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On Monday, October 3, the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts hosted a meeting of more than 20 of Jamestown’s community and business leaders, foundations and organizations, local and regional elected officials and representatives of Governor Andrew Cuomo. They came together for a single purpose.
Their job will be planning how to spend $10 million on Downtown Jamestown.
The $10 million was awarded by the State of New York to the City of Jamestown in August – one of only 10 such awards granted across the state – to collaborate with the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) in New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).
This project aims to renew and transform downtown Jamestown, create jobs and boost the local economy. According to Governor Cuomo, this award “…will capitalize on Jamestown’s cultural and historical vigor” to revitalize its downtown sector.
“A great downtown creates and expands opportunities for people to live, work and enjoy themselves,” Mayor Teresi said. “We will use this grant as a way to leverage as much public and private funding as possible and to advance the downtown revitalization well beyond what the original $10 million could do alone. In city planning that is called ‘Smart Growth’.”
Mayor Teresi and his co-chair in the DRI project, Mike Metzger, Strategic Advisor at Blackstone Advanced Technologies LLC and recent Jamestown Community Service Award winner, welcomed the roundtable of nearly two dozen community leaders, local business owners, foundations and key not-for-profit community organizations to take part over the next months in identifying, evaluating and selecting investment targets for this grant.
“Together, we will definitely create the future,” Metzger said.
Grant spending across America on DRI style projects in recent decades, according to New York State officials attending the kickoff session last Monday, has shown that the old idea of simply building new production facilities yields a surprisingly poor return on investment. Strategic investments, however, to improve infrastructure, residential quality-of-life and other community enhancements, “Place Making”, build a more livable and profitable city.
This approach attracts new and existing businesses to invest on their own, far beyond the grant dollars spent. In some communities this “catalyst effect” has yielded as much as $10 and more in growth for every single dollar of grant money invested.
“We look to the future of Jamestown as creating an economic blueprint, a model for many other upstate communities,” Teresi said.
According to the grant application process, a key criterion for Jamestown was that…“The downtown must contain properties or characteristics that contribute, or that could contribute if enhanced, to the attractiveness and livability of the downtown, including the presence of developable mixed-use spaces, housing at different levels of affordability and type, commercial and retail main street businesses, including healthy and affordable food markets, walkability and bikeability, and public parks and gathering spaces.”
The DRI committee will concentrate on developing actionable place making projects to maximize investment of the $10 million grant. While most projects are envisioned to be completed within an approximately 2-year span, some may require more time for planning and implementation. The state, according to Teresi, is looking for “transformational initiatives,” those that do more than merely fix or refurbish.
A number of the members of the action team echoed Alexis Singleton, of Jamestown’s family-owned El Greco Woodworking, who said, “The invitation to join this committee brings with it a sobering burden of responsibility to our community to do this right.”
Bottom Up Planning Begins
Jamestown’s successful application for the $10 million DRI grant offered an award winning perspective on downtown redevelopment, according to City Planner Tanya Zwahlen, AICP, principal and owner of the Highland Planning Team of Rochester, NY, engaged to spearhead the planning process that began at Monday’s DRI Kickoff. Jamestown’s application promised:
“Jamestown has embraced bottom up planning with significant public participation, not only to be inclusive, which is our obligation, but to get varied viewpoints into the open to discuss and to take into account while formulating a plan for implementation. This two way interaction encourages open and frank discussion but also can dispel myths and inaccuracies in what the community is trying to achieve. A great planning process results in a harmonious balance between the objectives of the plan and the needs of those affected.”
Three public DRI meetings, starting in November (dates to be announced), will provide opportunities for public input and questions. Online surveys will be offered to create as broad a forum as possible, recognizing that not everybody can attend the meetings. Door-to-door engagement opportunities across the community are also planned to draw more people into the process on a one-on-one level. Finalization of the DRI spending plan is currently slated for February, 2017.
Jamestown’s award also included up to $300,000 for private sector experts to work with the local planning committee to draft the city’s Strategic Investment Plan and identify specific economic development, transportation and housing and community projects to share in the $10 million award.
“We’re ready to step on the gas!” Chautauqua County Vince Horrigan said. He expects this DRI winning grant to help continue building a more vibrant downtown, attract new businesses, high-paying jobs and skilled workers.
Where is Downtown?
The official designation of “Downtown”, according to Mayor Teresi, extends (north to south) approximately from the 5th-6th Street region to Brooklyn Square and (east to west) from Jamestown High School to the 3rd Street Bridge. These borders are approximate and some nearby businesses and organizations with a major connection or impact on the downtown region may be included.
The public meetings designed for citizen involvement in the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative will be announced and published shortly, according to Teresi and Metzger. “This is a fast track process,” the Mayor said. “Good planning will produce great results.”
Jamestown Gazette readers can find the entire 122 page, richly illustrated, winning application submitted by the City of Jamestown on the Gazette’s website, www.jamestowngazette.com.