2018 – A Year of Promise and Progress


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

Every New Year builds on last year’s progress… and then sets out on exciting new projects. This week the Jamestown Gazette presents a few of the sights our readers will see along the roadmap for 2018.

Dozens of exciting projects are lighting up the 2018 landscape. Some are government sponsored, others are headed up by local industries and many more are home-grown and backed by private citizens.

Jamestown’s Theater District
National Comedy Center: “2018 is going to be an amazing year for the National Comedy Center and Jamestown,” said Brian Distefano, Marketing & Communications Manager for the National Comedy Center.

“The museum is really coming together now, and it won’t be long before we begin installing the 50+ incredible interactive exhibits featuring personalized tours for every guest. We’re also working on booking some of the best talent in the world for the 2018 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which will be August 1 through 5. Keep an eye out for lots of surprises along the way!”

Lucille Ball Little Theater: This historic site will receive a long awaited facelift both outside and inside in 2018, including a redecorated, renovated lobby and new stage technology and architecture returned to state-of-the-art form, creating the finest ever show-time experience for actors and the audience alike.

An especially exciting improvement slated for completion in 2018 is the installation of a theater-wide air conditioning system. This will create an opportunity never before enjoyed by theatergoers at the Lucille Ball Little Theater – comfortable and enjoyable summer performances and events. It is also expected that this will allow closer collaboration for events between the theater, the Comedy Center and the Comedy Festival.

Reg Lenna Center For The Arts: “We are excited that our Master Plan is on track for completion in 2018,” said Kathleen Eads, executive director at the Reg.

“We will complete the renovation of five of our seven buildings along Third and Spring Streets, including the theater’s main lobby, moving the Art Gallery to the Third Street sidewalk level, remodeling of the WRFA radio studios and recording spaces and opening a new café as soon as late January.”

“We especially want to let everybody know our shows, presentations and performances will go on as normal throughout all the work, with the only exception that guests will enter on Spring Street instead of Third until the work is all done. The Forte Restaurant will also remain open for fine dining throughout all of 2018.”

The Downtown Redevelopment Initiative (DRI) and a consortium of local foundations have been key contributors to the completion of the Reg Lenna Center For The Arts Master Plan as well as for many other downtown improvements, renovations and beautification projects.

The new DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Jamestown, formerly the Holiday Inn and Ramada Inn, became a Hamister Group property in 2013, renovating it to create a 147 room full-service hotel with restaurant. The new hotel will also include 4,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space. The Grand Opening is slated for July, 2018.

DoubleTree is rated in the Top 10 of Hotel Brands worldwide. The new Jamestown DoubleTree will offer a meeting planner and audio/visual team, catering, 24-hour fitness center, and an on-site Restaurant and Gastro inspired pub, “Pearl City Hops”, with 40 craft beers available.

The Chautauqua Harbor Hotel is the newest sight rising quickly along the Chautauqua Lake shoreline on a 9-acre portion of the historic Celoron Amusement Park site in Celoron, New York. Opening for the 135-room hotel is planned for early July, one month before the opening of the National Comedy Center.

David Hart, president and CEO of Hart Hotels, met with the Jamestown Gazette recently to talk about the project. Hart also owns and operates hotels in Watkins Glen and in Clayton in the Thousand Islands District, with a forth hotel on the oceanside in Maine. All are waterfront sites in historically popular tourist locations. Chautauqua Harbor will be a full-service, 4-diamond rated hotel with a 300-capacity grand ballroom, bar and 12,000 sq.ft outdoor patio, dining and beverage location. A special Carousel Bar (honoring the famous Celoron Park attraction) will be located offshore on the Celoron Park Island. The hotel’s 1,000 feet of lakefront will also include a scenic, old fashioned boardwalk for strolling and sunset watching.

The Village of Celoron was also awarded a major REDC grant for Phase IV Design and Construction improvements to the neighboring Lucille Ball Memorial Park.

Regional Development
In total, 23 projects slated for 2018 across Chautauqua County won awards of nearly $10 million through the New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) process, as part of $68.8 million awarded for 112 projects across five counties in Western New York.

The City of Jamestown also received a number of major (REDC) grants, including a grant for a West Second Street public piazza and streetscape scenic improvement.

The Southwestern Central School District also received a significant grant for its Shared Fuel Station project.

Jamestown Renaissance Corporation won major REDC grants for two of its key projects for 2018, the STRIVE project at 10-12 West 2nd Street and its Jamestown Urban Design Plan 2.0.

