Moving Beyond the Magic Bullet

by | Mar 4, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Lucy Desi Center is pushing forward with a plan to build a "National Center for Comedy" in Jamestown.

[Editor’s Note: This editorial is a follow-up discussion to a story published on March 2, 2014, about the National Comedy Center.]

Cities frequently fall prey to the seduction of the “magic bullet,” the project that promises to solve a slew of civic ailments in one fell swoop.

From sports stadiums, to convention centers, to flashy new museums, such projects are notorious for failing to live up to their supersized expectations. And more and more evidence suggests that public investments in such projects have a track record of disappointing returns.

There’s something quite different, though, about the National Comedy Center, the big new project now underway in Jamestown spearheaded by the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy.

More than an altar to the world of comedy, the concept for the center has evolved into an interconnected series of features that have real promise to give a strategic boost to Jamestown’s physical, economic and cultural development.

As currently conceived, the center would develop space in and around Jamestown’s restored train station to house cutting-edge exhibits honoring comedy icons. More importantly, though, it would build on the programming accomplishments of the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival by providing a platform for contemporary talent and a training ground for aspiring comedians.

By making the center about the present and future of comedy, and comedy’s wider role in the arts and humanities, its impact on the city has the potential to extend well beyond the tourism sector. Instead, by helping to position Jamestown as a place of creativity and cultural vibrancy, the project can help the area retain and attract skilled professionals and entrepreneurs who are looking for a place with low overhead costs, high quality of life, a cool urban vibe, and proximity to major metropolitan areas.

While the concept is still being honed, the first stage of physical development will begin this year with a new park behind Jamestown’s train station, including a stairway and track-crossing system to connect the western end of downtown to a rapidly expanding RiverWalk. Spaces within the park will ultimately be incorporated into programming for the National Comedy Center as future phases unfold. Planning for those phases will continue in 2014, building on considerable progress made in 2013 with assistance from industry-leading consultants.

A funding plan for the center is also under development, but the wide base of support necessary to make it work is already being demonstrated. Jamestown’s Gebbie Foundation and Buffalo’s John R. Oishei Foundation are underwriting the planning phase, and many big-name comedians have lent the project credibility by endorsing the concept.

The project makes a solid case for wider support, including state, federal, corporate and philanthropic dollars, through its leveraging of existing investments. By tying the project and its programming to Jamestown’s riverfront and other downtown assets, including the train station, the ice arena and performance venues, the center is set to be integrated with, rather than isolated from, the considerable progress already underway downtown. In doing so, the center will boost the long-term viability of these existing assets and boost its own potential for positive economic spin-offs.

And positive spin-offs are the key to making this work for the community. If the center can bring 120,000 annual visitors to downtown Jamestown, as anticipated, those visitors will be looking for good places to eat and other fun things to do. And if downtown commerce expands to meet that demand, a new range of economic and entertainment opportunities will be available to local residents, as well as to local businesses that can use a vibrant downtown as a selling point in the recruitment of new talent.

Assisting with the expansion of commerce downtown is now a priority of the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. After supporting a wide range of physical improvements to downtown buildings over the past seven years, efforts to fill empty or underutilized storefronts will get a boost this year with programs that include incentives to help attract established businesses to downtown Jamestown. Having an attractive mix of businesses ready to greet visitors when the National Comedy Center is in full swing will be critical to realizing the project’s full potential.

Even though the center is still in the developmental stages, it shows clear signs of transcending the isolated and short-term impacts that plague many large civic projects. With numerous partners at the table, work already underway to meld the project to wider community goals, and a solid understanding of direct and indirect linkages to further development, this goes well beyond the magic bullet mentality.

This post appeared in The Post-Journal on March 3, 2014, as JRC’s biweekly Renaissance Reflections feature.


Recent Posts

Hey lover of Jamestown! We need your input!

The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation is excited to be partnering with Main Street America to do some research, planning, and implementation to improve downtown Jamestown. Part of this work involves getting community input through a survey. Survey Link What is Main...

Host your event in Winter Garden Plaza

Vibrant downtowns have a range of events, big and small, that draw visitors and local residents to enjoy community assets, patronize local businesses, and add vitality to public spaces. To stimulate new and better events in downtown Jamestown, the Jamestown...

ArtScape Jamestown Opens Its Call for Artists

ArtScape Jamestown is inviting local artists to submit their work for a new public art program between now and April 7, 2023.  The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation is partnering with Chautauqua Art Gallery and the City of Jamestown Park's Department to create an...

Historic Tax Credit Workshop: February 15th via Zoom

Do you have a property in one of Jamestown's Historic Districts or looking to purchase property in one of them? This tax credit zoom workshop is for you. Earn tax credits for property improvements. Feb. 15th 6:00 p.m. Join Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the...

2023 Grants for Building and Business Owners Now Open!

Are you looking to adapt or improve your business?Is the downtown building you own not living up to all of its potential?The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation’s Building and Business Improvement Program(BBIP) may have the necessary resources. The program is a 50/50...

What kind of “winter place” should Jamestown be?

We recently hosted "Jaime the Storefront Guy" for a workshop for downtown business owners and community stakeholders. Jaime shared some wonderful insights, and the attendees had great takeaways. There was a dynamic conversation around several subjects, but one was...

Holiday Business Window Decorating Contest

The Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce this years Holiday Window Decorating Contest!  This year’s contest is open to any local business in the 14701 zip code.  The contest itself will run from November 18th – December 4th. ...

2022 Jamestown Holiday Parade Information Announced

Collaborative Children's Solutions will once again be leading the efforts in collaboration with the City of Jamestown in hosting the 2022 Jamestown NY Holiday Parade!! This year's parade will be held on Saturday, December 3rd 2022 in Downtown Jamestown beginning at...

Storefront Mastery Program Comes to Downtown

Church St in Montclair, New Jersey. Photo by Jaime Izurieta The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce are excited to host Jaime Izurieta of Storefront Mastery next month. Jaime and the JRC will host a workshop designed to inspire...