WATERTOWN — Jefferson Community College is back in the picture to use Downtown Revitalization Initiate funding for a downtown entrepreneur education center.
The college’s Board of Trustees is expected to approve a resolution Wednesday to use $2.5 million in DRI money to develop an entrepreneur education initiative in partnership with Neighbors of Watertown.
Details of the project were not clear on Tuesday night.
According to its agenda, the college’s Board of Trustees will endorse a new variation of the original Tech-Space project, a proposal which JCC officials halted after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At the time, college officials said that they could not proceed with the project, blaming financial constraints caused by the pandemic and declining enrollment.
Late Tuesday afternoon, however, the college sent an email to media outlets announcing that a briefing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday after trustees consider JCC’s involvement in the city’s DRI program.
The email said college officials would not provide further information until the briefing.
However, Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corporation, also known as the Watertown Trust, said that JCC President Ty A. Stone recently told him that the DRI project was back on track, although he wasn’t included in any specifics of the project.
“This is huge for downtown,” Mr. Rutherford said.
Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, said that he heard the JCC DRI project was back on track.
“I heard some rumblings about it,” he said, declining to comment further. “It was a while ago, but I’ve haven’t heard anything since then.”
Last week, news came out that Neighbors of Watertown plans to purchase the former Club Rio and an adjacent Franklin Street building that contains five storefronts for future development. The deal must still be finalized with current owner Jake Johnson, a local real estate developer who owns many downtown properties.
Mr. Rutherford confirmed that he was told that the former Club Rio would be the location of the new JCC project. He was excited about the prospect of the vacant former night club building being repurposed.
Over the weekend, Franklin Street merchant Marylois Queal said she was excited that Neighbors was taking over the building that her Loft 315 clothing store is in and that JCC would be using Club Rio for offices.
Having JCC downtown would produce more downtown foot traffic for her clothing store, she said.
College officials were looking at the storefront in the Woolworth Building right before pulling the plug. That space is no longer available; the BCA Architects & Engineers recently selected that space for its new home.
The $2.5 million in DRI funding has been languishing ever since JCC pulled out of the DRI program without a clear plan for what would happen with the money.
In 2017, the city was awarded $10 million from the state for the downtown revitalization program.
The Lincoln Building, the Jefferson County Historical Society, the Masonic Temple and major downtown street improvements also received some of the DRI funding.