More than $400K in downtown investment planned for Renaissance Blocks

JAMESTOWN – The marquee at the Reg Lenna will shine a little brighter, a new mural will appear at Infinity Arts, and several downtown facades will be refurbished as a result of the Downtown Renaissance Block Challenge, a new program administered by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.

In all, 12 projects in three well-defined clusters have been approved under the program, representing more than $400,000 in new downtown investment. JRC, with support from the Gebbie Foundation, will provide $145,000 in matching grants to support the work.

In the past, the JRC has worked with property owners on a case-by-case basis to improve the facades and interiors of over 20 buildings. Under the new program, projects need to be clustered together to maximize the impact of investment and build confidence. Merchants and property owners have to talk to each other, identify project clusters, and submit an application.

Peter Lombardi, Executive Director of JRC, said the new approach has a purpose, saying, “The Renaissance Block program emphasizes coordination and cooperation, and it empowers property owners to define a vision for their own corner of downtown. The progress of recent years will only be sustained if property and business owners are engaged and proactive about making downtown better.”

Projects in 2013, which include facade improvements and interior upgrades, were vetted through a two-phase application process. Not all applications were funded because initial requests totaled well over $600,000, significantly more than JRC could match.

Jim Goodling, Downtown Project Associate for JRC, praised the downtown community for responding so well to the program.

“The staff was uncertain, when this program was announced, how property owners would respond to working with their neighbors, but the number of projects proposed clearly shows that people are very willing to work together to improve downtown Jamestown,” Goodling said.

Three clusters of projects were awarded funds. The first is a group of three buildings on North Main Street. Andrew Jochum was awarded matching funds to assist in improving the facades of 25 and 29 N. Main St. Chris Carlson, 31 N. Main St., also received matching funds to repair and to repaint that building’s exterior.

The second cluster involves buildings owned by Brian and Shayleen Taylor. Storefront interiors in the old Field and Wright Building will be improved with matching funds from JRC, and the facade of the long-dormant building at 12 E. 2nd St. will be rehabbed in preparation for redevelopment. A building owned by Reuben Hernandez at 212 N. Main St., just north of 2nd Street, will receive matching funds from both the JRC and the City of Jamestown to improve the facade and make the space ready for commercial use.

The final cluster of buildings on East 2nd and 3rd streets is the largest group. The Reg Lenna Civic Center will receive a small grant to make improvements to its marquee, and Infinity will get help paying for a new exterior mural on its building. Chris Merchant, at Mariner’s Pier Express Restaurant, will be making interior improvements to his kitchen and restaurant, and Peter Miraglia will create new office space on the upper floors of 106-110 E. Second St. Major facade renovations will be made to Dugan’s Tavern and the Hall and Piazza Law building. Both of those facade projects will include funding from the City of Jamestown’s facade enhancement program, in addition to JRC and private funding.

Lombardi praised the cooperation demonstrated by the program, saying, “These 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.”

Work on most of the projects should be completed by the end of 2013. Some work has already begun.