York.”

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Downtown Watertown is embarking on a true transformation that capitalizes on the city’s culture, historic architecture and talented workforce and residents. Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative continues to help cities across the state thrive and attract the next generation of New Yorkers.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Projects in Watertown supported through the DRI will help create a walkable downtown with sustainable investments that improve workforce training, support the innovation economy and encourage young professionals to establish roots in the region.”

NYS Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Through Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, these community-led, targeted investments will combine with HCR’s $74 million investment in the North Country over the last seven years that has created affordable housing for about 4,200 residents to help ensure that as Watertown’s economy grows, all New Yorkers have the opportunity to take part. In New York State, we are lucky to have a Governor who understands how to build inclusive, long-term economic success.”

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, “Jefferson Community College’s TechSpace will inspire more people to become students of a STEM field by providing hands-on experiences and a wide range of educational programs. This is an educational gem for the Watertown community. My thanks to Governor Cuomo and his SUNY 2020 Program for making this possible.”

Senator Patty Ritchie said, “In recent years, the City of Watertown has done a tremendous job of bringing businesses, as well as residents and visitors back Downtown. With these investments, we can continue that momentum, create jobs, new economic opportunity and ultimately, make Downtown Watertown the hub of the City that it once was.”

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne said, “This is a nice diverse array of projects that will revitalize Watertown’s downtown. This provides needed financial support to move many of these projects over the finish line. Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work and private investment and will put Watertown on the path to greater economic growth. The Governor’s downtown initiative is helping communities around the state make real economic progress and improving the quality of life for our state’s residents.”

Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray said, “I applaud the committee’s work, the community involvement and the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative to stimulate the heart of Jefferson County. The projects selected will add to the urban ambience of downtown Watertown making it a better place to live, work and enjoy life.”

Watertown Mayor Joseph Butler Jr. said, “We are extremely pleased that these projects will receive funding and we can’t wait to get started on the implementation after this long but rewarding process. We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s support for the City of Watertown, both past and present, and we will work hard to make sure this is a wise investment for the city and state.”

Kylie Peck, President and CEO, Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Watertown DRI Local Planning Committee Co-Chair said, “The projects announced today will pave the path to revitalization and economic growth in Downtown Watertown, securing a bright future for the Greater Watertown region. We are thankful to Governor Cuomo for investing in the economic future of our city.”