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City plans to demolish vacant Factory Street building

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Billy J. Seymour was relieved to hear the city will soon demolish a neighborhood eyesore near his automobile repair shop on Factory Street.

The city’s code enforcement and engineering offices recently inspected the former teen center at 429 Factory St. and concluded the vacant three-story building could collapse at any time, so it’s a safety hazard and should be torn down.

The city has worked out a deal with the building’s owner, WLP Properties LLC, Watertown, to donate the property to the city, which will pay the $36,000 for its demolition. Its current assessment is $32,400.

In exchange, the city will use the site for a sewer upgrade as part of an $8 million reconstruction of Factory Street next year.

But Mr. Seymour, who owns Two Guys Automotive at 413 Factory St., is just glad the dilapidated building soon will be no more.

“It’s the best thing the city can do,” he said, adding the building remains a hangout for kids who frequently go inside.

For the city, the property has become an important component of the Factory Street reconstruction. The city is in need of an easement to replace a storm sewer outfall to the Black River that runs directly underneath the Knowlton Technologies paper mill.

City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk figured the old teen center site could be the solution.

“It’s got to come down anyway,” he said.

On Monday night, the Watertown City Council unanimously approved the property transaction and plans for demolition. By using this method, the city will avoid a lengthy tax sale process to acquire the property, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said.

After the building is gone, the parcel will be turned into a small parking lot, Mr. Hauk said.

The building has been vacant for nearly a decade. It was sold to WLP Properties for $15,000 in 2003, with plans to refurbish the structure that were never realized. Years ago, it housed a hardware store.

In recent years, the structure was gutted and “stripped to its studs,” causing the building to deteriorate, Mr. Hauk said. About to collapse internally, the building leans to the east side and the rear portions of the first and second floors already have failed, he said.

“If we had a bad snowstorm this winter, it probably would have fallen down on its own,” he said.

Meanwhile, city officials are gearing up for the $8 million, half-mile reconstruction of Factory Street.

Design work has begun on the project, from the intersection of Mill Street and Public Square to Huntington Street. It will include replacing 120-year-old storm and sanitary sewers, sidewalks and other work.

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