Mayor touts Court St. development

170 Court St., Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After months of inactivity, a $2 million economic development project involving three buildings on Court Street soon will be back on track.

Local businessman Stephen J. Bradley said he’ll resume the work as soon as he receives reimbursement from the state on the money he’s spent so far on the project. The work was halted last winter.

He’s using a $990,000 Restore NY grant to help finance the more than $2 million project.

Plans call for turning the former Smith Restaurant Supply building at 170 Court St. into an events facility and creating eight market rate upper apartments in the nearby Dr. Guitar building at 152 Court St. and another unit in the old Berow and Monroe shoe store building, 138 Court St.

So far, he’s completed about two-thirds of the work but needs to be reimbursed by the state to move ahead with the remainder of the project.

“We’ve spent well over $1 million so far,” he said. “It’s a big project.”

On Monday night, the City Council is expected to approve a “grant disbursement agreement” with his management company, S&J Companies.

The city would, in turn, apply to state Empire State Development to receive the Restore NY money. The city actually applied for the grant and is the recipient, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director.

Once that process is completed, work will resume, Mr. Bradley said.

“On the whole, the Restore NY program has been quite a challenge for us and we have had to slow down a bit due to all the paperwork and steps required by the State of New York,” Mr. Bradley said in a statement.

However, he credited the Empire State Development staff for being “extremely helpful in all the steps involved,” he said.

“I have no complaints with the state,” he said.

The major component of the project is happening in a 12,000-square-foot building at 170 Court St., where he wants to turn the cavernous space into an events facility that would accommodate as many as 700 people for weddings, special events and parties.

The second floor — not occupied in decades — will be transformed into six market-rate apartments.

On Monday night, council members also will be considering site plan approval for a 23-space parking lot associated with the project at the three properties.

He needs to get a new contractor after a disagreement left the last one, Independent Commercial Contractors Inc, Lorraine, filing a $28,000 mechanic lien against S&J Properties and Mr. Bradley subsequently filed a $520,000 breach of contract against ICC.

Calling the issue “some hiccups along the way,” Bradley would not comment on the litigation, citing instructions from his attorney.

Mr. Bradley, who owns Abbey Carpet and a series of other nearby buildings, hopes to find a contractor with more experience with historical renovations for the interior work in 170 Court St.

“It will probably be a month or so before we are into the project full swing again,” he said, adding he plans to be more on-hands involved in the project once the work resumes.

He plans to have the events facility finished first, with the housing portion of the project completed later. It should take about a year before it’s done.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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