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It’s Time For Downtown To Recapture Its Pre-COVID Momentum

Downtown Jamestown seemed to be building momentum before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

The opening of the National Comedy Center and the anticipated payoffs of several building renovation projects downtown gave a renewed sense of energy and vitality reminiscent of the opening of the Northwest Arena back in the late 1990s.

COVID-19 brought much of that momentum to a screeching halt. Many businesses struggled to hang on through state-mandated closures and restrictions. Developers of major projects pulled out before their projects came to fruition while other businesses like the Jamestown Brewing Company, thought to be new downtown anchors, shut down before they ever really got started.

In other words, the pandemic was rough.

But we shouldn’t be satisfied with the levels of activity we see downtown right now. We can do and should do better. Urban Design Plan 2.0, finalized in 2019, has some interesting recommendations focused on filling street-level gaps on Second and Third streets, particularly from Washington to Main streets, though in our view the focus should expand all the way to Jamestown High School. As Goody Clancy Associates officials note on Page 47 of Urban Design Plan 2.0, “Enlivening these streets will have the greatest effect on improving the image of downtown.”

We couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s programs to make more first-floor spaces ready for a new tenant or pop-up programs or events in which event organizers work with building owners to temporarily use these spaces, there are actions the city and its non-profit partners can take to reinvest in downtown and increase downtown’s economic vitality. News the Furniture Mart building has a potential developer is good news. But we’d be even more excited to see long-vacant storefronts — like the recently filled CHQ Plus on Third and Cherry streets — brought back to life.

Someone needs to lead funding and recruiting initiatives. Who’s willing to step up?

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