How many people work in downtown Jamestown and which sectors employ the most people? What percentage of space on upper floors is occupied and by what uses? What are the average rents for different types of space? What proportion of storefronts house non-retail activity?
It’s been well over a decade since current and reliable answers existed to many of these questions, leaving property owners, businesses, real estate agents, and planners to guess about crucial characteristics regarding the downtown marketplace, how it’s changing, and the best strategies for improving it.
That’s why the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, a not-for-profit agency working to revitalize downtown, will be conducting a comprehensive survey of the downtown real estate market and its occupants in the coming months. It’s an effort to compile data and produce information that will enable the JRC and its partners to operate with a much clearer picture of downtown.
This is especially important given the dramatic changes of the past few years. Nearly 60 market-rate apartments have been added to upper floors, businesses have opened and closed, and many buildings have transitioned to new owners and new uses. With resources pouring into façade improvements and other renovations, the anticipated addition of downtown Jamestown to the National Register of Historic Places, and big plans coming together for the National Comedy Center, developer interest is reaching levels not seen in a long time.
Given the importance of good information to good decision-making , it may seem surprising that we don’t already have data compiled for our small downtown. But downtown Jamestown is just large enough – with well over 100 buildings and hundreds of commercial and institutional occupants – to require a rigorous effort to collect and maintain good data. Doing this requires resources and personnel to do it right the first time and a commitment to keeping the information up-to-date year after year – and that’s a commitment the JRC is now in a position to make.
The information gathered early next year will be useful to stakeholders throughout Jamestown – not just the JRC. It’s a way for restaurant owners to know how many downtown workers constitute their potential lunchtime market. It’s a way for real estate agents to know how many storefronts are available at any given time. It’s a way for property owners and developers to know what mixture of uses might be best for their building – and which gaps there are to fill – before undertaking a costly renovation project.
This won’t be data collection just for the sake of it. It will be another tool to aid in the development of a more vibrant and economically sustainable central business district. We look forward to seeing what the data tell us and aiding everyone in understanding their changing city. If you’re a downtown property or business owner, stay-tuned for more information as the survey work gets underway and feel free to contact the JRC at 664-2477 with any questions.
This post originally appeared in the November 24, 2014, edition of the The Post-Journal as the JRC’s biweekly Renaissance Reflections feature. Map courtesy of Microsoft Corporation.