WATERTOWN — The Children’s Home of Jefferson County will be moving into the historic Empsall Building, where a new primary care and behavioral health clinic will open and 125 jobs will be brought to the center of downtown.

Executive director Karen Y. Richmond confirmed on Thursday that the Children’s Home, which will be known as CHJC, will be moving its administrative offices and other services into the Empsall Building, 130 Court St.

The agency will lease 17,000 square feet of space of Neighbors of Watertown, which completed a major renovation on the building in late 2017.

“This is not only a partnership for Neighbors and the Children’s Home but also for downtown,” Mrs. Richmond said.

The expansion will be funded through a $1.8 million grant from the state Department of Health and a $1.5 million grant from the state Office of Mental Health.

While the building has been renovated, the interior must go through improvements to get ready for the move. The agency will sign a 30-year lease for the space, which is expected to be ready for occupancy during the last quarter of the year or early 2020.

City Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo said it’s big news for downtown.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s more than 100 jobs.”

The building will house mental and behavioral health services, the Community Clinic of Jefferson County, Adult Care Coordination Program and administration offices.

The clinic will be on the bottom floor with its main entrance on the J.B. Wise parking lot side. The agency’s administration, human resources, finances, marketing, IT systems and funding development will have offices on the ground level on Court Street.

Over the past six years, Children’s Home officials looked at several other locations before selecting the Empsall Building. They also looked at the site before the building’s major renovations began and couldn’t envision it as the right location, then the former site of Velocity, a family fun center, and the Dungeon, an all-ages, no-alcohol venue where rock bands performed.

However, renovating the space from a dark, cave-like atmosphere into an interior featuring hardwood floors and lots of windows, eventually changed their minds.

“The renovations got them to the level of enticement for the new location,” said Reginald J. Schweitzer, Neighbors’ executive director.

Neighbors now leases space for the agency’s behavioral services in the Marcy Building. The new location will offer clients a convenient, easily accessible location that has separate waiting rooms for children and adults, Mrs. Richmond said.

Following the closing of Mercy Hospital’s mental health clinic in 2011, and in response to the community’s request, the agency opened the Community Clinic of Jefferson County on the third floor of Watertown’s Marcy Building, just off Public Square.

As the Marcy Building filled an immediate need, Mrs. Richmond explained it was never intended to become its permanent home.

The agency now serves nearly 2,500 men, women and children. Its other programs serve another 1,500 individuals, bringing the total number of its clients to nearly 4,000.

The agency is also in the midst of a major rebranding campaign, including a name change to CHJC, as well as the creation of a new website, logo, and marketing materials.

The new branding will reflect on changes in the agency that have occurred over time, such as serving more adults than children and reaching out to areas outside of Jefferson County.

The eight-story structure also contains 44 upper-floor units in what is known as Brighton Apartments.

The new location was once occupied by the old Frank A. Empsall Co. Department Store, which closed in 1993.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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