Planning Commission — Proceedings by Authority
City of Jamestown, ss:
State of New York,
Mayor’s Conference Room
The special meeting of the Planning Commission for the City of Jamestown, New York was held on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 4:15 p.m.
Members Present: Chairman Greg Rabb, Paul Whitford, Jeff Nelson, Regina Brackman, Jeff Lehman, Tom Nelson, Joe Trusso, Paul Andalora
Others Present: Bill Rice, Jeff Hollern, Vince DeJoy, Dave Leathers, Greg Edwards, Dave Rhinehart, Kristy Zabrodsky, Lillian Vitanza Ney, Tory Irgang
Chairman Rabb called the meeting to order.
ICE ARENA ADDITION DISCUSSION
Mr. Rabb: We’re having this special meeting today to discuss any concerns with respect to the proposed addition to the ice arena. I know that Jeff brought out a request for comments. I didn’t get any from anybody, so I think all of you saw the ones that I put out; and I’ll distribute to everybody who is here. The commission should’ve gotten this, but you’ll notice that I took the Urban Design Plan, went through the three sections and brought up items for our discussion and then we’ll go from there. Unless you have more that you want to add. But, my plan, so that we can do this as efficiently as possible, again to go back to the Urban Design Plan, go through the three sections, go through my three comments and then add anything else that anybody else wants to bring up. I don’t know if everyone brought my comments. Let me distribute it around the table and we’ll get enough for everyone in the room.
I didn’t make copies of the sections that Jeff had sent out from the Urban Design Plan, but I’m assuming most of you are familiar with that. If not, I’m going to take the option, there’s three parts to this; the site planning guidelines, the west end streetscape and the west end building design. One of the things I did on Saturday was, I just went back to the Urban Design Plan and came up with ideas that I had for discussion here among the commission members and if anybody else wants to address the issue. Just remember to identify yourself, please.
Mr. Whitford: Mr. Chairman, I guess I misunderstood at the last meeting, because I think my comments were clear that anything that the Planning Commission, any questions or concerns about the site plan, any of this, were supposed to be shared prior to this meeting, not just kept within the Planning Commission. Was all of this information shared?
Mr. Rice: No, because we got it so late, we didn’t have time to get it out.
Mr. Rabb: I was waiting to hear comments from the rest of the commission, so then, Saturday morning – that’s why we’re having this special meeting because we can’t act it today anyway. This is just to discuss these things so that when we have our regular meeting later in the month, hopefully we can clarify this. So, when I put my thoughts together, I admit it was just sent to the commission, but that’s why I made copies to share with everyone who’s here so that you know what I thought might be the issues, but I’m newly back on the commission, so you may have had discussions before this, dealing with some of these issues, but I think what you said was right Paul. Again, I’m going to read through what I have to say based on the Urban Design Plan that was adopted by the city council.
Under Site Planning Guidelines, which is the first section, these are my comments. They are mine exclusively and if you agree or disagree, I’d be happy to hear it, but there appears to be no doubt that the proposed addition will block the view of the restored Erie Railroad Station as a prominent local landmark, transportation center and link to the Riverwalk. I put my concern in a question, because I don’t necessarily have the solution, but having looked at the plan, having looked at the design, having gone to the site, the question I pose is can the exterior design be changed so that it fits in with the character of the nearby buildings, including the train station, in such a way that it calls attention to the train station and visually connects the two sides of second Street, as well as the development of a possible railroad museum further west on Second Street.
Mr. Jeff Nelson arrived.
Mr. Rabb: I put forth the question. It’s basically saying, can the design be changed along the lines consistent with my understanding and reading of the Urban Design Plan. I open this up to further discussion by the commission. Anyone on the commission want to address that question, or any input from the staff level? Under the Site Planning Guidelines coming out of the Urban Design Plan, I was asking if change could be made consistent with the Urban Design Plan because that’s all mine was based on. I just sat down, reread through it and came up with the questions. I don’t know if this was consistent with your concerns or other concerns in the commission or the staff.
Mr. Rice: It has been my concern and I have expressed that on a number of occasions.
Mr. Rabb: So, I pose the question. I don’t necessarily have the solution, but that’s one of my concerns and that’s one of the things I think I would like to see us address before we go ahead with this.
