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New owner of Watertown’s Empsall building willing to consider new mural

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WATERTOWN — Vina Aileen C. Bonner has not closed the door on giving an artist a second chance to create another mural on the portion of Empsall Plaza she recently purchased.

On Thursday, Mrs. Bonner said she would be willing to talk to muralist Jason E. Brown about replacing the three-story mural he created five years ago after she has the existing one removed from the building.

But the local businesswoman said she’s not making a commitment to the Denver artist about creating a new one in its place.

“The mural is the least of my concerns,” Mrs. Bonner said Thursday, adding she’s too busy working on her plans for the building.

Mrs. Bonner acquired the building from Florida lending company Bayview Loan Servicing LLC, for $132,000. She plans to open FunScape, an indoor children’s play area, in a portion of Empsall Plaza near where Velocity, a similar business, closed in July. She intends to complete a $624,000 renovation on that section of the building.

As part of her plans to renovate the back section of the former department store, Mrs. Bonner said, she intended to erase the mural and restore the wall to its original brick. While in Watertown over the weekend, Mr. Brown said he would like a second chance at completing a mural.

He said earlier this week he was sorry to hear the mural soon will be gone from the downtown landscape.

In recent days, Mrs. Bonner said, she has talked to Mr. Brown’s cousin about replacing the mural symbolizing Watertown’s association with Fort Drum.

Since she announced her intentions two weeks ago, many residents have voiced their dislike for the mural, while public-art enthusiasts have come forward in support of Mr. Brown’s creation.

In 2009, he was hired by the building’s former owner, Psychedelic Entertainment LLC, Englewood, Calif., to create a mural on the 4,600-square-foot stucco wall and dedicate it to Jefferson County, the Afghanistan war and soldiers fighting for freedom. Facing the J.B. Wise parking lot, it depicts two soldiers and a peace sign near a river with a bright orange sun blazing in the background.

Neighbors of Watertown Inc. bought the other two sections of Empsall Plaza and plans to renovate them for commercial space.

Mr. Brown now owns his own business, Be Free Artistry. He has done about three dozen murals across the country during the past five years.

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