Planning Commission OKs Gateway Park Project, Lays Groundwork For Comedy Center

The Gateway Park Plaza has been approved by city officials.

On Tuesday, the city’s Planning Commission approved a plaza and park project to be located behind the Jamestown Gateway Train Station that will connect with the Greater Jamestown Riverwalk along the Chadakoin River.

Joe Rollman, Clark Patterson Lee representative, said the plaza area will have an ”old-world” look to make it appear more industrial. Rollman said state Historic Preservation Office officials wanted to preserve the historic industrial feel of the former Erie-Lackawanna Train Station.

The park that will be located across the train tracks will have green space with trees and landscaping. He said the park is intended for picnics and activities like frisbee at first. However, once the National Comedy Center is built along West Second Street, the park could be a place for attractions like an amphitheater for live entertainment.

The plaza and park is considered Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 would be the construction of the National Comedy Center, which will be located in the current location of a Jamestown Board of Public Utilities substation.

The National Comedy Center will be an attraction based on the celebration of comedy. It will honor the craft and the artists’ respective contributions to the art form with its exhibits. The National Comedy Center is scheduled to be open in July of 2016.

Rollman said extensive work has been done with the railroad authority to secure the crossing of the tracks from the plaza to the park. Martha Zenns, Planning Commission chairwoman, asked if there was a lease agreement finalized with the railroad company for the crossing. Rollman said there is a lease agreement, but they’re still waiting on the actual contract to give to the required authorities like the Planning Commission. Zenns also asked if they have approval from the National Parks Service for the project at the train station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Rollman said they are waiting for the National Parks Service approval, but the project has received approval from state Historic Preservation Office. He said most times the National Parks Service will approve projects already approved at the state level.

Tom Benson, National Comedy Center chairman, said a ground breaking ceremony for the Gateway Park Plaza will be held during the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which starts Wednesday, Aug. 6.

In June, Jamestown City Council approved the Consolidated Funding Application for the National Comedy Center through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council Program. National Comedy Center officials submitted an application requesting $6 million from the state for construction.

A partnership of local and regional foundations have provided grant funding for planning and development costs, and have also pledged $15.5 millions toward actual construction and exhibit installation expenses in conjunction with what is projected to be a $33.5 million project. The project is expected to leverage $7 million in new market tax credit financing and secure another $5 million in miscellaneous other public and private funding.