City, Chautauqua County Projects Vying For State Funding
There are several projects in the city of Jamestown and throughout Chautauqua County that will be vying for state funding later this month through the Regional Economic Development Council program.
In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo established 10 regional councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for its region. The councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government and non-governmental organizations.
Since 2011, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has received a total of $425.2 million in funding for economic development projects. Last year, Chautauqua County received more than $9 million for 23 projects through the REDC program, the most it has received during the first seven rounds of the program. The county received $4.7 million for 23 projects in 2016; $7.7 million for 27 projects in 2015; $3.8 million in 2014; $3 million in 2013; $1.475 million in 2012; and $5.2 million in 2011.
Now in the eighth round, more funding could be awarded to city and county officials for projects aimed at improving economic development in the region. In October, the Western New York council released its list of priority projects. Of the 16 priority projects in the region, four are based in Chautauqua County. These projects include the Welch’s Building Redevelopment, the White Inn, AgriAmerica and riverfront property development in Jamestown.
“I believe we have a quarter of the priority projects of the eight county region. I think that is a testament to the quality projects we’ve put forth,” said County Executive George Borrello. “We have a lot of quality projects. It was certainly great to see that.”
The transformation of the former Welch’s building in Westfield into a multiuse structure with commercial, retail and residential units aligns with the region’s smart growth principles. The proposed project would preserve and repurpose a historic structure, helps revive the downtown district and encourages investment in an underutilized building. The 48,000-square-foot building was the former headquarters of Welch’s Foods until the 1980s when Welch’s moved its headquarters out of state and sold the building, leaving it three-quarters empty. The town of Westfield acquired the property in 2014 to preserve and stabilize it. The proposed renovation includes updating or replacing building mechanicals, windows and roofing; addressing accessibility; and reconstructing the interior to create much needed commercial and retail on the first floor, and residences on the second and third floors.
“Once the Welch’s building was identified as a project, we wanted to get involved in the redevelopment of that building,” Borrello said. “Westfield has done an amazing job to revitalize the downtown area. They are at critical mass to attract more people, businesses and commerce.”
Borrello said earlier this year county officials approved moving the Planning and Economic Development department to be located on the first floor of the building, with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency having a satellite office as well.
“We wanted to be closer to all communities. Now we will have resources in Jamestown, Westifield and Dunkirk. It is important to be spread across the county.”
The White Inn project located in the village of Fredonia will help transform the facility into an attractive destination for visitors of the State University at Fredonia. The Faculty Student Association of SUNY Fredonia seeks to acquire and renovate the historic White Inn in downtown Fredonia and reopen it as a boutique hotel, restaurant and banquet facility. The inn is crucial for transforming the village into a true university town that leverages the assets of SUNY Fredonia, attracts businesses and retains Fredonia graduates. Significant renovations include repairing/replacing a leaking roof; upgrading rooms/bathrooms; repairing/painting exterior brick work; providing handicap-accessible rooms; and purchasing kitchen/bar equipment and furniture.
The AgriAmerica Grape Juice Factory revitalization project is important for Chautauqua County because it is the largest grape producing county in the state and part of the world’s oldest and largest designated Concord grape growing region. AgriAmerica will help reverse drastic losses incurred in the region’s grape growing industry caused by recent fruit processing plant closings. It will revive farm revenue by providing a sustainable market for fruit grown by more than 75 local family farms. In 2018, AgriAmerica used $935,000 in private funds and $515,000 in public funds from the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency to begin Phase 1 of acquiring, renovating and reopening a previously closed grape juice manufacturing facility. Phase 2 will increase capacity and further modernize the plant to allow custom-made fruit juice concentrate manufacturing, while ensuring safety and quality. End products require significantly less transportation, having a positive environmental impact and enabling local farmers to become competitive, global suppliers of value-added fruit products. Nearby SUNY Fredonia will be a partner by providing food development and marketing internships to students through Start-Up NY. Projected outcomes include job growth in the food processing, fruit farming, distribution, construction and retail sectors.
The riverfront development project in Jamestown will be to purchase property along the south bank of the Chadakoin River, which will support smart growth by concentrating investment near the newly opened National Comedy Center. The creation of an attractive, multifaceted destination along the river will help bring new visitors and residents to the downtown area, extend stays and add to the quality of life in Jamestown. The overall riverfront development project will help establish a recreational centerpiece of the community and a catalyst for economic development. The project will add to the vitality of the area and dramatically improve the Greater Jamestown Riverwalk experience, which now includes two pedestrian bridges that connect the south bank to the National Comedy Center, Comedy Park and downtown area on the north bank.
Local businesses will maximize their earning potential through the addition of waterfront activities such as “eco” tours, kayaking, paddle boats and fishing. The idea is to ultimately develop waterfront access, recreational amenities and mixed-use facilities for housing, entertainment, restaurants and open spaces to make the south bank a desirable destination for residents and visitors.
This is not the first time city officials have applied to the state for funding for the riverfront development initiative, which, if approved and funded, will relocate Chautauqua Brick to another city location. City officials will then redevelop the current industrial site into a more suitable waterfront recreation location.
In 2017, the project was one of the 12 the Local Planning Committee selected for the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative for a share of the $10 million program. However, even though 10 projects were approved for the city’s DRI program, the $1.4 million initiative to acquire property for riverfront redevelopment wasn’t selected by state officials to receive funding.
Another Regional Economic Development Council application supported by city officials was for a $500,000 New York Main Street Downtown Anchor Project grant for the renovations to the former Marine Midland Bank. The funding, if approved, is going to help developer Arnold Duke renovate his second bank project in downtown Jamestown. He is also rehabilitating the former Key Bank Building.
Duke, who received a $500,000 Restore New York Communities Initiative program grant last year to assist with renovations to the former Key Bank Building, has plans on renovating the former Marine Midland Bank, located at 201-203 N. Main St., into the Jamestown Emporium.
Earlier this year, Lori Galster of Galster Enterprises Inc., who is helping facilitate both renovation projects, said Duke is looking to host several retail businesses vendors inside the former bank, which will include Duke’s very own jewelry store. Duke is the president of the International Gem & Jewelry Show.
Galster said Duke closed on the purchase of the building in May and wants to have the building renovated and occupied within the next year. She said the emporium will feature boutiques and artisan vendors. She added that renovations will include fixing the roof, replacing the windows, adding Americans With Disabilities Act building access and restrooms. The building also has a basement, which could be used for additional vendors or storage.