Ten years ago, several buildings downtown sat derelict.
Now, there is a section of town that is booming - and, it is continuing to expand.
"I would challenge anybody to look at what the downtown was in 1999 or 2000 versus what it looks like today," said Steve Centi, director of development.
Lee Harkness' Downtown Chatter column on Monday pointed out that the areas between Second and Third Streets, including Pine and Spring, are moving toward becoming the business district in downtown Jamestown.
Harkness identified several new businesses located along Second Street, including Chautauqua Music, which is under new ownership; Precision Web Tech; the Dykeman-Young Gallery; and the Miraglia Gallery, which is owned by building owner Pete Miraglia.
"I think that downtown is the best bargain out there. If you look at the cost of real estate to purchase, or even to rent, available space in the downtown is the best bargain that's out there," Centi said. "Most of the storefronts are occupied. You have some cities where store after store after store are vacant."
THEN & NOW
"As you're looking over the last decade, Second, Third, Fourth obviously are kind of the core of downtown. And, you have seen businesses come and go," Centi said. "There's kind of a revolving door of businesses that have been in several locations."
Some businesses have jumped around the downtown area. Others have changed names or ownership. Buildings that were previously abandoned are now full.
Centi identifies the Willow Bay Commerce Center, which was unoccupied years ago. He said when new ownership took over the building, it was completely revamped into what it is today.
Additionally, where Suburban Blend sits on Pine Street was formerly Jones Bakery. Also on Pine Street, the new Jones 212 Bakery is in the site of the former Lucy-Desi Museum.
On the corner of Second and Main streets sits Roberto's Restaurant. Prior to this, Fenton Grill sat in that location. Although the lead up to Fenton Grill took several years, the construction began back in 2002, after Chautauqua Music moved out of the location.
Further down Second Street is the Pintagro Building, which is host to the Babalu Cafe and JB Barber. Prior to these being in the Pintagro Building, Centi said there were several other small businesses over the years.
Additionally on Second Street, past the Lucille Ball Little Theater, sits a building owned by Pete Miraglia, which holds the four new businesses. Additionally, the building has seen other businesses as Miraglia has worked to restore it over the 11 years he has owned it.
"For a little while, we had Chautauqua Antiques on the second floor," Miraglia said. "That was replaced by Afloral.com, they distribute silk flowers over the Internet. They have about nine or 10 people working up there, they have their administrative offices on the second floor. They've been there now about two-and-a-half years, I think."
Third Street has Cibo, which was formerly Cooper's Cafe. Additionally, there are several newer features to the block, including Forte and Mariner's Express.
CAUSES FOR CHANGE
Centi points as far back as the 1970s for changes in downtown Jamestown.
"The changes occurred when the malls were built, and when strip malls were being developed. People became more mobile in the early 70s, you weren't limited to the retail core. It won't be what it was before, as the retail core of the area," Centi said. "We went from a point in time where (downtown) was everything for everybody in the whole area. If you went shopping for clothes, you went down there."
According to Centi, through funding from private foundations and grants, motivated people began bringing businesses back to downtown, in a different way.
"You've got a group of people who are kind of a like mind, and are willing to work together," Centi said. "You've got private investors willing to put their money up, and we've got money to kind of help leverage that. If that formula continues, I think we are going to continue to see those vacant store fronts filled."
Additionally, parking has improved in the downtown area. More than $8 million has been invested in parking ramps and parking lots throughout the city.
"You have parking that supports some of those businesses, which is also, I think an important thing. The investment has been made, and I think the opportunity is out there," Centi said.
OWNING A BUILDING
At the turn of the century, 110 E. Second St. was a wreck. Now, it hosts several thriving businesses.
"Basically, this was the former Nelson's Department Store," Miraglia said. "On the third and fourth floors, we still found a lot of merchandise from the store. Of course, it was all covered by ceiling plaster, because the roof was leaking badly, and the ceiling had all collapsed over all that merchandise."
Miraglia is originally from Jamestown. According to him, he left for college in 1972, and never really came back until earlier this year. However, he still held an interest in the city over the years.
"I was emotionally attached to this town," Miraglia said. "Back then, the downtown looked pretty much like a war zone. The Chadakoin building was vacant and looked like it had been bombed. There were a lot of vacant store fronts and it was all pretty run down."
When he originally considered purchasing a building downtown, Miraglia has his sights set on the train station. He worked with Phillip Morris and the Arts Council back in the late 1990s. However, when that fell through, the city offered to waive back taxes on the property at 110 E. Second St.
"That building itself would have been a nightmare for the downtown, because the only option for it at the time was to knock it down," Centi said. "We were looking at spending probably $100,000 to tear down a building, which doesn't have a huge footprint and is on the side of the hill. We really would have gained nothing out of it."
Miraglia worked floor-by-floor to bring the building back to life.
It was loaded with trash, old merchandise from a store that closed back in the 1960s," Miraglia said. "I got it leased with the Chautauqua Music people, and we went from there. We started on the first floor, and my plan was I'd fix up one floor at a time. That's what we've been doing."
Miraglia credits good leadership to the turnaround that downtown is seeing.
"I think probably, the key to it is, I think we have good leadership at City Hall. I think the Gebbie Foundation stepped up and focused on economic development. I think that's what really kind of turned things around," Miraglia said.
FUTURE OF DOWNTOWN
Several groups are working together to continue growing downtown, as well as the entire city of Jamestown. Centi said that through loans, grants and working with area organizations such as the Renaissance Corporation, investing in the downtown area is a good opportunity.
"The buildings are there, we have ways to assist people, there are people willing and ready to assist them," Centi said.
As long as there are people willing to locate their businesses downtown, the city and private groups will be ready to help.
"I think the bottom line in almost all these cases is, the interest is there from the private sector to put their own money up," Centi said. "We can facilitate that or encourage that by being able to provide matching grants for them to be able to do facades."