WATERTOWN — Developer Michael Lundy says the old Medical Arts Building property on Clinton Street will not stay undeveloped for long — whether the YMCA ends up building its aquatics center on it or not.
Watertown YMCA officials have been considering the Clinton Street property for its $16 million aquatics, racquet sport and wellness center project, but then they learned the site did not qualify for two crucial federal tax credit programs.
If the aquatics center doesn’t move forward there, Mr. Lundy said Friday that he will proceed with plans to redevelop the site, calling it “an absolutely great site.”
“I don’t see that site staying vacant for very long,” he said, declining to share his plans for the Medical Arts Building property at 161 and 171 Clinton St.
Mr. Lundy purchased it in 2017 to build a $14 million professional office building. In May of that year, the project cleared an important hurdle when it went through site plan approval for the 50,000-square-foot medical complex.
Ten months later, he put the project on hold before Y officials approached him about using the property for the 55,000 to 70,000-square-foot aquatics center.
Despite the apparent loss of the Y project, Mr. Lundy said the property remains viable to redevelop, noting it’s nearly 3 acres in size and its proximity to a growing downtown.
While he’s convinced that the site would still be a good fit for the aquatics center, he’ll get something done there if the Y project isn’t a go.
“There’s lots of things we can do with the property,” he said.
When he first proposed his project two years ago, plans called for medical-related offices, featuring a two-story glass atrium at the back of the building and retail and food-service businesses.
Without its commitment to Mr. Lundy’s property, the Y is still looking at other options to build the aquatics center, considered an essential project for the organization’s growth, especially for its need to expand its swimming programs.
City officials have heard Y officials are eyeing the former Mercy Hospital property that COR Development owns as a possible alternative to Mr. Lundy’s property.
The chatter about Mr. Lundy’s property, COR’s Mercy Hospital land and the Y project occurred as the result of a controversy over a fence that surrounds the former hospital property.
This week, the Mercy property made headlines when a South Massey Street neighbor complained to City Council about the deteriorating condition of the fence around the downtown site. The city acknowledged the chain-link fence violated city code for years.
After hearing about the controversy this week, Mr. Lundy asked the city whether the chain-link around the Medical Arts Building property violated city codes.
City Manager Rick Finn notified the developer that he needed to make sure the fence was in compliance or would have to be removed “in a reasonable time” or he’d have to resume construction at the site.
“I saw what was going on with Mercy and said, ‘oh, is my fence the same situation,’” Mr. Lundy said.
Meanwhile, a COR spokeswoman promised the company would remove the fence at the Mercy site within three weeks. She also indicated COR hasn’t given up on developing the former hospital property, which has sat idle for several years.
While the fences at the two downtown properties have not been in compliance for a few years, city officials spent considerable time considering the fate of a picket fence that a Franklin Street man built last fall in his front yard a few blocks away.
And now that fence will be able to stay after a compromise was reached in the city’s fence ordinance.