WATERTOWN — Two vacant apartment buildings in the city are getting facelifts.

Work has begun at a six-unit apartment building at 173 E. Main St. and another site at 140 High St., which has been vacant since it was condemned after three of its furnaces nearly exploded the day before Thanksgiving.

The East Main Street building sat vacant for more than a year after the property defaulted on a bank loan and another loan through a program with the city of Watertown.

The apartment building has been transferred to a new owner, R. Martin’s Contracting, 925 W. Main St. The deal was closed on Friday.

Contractor Ricky Martin, who owns another 24 rental units in the city, became interested in the building as an investment.

“It needs a facelift,” he said, adding that it was in proximity to his West Main Street office, so it was close to keep an eye on and make sure it was maintained.

Foreclosure proceedings had already been initiated against former owner Dan Putnam, president of East Side Apartments Corp., Adams, when Mr. Martin became involved in the transaction.

The city of Watertown was paid $25,000 from the sale to pay off a $31,371 loan that Mr. Putnam received from the city’s Community Development Block Grant program to renovate the property, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director.

The city was in second position on the mortgage for the property, so it would have been out that much money if Mr. Martin had not purchased it, he said.

The new owner plans to remove items left by former tenants, do some painting and maintenance work, and clean up the property to get ready for new occupants to move into the building.

He hopes to have the building ready for new tenants in about 60 days.

Neighbor Mary E. Hunt, who lives next door, was glad to see some laborers working inside the building on Tuesday.

She’s also relieved that the building soon will no longer be vacant, although there were some previous tenants who caused trouble.

“We’re just hoping for some good people in there,” she said.

Several blocks away, a contractor began working on the High Street building, owned by Blue Sapphire RM, Watertown.

Tenants were forced to move out of the building after the furnace problems and the heat and power were turned off. They never returned.

City Code Enforcement officers condemned the building for safety reasons after three of the building’s boilers overheated.

The furnaces were replaced, and now other renovations are getting done, according to contractor Fred Mesmer, who owns Garlock Contracting, Alexandria Bay.

The project includes completing new interior work, windows, doors and flooring. The work should be finished in about three or four months.

“It’s a complete update,” he said.

Built in 1907 and at one time known as the Dean Building, it was purchased for $167,000 by partners Justin Percori and Tim Taradif at public auction, just two months before the problems with the furnaces occurred.

The building also was once owned by local businessman Ricky E. Frazier and had gone through foreclosure for back taxes.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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