JCC moving forward with plans for downtown Watertown facility

The former Club Rio building and others on Franklin Street
The former Club Rio building and others on Franklin Street(WWNY)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 5:24 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson Community College is set to bring a presence to downtown Watertown.

The college will use $2.5 million of state money to turn a former nightclub space on Franklin Street into an entrepreneurship education and training center.

It will include flexible meeting facilities to host workshops, classes and educational events. Also, the Small Business Development Center on campus now will move downtown.

The following is a news release from JCC:

On December 1, 2021, Jefferson Community College’s (JCC) Board of Trustees approved a resolution to advance a new plan for the $2.5 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funds awarded to the College by New York State in 2018. JCC will collaborate with Neighbors of Watertown to restore the buildings at 124 - 136 Franklin Street and develop a facility dedicated to entrepreneurship education and training.

College President Ty A. Stone stated, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the College has sought a larger role in the recovery efforts of this region. I believe this project will serve that purpose. We appreciate the dedication of New York State and their confidence in Jefferson’s ability to develop a solid plan for the funding. We are additionally grateful for the commitment of Neighbors of Watertown and the hard work put forth by our staff to find a way to bring this project to life for the City of Watertown and the small businesses in Jefferson County.”

In fall of 2020, the unknown impact of the pandemic supported the College’s decision to decline the funding. However, over the last year, the College has been able to reopen for in-person learning and campus services, making it possible to forge ahead with strategic initiatives. The College has been working closely with New York State to determine the best path forward. A collaboration with Neighbors of Watertown presented a new opportunity for the College to revisit the project. With Neighbors of Watertown handling the purchase of the building and assisting with renovations, JCC’s concept for an entrepreneurial space was logistically within reach.

The goal of the project is to create an educational hub for aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses. The facility will house Watertown’s Small Business Development Center, which provides training and individualized consultations, as well as a collaborative shared workspace, the first of its kind in Jefferson County. The space will also include flexible meeting facilities to host workshops, classes and educational events. Neighbors of Watertown Executive Director Reginald Schweitzer stated, “We look forward to working with Jefferson Community College on the redevelopment of these properties that we feel are the next step of a downtown transformation. JCC and the SBDC will be strategic partners in fostering new businesses with the opportunity to succeed in downtown Watertown”.

Elizabeth Lonergan, Regional Center Director for the Watertown Small Business Development Center, remarked, “We are excited to offer our small business clients services from a purposefully designed space that will enable innovative programming and spark collaborative endeavors region-wide.” Small businesses made up over 50% of the North Country payroll and receipts as reported in a 2016 report from the Office of the State Comptroller.

The building renovation is expected to begin in 2022 with the facility tentatively planned to open early in 2023.

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