JRC Eyes Next Step In Revitalization Program

Far right, Mary Maxwell, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation neighborhood project manager, discusses the new Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 program that will be starting in 2019. The program will last for five years and focus on four transitional zones in the city. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

With more than $900,000 in private investments made to the exterior property improvements throughout Jamestown, officials with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation want to expand its Renaissance Block Challenge program.

On Monday, JRC board members and staff discussed the new Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 with Jamestown City Council. Mary Maxwell, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation neighborhood project manager, said they will still be doing the original program in 2018, with the 2.0 version starting in 2019.

Len Faulk, JRC board co-chairman, said the JRC earlier this year hired czb LLC to do a study on what was happening with Jamestown neighborhoods since the Renaissance Block Challenge program started in 2011.

According to the Housing Market Analysis and Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy report, Faulk said the board discovered property values increased 5 percent in areas of the city with “intense involvement” in improving the look of neighborhoods.

“The plan for the future is a very ambitious plan,” Faulk said.

Faulk said czb has concluded that four areas of the city located in transitional zones between strong and weak housing markets should be the focus to improve housing throughout the city. One area is in the northside of the city around Lakeview Avenue area along North Main Street; the second area is the western gateway around Fairmount, Hall and Livingston avenues; the third area is located around Hazeltine/Forest avenues; and the fourth area being around Allen Park and UPMC Chautauqua WCA along Foote Avenue.

Maxwell said in each focus area they want to start the new Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 that will be a five-year commitment that will aggressively abate or remove blighted properties; prioritized street maintenance and tree planting; and have targeted code enforcement. She said JRC officials are hoping to partner with the city; Chautauqua Opportunities Inc.; CODE; CHRIC; the Chautauqua County Land Bank; and Habitat for Humanity on the new Renaissance Block Challenge program.

Maxwell said through the first six years of the Renaissance Block Challenge program, the JRC used $375,000 in matching grants that leveraged $900,000 in private investments from property owners in exterior home improvements. If you included this year’s participants, 35 neighborhood clusters and more than 350 properties have participated in the program.

Marie Carrubba, Ward 4 councilwoman and Housing Committee chairwoman, said it is a great idea to make a longer commitment in each of the neighborhoods participating in the Renaissance Block Challenge. Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor and JRC co-chairman, said the Renaissance Block Challenge program works because it gets citizens involved in a grassroots movement through private investment to improve their own property and neighborhood.

“What (the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation is) doing is not only helpful, but is absolutely essential,” Teresi said.

Maxwell said the JRC has posted the housing report on their website, jamestownrenaissance.org.

Pre-applications for neighborhoods interested in participating in the 2018 Renaissance Block Challenge program will be available on JRC’s website, under “Healthy Neighborhoods” starting Monday, Oct. 2. The pre-applications will be due Friday, Dec. 8. City residents who would like to participate in the Renaissance Block Challenge need to form a neighborhood cluster with a minimum of five property owners that can include homeowners, landlords and businesses.