Charting the future

Christian K. Lee/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — It’s been a little more than a year since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the projects that were funded under the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program.

So Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, decided it was time to give an update on the status of the DRI efforts.

At Thursday’s Advantage Watertown meeting, Mr. Lumbis highlighted what’s going on with the individual projects.

“Stuff takes time,” Mr. Lumbis said, adding the projects are basically on schedule.

The Lincoln Building and Paddock Arcade will be the first two projects finished from the $10 million DRI grant that the city was awarded in 2017. Both are expected to be completed this year or early next year.

Several other projects are under contract with the state Department of State, which oversees the DRI program, and are either under construction or will be soon, he said.

The owners of the Masonic Temple and the state are finalizing details on work associated with turning the Washington Street landmark into a performing arts center.

Jefferson Community College officials also are finalizing details on using nearly $2.5 million for a downtown center to support entrepreneurs and offer workforce training.

JCC also was awarded a nearly $4 million grant through the state’s SUNY 2020 program for the tech center.

Combining with other funding sources, the Jefferson County Historical Society received $506,000 to replace a leaking roof. State money also will go toward an elevator for improved access, new exhibit technology with interactive displays and other improvements.

Preliminary design work for the elevator has started and construction is expected to begin next spring.

In addition, facade improvements to five downtown buildings have received “a preliminary go-ahead,” and three should be finished before winter, said Donald W. Rutherford, the CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp.

Most notably, the Crystal Restaurant’s exterior will be restored, he said.

The public projects — a beautification project on a handful of downtown streets, downtown public art, improvements to a downtown fountain and a downtown monument — are all about a year farther out, Mr. Lumbis said.

The city is working with the state to finalize the contract for that work and it will then be presented to the City Council for its approval.

The DRI program is progressing, even though it seems like it’s not moving as quickly as the city of Oswego’s DRI program. Two projects in Oswego recently were completed.

“Oswego is a year ahead of us,” Mr. Lumbis said, adding it was awarded the $10 million in 2016.

“We’re getting it done just as fast as them,” he said.

Members of Advantage Watertown, a group of community leaders who meet monthly to discuss city issues, said they were encouraged by the news.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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