Mr. Trusso: If I may?
Mr. Rabb: Yes sir.
Mr. Trusso: My concern was that this is just the first step in the last step that they presented that they wanted to close Second Street. This is just another little nibble to try to put this out and the next step would be to come in and say well, we really need to do that, to close Second Street to tack onto the Lucy Center or whatever you want to call it to the ice rink and I think it’s wrong. I think a lot of citizens in this city use Second Street to get to the bridge when there’s all that traffic on Third Street up there. They shoot down and cut across. I think that would be disastrous. And really, if you don’t give them what they want now, they come back again for a little bite more, a little bite more. Look, it’s no, it’s no. I don’t have to hear anything else. I think that the ice rink is a wonderful place and I think that the train station is a wonderful place. But, the train station is being eaten up by the center there and I think that’s wrong. I think that the center that the train station is on the national registry, if I’m not mistaken, and I don’t see why we haven’t stopped this takeover of the station. We’ve got to speak out, otherwise that’ll all be the comedy center down there. As far as I’m concerned, the comedy center is fine, as long as they don’t infringe on other things that are important to Jamestown and I think that the train station, in my estimation, is important to Jamestown. That’s where I left when I went to Korea and a lot of us left from there to go to Vietnam and other places and the Second World War and that means an awful lot to us. And then you endanger that train station, which this is doing, I’m dead against. You want my vote right now? I vote against it.
Mr. Rabb: Well, we’re not going to be voting on it today, Joe –
Mr. Trusso: I’m just telling you.
Mr. Rabb: Well that’s why we’re here, we’re wanting –
Mr. Trusso: Just to make the people who are involved, aware of what my vote will be.
Mr. Rabb: And we want to hear those concerns in anticipation of taking the vote at the regular meeting.
Mr. Trusso: Too much.
Mr. Rabb: My understanding, from looking at the plan, and I understand what you’re saying, is that there’s no intent and I think, I can’t speak for the city council, but my former colleague, Councilman Nelson is here, I don’t think the city council would ever vote for the closing of Second Street, regardless of what may come down the pike. I don’t know if you want to add anything to it?
Mr. Tom Nelson: Yes, there is no interest in doing that, but it’s my understanding that that is not part of this plan.
Mr. Rabb: That was my understanding too.
Mr. Tom Nelson: So, I don’t think we need –
Mr. Trusso: The first plan that was introduced to us was closing the Second Street.
Mr. Tom Nelson: But, that’s not part of the plan now.
Mr. Trusso: Because of who’s in office.
Mr. Rabb: Well, Joe I understand what you’re saying, but we’ve got to deal with what’s in front of us. So, that’s why I pose the question; is it possible to change the design of the proposed addition along the lines that I’m suggesting which, as far as I can read, are consistent with the Urban Design Plan?
Mr. Trusso: We still have to worry about the future.
Mr. Rabb: Joe, I agree with you, but…
Mr. Trusso: As far as I’m concerned this is just the first bite of what we can expect in the future.
Mr. Rabb: I admit that I can’t see the future, so I want to deal with – I understand your concerns. I would probably agree with a lot of your concerns, but we’ve got to deal with what’s in front of us on the table, which is the site plan. So, is it possible to change the design so that it calls attention to the neighborhood, the prominent status of the train station? Because it is going to block its view no matter how we construct this, but is there a way to do it so that it lessens the blocking of the view and puts that train station at the center of this neighborhood?
Mr. Tom Nelson: Can I ask, you say it’s going to block the view. From where? From Lafayette?
Mr. Rabb: Yes.
Mr. Tom Nelson: It already does. The ice arena already does block the view of the train station.
Mr. Rabb: Not to the extent that the addition would.
Mr. Tom Nelson: I’ve stood on Lafayette and looked down. You can hardly see the train station. That ship has sailed. It’s done.
Mr. Rabb: If you stand across at the Best Western, or if you stand on the Eastern Corner, you can still see it. With this, it’ll block the whole view.
Mr. Tom Nelson: Will people think the train station disappeared if they can’t see it? It’s still there. You can see it. It’s not going to go anywhere.
Mr. Trusso: What’s not going anywhere?
