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Possible prospect interested in Mercy nursing home property

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A developer has expressed interest in acquiring and redeveloping the soon-to-be-vacant Mercy Care Center of Northern New York complex on Stone Street.

Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., said Thursday that an unidentified developer approached his contact at GE Capital, the lien holder of the massive complex, with interest in redeveloping the series of buildings.

Recently, Joseph Pandroni, the GE Capital representative from the Bethesda, Md., office, told him that preliminary research indicates the prospect seems to have the ability to take on such a large project, Mr. Rutherford said.

Mr. Pandroni would not tell him much about the prospect because of his concern “it would interrupt the flow of negotiations,” Mr. Rutherford said. Mr. Pandroni could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mr. Rutherford reported the development at the WLDC board’s Thursday morning meeting.

“It’s good news because it would take us out as the middleman,” he said afterward.

The WLDC, also called the Watertown Trust, and city officials have been worried about the fate of the complex once Samaritan Medical Center vacates the property in the next few weeks and moves into the new 288-bed nursing home and assisted-living center on outer Washington Street.

The unnamed prospect is the first to come from Mr. Rutherford’s working relationship with the GE contact. Several months ago, a Rochester developer looked at the property but then showed no interest.

In recent months, Mr. Rutherford has been working with the GE Capital representative to see whether the lien holder of the complex will help in its reuse.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said he does not know much about the current prospect, except the little information presented at Thursday’s WLDC board meeting.

“It’s good to see that a private developer is interested,” he said later.

Mr. Rutherford had hoped to get GE Capital to sell the mortgage on the complex to the WLDC. If the mortgage were acquired, the development corporation could put together a feasibility study, which would be an important tool to entice a developer. The study would show the best use for the property, part of which probably would be demolished even if redevelopment becomes possible.

But with this latest development, getting a feasibility study completed has been put on the back burner, Mr. Rutherford said.

The five Stone Street buildings that make up the complex remain the property of MGNH Inc., which could complicate redevelopment efforts. MGNH, the former Mercy Hospital’s parent company in Lake Katrine in Ulster County, has shown no interest in the property for years. City officials have tried to communicate with MGNH about the situation.

First hoping to move out this month and then in March, Samaritan does not know exactly when that will happen. Mercy officials still are waiting for word from the state when the nursing home can close.

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