Sometime before the end of the year, Jamestown residents will see the newest addition to downtown when the renovated Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station opens.
It's the latest in a long line of new additions since 2000.
Over the past 10 years, downtown development projects totaling more than $24 million, not including various grants and loans, have sprung up downtown. Projects have included new buildings and businesses, restoration to older buildings, facade work, increased parking and upgrades.
The illustration above shows major changes to downtown since the completion of the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
P-J illustration by John Whittaker
According to Steve Centi, director of development for the city, the work is not done yet.
"As I look at the horizon in terms of what could happen, I look at buildings the Arcade Building, I look at buildings like the Federal Building, what it could be in the hands of somebody who has a good track record," Centi said.
CHADAKOIN BUILDING AND
DR. LILLIAN VITANZA?NEY
Where the Chadakoin building now stands on the corner of Washington and Third Streets used to be, at one time, a Bigelow's Department Store.
"It had like three different buildings, three different stories, and it was just a disaster, When you looked at it, it looked like a bombed-out building, right on the corner of Washington and Third," Centi said.
The city used $500,000 of what Centi called seed money, to help stimulate development. The project was one of the first partnerships between the city and other organizations.
"CODE incorporated, you had the federal government through HUD and the Housing Authority all kind of sharing co-ownership, and then eventually transferring over to the housing authority exclusively. That was something that took a nasty-looking building, and turned it into something very, very unique," Centi said.
Currently, the Chadakoin building is home to housing, as well as the TEAM Teenage Education and Motherhood program.
Another building that needed improvement was the building that currently hosts the Dr. Lilian Ney Renaissance Center.
"It sat there for years and years and years as a vacant structure, until somebody decided 'Well, we'll buy it,'" Centi said.
The Renaissance Center has had facade work down to improve the overall look of the building. Additionally, it houses the headquarters of the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation.
JAMESTOWN SAVINGS BANK ARENA
Around the turn of the century, Centi said that there was discussion among the city to expand the ice capabilities in Jamestown.
The city had several sites in mind for building a new ice rink. One of the ideas was the old Evan's Skateland building, where the storage facility is currently being put in. Space at Jamestown Community College was also considered.
"The discussion started about how to provide the greatest impact by our involvement in this project," Centi said.
Building the ice arena downtown required taking out a block and a half of properties, as well as moving a street.
"The Gebbie Foundation agreed, along with some of the other foundations when they had the discussions, to cover any operating revenue shortfalls. It's a different concept than most downtown ice rinks, which might be municipally owned and eventually almost always supported by the taxpayers," Centi said.
The building of the ice arena helped to begin other programs, such as a facade program, to help boost the look of the area.
BEST WESTERN & BWB CENTER
After acquiring more land in the area around the ice arena, the city marketed it. Soon, a hotel developer came into the picture, and proposed an 80- to 100-room hotel.
"Immediately, this made sense, because we need more hotel rooms in the downtown core, it's a limited service hotel, you had the full-service hotel in the Holiday Inn," Centi said.
There was some chaos surrounding what would actually be built in the space where the Best Western now sits. Two hotels and another downtown business owner had differing ideas of what would be built.
"What we got was the Best Western Hotel, which, in itself was a decent project," Centi said.
Additionally, the empty lot across the street from the Best Western was developed into the BWB Center, which hosts the law offices of Buffamante, Whipple and Buttafaro, PC, as well as military recruitment offices.
"We had the BWB Center that came in. That was something that utilized that (land) in a different manner than maybe what was originally proposed, but it was a taxable development, and it was a new professional office," Centi said.
Many other projects have occurred downtown and in the surrounding area, such as in Brooklyn Square to the Riverwalk Center, which Centi said he considers to be an extension of downtown.
"I've driven across the state, and I've seen Ames buildings sitting in empty plazas that literally have no cars in them, they are dead facilities. It could've been the same here. Or, we could have brought in another retailer. Then, it just becomes just what it was: A revolving door of retailers versus a medical facility basically owned by a group of local physicians, that will be there for decades," Centi said.
Other improvements to the downtown have included an increase to housing options. Previously, there had been been an abundance of subsidized housing and housing for senior citizens. Now, market-rate housing has been developed downtown, with more to come.
"The objective is to bring more young professionals and other people, maybe empty-nesters who now don't want a house, but want to live in an urban environment, and everything that goes along with residential living downtown," Centi said.
Additionally, alleys have been cleaned up in the downtown area, street lighting has been improved and more than 800 new parking spaces have been created. A facade program has been put into place to help restore buildings downtown. The program has also expanded to neighborhoods throughout Jamestown.
Buildings, such as the Willow Bay Center, have been improved upon. Meanwhile, others, such as the Winter Garden Theatre, have been torn down and replaced by more appealing options.
All of the projects have been done by using local, state and federal funding, as well as grants and funding from area organizations.
ON THE HORIZON
"Before, the dependence was primarily on private owners to (fix their business up) on their own, and maybe to have the city throw in some assistance to do it. But, that wasn't enough. It wasn't enough for government to be the sole driver," Centi said.
Now, a variety of organizations are stepping up to help fund improvement programs throughout the city, especially in the downtown area.
"From 2000 to now, we've lost over 40 percent of our (Community Development Block Grant) and our home program allocations. Even though, from a governmental standpoint and the money that we have available to assist with these projects, we continue to do it, but we may not be able to do it at the same level. But, that gap has been filled by other sources," Centi said.
The city will be reapplying for several grants at the state and federal level in the near future, to keep the funding for development projects coming.
"The state stepped up and the federal government stepped up and the foundations have stepped up in a huge way to do things that other communities are envious of," Centi said.