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JCLDC passes on downtown location for new headquarters

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Despite an offer from a developer looking to renovate a major Public Square landmark, it appears the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. will go ahead Tuesday with plans to renovate space in the Watertown Center on Starbuck Avenue.

The Times has learned the agency was approached by the developers of the planned $12.8 million restoration of the Lincoln Building about relocating there before it decided to stay put in the Starbuck Avenue incubator.

As he proposed it to the agency, local real estate investor Brian H. Murray said the agency would have been the Lincoln Building’s anchor tenant and fit into plans to make the landmark into a business incubator on the second floor.

“That’s all I can say about it,” he said, citing confidentiality of not releasing proposed lease agreements.

The Lincoln Building redevelopment calls for 18 rental apartments on the two upper floors, the business incubator and office and commercial spaces in the five-story building. Mr. Murray, owner of Washington Street Properties, and Mark S. Purcell, owner of Purcell Construction, are partners in the project.

Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the JCLDC, said his agency wants to be as close to the “downtown core as possible.”

On Tuesday, the JCLDC is expected to work out a lease agreement to rent a 4,700-square-foot space next to its current location at Building B in the industrial center, 800 Starbuck Ave., said William J. Soluri, the industrial center’s site manager.

But the Lincoln Building was one of several downtown sites during the search for new space, Mr. Alexander said. They also considered others that Mr. Murray owns, as well as vacant offices in the former HSBC branch on Washington Street, owned by nine partners making up 200 Washington Street Associates LLC, he said.

The Lincoln Building is one of several projects that business and community leaders say will transform downtown forever.

In the end, the committee concluded the WIC agreement was the best deal for the agency. It was more cost effective and did not involve pulling up stakes and moving to a different location, he said.

“It came down to history,” Mr. Alexander said, adding the relationship between the entities has worked out well for both. “It was the best fit for us.”

Noting the WIC is providing a low-rent package, Mr. Soluri said he is satisfied with the lease agreement.

Both the JCLDC and the WIC are economic development organizations, and aim to attract businesses and jobs to Jefferson County, Mr. Soluri said.

“Our missions are the same,” he said.

The JCLDC plans to move into space now occupied by Environmental Spill Products; that company would be required to move under the plan. Now leasing 2,200 square feet of space at the WIC, the JCLDC needs more room as it expands its staff to nine employees.

Some details of the lease agreement will not be determined until actual construction costs have been worked out, Mr. Soluri said.

The JCLDC would pay $2.74 per square foot that goes toward water usage, maintenance, taxes and other expenses. On Tuesday, the WIC board also will consider a $100,000 loan to the JCLDC to go toward the construction costs for the new nine offices in the expanded space, Mr. Soluri said.

Until March, the JCLDC and its affiliated organization, the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, oversaw the industrial center’s operation. But the WIC severed ties with them as part of a reorganization.

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