New use needed

COR Development Co. initially planned to construct 168 residential units and 42,000 square feet of retail and commercial space on the land that once housed Mercy Hospital in Watertown.

WATERTOWN — The COR Development Corp. continues to fight its assessment on the old Mercy Hospital site and it’s likely that it will be going to court.

COR is fighting its $1,414,000 assessment for 2019 and 2020 on the 5.9-acre parcel at 217 Stone St.

City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said it’s unlikely that a settlement can be reached, citing a “significant” difference in the appraisals that were done by the Syracuse development company and the city.

The 2021 assessment on the parcel was raised from $838,500 to $1,414,000, with the property representing $1,538,000 of full value.

“The assessment was raised because I have credible evidence indicating that is its true market value,” Mr. Phelps said in an email.

Mr. Phelps said he was unable to release results of the appraisals because they have not yet been accepted into the court records, so they are protected from disclosure.

“They are far apart,” Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said earlier this week.

In 2020, the Syracuse development company said it was not satisfied with its $838,500 assessment on the old Mercy Hospital site, located between Stone and Arsenal streets and South Massey and Sherman streets. At the time, COR wanted the assessment to be lowered to $222,500 and went to the city’s Assessment Review Board to argue its case during the grievance process.

That year, COR put the vacant parcel on the market seven years after demolishing the hospital in preparation for a redevelopment plan that never happened. The company isn’t advertising an asking price for the property.

While the assessment on the larger property appears to be going to state Supreme Court, the city and COR agreed on the assessment on a separate 1.15-acre parcel, a former parking lot at 213 Stone St. The total assessment of that property will be $105,800 in both 2019 and 2020, according to the agreement approved by the City Council on Monday night.

The company also owns property along Sherman Street where three houses were demolished and property adjacent to the former parking lot.

The old Mercy site is shovel-ready, after about $4 million in state money was invested to demolish the former Mercy Hospital and to complete an environmental cleanup and remediation of the site in 2014.

COR originally planned to invest $70 million to transform the site into 40,000 square feet of retail and office space and 160 to 200 apartments.

The redevelopment project stalled because two of the company’s officers, Steven Aiello and Joseph Girardi, were convicted on federal corruption charges not related to the Mercy project.

COR attorney Deborah Sullivan, of the law firm of Barclay and Damon, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

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(1) comment


In some of his later works, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein depicted worlds where they had a peculiar way of doing property assessment. The owner of a property could self assess the property, but that constituted on offer to sell it. Anybody could come along, pay the supposed value of the property, and take possession. It's used as a plot device allowing characters from alternate universes to gain possession of good hideout locations. Not useful in this case.

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