Mr. Tom Nelson: The train station’s not going anywhere.
Mr. Trusso: You’ve got to be kidding me, Tom.
Mr. Tom Nelson: It’s not going anywhere.
Mr. Trusso: You can’t see the future? Don’t you see what’s happening?
Mr. Tom Nelson: They’re trying to add something to the ice arena that, I think, is a good thing.
Mr. Rabb: The question on whether or not it’s a good thing is not even on my mind. I don’t have a problem with what they’re trying to do. My concern, because I didn’t get any other concerns from the rest of the commission, was not what was going in there. I don’t think anybody disputes that. At least, I don’t think so. It’s perhaps, could this be done in a better way. That’s my concern. And, again, I’m building off the Urban Design Plan. And let me quote from the Urban Design Plan; “the former Erie Railroad Station area presents a unique opportunity to build a critical connection between the west end and the riverfront. And so, building that connection is consistent with the plan. Physically connecting pedestrian access and adding commercial uses between the station and the river’s edge will create a strong link between the two areas. Proper placement of building forms and features will enhance the continuity needed to link the north and the south sides of the city.” So, I’m just quoting from the plan. I think anything that we approve down there, should build on that connection from the ice arena through the train station to the riverfront.
Mr. Rice: One thing I can kind of add to that; Dave asked me this question before. There are two decisions that have to be made. The first one is the environmental review. When you go through the form of the environmental review, one of the first questions it asks is does it comply with the local plans that were adopted. And when you add that, it’s questionable if it does at this point. So, it becomes something that’s flagged. And the question will ask, how do you mitigate that.
Mr. Lehman: It doesn’t say it, per se, there from what you just read. In my mind. I understand what we’re trying to do, but it doesn’t say…
Mr. Rabb: I’m just trying to – my questions and my concerns relate to the plans. It’s not something that I dreamed up. That’s why I sat down and reread this to make sure.
Mr. Lehman: So, what is acceptable I guess, is the question.
Mr. Rabb: Well, the question was posed, can it be done differently so that we can draw attention to the train station. Not just block the view. The train station would be central to that area. It always was understood to be that way. And I don’t have the answer. I’m just saying, is there a better way to do this? So that we don’t lose the sight on the importance of the train station.
Mr. Lehman: It may not be part of this plan, but it’s part of this plan and the piazza project that we’re working on simultaneously, which I think we’ve been introduced to, but there’s more to come on that. They’re going to make that the central hub of that area.
Mr. Rice: But, I think you could modify that corner situation slightly to be able to address the situation we’re talking about.
Mr. Rabb: And that’s all I’m asking. Can it be done better than it is currently proposed? So that it addresses the issue that I think is raised on the plan.
Mr. Jeff Nelson: My concern too, is the visual aspect of the addition, as it was designed, and the view of the train station. If you’re standing back on Lafayette, you can still see more of the train station the way it is now when compared to where it would be closed off.
Mr. Rice: Maybe I can kind of explain a little bit more as to the importance of that visual access. When you’re dealing with wayfinding; you’ve probably heard me say it, wayfinding is not just signage. You have to determine a pathway, put signage up, but you still have to have a visual connection to the end point that you’re going to, to make sure you’re on, you’re getting the final results of where you want to go. So, when you close off the view, you tend to eliminate that issue. Now, we’ve got multiple destinations over in this area, which makes it kind of unique as it is, in the west end.
Mr. Nelson: Including the main entrance to the train station.
Mr. Rice: Yes.
Mr. Nelson: Which is hidden, if that’s closed.
Mr. Rice: It eliminates that. The pathway of getting to these destinations needs to be determined to decide what visual connection you need, what signage you need, to make sure you’re still on the right pathway. That’s kind of the key to making that all work. That really hasn’t been worked out yet. We also have other entities, the possibility of that train barn being converted to a train depot, that also needs a connection and a pathway determined. So, there are multiple things that we have to start thinking about to make sure that they all work well.
Mr. Rabb: So, I pose the question for discussion. I didn’t say I have the answer, it’s not like I just came from class where when I pose questions, I do have the answer. I don’t have the answer, I just sat down and thought is there a way that we can do this better. And I don’t know if anyone has an answer, but I think it’s something for consideration in the absence of other things that were brought up by other commission members. We can come back to that if you want to go on to the next one.
Let’s go to the west end streetscape. Can there be changes in streetscape amenities to further encourage and create a distinct identity in the west end? If I go back to the plan, it says large development sites in the west end should emphasize human scale design at the street level of a building, place emphasis on the ground level and building where it orients to the street or defines public streets. I don’t remember what there was in terms of – if I look at the picture, there’s nothing there, but maybe there’s more in here. This doesn’t look like there’s anything added.
Mr. Lehman: That kind of goes back to the piazza project. That’s going to bring the whole thing together. I think we’re getting ready to spend up to $700,000.00 on improvements on that intersection, that whole corridor, to make it…
Mr. Rabb: If we have information on that, that would be really helpful.
Mr. Lehman: Again, it’s a different project, but it’s coming down the pike.
Mr. Leathers: The second page shows the piazza connector.
Mr. Rabb: There’s three different colors, but they’re incorporated…
Mr. Lehman: Multiple colors, the crosswalks will be redone, the parking lanes will be different colors.
Mr. Rabb: That’s what I’m trying to determine by looking at the map; is where each of these is incorporated into the streetscape.
Mr. Leathers: I think they’re options to consider. They’re not…
Mr. Lehman: We’re not tied down. These are just working drawings right now.
Mr. Rabb: So, part of the proposed brick structure could be similar, maybe similar, to what the train station is on the other side?
Mr. Rice: Part of what they’re describing on the Urban Design is how does the building engage this sidewalk area with pedestrian interest. This really hasn’t done a lot, but a lot of that deals with the usage of the place.
Mr. Lehman: You’ve got to speak up, Bill. I can’t hear you and I’m sitting right next to you.
Mr. Rice: We’re talking how does the building engage the sidewalk area for pedestrians. A lot of that deals with the usage of it. It’s not going to be able to do only so much.
Mr. Whitford: Does this inhibit the transportation portion of that area? It doesn’t at all?
Mr. Jeff Nelson: You’ve got a lot of traffic in there. You could have a lot of neighborhoods that are going to want you changing the streets.
Mr. Rabb: I didn’t understand your comment.
Mr. Jeff Nelson: I’m just saying if this roadway could look very, very nice and a lot of people in the city probably would probably like to have it in their neighborhood.
Mr. Rabb: I see. Joe brought up the access of people through Second Street so that Second Street still stays open as a viable transportation connector in the west side and downtown. So, this builds a sense of community, but it doesn’t interfere with transportation. At least as far as I can tell.
Mr. Whitford: With this, they’re all going to compliment each other. It’s actually a defined area. It isn’t like you’re in old town Chicago. It’s a smaller area. They’re all going to actually compliment each other; the train station, the comedy center, the ice rink, the kids zone, the brewery.
Mr. Lehman: Long story short, the ice arena now doesn’t exactly compliment the architecture.
Mr. Rabb: You’re right. It doesn’t.
Mr. Lehman: And I think what you’re trying to get to, is to meld the two together by the addition.
Mr. Rice: The west end itself, because of its clustering of those destinations, has a different identity, but it still needs to be a part of the downtown core. So, how do you do those two things? That still needs to be determined.
Mr. Tom Nelson: You can’t change the ice arena.
Mr. Lehman: I get that.
Mr. Tom Nelson: I see what you’re saying here.
Mr. Lehman: I’m saying the addition could morph into that somehow.
Mr. Rabb: That’s the question I’m asking. Obviously, we can’t change the existing building. But, if we’re going to put an addition on the building, can we do it in such a way that it compliments and supports what we said we would do with the Urban Design? And again, I don’t have an answer, but I think that’s one of the things that we ought to look at because it’s supposed to be consistent with this plan. And we’re talking now about coming up with Urban Design 2.0 at some point. We’ve had some success with this, but I think if we have a plan, I think it’s reasonable to expect that we follow it and certainly I think it’s reasonable for the city planning commission to be asking these questions.
Mr. DeJoy: Is there anything that you’ve identified that doesn’t comply with the Urban Design Plan?
Mr. Rabb: Well, the question I posed in my email was how we could make this so it doesn’t comply better with the Urban Design Plan; as part of our discussion.
