Franklin Street

The storefronts at 124, 126, 128, 130 and 132 Franklin Street on Thursday in downtown Watertown. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Neighbors of Watertown plans to purchase a downtown building containing a series of storefronts and the old Club Rio, with plans to redevelop them.

If the deal is finalized, Neighbors would pick up a nearly 6,000-square-foot building at 124 Franklin St., just off Public Square.

Real estate developer Jake Johnson owns both the building and the now vacant Club Rio night club.

Neighbors Executive Director Reginald J. Schweitzer Jr. confirmed that the housing organization is working on the deal with the Johnson Family Real Property LLC to acquire them. The deal is expected to be closed in early December. The proposed purchase price was not disclosed.

Neighbors does not have any definitive plans for the storefronts and the old Club Rio, although the idea is to keep them commercial, Mr. Schweitzer said.

Neighbors offices are adjacent to the storefront building. That building was once a part of the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program, but it changed hands twice and the planned facade improvements were never completed.

“The point is to get that done on lower Franklin Street and fix them up as part of the continued downtown redevelopment,” Mr. Schweitzer said.

In 2019, Mr. Johnson purchased the storefronts, with another four downtown commercial buildings, from developer Brian H. Murray for $1.325 million.

Wonderland Ink Factory and Lost 315 are now the only tenants at 124 Franklin St.

Mr. Murray planned to restore the facade of the storefront building with DRI funding but then decided not to go forward with that project. He then sold it to Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Schweitzer said he plans to talk to the city Planning Department to see if Neighbors can recoup any unused DRI funding for its project.

Two years ago, Mr. Johnson received a $330,000 loan from the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust. The Watertown Trust board agreed on Thursday morning to relinquish Mr. Johnson from part of the loan so that Neighbors can proceed with its plans for that section of lower Franklin Street, Chief Executive Officer Donald W. Rutherford said.

In September 2020, Mr. Johnson also bought the former Club Rio nightclub at 136 Franklin St. He had arranged for three women to lease the building to open a cafe in it, but those plans never materialized.

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