It’s Time For Someone To Fill The Gap And Fix Downtown Programming

Today marks the end of the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.

Thousands of visitors streamed downtown for events, block parties and performances from comedy heavyweights Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney. It was, once again, a banner week for downtown businesses, particularly newly-opened businesses like the Jamestown Brewing Company that are showing off their wares to visitors for the first time.

It’s worth asking, though, how city attractors can better program to bring more people downtown during weekend days during the rest of the year. Concerts and events have been put on with money from the Fund for Downtown Programming, but that fund is designed to spend itself out of existence. In its first year of existence, the National Comedy Center has shown it can provide throngs of people for special events and smaller numbers of people during the year, but it’s not as if one has noticed large amounts of traffic on a typical summer day.

One place to start is better coordination so that events aren’t stacked on top of each other. It wouldn’t be an unreasonable goal that attractors are able to consult a calendar to make sure that events don’t conflict or, at least, are complimentary, but there still isn’t a decent calendar of events available for those building summer events. Jamestown Up Close was supposed to solve the problem, but it doesn’t appear to have done so given that its event calendar takes visitors to the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau calendar.

Who is leading efforts to attract people downtown? Once upon a time, the Celebrate Jamestown committee of the Downtown Jamestown Development Corp. met regularly to come up with ways to bring people downtown. That committee wasn’t perfect, but it did try to come up with events that brought people downtown on a regular basis, and the merger of the DJDC into the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. has left that hole unfilled. The Jamestown Chamber of Commerce stepped up to save the Downtown Cruise In, but it seems obvious that there is a hole to be filled. The fact that events have been pouring into the Fund for Downtown Programming is proof of that. There are ideas out there for events that can bring people downtown — and we must do a better job of creating those events.

A lot of money has been spent to bring new life to downtown buildings. It is imperative that more be done to bring traffic downtown, or our shiny new baubles will once again sit empty.