COR continues work on redeveloping Mercy Hospital site

The remaining rubble that was once Mercy Hospital on Stone Street in Watertown is expected to be cleared in about six weeks. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

The remaining rubble that was once Mercy Hospital on Stone Street in Watertown is expected to be cleared in about six weeks. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

WATERTOWN — Three years ago, city officials and business leaders anguished that the mammoth complex that made up the old Mercy Hospital would sit idle for years, continue to deteriorate and the city would eventually end up getting stuck with it.

But then COR Development came to the rescue and took over the sprawling property between Arsenal and Stone streets in 2013.

The Fayetteville company, which has a property portfolio that includes the Syracuse, Rochester, Southern Tier and Albany areas, has been working on redeveloping the former hospital site into a mixture of residential units and commercial space that will become the center of the downtown renaissance.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he believes the $65 million to $70 million project will transform downtown forever.

“When I look at what was there and what is there is now, I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Just chunks of concrete and pieces of metal remain at the east of the end of the sprawling site. In about six weeks, the last of the remnants of the hospital should be gone and demolition work should be finished. That work was delayed some because of the long winter.

COR President Steven F. Aiello said last week, however, that the second phase of the design work continues and his company should submit plans to the city in about four to six months.

“We’re pretty close,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year or at the beginning of next, he said. It will take about 14 months to finish, with completion set for late 2016 or early 2017. Once finished, the complex — making up between 160 to 200 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of commercial space — will be named Mercy Heights, to honor the hospital’s history and importance to the community, Mr. Aiello said.

With work occurring in phases, the Arsenal and Sherman street sides of the development are slated to begin first and the Stone side and South Massey components completed later, he explained. Commercial, medical and office space will be on the ground floors and residential units above it.

“There’s already significant interest on Arsenal and Sherman streets,” he said, adding that the “interested parties” run the gamut of potential commercial and office tenants that would like to locate in “an urban setting.”

The residential units will be finished first, however, because it will be easier to fill up that space, he explained. Based on the same formula it’s using for Beaver Meadows complex behind the Target store in the town of Watertown, between 20 and 30 percent will be affordable housing and the remainder market-rate, he said.

“The strategy has been very successful,” Mr. Aiello said, adding that the last of the three buildings in the 296-unit Beaver Meadows complex will be finished by the fall.

Some of the old bricks from Mercy Hospital and other artifacts, like the large silver cross that adorned the front of the building, have been saved and is expected to be incorporated into the design.

COR also acquired five dilapidated houses on the other side of Stone Street and already began tearing them down.

The multi-unit buildings have sat deteriorating for a number of years, City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said.

“The neighborhood is already looking better,” he said.


By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer