Neighborhoods around the city are coming together thanks to the Renaissance Block Challenge, created by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.
Consisting of three clusters in the downtown core, as well as four neighborhood clusters elsewhere in the city, area residents are teaming up to help effect change in a big way across Jamestown.
The downtown clusters include Carlson's Jewelry, Jochum Business Systems, Holmlund's Wallpaper, Field & Wright Building, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, Mariner's Pier Express, Reg Lenna Theater, Dugan's Tavern, buildings located at 212 N. Main St., 12 E. Second St., 24 E. Third St., 106-110 E Second St., and a city parking lot. The renovations to these areas range from facade improvements and rehabilitation to the public murals, marquee improvements and more.
The block of North Main Street between West First Street and the railroad viaduct is one of three project clusters in the downtown Renaissance Block Challenge.
P-J photos by Ryan Atkins
"There's a block of building between First Street and the railroad viaduct where Carlson's Jewelry is, and they're repainting those buildings," said Peter Lombardi, executive director. "Holmlund's storefront next to the viaduct is also about to be redone. A lot of other projects will be getting started this fall, so these are all moving along."
Lombardi praised the cooperation demonstrated by the program, saying the improvements represent the continuing efforts of JRC, the Gebbie Foundation, the city of Jamestown and, most importantly, the merchants and property owners of downtown Jamestown to make the center of the city attractive and vibrant.
The residential neighborhoods include clusters on the south side near Fairfield Avenue and Superior Street, the west side on Hallock Street, downtown on Lafayette and Jefferson streets, and the north side on Hotchkiss Street. Over the past three years, 15 different neighborhood clusters have participated in the program.
"We're seeing over the last three years fairly good distribution around the city," Lombardi said. "The Allen Park area on the southeast side is one noticeable blank spot, although we've received interest from some homeowners on Linwood Avenue who are probably going to submit an application next year. Willard Heights is another section where we haven't seen a lot of activity but we're hoping to be in contact with folks over there to see if something might happen next year."
According to Lombardi, a total of 72 projects were part of the neighborhood project this year, and people have been finishing things up. On the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation Facebook page, pictures of finished projects have been published on almost a daily basis.
"Recently, an interesting series was on the Lafayette-Jefferson cluster," Lombardi said. "A project that they've undertaken was to brand their neighborhood as the 'Old Quarter.' They have little planters that they distributed to all of the neighbors there that say 'Old Quarter' and have the address of the house on them. It's a nice little identity building project."
The Lafayette-Jefferson cluster is also located near the Washington Street community garden, from which Lombardi noted the leader of the cluster has rented a bed.
"The leader of that cluster is renting a bed in the garden that she's been filling will flowers and edible flowering plants," Lombardi said. "It's added some nice color to that intersection."
"We've been seeing some interesting activity," Lombardi continued. "As part of the application process, we asked these clusters what sort of projects or activities they were planning to do this summer that would help build camaraderie in the neighborhood. The four that we selected had the best answers for that, including the 'Old Quarter' idea. We're getting a handle on how to use this program to make sure there is some sort of cohesion going forward in the neighborhoods."
According to Mary Maxwell, the JRC's Neighborhood Project associate, the purpose of the program is two-fold.
"We want to support exterior improvements to clusters of homes in order to boost curb appeal and build stronger blocks," Maxwell said. "But we also want to see people working together to improve their neighborhoods and address problems proactively."
Groups applying to the program were required to have at least five participating property owners and show a commitment to coordination and communication among neighbors. Participating property owners were eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match on their spending, up to $1,000.
Funding for the Renaissance Block Challenge's matching grants is being provided by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, the Lenna Foundation and Northwest Savings Bank, with additional support from the Chautauqua County Housing Assistance Fund and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.
Local businesses are also assisting participants with discounts and special coupons, including Brigiotta's Greenhouse and Garden Center, Everydays True Value, Chautauqua Brick and Mike's Nursery. Sandberg Kessler, a Jamestown architecture firm, is providing participants with an opportunity to receive general design guidance for their projects.
For more information on the Renaissance Block Challenge, visit the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation's website at www.jamestownrenaissance.org.