Mayor Discusses Selling City Land For Comedy Center Project

Progress is being made for the proposed National Comedy Center project.

On Monday, Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, discussed selling city-owned land along West Second Street for the proposed project. Right now, a BPU substation is located on the spot of the proposed National Comedy Center. However, that substation will be decommissioned and will be replaced by a new substation being built along Isabella Avenue. The West Second Street BPU transformer is scheduled to be dismantled next year.

Along with the property on Second Street, National Comedy Center officials are also interested in Rose Alley, which is located near Second Street. Teresi said there are two ways for people or organizations to purchase city-owned land. One way is through collecting sealed bids or a public auction. The second way is through a private sale, which is how National Comedy Center officials would like to acquire the property.

Before a private sale can be completed, Teresi said there are four conditions city officials would like followed before selling the land. The first condition would be for public use of the property to end. Second a fair market price must be offered for the property. The appraisal report for the properties has indicated the West Second Street property’s market value is $120,000 and Rose Alley is $10,000. The third condition would be for an environmental review of the property, with the city being cleared of any responsibility for anything found during the assessment. The last condition would be for the National Comedy Center officials to have the money in place for the project, city Planning Commission site plan approval and approved building permits before transferring the land. Teresi said the city doesn’t want to sell property for projects that never come to fruition.

Teresi said last week the National Comedy Center received good news as far as potential funding. In June, National Comedy Center officials applied for $6 million through the state’s regional council consolidated funding application process. Last week, the Western New York Regional Council announced one of its priority projects for state funding is the National Comedy Center. The mayor said that is a positive sign for the project, which is also receiving private funding from local and regional foundations.

”(I’m) encouraged with the progress to date,” Teresi said.

To sell the city land to National Comedy Center officials, the city’s Planning Commission needs to approve the site plan. After that, City Council can hold a public hearing on the proposal. The final step would be City Council approving the sale by a two-thirds vote. Teresi said the City Council does not have to approve the land sale at its voting session Monday, but the necessary steps should be taken soon for the project.

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.

A partnership of local and regional foundations has provided grant funding for planning and development costs, and has 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.

The team of stakeholders in the National Comedy Center project includes the Lucy Desi Museum and Center for Comedy; the Gebbie Foundation; the Oishei Foundation; the Sheldon Foundation, Lenna Foundation and the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Following a commitment of support from the Oishei Foundation in 2012, two firms were contracted to complete the master planning phase of the National Comedy Center project. Jack Rouse Associates, a firm specializing in audience-centric exhibit and museum experiences in culture and entertainment, and AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support including leisure economics, worked in parallel to complete the master plan in 2013.