Condemned Watertown building being repaired

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Condemned more than a year ago, 661 Factory Street in Watertown could soon reopen to tenants. The goal is to get it all cleaned up in the next 30 days or so.

Last August, the city condemned the building, forcing people out of their homes. It put the spotlight on a homeless problem in the city.

“661 was the focus point starting last summer for what it is that nobody really understood what was going to unravel. And then we saw it,” said Watertown City Councilmember Cliff Olney.

It was the catalyst that started a larger conversation within the Watertown community: the issue of homelessness.

The property was condemned with the city’s code enforcement bureau citing bed bugs, and issues with electrical and plumbing.

Tenants were displaced and essentially created what was coined “tent city.” Meanwhile, the community rallied to drop off food and toiletries.

The building had been up for sale for quite some time, but now the owner has plans to reopen and, one by one, the problems are being thrown out the window.

Olney brought up the idea of fixing the property when he learned the building is eligible for state grant money in the future. Right now, private dollars are being invested in the property - about $10,000.

“They’re looking at doing, all of the carpets going to be pulled out, they’re going to put new laminate down. They’re going to paint everything. And then the outside of the building, it appears is going to be fixed up and cleaned up,” said Olney.

Jefferson County Director of Community Services Tim Ruetten tells 7 News, “Our community has a tremendous shortage of low-income housing as a result of many factors. I’m certainly supportive of any initiatives that will expand the accessibility to low-income/low-barrier housing.”

City Code Enforcement Officer Dana Aikens says the building has yet to be released from condemnation because the department still has to do the required inspections.

But Olney says sometimes it takes something like this for the city and county to learn a lesson.

“We need an emergency plan in place in order to accommodate people should there be a fire in a large structure like this or some other thing like what happened then. We don’t have that now. We need to look at that,” he said.

The owner of the building is Linda Mercer. Olney said she’s very happy the city is working with her to help reopen.