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JCIDA board mulls building office facility outside Watertown industrial center

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Blueprints for a new facility on Starbuck Avenue for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency were reviewed by the agency’s board of directors Thursday, along with two less costly alternatives for expanding inside the Watertown Industrial Center for Business and Industry.

With extra room needed to accommodate three employees who soon will join its staff, the agency recently hired Aubertine & Currier Architects to design plans.

Architect Patrick J. Currier presented board members with three options on Thursday: build a $700,000 structure on the vacant lot owned by the center north of the entrance to New York Air Brake, move into a $365,000 expanded space designed in Building B, next to its current space in Building A, or expand its current 2,200-square-foot space that has only five offices, which also would cost about $365,000.

At 3,400 square feet larger than the JCIDA’s current space, the new brick building would be south of the industrial center at the vacant lot in front of the Air Brake powerhouse building. The lot already includes a separate entrance off Starbuck Avenue.

The building’s design features eight offices, an expanded boardroom, auxiliary conference room, waiting area and separate restrooms for the public and employees. Offices line the perimeter of the building to offer window space to all the rooms.

The blueprint for the office proposed at Building B also calls for 3,400 extra square feet and eight offices. It would be at the front of the building in the space next to Converse Laboratories, which is occupied by Environmental Spill Products. The latter company would have to relocate if the agency chooses this plan, but it wouldn’t affect two other tenants in the rear of the building, Ferguson Waterworks and Upstate Testing.

The third option, the least popular among board members, calls for a 900-square-foot addition at the rear of the agency’s current office, providing space for three additional offices and an auxiliary conference room. The additional 2,500 square feet of renovated space would include an expanded boardroom, a larger reception area and a public restroom. Mr. Currier warned there could be unforeseen costs involved with the plan, because it includes knocking out several walls.

Board members clashed on which plan would best suit the agency. W. Edward Walldroff suggested that the extra expense of building the a facility could be outweighed by the benefit of tenants that move into the agency’s current space.

“To me, the main concern is if this office here could be rolled over and used by someone else,” Mr. Walldroff said. “Because with the demands that this complex is now being used for, the office space right now is substandard. If this is possible, I’d jump the other two options in a heartbeat” and choose the new building, he said.

JCIDA board President David J. Converse disagreed.

“I have a hard time putting $700,000 toward a new building if we can take the existing facility and put in $350,000,” Mr. Converse said. “I think we could put those dollars to better use for economic development.”

Donald C. Alexander, agency CEO, said another option could be to sublet space from the new building and put that income toward the project.

“We could look at the new facility as a type of a duplex, where part of the facility could be rented out to recoup some of the cost,” he said.

William J. Soluri, the industrial center’s site manager, said there are two businesses that have expressed interest in moving into the JCIDA’s current space if it elects to leave.

“I believe it could be great for a startup company,” he said. “The agency has helped us bring in quite a few tenants here, and I would love to see a new building built if they can make that happen.”

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