Developers of the vacant Woolworth Building in downtown Watertown this week presented the City Council with their third proposal in four years for preserving the historic building.
Four years and three plans later, Councilman Jospeh M. Butler Jr. seems to think this is just the beginning, the first inning of a nine-inning game. Lets hope not.
The latest proposal presented by developers calls for between 45 and 50 apartments that would be a mixture of market-rate units and affordable housing with retail shops on the ground floor instead of the 60 apartments owner Michael A. Treanor had previously proposed for the historic six-story structure on Public Square.
When he first purchased the vacant building in July 2008, Mr. Treanor envisioned a high-class hotel with 100 to 120 rooms, ballroom, conference hotel and restaurants for the landmark named for Frank W. Woolworth, who came up with the five-and-dime concept here in Watertown.
Mr. Treanor and three other partners hope to finance the most recent project with a $2.5 million Restore NY Grant combined with millions of dollars in state tax credits while obtaining 15-year tax abatement deal from the city rather than the usual 10-year plan for housing projects. Still unresolved is whether the city will turn over the adjacent site of the CitiBus transfer station and an empty lot across Public Square deemed necessary by the developers for parking.
Meanwhile, city officials and members of Advantage Watertown toured the decaying Masonic Temple a short distance up Washington Street to hear owner Garrett L. McCarthys plans to convert the building into an educational and performing arts center at an uncertain price tag that could hit $6 million. Funding is just as uncertain, but he has also talked about public and private support. He purchased the building earlier this year, but it has been empty now for eight years while occasional falling debris from the crumbling exterior poses a danger.
Proposals and visions but no concrete plans for either building. The delays can be counterproductive as the buildings continue to atrophy, allowing the buildings to deteriorate and pose a threat to public safety.