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Maple Courts Apartments renovation stalled


City officials figured that a $2 million project to renovate Maple Courts Apartments was moving forward after receiving a letter from the state indicating that the owner would receive low-income tax credits to help finance it.

Not so fast.

Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, said he does not know whether the project is moving forward after not hearing from the Related Cos., New York City, about its involvement in renovating 92 units on Weldon Drive.

“I don’t know anything,” Mr. Alexander said Wednesday, adding that he had “not heard a word.”

It may be that the Related Cos.’ interest in the Watertown project has taken a back seat to a more noteworthy project: It broke ground Tuesday on a 46-story, $1 billion office tower on the west side of Manhattan. The building is the first of many that will comprise Hudson Yards, a commercial-residential project that will be one of the largest undertaken in New York City.

Three weeks ago, Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham received a letter from the state division of Homes & Community Renewal announcing that the Related Cos. was awarded the low-income tax credits. The Related Cos. planned to purchase the 40-year-old affordable-housing apartment complex for $3.1 million and use the tax credits to find investors to help fund the project.

In September, the Watertown City Council rejected a request for a tax-abatement package for the project because members said they could not justify the tax breaks to constituents. Allison H. Kunis, vice president of the Related Cos., said then that this would kill the project.

In response, council members said she should go back to the owner and negotiate a better deal, since the property was assessed at $1,549,700, or about half of what the company was going to pay to buy it.

Sources have said they believe the deal fell through after further negotiations failed to lower the sale price.

Ms. Kunis did not return numerous calls to comment on the project.

The current owner of the property is listed as Maple Courts Apts., but Brian S. Phelps, city assessor, said he has learned the property is owned by descendants of Henry Ford. No other information was available about the owners or how to reach them.

As for the tax credits, Mr. Alexander surmised that the Related Cos. applied for them before knowing the renovations would not be completed.

Ms. Kunis had proposed a 30-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangement that would include a $24,000 payment for the first year and subsequent 3 percent annual increases. In the end, council members rejected two counterproposals.

In July, JCIDA agreed to support the Maple Courts project and issue up to $4.8 million in tax-exempt bonds.

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