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Plans proceeding on Lincoln Building’s revitalization

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Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, chairwoman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, recalled the days when passersby could see young ballerinas practicing in the large windows of Lincoln Building on Public Square.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick reminisced about the Jean Spear Ballet company while she and the other members of Advantage Watertown got an update on Thursday about the landmark’s planned restoration by local businessman Brian H. Murray.

“Everyone seems to remember that building,” Mr. Murray said. “It’s the one thing I didn’t expect. Almost every day, someone has a story.”

And now Mr. Murray wants to add a new chapter to the Lincoln Building’s story. He hopes to turn the half-vacant, six-story building into a mixture of office space and apartments.

Back in December, Mr. Murray purchased the structure from a Long Island corporation for $500,000. Initially, he announced plans for just commercial space but is now leaning toward setting aside one or two upper floors for studios, and one- and two-bedroom units. Nine market-rate apartments, in varying sizes, would be on each floor.

His plans also include converting the second floor — once partially occupied by the Greater Watertown Senior Citizens club — into an incubator, where fledgling technical companies and artists could get their start.

He has been talking with some unidentified organizations on the incubator aspect of the estimated $12.8 million project, but could not talk further about it yet, Mr. Murray said.

“When we can announce it, it’s going to be big,” said Christina J. Schneider, vice president of financing and marketing for Purcell Construction Corp.

Mr. Murray is working with Purcell Construction and Randall T. Crawford, preservation architect at Crawford and Sterns in Syracuse, on the project.

Retail businesses would remain on the floor that faces Public Square and in the basement of the J.B. Wise parking lot side of the building, Mr. Murray said.

The state Historic Preservation Office has told him that an existing, unusable elevator must remain intact, even though he plans to install a new one that would meet building codes.

“That’s just silly,” said board member and Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said after hearing that Thursday morning.

Plans call for a larger foyer for Public Square and a new entrance way with large windows for the parking lot side.

If all goes well, construction could begin next spring and be completed at the end of next year or early 2015.

Mr. Murray and Mrs. Schneider asked Advantage Watertown, a group of business and community leaders, for input about their ideas.

They agreed that it might make more financial sense to include rental housing. Board member Gary C. Beasley told them they could qualify for about $4 million in tax credits for the $12 million project if they follow historic standards.

The developers also plan to seek funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The Consolidated Funding Application is due Aug. 12. They can find out more about the process when the council holds a meeting in Watertown on June 28.

They are also talking to banks about helping with financing, Mr. Murray said.

To see architectural drawings of the building, visit http://url.wdt.net/LBSKETCH.

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