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Downtown Needs Events To Bring Excitement, Vitality

For years, downtown Jamestown has looked like a hockey player’s smile — missing enough pieces in key locations to distract you from an otherwise attractive smile.

The National Comedy Center filled one of those holes with a shiny, bright piece, but there are still an awful lot of holes that need to be filled.

COVID-19 makes one wonder if downtown will ever be full again. Consider the excitement five years ago when AECOM came to Jamestown to give its recommendations of how Jamestown could best capitalize on the National Comedy Center.

The National Comedy Center is indeed a reality, and one that is in fact well loved by comedy fans and anyone who has reviewed the center. But with the exception of the opening of new restaurants like the Beer Snob, the Chop House, Sauce and a new retail operation in Dot’s Boutique, relatively little has changed downtown.

A review of short-term action steps in the AECOM plan shows many recommended steps have either not happened or flamed out. For example, the brewery project with indoor and outdoor space mentioned in the plan has already come and gone. Even before COVID-19, there wasn’t much programming happening along the Chadakoin River with the exception of additional kayakers and walkers along the Chadakoin Riverwalk. There is still no mechanism for frequent, regularly scheduled programs downtown that aren’t driven by the comedy center, the Northwest Savings Bank Arena or the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

Some of those same shortcomings are noted in Urban Design Plan 2.0, which was finalized in February 2019. Two years later, the weaknesses noted by Goody Clancy officials — vacant or underutilized space on first floors in critical locations, untapped potential of underutilized downtown buildings and few programs and events on the downtown riverfront, to name a few — remain problems.

There was a lot of excitement before the National Comedy Center opened. Jamestown had received a $10 million shot in the arm through the Downtown Retivalization Initiative. Major state investment poured in to renovate the former M&T Bank and the Beer Snob on Washington Street.

That excitement needs to be rekindled, and that will be difficult with money tightening up due to COVID-19. Downtown needs vacant storefronts to be filled. It needs events to bring excitement and vitality downtown. It needs delayed projects in the bank buildings at Second and Main streets to be finished.

The National Comedy Center wasn’t the end of downtown’s comeback — it was supposed to be the beginning.

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