There are many reasons to feel positive about Jamestown’s prospects in the coming year – and just as many reasons to hope for speedier progress on numerous fronts. It’s the mood you’ll find in almost any city as the end of a year approaches and people take stock of where their community has been, where it is, and where they want it to be.
Thus, with a mixture of appreciation and expectation on our minds, the staff at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation has prepared a short list of things we’re optimistic about as the year closes, as well as downtown and neighborhood advancements we’d like to see in 2015.
Continued progress on code enforcement
The city will make a leap forward in 2015 with new code enforcement technology called MyGov – a cloud-based system that will boost efficiency at City Hall and make it easier for the public to report suspected code violations and track the progress of individual cases online. That may not sound revolutionary, but it’s a form of information sharing that has the potential to make a real difference by empowering neighborhood leaders and putting added pressure on negligent property owners. It’s a big deal and something for the city to be proud of.
Implementation of the MyGov system in 2015 should also help pave the way for a rental licensing system that would launch routine inspections to ensure that rental properties comply with basic standards for safety and maintenance. It’s a policy that would help create a healthier and fairer market for the city’s good landlords, put the worst properties on the route to rehab or demolition, and lessen the draining effect that blighted properties have on surrounding property values.
It’s also a central part of the city’s adopted neighborhood revitalization plan and been talked about for five years. This coming year is the perfect time to hone and pass a rental inspection policy that works.
Preparing downtown for the spotlight
The proposed National Comedy Center gained considerable momentum this month with the announcement that state funding has been committed for the first phase of the Center’s development in the recently restored but underutilized train station.
This is good news. But there is much to get done before downtown and the rest of the city is truly ready to accommodate an influx of visitors. More businesses are needed for downtown’s vacant or underutilized storefronts, especially places for people to shop and eat on evenings and weekends. The JRC is working with its partners to more aggressively solicit and assist new businesses to create a more vibrant commercial mix – and 2015 is a year when progress on this front must be made.
Also needed are some aesthetic and functional improvements to make the city easier to use and more pleasant to explore. Let 2015 be the year when solid plans come together for turning 4th Street into a beautiful two-way boulevard, for making Washington Street safer for cars and pedestrians through a center turning lane and other features, and for making North Main Street a downtown showcase with decorative street lamps, more greenery, and attractive signage.
And while we’re at it, let’s resolve to focus more closely on improving the city’s gateway corridors – it’ll boost the visitor experience and contribute to neighborhood revitalization efforts.
More activity on the Riverwalk
Jamestown’s Riverwalk also received a shot in the arm recently with news that the city successfully secured funding for two pedestrian bridges over the Chadakoin River between the Warner Dam and Panzarella Island Park. When these bridges are installed, they will enhance the visibility of a community asset that more and more people are discovering.
Between May and September of 2014, a device on the Riverwalk near the South Main Street Bridge counted over 4,000 users each month, including people who walk, jog, fish, or use the trail as a pleasant short-cut. Let 2015 be a year when those numbers are significantly boosted through the implementation of plans for better signage and wayfinding and the development of high-quality riverfront events to draw new users.
And let the impending construction work on the South Main Street Bridge in 2015 serve as an opportunity to realign traffic on and adjacent to the bridge to make it a much safer place for Riverwalk users to cross. Rather than a high speed path to and from Brooklyn Square, the bridge could easily become a gateway to the riverfront and downtown.
If we can cross these items off our civic to-do list by the end of 2015, it will be good news for our downtown and neighborhoods – and a sign that our community has a growing capacity to address these and other complicated issues.
This post originally appeared in The Post-Journal on December 22, 2014, as the JRC’s biweekly Renaissance Reflections feature.