Blotting the revitalized downtown scene in Jamestown, many large buildings stand vacant and deteriorating.
Several of such buildings are situated around The Post-Journal.
In the short radius from Main Street to Spring Street on East Second Street and from Second Street to First Street on Main Street, there are a more than a few vacant buildings, including the Arcade Building, the former Electronic Supply Store, the former Holmlund's building and the former Agnes Hess building.
Three largely vacant North Main Street buildings, including the Arcade Building, are pictured above.
The Electronic Supply building, which has been vacant for several years. Such buildings are hard to tear down because of their proximity to other buildings and are more costly to renovate than many private developers are able to spend.
P-J photo above by Hilary Scott
One of the largest and most dilapidated of the buildings is the Arcade Building, which has been vacant for decades. Donna Morse, a private citizen, purchased the building from the Arts Council's Civic Center Development Corporation in 2005 with the intentions to renovate the structure. Unfortunately, she does not have the funds for project.
Greg Moran, city rehab and code enforcement officer, said that normally after a building is condemned, the owner is brought into court and city either gives the owner a timeline to fix the building or asks for a demolition order.
"It's the owner's (responsibility to demolish), but we've got an owner that doesn't really have any money," said Moran. "Ultimately, public safety is the city's responsibility. But with the magnitude of cost (of demolition), even if we had the order, I don't think we'd be able to do it, or it would be really difficult."
Steve Centi, city development director, said the Arcade Building and the other larger vacant building in the city are not cheap to fix and not cheap to tear down.
"Knocking them down is not an option right now, because there's no money to knock them down. They would be tremendously expensive. The Arcade Building, especially, with it's proximity to other buildings," said Centi.
He explained that demolition of continuous buildings like these sometimes creates more problems than it solves, as they are sometimes interlocking and share common structural elements between them.
"Plus, we don't have funding to do commercial demolitions of that scope," he said. "The other question is what do you do with a site like this, because no one is going to rebuild in an area that doesn't have that much buildable space."
As of right now, Centi said the Arcade Building is not causing any issues, except for the fact that it's vacant.
"I guess right now it's a matter of us dealing with them from a code enforcement standpoint to make sure that they are boarded and secured until such time that someone is interested in redeveloping them," said Centi. "At least (the Arcade Building) has some potential, but it's not going to be a cheap fix. The pathway in order to get something done there is to encourage a private developer to have an interest in the building, develop a plan for the building, and then go out and try to piece together funding to do that, which could include tax credit financing and other sources of funding.
Jason Stronz, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation director, said that tearing down the vacant buildings in Jamestown isn't necessarily the right solution. Stronz was involved in such a decision in the recent past when the former Wintergarden Theater was demolished in 2011. The space has been turned into a plaza with a flat performance space.
"It was a very challenging decision, deciding to tear down the Wintergarden Theater, and I don't think we want to duplicate that many more times," he said.
The JRC staff toured the Arcade Building in March, and wrote the following about the structure in a recent newsletter: "As the most recognizable building on a blighted block on an otherwise improving downtown street, it's hard not to have an opinion about the building's fate."
The newsletter cited that it was easy to see why many people are passionate about the building and its future, as despite decades of vacancy and poor maintenance, many of the building's historic elements remain intact.
In order to draw private developers to undertake costly renovation projects, like the Arcade Building, in Jamestown, Stronz said the JRC is focusing on smaller projects first.
"We have to make our downtown more attractive for developers to want to take a look here," he said.
"That means providing greater amenities for property owners, residents and perspective businesses in the downtown," he said.
He explained that right now Jamestown has very limited amenities.
"The ones we have are great. We just have to get more of them," he said, adding that the city needs more things downtown like a small market and more options when it comes to cafes, restaurants and pharmacies.
"The JRC is trying to tackle the smaller projects first," he said. "We need to make sure we have a clean, green and pleasant downtown that's attractive to residents and visitors."