JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) says it’s currently in the process of evaluating what the future has in store for Potters Terrace in downtown Jamestown.
The unique Potters Terrace wood park is located on the northwest corner of Third Street and Potters Alley. The park covers about 3300 square-feet of area and is made entirely of wood decking. It is not a park owned or maintained by the city and was instead built by the Civic Center Development Corp (later becoming the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation or DJDC) as a place holder to cover up a vacant lot until it could be redeveloped. During its 30-year history, there’s been little development interest for the property and, as a result, the park has become a popular fixture of downtown Jamestown.
When the DJDC dissolved in 2013, the ownership of the property passed over to the JRC, which owns it under the name Winter Garden and Potters Terrace LLC. It is currently one of two properties owned by the JRC – the other being the Wintergarden Plaza on North Main Street.
According to JRC executive director Peter Miraglia, the park actually covers up the old basement and foundation of a building that once sat on the site. He said the structural integrity of the old foundation has recently grown to be a concern for the JRC.
“The (wood) structure is actually free standing, but the former building foundation itself is holding up a lot of stuff. The north wall is load baring and holding up the grade from the buildings up on Fourth Street. And the east wall is supporting a part of Potters Alley, so it’s kind of a tricky situation. Water is actually getting in there through the north wall and a beam is now broken in half and the foundation below it is now crumbling,” Miraglia recently told WRFA.
As a result of the foundation issues, the JRC decided in July it would be a safety hazard to keep the park open. It was fenced off and now the JRC board is considering options on what to do with the property.
One option is to rebuild a new Potters Terrace wood park. But Miraglia says that may not be financially viable due to the projected cost, which would not only require new material for the wood park, but also engineering work for the foundation area under the park. That means any renovation of the park would likely cost at least $100,000.
“The foundation on the Third Street side of the property and on the side where the air museum was looks pretty good. It’s the north and east wall. We’re evaluating that and that’s our primary issue right now is to stabilize it. We have to come up with funds of course and we don’t have that in our budget, so that’s what we’re dealing with right now,” Miraglia said.
Another option is to sell the property for redevelopment. It sits adjacent to a currently vacant building at the northeast corner of North Main and East Third Streets. The building (300 N. Main Street) had originally served as a location for Community Bank. It was then acquired by the Lucy-Desi Center in 2002. In recent years Lucy-Desi leased the space to the Lucille M. Wright Air Museum. But the air museum has since moved out and earlier this year the property was sold to the Gebbie Foundation. The foundation hasn’t yet announced any future plans for the building, although there’s the possibility it will eventually see some sort of renovation if any development interest comes forward. Whether or not the Potters Terrace property is part of any future development effort at the Gebbie property remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, as the future of Potters Terrace is discussed, the future of the Chautauqua County AIDS Memorial at the property has also grown to be a concern for some members of the community.
The memorial was also established in the early 1990s as a space to commemorate those county residents who lost their lives to the disease, with the plaques of their names being placed in an area of the wood park. But due to vandalism over the years, some of the plaques have been removed. To make matters worse, Miraglia says the JRC is having a hard time replacing the plaques because they are unable to locate a list of the names on the memorial.
Now a group of local residents have created a petition, urging the JRC to keep the Potters Terrace wood park in place, complete with the AIDS memorial. The group is also asking the city to get involved in helping to renovate the park and memorial, even though the property is currently privately owned by the JRC.
The JRC is inviting the public to offer thoughts on the future of the property and that can be done by email or calling the office. Miraglia said a public input session will also likely take place at some point later this month.