JAMESTOWN – An estimated 120 community leaders and members of the public were at the Robert H. Jackson Center Tuesday night to learn more about a strategic study that will help to guide the future of development in Jamestown as it relates to the National Comedy Center (NCC).
The study was commissioned by the Gebbie Foundation and was conducted by AECOM Technical Services Inc., an international consulting firm that integrates planning and design and economics for various communities and projects around the globe.
Gebbie Executive Director Greg Edwards said the presentation is the culmination of months of research that will help to guide future development in the city.
“What we’re all excited about is the National Comedy Center coming on line and very shortly – about mid 2017 – so if you’re looking to do planning for economic development and designing a strategy on how to do it, now is when that has to happen and that’s really been the focus of the Gebbie Foundation for the past four to five months,” Edwards said. “We’ve been working with a very talented, international firm AECOM to really be our professionals to take a look at downtown Jamestown and what we need to do to prepare for 100,000 annual visitors who are coming here with money to spend, and we’d like them to invest that money in Jamestown.”
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Two representatives from AECOM -– Linda Cheu and Vaughan Davies – facilitated the study and were on hand to present their findings and answer questions from the audience. Davies said several interesting items came out of the study.
“We definitely looked at the city as a whole, but you definitely have an anchor with the comedy center coming online on the west side,” Davies said. “You have a thriving east side (of downtown) and this is really a plan to link those and bring them together. So what we’ve done is sprinkled some bread crumbs, some very specific ideas and opportunities and we’re hoping that the real estate sector and developers will take the bait and see themselves as being part of the future with NCC.”
AECOM found that Jamestown is already a regional destination, even without the NCC being opened, because it has several international brands – including Lucille Ball, Robert H. Jackson and Roger Tory Peterson. The two consultants said that the study is simply designed to provide various options to help direct strategic development in the downtown over the next several years.
Among the key findings was that the city should take full advantage of the portion of the Chadakoin River that is immediately to the west of Main St. In addition, the city needs to become more pedestrian friendly, by making it easier for pedestrians to navigate through the downtown. They also suggested the city focus on increasing the number of downtown retail businesses.
Now that the study is complete, Edwards said the hope is that key stakeholders in the community, from both the public and private sectors, will use it to help guide the future development in the downtown area to help maximize the city’s potential for both residents and visitors.
“I think that AECOM has really hit this out of the park,” Edward said. “My board of directors was fully engaged with several good questions and Vaughan and Linda provided great answers, so it really stimulated the energy in the room and the belief that not only is this possible – because we know its possible – but also how can it happen.”
The study – which is more than 50 pages long – will be provided to various foundations and city development groups. It will also be available to the public and posted online at JamestownUpclose.com for the public to review in the coming days.