The nearby Village of Falconer was also recognized for winning an REDC grant to assist with its 2017 Comprehensive Plan including components for 2018 work and progress.

Water, Water Everywhere
Clean water is vital for drinking, boating, fishing, farming, manufacturing and the scenic beauty that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Chautauqua County every year.

“The county’s water projects for 2018 are a huge step forward in a multifaceted program to improve our water quality,” said Doug Conroe, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Lake Association. “Great things are happening. State grants are filling the gaps that local communities can’t afford alone in 2018.”

Every healthy lake begins in healthy streams. Prendergast Creek, for example, will undergo a complete rehabilitation, including planting of streamside willows and native vegetation to stabilize its banks and reduce sediment runoff into Chautauqua Lake, according to Debby Kelly of the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Lakes are also unfortunately fed by lawn, farm and septic runoff. Rural residents with their own wells are as vulnerable as the lakes to such pollution. Two local communities draw their drinking water from the lake. Caring for streams and stopping runoff are critical for a good water supply.

“The Earth has done a good job so far at handling the runoff around the lake, but the Earth can do that for only so long,” Conroe added. New sewer systems will eliminate the need for septic systems. Algal blooms and waterweeds feed on the runoff, so control will lessen the need for other remedies.

Clean Water Projects on tap for 2018:

  • Wastewater Treatment and/or sewer studies/upgrades
    • Chautauqua County – West Side of Chautauqua Lake
    • Town of Chautauqua, Chautauqua Heights
    • Village of Sherman
    • Town of Westfield
  • Village of Mayville – Stormwater Management Study
  • Village of Sinclairville – Water System Improvements
  • Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District
    • Chadakoin River Watershed – Jamestown Riverwalk Restoration
    • Lake Watershed Rehabilitation – North and South Basin Peripheries

Countywide Progress
Additional REDC grants of key importance to Chautauqua County included:

The Village of Fredonia received a grant for renovations at the Card Seed Company Building, a historic location. According to SUNY Fredonia Theater Professor, Ted Sharon, operating Venture Productions, the total 3-story building rehab will create apartments, production and dance studios and an innovative rooftop garden space.

REDC grants will also provide for 2018 development of the Barcelona to Chautauqua Institution Multiuse Trail Easements.

The Town of Ripley will engage in Improvements, Design and Construction at the Ripley Beach Town Park.

Erie 2- Chautauqua – Cattaraugus BOCES will gain REDC assistance for further Adult Education Workforce Development

Young Audiences of Western New York, Inc. will develop a program titled “Traveling the Erie Canal: 200 Years of Journeys”

The New York Cider Association will develop the 2018 Craft Beverage Agritourism Cider Week in Western NY.

The new National Comedy Center will be opened in 2018.

Congratulations and Ongoing Work
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, speaking about the REDC grants, said “These awards are more fantastic news for Chautauqua County…I am especially thrilled to see all of the awards for water and sewer infrastructure that are so important to our local communities and for improving the water quality of Chautauqua Lake… I congratulate all of the many grant writers and awardees who spent countless hours submitting these fantastic CFA applications. Just one more example of how Chautauqua County is on the move.”

Past Chautauqua County Executive, Greg Edwards, and now the CEO for Jamestown’s Gebbie Foundation – also collaborating in major funding initiatives in Jamestown – described their additional private, philanthropic drives for 2018. Key fundraising and grant development for the National Comedy Center’s will help create the groundbreaking hologram/virtual reality show and other presentations. Assistance is also being provided for the City of Jamestown’s new piazza and wayfinding projects for outdoor Comedy Center events and local tours.

The Rotary Club of Jamestown has announced that it will sponsor the “Comedy as a Tool for Social Progress” exhibit space in the National Comedy Center. “We see the ‘Comedy as a Tool for Social Progress’ exhibit area of the museum as a great way to promote those ideals,” said Joelle Washer, Rotary Club President.

“From issues of the first amendment, to race, to gender equality, this art form is uniquely positioned to make people think at the moment it makes them laugh, making everyone more receptive on otherwise divisive issues,” said National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson.

Learn More
The New Year 2018 promises to bring more growth and development to Chautauqua County as well as continued challenges to be met in the realm of economic development, employment and education. Progress on all fronts will require continued work, commitment and the optimism of forward thinking residents, businesses and elected officials.

For more information about the awards or the Regional Economic Development Councils, visit http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov and visit www.nationalcomedycenter.org to learn more about the progress of this exciting new attraction expected to bring 100,000 new visitors to Jamestown every year.

And from the Jamestown, Gazette, Happy New Year! See you in 2018.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.