Construction on downtown Watertown senior home could begin soon

Construction of the planned senior housing development on the new extension of the south end of Lewis Avenue could begin as soon as this fall.

City planner Luke Fischer said no development agreement is yet finalized, but that a few components and pieces are beginning to come together. Fischer said a lot of work is going into the development agreement and that it is taking awhile to come together, but that the city is expecting the developer to submit plans and specs as part of that process within a matter of weeks. Several agenda items at the last city council meeting also noted that work is anticipated to begin this fall.

Fischer said he didn’t know exactly when construction would begin, and that the timetable is dependent on the site plan process. However, it appears that project could begin sooner rather than later after the city council began to discuss the possibility of delaying final road improvements associated with Lewis Avenue —  originally scheduled for 2012 — until next year.

The only work left to be completed on the street portion of the redevelopment project is some curb and gutter work, sidewalks, and the final lift of pavement. However, city staff has looked into delaying those small projects until 2013 so that the work would not be damaged by potential construction on the facility. The concern is that heavy construction trucks and machinery might damage the pavement and curb sections, so it might be better to wait until after the building project is complete.

Ultimately, the city council decided on Aug. 13 to wait until its next meeting— which was held Tuesday evening — to decide whether to wait on the final road work, so it could better understand the financial implications involved in delaying the project. The contractor for the road portion of the project, William Mueller and Sons, is open to the idea of delaying the project, but has requested unit changes for the remaining work to reflect the increased cost of performing the work in 2013. It appears the additional cost of delaying the work until next year would be only $2,500.

Whenever the street portions are actually completed, it appears work on the senior housing development will begin soon. The developer for that project is Rice Lake Development, which has been working with Prairie River Home Nursing, which would operate the new facility. Fischer said it was encouraging for the city that it knows who will be operating the senior facility once it is complete, something that isn’t always the case with new developments.

“They’ve been working through the development process together,” Fischer said of Rice Lake Development and Prairie River Home Nursing. “The exciting part from the city’s perspective is we know who will be operating it once the construction is complete. They’re involved in the building investment and putting down permanent roots in our community.”