Downtown Perception Needs A Makeover

Downtown Jamestown is seeing another spurt of investment.

Little by little, pieces of the city’s past are being redeveloped to bring the city a new future. New York state has been a willing partner, pouring money into the National Comedy Center, the former M&T Bank building on Third and Washington streets, the former Key Bank on Second and Main streets and $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding. Private investors are working to bring new uses to the former W.T. Grant Department store and the old HSBC Bank on Second and Main streets.

All of that work, however, would be for naught if people didn’t feel safe coming downtown. It is good to hear that downtown business owners say safety isn’t a concern for them when contacted recently by The Post-Journal. ”We’ve been robbed a couple times and we’ve caught people trying to steal, but, as far as safety, I feel safe where we are,” said Andrew Anderson, owner of the Brick City market and Brick City Spirits. ”I feel safe as far as how I normally go to my car or into the store. I haven’t felt threatened at night or anything like that.”

Some had thought a rash of shootings late last year was keeping people from coming downtown. Such perceptions are the price to be paid for crime related to the trafficking of illegal drugs in Jamestown. It turns out safety may be the least of downtown’s problems.

Downtown still has issues to deal with before the millions of dollars in investment pays dividends. Parking can still be a mess even though there are plenty of spaces. Visibility at some intersections is a problem during times of peak business activity. Downtown still needs more destinations and events that keep foot traffic downtown later into the evening. There are still too many empty storefronts. All of these problems are relatively easily fixed with investment, time and public policy changes. Brick and mortar are easier to work with than people’s perception.

Those tasked with creating the downtown of the future are doing a good job with the brick and mortar. Now, it’s time to turn their attention to changing perception.