An interim step in what to do with vacant commercial buildings downtown has been found.
The step is an artistic program called Board-Up. The city of Jamestown has partnered with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and The Neighborhood Foundation from Chicago, for the installation of decorative boards on vacant commercial buildings. The program has started with the Arcade Building on North Main Street and the adjacent Murray Building. The boards will be painted to resemble storefronts from Jamestown’s past. Chris Toepfer, The Neighborhood Foundation executive director, said the artistic display should be finished soon.
“The primary purpose is to secure and board up buildings that have been condemned to prevent unauthorized entrance to these buildings that can be very dangerous to potential intruders and the general public,” said Vince DeJoy, city Development director. “Similar programs have been popular in the other areas throughout the nation as a way to improve the appearance of vacant buildings.”
DeJoy met Toepfer at a conference in Philadelphia about reclaiming vacant properties. After the conference, Toepfer drove to Jamestown on his way back to Chicago. DeJoy said he knew Jamestown once had beautiful buildings in downtown that looked awful in their current state. The buildings have also been deemed too dangerous to occupy. These buildings are not up for demolition and still could be renovated in the future.
DeJoy said vacant properties must be boarded up to prevent illegal entry. The bare plywood over windows and doors, however, can be an eyesore for the city core. He said the solution was to partner with artists to improve the appearances of the properties while adding high levels of curb appeal. This outside-the-box thinking could spark interest and give potential investors an idea of what a property could look like.
“At the same time, the city of Jamestown, the JRC and surrounding building owners on North Main Street are investing thousands of dollars to give the facades of their buildings a fresh look,” DeJoy said. “Artistic board-up seemed like a perfect and very affordable means to secure the buildings and, at the same time, make a significant visual improvement and leverage the investment being made with private and public dollars.”
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said the ultimate goal is to redevelop the buildings at some point. However, until that day comes, this program will enhance the look of downtown Jamestown.
“This is a good interim step,” Teresi said. “Redevelopment is the main goal. The last resort is tearing down the buildings.”
DeJoy said materials for the project were purchased from local, independent lumber and paint stores. Chautauqua Brick agreed to help the project by extending special discounts.