COR outlines progress of Mercy Hospital project

COR Development Co. plans to start the first phase of construction at the former Mercy Hospital site this summer with 108 apartments and 30,000 square feet of commercial space.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. got his first look at the plans during an hour-long meeting on Monday with COR President Steven F. Aiello, who outlined the project between Stone and Arsenal streets and its planned time frame.

“I think you’re going to look back at this project as part of the revitalization of downtown,” Mayor Butler said afterward.

COR intends to submit site plans for the project to the city within six weeks, Mr. Aiello said. If all goes as planned, work will start this summer and take between 14 and 16 months to complete. The second phase, consisting of more rental housing, will most likely start before the completion of the first 108 units. In all, the project will consist of about 168 units. A community center also will be part of the project.

City officials have been anticipating news from COR since the Fayetteville development company completed the demolition of the former Mercy Hospital complex in September.

The demolition took longer than had been projected, due to some unanticipated environmental work that had to get finished before the 7-acre site could be shovel-ready, Mr. Aiello said. The project also was delayed after COR decided to acquire and tear down five nearby dilapidated homes and incorporate those parcels into the project, he added.

Plans have changed a bit from when the project was first announced three years ago. The commercial space and apartments will now be in separate buildings. Originally, plans called for commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second and third floors.

A two-story commercial building will front Arsenal Street, near the former Kelly Tire Store, with another one along Sherman Street that could include retail and office space.

“It’ll be market driven,” said Brian Maher, an associate broker with the development company.

Now, plans show that 36 one- and two-bedroom apartments will be located in each of the trio of three-story structures along Stone Street. The second phase will consist of rental housing on the west side of Stone Street, where Mercy’s parking lots had been. The entire site will encompass a little more than nine acres.

It will be 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable, as is the case with COR’s Beaver Meadow apartment complex built behind the Target store off Route 3 in the town of Watertown, Mr. Aiello said.

He’s not worried about what has turned into a soft rental market since 2,000 new units were added to the Watertown area in recent years to fill a need for housing for Fort Drum soldiers.

“We’re really going to be aggressive” in marketing the rental housing, he said, noting the company backed off on the initial number of units because of the market.

When it was first announced in 2013, COR announced it planned on 40,000 square feet of commercial space and between 160 and 200 apartments.

Saying that he’s excited about the project, Mayor Butler said he was impressed with the plans, especially with COR officials’ willingness to get input from the city. He also hopes the community center can be used by the St. Patrick’s Church parish.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, and City Manager Sharon A. Addison also met with Mr. Aiello and his two representatives. Mr. Mix said these plans are similar to what COR engineers showed city officials last summer.

To accommodate parking restrictions and make sure all of the spaces are on the site, the commercial buildings are shorter than originally planned, Mr. Mix said.

Once finished, the complex will be named Mercy Heights.

By Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times