Plenty Of Work Left For Edwards

Urban redevelopment is never really finished, a fact John Merino knows full well.

The best one can do is hope they have left an imprint on a downtown when their work is done. Merino, the recently retired Gebbie Foundation executive director, did just that – completing more than 100 projects in his 10-year tenure through partnerships with the city and other area foundations like the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and the Sheldon Foundation.

Projects like the Wellman Building restoration brought $7 million in investment downtown and took several vacant floors downtown and turned them into market rate apartments. While the DJDC and Lee Harkness were the early catalysts for the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station renovation, it was the Gebbie who helped the project cross the finish line. Merino’s term also saw the Gebbie Foundation play a role in landing The Connection, a call center located in the Furniture Mart building, and countless facade and alley improvement projects carried out through the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation that, literally, helped change the face of downtown.

Now, the foundation readies itself to move into the future with Greg Edwards, the soon-to-be former county executive and the Gebbie Foundation’s new executive director.

By Merino’s estimation, it took about 30 years for Jamestown to reach its nadir in the 1990s. He also figures it usually takes between 20 and 25 years to restore health to a formerly struggling downtown. It’s up to Edwards to finish the work that has been started.

The job he faces isn’t an easy one – nor is it one that will be finished anytime soon.