The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation have been brought together under the leadership of Peter Lombardi, who was recently named executive director of the entity.
According to Lombardi, the boards of the two organizations had been talking for some time about bringing the organizations together because the focus of the two overlapped in significant areas. The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation was created five years ago specifically to implement the new Urban Design Plan that had come out, and at the same time, the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation, which had been around for much longer, focused on event planning and the downtown business community. Both organizations were focused on downtown revitalization, though, which was the major overlap.
"Over the years, the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation added the neighborhood revitalization plan to it's portfolio and as it matured, branching out to facade redevelopment and public space revitalization like at the Winter Garden Plaza or Potter's Gallery, it made sense for the two organizations to come together," said Lombardi. "There was so much overlap that it made sense to create a single organization that focused on downtown revitalization but also neighborhood revitalization. I think that you can't have a strong downtown unless the neighborhoods around it are improving and healthy. The whole idea was to create a united front that would work on advancing both neighborhood and downtown progress. There had been some confusion before because both of these organizations were nonprofits and the city has its own agencies, too. It was confusing for a long time in regards to who was doing what, but this should make it more clear to the public and business owners."
2012 also saw the completion of the renovations to the train station downtown, which was seen by many as a good time for a transition.
"It was a very big project and the focus of the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation for several years, so now Lee Harkness, general manager of the train station, will be able to focus his attention on determining the future tenancy of the building and finding business and events that are interested in using the building," said Lombardi.
In this transition, members of the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation board were invited to join the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation board. However, the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation will still exist as a single-purpose entity that will be focused on the train station.
Tiffani Conti will be acting as the events manager and marketing associate for the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. In 2013, the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation will focus on continuing the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation's most popular events like the holiday parade, Cruisin', Thunder in the Streets and the farmer's market, which was very successful this past year.
"We'll be focusing on those and transitioning to also focus on helping to facilitate events," said Lombardi. "There are a lot of organizations in the city that have either become very skilled at doing events downtown or are interested in doing events downtown. We'll be helping them bring their events downtown and helping to make sure that the events will have as much of a spin-off as possible for the business community. That will be a big push, because whether events or on weekends or weeknights, there are times when there isn't much else going on downtown."
Lombardi feels that this effort will require, to a large extent, better coordination between the entities that put on events. The primary goal will be to have several things going on simultaneously that aren't competing with each other, but complimenting each other.
"The more things you have going on, the more variety you have, the larger draw downtown will be," said Lombardi. "It will become known as a place that people can go for more than just a single event. If you can coordinate with the businesses to help them participate, it will not only strengthen the downtown tax base, but also make it more of an entertainment destination. It's creating a more comprehensive strategy for making downtown better."
Jim Goodling, who was recently named downtown project associate for the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, worked in Corning for 10 years as director of planning and code enforcement. One of the central locations in Corning is the historic Market Street business district, which has evolved over the years. It has been noted as being an early example of historic preservation, but over the years it has also become a restaurant destination.
"He has a good idea of what makes a central business district click," said Lombardi. "It's not something that has to be complicated or expensive, there is just a lot of coordination between organizations and businesses that needs to take place."
When asked about how he felt in his new role with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, Lombardi was optimistic.
"It's a shift for me," said Lombardi. "When I moved back to Jamestown two years ago, I was the director of neighborhood initiatives at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. I've had a really good time focusing on neighborhood improvement in Jamestown and helping to build partnerships between organizations in order to get some programs off the ground like Grow Jamestown and the Renaissance Block Challenge. It's been very satisfying work. I think that we're gaining a lot of momentum right now and as the new executive director I want to maintain a focus on neighborhood programming and the downtown area."
"I think for the long term, in order to be sustainable, there has to be a focus on coordination," continued Lombardi. "It doesn't work to just continue what we've been doing. We want to help facilitate experimentation, which is something that all cities need to be able to do. If they can adapt to change, identify challenges and figure out ways to address them, that puts us in a good position. I want to make sure Jamestown is in a position to respond to change that values experimentation and innovation and doesn't shy away from being bold."