Not too long ago, Main Street in Jamestown looked very run-down, with few businesses and antiquated buildings.
Over the last several years, however, Main Street has gotten a face-lift, in the form of facade restoration. This has caused development along the main drag, in the form of new businesses as well as residential spaces.
"The idea is that if we do facade restorations, that it should never stop there. It should spur development from other neighboring buildings, it should spur other kinds of development, whether that's a residential upper floor, or if it's commercial expansion," said Jason Stronz, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation director.
Dorian’s Plus, Benson’s Ladies Apparel and Jamestown Nutrition-Shake It Daily have all recently had facade work done to the buildings. Ideally, the upper floors will someday be developed into residences.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
The Renaissance Corporation, with assistance from private foundations and the city of Jamestown, has had a big hand in the development on Main Street, as well as on Third Street, which has also seen an influx in restoration and commercial and residential development over the last 10 years.
Tom Mason has owned Mason Fine Arts on Main Street since 2005. Originally, above the art gallery stood Mason's art studio.
Today, though, is an apartment that houses a young professional couple. Mason said that he owes the transformation to Stronz as well as others.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it if it hadn't been for Jason and the Gebbie Foundation and the city. There's no way I could've done it. But, I'm glad I did, it opened up an opportunity and as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to be staying here for the rest of my life," Mason said.
Stronz points to the area surrounding the Winter Garden Plaza, on Main Street between Third and Fourth streets, as the sort of flagship project that had a strong effect on its surroundings.
With the Winter Garden Theater being torn down, it gave The Wine Cellar the opportunity to expand and have outdoor seating available to its patrons. Additionally, The Wine Cellar had facade work done.
Across the street from these stood Dorian's Plus, a salon that had been in business for a number of years, as well as Benson's Ladies Apparel and Jamestown Nutrition - Shake It Daily. Those businesses, along with Mason Fine Arts, each had facade work done also.
"As soon as Patient's Pharmacy opens, every storefront between Fourth and Third is occupied. You've got public space, you've got residential space, community artwork on an alley. If we could do that in different pockets, it would be exciting," Stronz said.
In fact, this stretches even further down Main Street. Between Second and Fourth streets, there are occupants to each building with the exception of only one. This has happened, Stronz said, over the last five or six years.
"It's easy to clean up the faces of the buildings, but we've moved beyond that now. It's become integral for us, and I think for the community, too, to see the buildings start to fill up again, and not necessarily just at the retail level." Stronz said.
All over downtown, things are happening. Aside from Patient's Pharmacy opening soon on Main Street, Labyrinth Press Co. is working on expanding its business on Fourth Street On Third Street, apartments are popping up.
"A lot of this development has happened without having a college centrally located. This is the kind of stuff that happens a lot in small college towns. Not that that's something to really hang your hat on, but being able to develop this with city investment, property owners investment and a little bit of foundational support, without have a swell of twenty-somethings that are always demanding this, is a big positive, a big win," Stronz said.
Also, Stronz noted, several buildings that used to be rented out are now owned by people that are looking to fix them up and use them for both commercial and residential properties.
"There are these hidden gems within the downtown," Stronz said. "Everyone, I think, is starting to see that there is a commitment to what is happening downtown. The more commitment that property owners show, the more we see businesses and other investors, developers, property owners start to take some chances on buildings that nobody took chances on for years," Stronz said.
Meanwhile, Mason said that he has found that with the development of the downtown area comes a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy.
"There's a lot of good things going on, people just have to get out there. They can't just go and say, 'Oh, Jamestown is rundown, I don't want to go downtown, there's nothing to do.' There is, you just haven't been there for years," Mason said.
"We live in the major urban center in southwestern New York. We are it, there is no city bigger than us in southwestern New York. When you live in an urban environment, you come to expect urban things that are characteristic of urban living. That's a healthy mix of people," Stronz said.
There are a variety of options when it comes to living in downtown Jamestown. However, when many people think of living in the downtown area, they may think that the housing is only for the elderly or for low-income families.
"I think that there is a misperception. You have subsidized housing, you have senior housing. Covenant Manor, Hotel Jamestown, I think Chadakoin Center has some residents," Stronz said. "But, the Wellman Building is all market-rate. Mason's Fine Arts has a young couple. The place above I've Been Framed is a surgeon at JAMA that lives in those apartments. (Above Design Technology) is a business owner that lives in the building where he works."
Above the Reg Lenna Civic Center are the Palace Apartments. Down the street are the Ellicott Apartments. The Wellman Building will soon be opening its doors as well. Stronz said that these buildings are geared toward young professionals theater and art students, young couples, empty-nesters.
"Instead of low- to mod-income, I call it the low- to mod-market rate. They're not going after the low- to mod-income subsidized tenants, they're going after people that are entrepreneurial, that are theatrical, they're artistic, I guess is the best way to put it," Stronz said.
CREATING A THRIVING SPACE
"The hope is now that people say, 'I want to stay, I want to root myself, I'll spend my 20s in downtown Jamestown and the surrounding areas. As long as I can find a job and maintain a career, I'll live here, because it's a good place to live,'" Stronz said.
According to Mason, promoting the downtown atmosphere will help to continue to grow businesses and residences in the area.
"I'll tell you what, that apartment upstairs of where I am right now, since they took down the Winter Garden and they put that plaza in, it's almost got a big-city feel when you go up there," Mason said. "It's been cleaned up, there's music down there, there have been movies down there. There is just a nice feeling."
Both Mason and Stronz agree, though, that to help continue the success of the downtown area, the key will be to continue bringing young professionals in.
"You have a bunch of different businesses, a bunch of different people, a bunch of different interests that all come together in one place, and that's what I think is important as we are developing everything in the downtown," Stronz said.
The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, the different foundations and the city will continue to develop the downtown area for everyone to enjoy.
"We're not creating downtown just for me, you, or anyone that's choosing to live or open a business down here. We are creating a downtown that is open to everyone that has a good idea, a strong plan and a vision for what a vibrant place it can be. It's really going to be a unique setting all the way throughout our downtown," Stronz said.