Renovation of JRC building in works

The Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center on Gaffney Drive on Tuesday. Emil Lippe/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After years of planning, The Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence is about to embark on the first major renovation of its Gaffney Drive campus since it was built in 1968.

Work should start in July on the $12 million project to revamp the Jefferson Rehabilitation Center’s 420 Gaffney Drive building, Arc CEO Howard Ganter said.

The project has been in the making for years, he said.

“It’s been challenging,” he said. “We will have a building that fits our needs well into the future.”

The organization — formerly Jefferson Rehabilitation Center and St. Lawrence ARC — provides a wide range of services designed to enhance the quality of life and maximize the potential of people with disabilities through education, vocational opportunities, residential services and advocacy in a community-based setting.

Except for an addition in 1972, the 43,000-square-foot building hasn’t undergone any major renovations since it was built 52 years ago.

The facility was initially built to serve children, Mr. Ganter said. In its early days, it provided service to 60 children and 60 adults. Now, those numbers have more than doubled, according to Michelle Carpenter, foundation director. Over that time, staff also has increased from 50 to about 150 today.

The project will transform the building into a modern, state-of-the-art facility, Ms. Carpenter said. Doorways and hallways will be widened to better accommodate motorized wheelchairs, classrooms and peer group rooms will be updated and relocated to provide natural light, entrances will be relocated to make services offered more accessible to the community and upgrades will be made to technology to improve vital therapy services.

“This project will improve delivery of services offered within the building and benefit the hundreds of children and adults receiving services,” according to an Arc memo describing the project.

Clinical support, such as occupational, physical and speech therapy, will be provided in designated space in the middle of the building. A major new feature will be a Trac rail system connected throughout the building’s ceiling that will allow for easier transfer of disabled clients to be moved from wheelchairs.

“It’s a major upgrade of equipment,” she said.

With construction slated to begin in July, the project will take about 18 months and is expected to be completed in January 2022.

Mr. Ganter said the organization is seeking $3 million in community donations, with $1.8 million already raised. Funding also will come from the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, or OPWDD, and the organization’s reserve funds.

The project also includes a new roof, HVAC system, windows, secure doors, a sprinkler system throughout and canopies at entrances to keep clients underneath during inclement weather.

The organization received site plan approval for consolidating a series of parking lots into one large lot. Most of that work will occur on the north side of the building, with a 44-space lot along Glenn Avenue, a 23-space lot on the Gaffney Drive side and a small drop-off at the entrance.

One neighbor, William Gaetano, complained about a second entrance being added to the property as part of the parking lot changes.

“Now I’m going to look at cars all day and night long,” he said.

C&S Companies, Syracuse, designed the project. Mr. Ganter said the Request for Proposals process looking for a general contract is just starting. Purcell Construction is the project’s construction manager.

Arc provides clinical services to preschool and older aged children, an adult day habilitation program and other services for clients that occur throughout their lives.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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