JAMESTOWN – The public will have an opportunity to learn all the details regarding the proposed Gateway Lofts project during an October public hearing.
That was the decision that was made following Tuesday’s lengthy Jamestown Planning Commission meeting, in which members spent more than two hours reviewing and discussing the $34 million project with representatives of the proposal.
The only action taken was a unanimous vote to hold a public hearing next month at either City Hall or at the Gateway center, to allow residents an opportunity to learn more about the project and provide and comments, questions, or concerns they may have.
The $34 million project is an effort by Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL), Community Helping Hands and the YWCA of Jamestown to provide an estimated 70 single and multi-family housing units in the upper floors of the gateway center on Water St.
Of these units, 39 would offer affordable housing options for low income residents, 16 would go to single-parent families assisted by the YWCA, and 25 units would be administered by STEL and designated for non-violent individuals who are homeless and have a serious mental illness or a substance use disorder – with a history of criminal offending or are at risk of offending.
While the project representatives did want to see the commission act on the site plans as presented, they also understood that there were still several questions and concerns left unanswered. Technical concerns involved a limited number of parking availability, proximity of snow disposal during the winter months to the nearby Chadakoin River, and a lack of green space and recreational space for any children who would be in the facility.
The high cost of the project was also noted by commission member Paul Whitford. Commissioner member Jeff Nelson, meanwhile, raised concerns about children having to live in a large apartment complex rather than in single unit homes and the impact it would have on their development. And commission Chair Greg Rabb also noted that residents in the city want to know why Jamestown has been selected to host the project, rather than another community.
“I get asked this a lot by residents, ‘Why is it that Jamestown is always being asked to deal with the problem?'” Rabb said, “Which doesn’t mean that people don’t care, but if you look at what we have in Jamestown right now with taxable property and people in need, we seem to be carrying – and I’ll say this somewhat selfishly as a home owner and a taxpayer in the city of Jamestown – we seem to be asked to carry the burden more than the rest of the community.”
In response to Rabb’s question, STEL executive director Steven Ald said that one other site in Dunkirk has been looked at, but officials opted to go with the Gateway Center instead because of the various service organizations that also already operate out of that building – including the St. Susan Center, Community Helping Hands, and the Mental Health Association.
The project still needs to undergo several hurdles, including site plan approval by the city Planning Commission, a possible variance to account for fewer parking spaces than allowed under the city code, as well as securing funding for a total project cost of $34 million.
Developers say the cost would be covered through a combination of state and federal tax credits that can be sold to investors, along with community investment funds and grants. The project partners have already received a $970,000 state grant to develop the design.
According to the developers, support for the project has been given by several local officials, including: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Catherine Young, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, County Executive George Borrello, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and IDA director Mark Geise, Sheriff Joseph Gerace, county Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler, and the Homeless Coalition.
The public hearing is tentatively set for Oct. 9 and will take place either at the Gateway Center or in the council chambers of city hall.