JCC project receives funds

WATERTOWN — There’s good news and bad news on the JCC Downtown TechSpace Center project.

Jefferson Community College officials recently received word the project was receiving twice as much from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program than had been allocated from the state.

But college officials are also having problems with finding a location.

As for the good news, the state’s Department of State has transferred $1.25 million that local developer Brian H. Murray was going to use to renovate the exteriors of a series of Franklin Street storefronts he owned and has since sold to businessman Jacob “Jake” Johnson.

Last July, the college obtained $1,212,332 in DRI funding for the TechSpace project and now will receive the amount that the college originally requested.

President Ty Stone said college officials have “looked at a lot of locations.”

“We’re still working on it,” she said. “It’s a very important project and I want to make sure we do it right and we can sustain the project for years.”

She confirmed that she recently toured the former Concentrix call center building on Arsenal Street as a possible location. The call center is now vacant since Concentrix closed it in July and laid off its last 250 employes.

“It’s on our short list,” she said, adding there’s “not a lot of sites.”

Other buildings college officials have looked at include the Masonic Temple, 259 JB Wise Place, the Woolworth Building and the Dealmaker building on West Main Avenue.

Some locations were eliminated for a variety of reasons, while a handful remain on the list.

JCC officials were eyeing the Empsall Building on Court Street, but the Children’s Home of Jefferson County has tabbed that space for its downtown expansion.

The JB Wise Place building is in litigation between its owners and former owner. The Dealmaker building is outside of the city’s downtown DRI boundaries, she said.

The Woolworth Building doesn’t have any parking, although it’s a beautiful building with a lot of windows, President Stone said.

Jennifer Voss, the city’s senior city planner, said Thursday she was unaware that the state awarded the additional $1.25 million, although she acknowledged it’s the state’s call.

Working with a consultant and a committee, city officials helped put together the $10 million DRI program.

Department of State spokesman Lee Park said the state makes the final determination on which projects receive DRI funds — using the same criteria as the original project selection — and incorporating the local input generated throughout the process.

In this instance, the state determined ultimately that the funds would best be directed to another project that would better promote additional investment and growth, he said.

Saying the TechSpace center will help transform Watertown’s downtown for generations, President Stone hopes to complete “a white paper” in about 45 days that spells out exactly what the college will do with the project.

Plans call for the center to support entrepreneurs and offer workforce training and applied learning opportunities.

JCC also was awarded a nearly $4 million grant through the state’s SUNY2020 program for the tech center.

The project has been billed as a catalyst for economic growth and strengthening ties between the community college and downtown.

The tech center is one of 14 projects awarded funding from the city’s $10 million DRI program.

Using money originally allocated to Mr. Murray, the state also increased funding to $100,000 in funding for the Governor Flower monument.

JCC President Ty Stone

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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