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Sat., Aug. 29
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Community, business leaders tour vacant Masonic Temple


About a dozen community and business leaders learned more on Tuesday about Garrett L. McCarthy’s plans for the crumbling Masonic Temple in Watertown.

Mr. McCarthy led a tour of the nearly century-old landmark he owns at 242 Washington St. to explain his idea to convert the vacant structure into a performing arts center. He was joined by Jefferson Community College President Carole A. McCoy, City Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr., Jefferson County Historical Society Executive Director William G. Wood, local developer Donald G.M. Coon III and others to look at the building’s condition and what he envisions for the space.

Mrs. McCoy, who had never been inside the building before Tuesday, said that she was impressed with the structure and that she could see how the first floor could be turned into “an artists in residence” studio.

Mr. McCarthy has said that he hopes to get JCC involved in the project. Two JCC administrators recently went through the building to see if it could fit into the college’s plans for the future.

While talks are preliminary and progress depends on Mr. McCarthy’s success in obtaining funding for the building’s restoration, Mrs. McCoy said the college may be interested in becoming “a minor tenant.”

“It’s way too early to comment, but we think it’s a great project with a lot of potential,” she said.

Before the tour, Mr. McCarthy said his concept includes getting colleges and universities throughout the state to participate in the performing arts center. He already has approached Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor about that university’s involvement.

Mr. McCarthy, who has started to work on public and private financial support for the project, has said it would take about $5 million to restore the building.

He also has enlisted the help of friend and Baltimore developer L. Paul Bryant, a part-time Henderson resident, as a consultant for the project.

After researching and studying the building, Mr. Bryant said, he believes a performing arts center would be the perfect fit. It also would fill a need in the north country, he said.

Mr. McCarthy also envisions turning the vacant parish house at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St., into an arts and educational center.

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