The marvelous $7.4 million restoration of the historic Wellman building into an apartment complex follows on what young professionals have already been doing to remake downtown Jamestown to their liking.
Their support has propelled particularly favorite downtown restaurants and coffee shops- Forte, Jones 212, the Labyrinth Press Co., Cibo, for example - to popularity. Too, impatient to move things along and ensure their interests are represented in events and activities, they started their own organization - Jamestown Now.
The new, higher-end housing in the Wellman building at Third and Cherry fits right in with their vision of what downtown should and could be. The Wellman building also represents a leap of faith in that it is the first large-scale project to add a substantial number of higher-end apartments downtown.
''This happens because people are coming together, working together, and that's the secret to what's turning around downtown Jamestown,'' says Mayor Sam Teresi.
Yes, and the Wellman building project is also a refreshing change from the focus on tourism as an economic development goal for the area. While we inevitably attract tourists to our area and are so very thankful to have them here, the fact is, the businesses at which they tend to spend their money just do not produce the types of jobs that add robust fuel to our local economy.
At $70 million annually, the wages earned by employees in tourism-related businesses are an important part of our total economy - about 5 percent of all private-sector wages. However, of the 19 major private-sector job classifications in the census of employment and wages in Chautauqua County, the arts, entertainment and recreation industry and the accommodation and food service sector have the lowest average wages for employees.
Tourism is an important part of the mix, as we said, but it is not the engine that sustains the vitality of our local economy.
The sorts of construction jobs that went into transforming the Wellman building into an apartment complex, however, are the very essence of those that keep the local economy humming.
So, what's next for downtown?