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18 Aug 2015

Neighbors of Watertown Hopes to Renovate Four Apartment Buildings

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WATERTOWN — Four low-income senior citizen housing buildings in the city may undergo major improvements if Neighbors of Watertown Inc. is able to arrange for a new financial structure through the state.

It would be the first major upgrade in years for the housing complexes, which serve low-income seniors and disabled individuals, officials said.

Improvements would take place at Henry Keep Apartments at 206 State St., Olympic Apartments on Franklin Street, Centennial Apartments at 1010 Washington St. and Bugbee Apartments above the downtown Family Y facility, said Y Executive Director Peter W. Schmitt, who serves on the Henry Keep and Bugbee boards. About 250 units would be spruced up.

“They would get a refresh,” Mr. Schmitt said.

Officials involved in the venture said the renovations are needed, even though the buildings have been well maintained. Depending on the building, new carpeting and appliances would be installed and other repairs completed, Mr. Schmitt said.

If financing can be obtained, the work probably will take place next year.

The plan comes at a time when Neighbors also hopes to complete a $10 million renovation of the Brighton/Empsall Plaza Building on Court Street.

The local housing organization has been trying to obtain funding for that project for about a year.

Neighbors Executive Director Gary C. Beasley said he hopes to arrange new “tax treatment” for the buildings that would be beneficial for his organization and for the city.

Neighbors officials intend to submit an application with the state’s Housing Finance Agency to change how the financing is handled. They also are trying to sell housing tax credits to investors to finance the renovations.

The Henry Keep, Centennial and Bugbee properties are tax-exempt, while the others pay 5 percent of their gross rents annually to the city. Mr. Beasley hopes to get approval to pay 10 percent for all five. This year, the city was paid $26,026 for the Olympic and Brighton apartments, City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said.

“I see it as an investment by the community for the community,” Mr. Schmitt said.

While the city would receive more revenue, Neighbors would be able to take over the Centennial, Henry Keep and Bugbee properties from current owners and have more leverage to get refinancing for the projects, Mr. Phelps said.

Neighbors owns the Olympic and Brighton apartment buildings.