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The Upstate Economy

Watertown Mayor plans to compete in state downtown 'Hunger Games'

Julia Botero
Watertown Mayor Joe Butler says he'd like to attract people downtown on evenings and weekends and state money could help.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is introducing a new Hunger Games-style competition, this time aimed at downtown revitalization. Struggling communities in regions across the state will compete for their share of $100 million. Watertown’s mayor thinks his city has what it takes to compete.

A shrinking population? Check. A struggling economy? Check.

But Watertown’s' downtown development hasn't been all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite. The old Woolworth building was renovated into apartments. Mercy Hospital was torn down and a mixed-use building is going up in its place.

Mayor Joe Butler says those are just highlights in the city's efforts to breathe new life into downtown. He says $10 million from the state won’t hurt.

“The developers will build the buildings. And refurbish and renovate buildings.  This money won’t do that I don’t believe. But it’s going to help people see a brighter future and put an overall long term plan for what we want to the downtown to be," he said.

Butler says with this award money will also come brain power. Each of the 10 winning communities will get a team of community planners and policy experts. He says they could help figure out how to spruce up Watertown’s assets, like the Black River.

“You have a giant concrete wall that separates the river from the downtown area. It’s beautiful once you get down there but its unattractive in between and that’s the stuff we need to clean up.”

Butler says he’s putting together a team of local brain power to come up with a comprehensive plan that he says could win. It would stimulate small business growth, expand housing and improve streets.