Wanted: Your Ideas to Make Jamestown Better

iMagine Jamestown
Materials from the Imagine Jamestown Ideas Competition workshop at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts media room.

What would you do to make Jamestown’s neighborhoods better? Have you had ideas but didn’t know where to share them? The newly appointed Executive Director of the City of Jamestown’s Development Department, Crystal Surdyck, wants to hear from you. The 2020 Imagine Jamestown Ideas Competition theme was announced in October 2019. It is “Designing Sustainable, Livable, Remarkable Neighborhoods in Jamestown, NY”. It focuses on addressing current housing challenges. According to the competition’s website, https://www.imaginejamestownny.com, “This free competition will be an inclusive and fun way to engage the public, educate the community, and empower citizens to champion initiatives and join together for positive change.” The Jamestown Strategic Planning & Partnerships Commission has been working with interested citizens who want to make our City stronger and more inviting.

imagine Jamestown logo

The categories range from students to professional designers to community members. The Imagine Jamestown Ideas Competition challenges entrants to submit proposals that incorporate one or more of the following strategies as a viable solution for rebuilding strong neighborhoods: infill housing, rehabilitation/retrofitting of existing housing stock, re-purposing of vacant parcels, reuse of building(s) or site(s) and a combination of one or more of the above.

The most viable ideas will be announced in May 2020. “The criteria used to judge the ideas is how fully developed the idea is, how close the idea is to the finish line, and how viable the idea is, meaning it has a good chance for success. You could have a nugget of an idea that needs a lot of development but it has good potential – and it could win,” said Surdyck, “this process doesn’t end on the awards night, the project leaders will continue to work with the ideas that were selected to fully develop them for the benefit of the residents and visitors of Jamestown.”

“This idea project is not funded by municipal funds. It is being supported with sponsorship funding and gifts of space to hold the workshops. So far, sponsorships have been received from the IBEW #106 and LaBella Associates. Other donors of space and food have been St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, the Southwestern Independent Living Center, and Pace’s Pizza. We are planning on giving the grand prize winning idea a cash prize but that depends on the sponsorships that come in,” said Surdyck.

Jamestown is not unique in the struggle to address rundown and abandoned houses across the City. The Imagine Jamestown project leaders have held three workshops to discuss various ideas with City constituents. The project leaders are experienced in these types of projects and are guiding and mentoring the good ideas. “The interactions between the project leaders and the public have been very good. We have heard some good ideas and had good conversations,” said Surdyck.

Most of the ideas center around tiny or modular houses and coordinating energy efficiency or net zero energy use with smaller residences and food security, such as community gardens and access to food through a corner grocery store. One idea is focused on starting a comedy school. Other ideas focus on making housing and business development change easier via the legislative process and changing zoning and housing codes. “It has been very interesting hearing the wide variety of ideas,” added Ms. Surdyck.

When asked about the challenges of such a project Ms. Surdyck answered getting enough people to share their ideas. “Outreach is the hardest thing. We made a strong effort to engage the students through the school district and we were disappointed that no one responded. We know young people have really smart ideas that could be turned into good initiatives. We thought this could be a good classroom project,” said Surdyck.

You can register your idea and plans with the Development Department for the Imagine Jamestown Ideas Competition up to the deadline of April 17, 2020. Your registration helps the project committee plan their mentoring and guidance schedule, so all the entrants receive assistance.

For additional information regarding the Imagine Jamestown Ideas Competition or to find out how to participate, please contact Crystal Surdyk at surdyk@cityofjamestownny.com.