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City Has To Be Proactive To Attract Investors

News that Jamestown Brewing Company will not be reopening shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Lawsuits and counterlawsuits over a centerpiece of Jamestown’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative had raised enough red flags about the long-anticipated downtown brewery and the relationship between the brewer and the owner of the building to doubt the long-term viability of the business. COVID-19 and Gov. Andrew Cuomo simply sledgehammered the final nail in the brewery’s coffin.

We wonder, though, about the future for the next tenant in the building.

As we have seen with the former Friendly’s Restaurant in Brooklyn Square, deep-pocketed investors from out of town aren’t exactly beating down Jamestown’s door to put in a chain restaurant because Jamestown, on its own, isn’t able to put enough fannies into restaurant booths to keep additional restaurants open. Jamestown Brewing Company was the second shiny new bauble to open downtown after the Doubletree Hotel reopened.

If developers aren’t beating down our doors, who is going to beat down developers’ doors to plead our case?

Is the city taking the lead, either through the mayor’s office or through the city Development Department? Is the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. working on downtown development? Is Chautauqua County taking the lead?

Those are valid questions, because we note the Gebbie Foundation and county IDA are taking the lead on opening the Chadakoin River to boat traffic from Chautauqua Lake. Greg Edwards, Gebbie Foundation executive director, said city officials are looking at other riverfront development projects including finding more appropriate businesses located along the river.

We have trouble finding and filling businesses downtown that have received taxpayer-backed cash infusions. How do we avoid such missteps in new buildings along the riverfront?

One way to do so is to demonstrate to well-heeled out-of-town investors that Jamestown is working hard to generate tourism traffic. Jamestown is increasingly reliant on attracting tourists during the summer months through the National Comedy Center, Northwest Savings Bank Arena, Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, Lucy-Desi Center and downtown events to fill restaurants and hotel rooms. The city and its partners need to come up with events that will fill in the gap weekends not covered by the city’s bigger attractors.

COVID-19 has washed out the summer of 2020. Now is a good time, then, to begin planning downtown Jamestown’s comeback for the summer of 2021. The city and its partners must have a plan in place to hit the ground running next spring with a slate of events that will draw people from outside Jamestown into its downtown and that will keep tourists who are visiting the Comedy Center engaged in downtown rather than making the city a one-day stop.

Only by providing evidence that there are bodies downtown for a solid six months of the year can we begin attracting the types of investors who have the financial wherewithal to actually succeed in our corner of New York state. And we will have to be proactive to attract those investors rather than wishing upon a shooting star that a white knight will show up to rescue our empty buildings.

The clock is ticking.

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