Lincoln Building designed to become first ‘green’ building on Public Square

Advantage Watertown members look over the vacant Lincoln Building earlier this year. The building’s renovation plans include a number of cutting-edge energy saving measures, and a rooftop patio with plants. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Advantage Watertown members look over the vacant Lincoln Building earlier this year. The building’s renovation plans include a number of cutting-edge energy saving measures, and a rooftop patio with plants. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Developers have submitted a state grant application with initiatives to make the Lincoln Building on Public Square a paragon of green energy — showcasing naturally lit rooms, a rainwater harvesting system, solar panels and a rooftop patio with plants.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification is being sought by developers Washington Street Properties LLC and Purcell Construction for the building, which would make it the only downtown structure to accomplish such a feat.

The energy proposal will be part of a $12.8 million redevelopment project that calls for 18 rental apartments on the two upper floors and a business incubator on the second floor, along with office and commercial spaces in the five-story building. It is co-owned by Brian H. Murray, owner of Washington Street Properties, and Mark S. Purcell, owner of Purcell Construction.

Planners say the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will visit the site in December to review what energy initiatives might be eligible for funding. A project summary prepared by the Wladis Law Firm, East Syracuse, shows a complete overhaul of the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems is planned. That will include the installation of high-efficiency boilers and heat pumps, efficient lighting and water-reducing plumbing fixtures. Insulation may be installed to tighten the building’s energy envelope and preserve heat, while floor-to-ceiling windows on its north and south sides will be improved for additional protection and energy efficiency.

The rainwater harvesting and reuse system, in combination with new plumbing fixtures, is expected to reduce water consumption by more than 200,000 gallons per year — potentially 50 percent of total consumption. Precipitation will flow from the building’s rooftop into large holding tanks, where it then will be used to operate toilets and in bathrooms.

“Watertown has a significant amount of precipitation every year, and we think this is a creative way to save energy and water,” said Alison M. Williams, CEO of Washington Street Properties.

About half of the rooftop will be devoted to solar panels under the plan, Ms. Williams said. That array of photovoltaic panels will generate about 25 kilowatts per year, offsetting about 3 percent of the building’s electrical demand.

On the other half of the roof, a patio has been designed to create an open-air relaxation space for tenants.

Varieties of potted plants and greenery will provide shade and absorb excessive amounts of carbon dioxide that rise in the air, reducing effects of air pollution.

“We wanted to find a way to make the rooftop an amenity because of its view on Public Square,” Ms. Williams said. “We decided it will likely be about 50 percent solar, and the other half will be a rooftop sanctuary. The plants reduce carbon dioxide and add another layer of insulation, because we’re using less energy to heat and cool the building.”

To enhance natural lighting, a large, abandoned light shaft that runs through the middle of the building will provide natural light to interior spaces on floors two through five; interior windows and glass panes will be renovated to take advantage of the shaft.

As a result, no interior space will be more than 30 feet away from a natural light source. Mr. Murray said the vast amount of interior lighting will dramatically reduce electricity costs.

“With the Lincoln Building, we have an unusually large amount of window square-footage compared to most historical buildings,” he said. “The exterior windows cover the entire wall of the space, so when you add the light shaft in the darker spot in the middle, you’re able to provide natural light into the whole space.”

The developers also have sought about $3 million in state grant funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council; recipients will be announced in December.

Though it wasn’t named as a priority project this fall by the council, planners are hopeful it still could be awarded funding.

If it doesn’t, Mr. Murray said, the construction timeline will be extended.

“The scope could change somewhat, but we would just have to revisit the timeline and do things one step at a time,” he said. “The important thing is that we’re committed to this project and are moving forward in the springtime. We’re going to do this in a way that everyone in the city can be proud of.”

Purcell Construction will lead the construction as the general contractor, while Washington Street Properties will market the site to prospective tenants and serve as the building’s landlord.

Christina J. Schneider, chief financial officer for Purcell, said the partnership has enabled developers to plan the project efficiently.

“It’s a great match working with Brian Murray, because we can build and his group can operate and manage the building,” Mrs. Schneider said. “We’re anxious to get the project moving.”

Developers also are seeking state and federal tax credits to fund 15 percent of the total project cost, while Neighbors of Watertown has applied for New York Main Street and Urban Initiative grants that could contribute up to $250,000.

Mr. Murray and Mr. Purcell purchased the Lincoln Building in December from a Long Island corporation for $500,000.

It now consists of nine storefronts, 17 offices and 16 apartments on the upper floors.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times