FunXcape building’s future in doubt

FunXcape, 223 JB Wise Place, Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — In 2014, businesswoman Vina Bonner opened the FunXcape indoor children’s play center with much fanfare, proclaiming that it would be the local version of Chuck E. Cheese.

Now six years later, the future of the downtown building at 223 JB Wise Place that housed the indoor children play center is in doubt, with its owner recently moving to Hawaii.

On Tuesday, members of the Watertown Local Development Corp. also known as the Watertown Trust, were told that Mrs. Bonner unexpectedly moved away to work at a hospital in Hawaii, still owing the agency on two loans for the building.

Yet Donald W. Rutherford, the Local Development Corporation’s CEO, got an assurance from the property owner that she’ll pay back the loans to the Watertown Trust.

“I told Vina not to forget about us,” he said.

In 2014, Mrs. Bonner purchased the building, borrowing $150,000 for equipment for the play center and $130,000 in gap funding to help finance the business to get it opened. She still owes about $218,000 on the loans.

With the business faltering in 2017, she hoped to be a recipient of the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

When that didn’t happen, the Watertown Trust restructured Mrs. Bonner’s two loans for the building. She claimed at the time that it would be difficult to pay them back in the remaining five years she had left.

While she eventually closed FunXcape, Mrs. Bonner landed a major tenant, Power Play Sports hockey training center, and things looked more hopeful.

But now the tenant intends to move out following a flood with a foot of water in the basement that left the two owners deciding it was time to go, Mr. Rutherford said.

“That building is in doubt,” he said. “It’s no secret that they’re relocating. I don’t know what’s going on with rent, income, expenses.”

To help recoup the agency’s losses, he told the building owner that the Watertown Trust will work with her, so she could pay off the loans.

Mrs. Bonner also owes $13,297.02 in back taxes for the building. The building is appraised at $1.2 million.

In 2018, Mrs. Bonner purchased an adjacent building at 259 JB Wise Place for $335,000 in cash. That three-story structure eventually was condemned after the sprinkler system failed. The future of that building also remains in doubt.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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