Mr. DeJoy: Is there anything that doesn’t? Has anyone identified anything that doesn’t comply with the Urban Design Plan?
Mr. Rabb: Well…
Mr. DeJoy: You’re asking the question. I just want to know if you’ve identified anything that doesn’t.
Mr. Rabb: I identified, by looking at the Urban Design Plan, that maybe there’s a way to do the addition so that it builds on the Urban Design Plan. Because basically the addition is built on what the ice arena looks like right now, is, I would say, inconsistent with the Urban Design Plan. I’m not objecting to the addition, I’m asking is there a way that we can make it better. So, when you ask that question, I don’t know how to answer it.
Mr. Tom Nelson: So, make an addition that looks like something that was built in the 1900s? What are you…
Mr. Rice: No. there’s scale and massing in urban design that’s appropriate for the different architectures that you’re dealing with. And there’s ways to making this look better than what’s been proposed. Part of the issue is that view; how can you deal with that and still deal with the addition? And I think you can. Maybe modifications could work.
Mr. Tom Nelson: So, you’re asking them to go back to the drawing board?
Mr. Rice: I think we need to have some alternatives.
Mr. DeJoy: I don’t agree. I’m sorry. I don’t agree.
Mr. Trusso: In terms of what?
Mr. DeJoy: The fact that, if there is some blockage, is that codified anywhere in any document, that’s blocking the view of the train station. That it’s forbidden, ever? Any part of the view?
Mr. Rabb: No, it wasn’t codified, but it’s central to the Urban Design Plan when you get into the site planning guidelines, the importance and centrality of the Erie Railroad Station. So, all I’m suggesting is there a way to design this better so as it doesn’t completely block, but perhaps calls attention to and connects. Which I think is consistent with my reading of the Urban Design Plan. The Erie Railroad Station is the center of the Urban Design Plan on the west end. So, you have to talk about it, you have to acknowledge it. I’m just asking us to consider that question. Is there a better way to do this? I think that’s the proper role of the planning commission. Especially since I’m referring to the Urban Design Plan. I’m not making this stuff up. I sat down Saturday and reread this several times before I posed my questions. So, my questions grew out of my understanding of this plan. Maybe there isn’t a better way. But, I’m just asking the question because that was the point of this special meeting. That we would get together and make sure that we thoroughly vet and discuss these questions.
Mr. Tom Nelson: Greg, did you have something you wanted to add?
Mr. Edwards: I think these are all really good questions and I think it’s appropriate for them to be asked and the project and my role in it at the Gebbie Foundation is to try and help advance the economics of the downtown and the arena and other projects and we are partners with the city on the piazza project. We’re thrilled that we get to come alongside the $140,000.00 that the city got for the CFA and help amass the half million dollars that’s going to go with that to help make the piazza appropriate. One of the challenges, I think, with this particular stage that we’re at is, and I think this really helps, Mr. Chairman, that these questions were posed in this way. I think it gives us something, it gives the project something to react to. Because up until now, it’s how we – the project was how do best take advantage of this opportunity to add to the city and really help, I think ultimately, improve the look of the backside of the arena since it’s going to be the front door of the National Comedy Center and the train station. From the train station, you walk out that concourse, you’re looking right at a brick wall and that’s, to your point, it doesn’t add to the ambience down there. I think it’s, not necessarily ultimate, because dollars are important. If I might just gesture to the pictures here. This design – Clark Patterson did a couple renditions that are reflecting some of the earlier questions that were raised here, but is there a color tone, is there a design of a window, is there signage, appropriate signage or other things that can go on this to better look or feel or react to the historic train station? Sure. That’s color schemes and types of material and those issues which I think there are always solutions to them, it’s just about trying to figure out what can be affordable within the cost structure of the project as designed.
I think there’s really good questions on the district identity, but I think the challenge we find is what’s the identity. I understand we’ve got the historic train station which is being used in such a way that it’s preserving its capacity to be the train station and accept people right off the rail line there. Right at that redesigned point where Joe, you and lots of other folks had their onboarding and offboarding the trains right into that concourse. I think it opens up the door for the amassment of the idea of the train museum, making that track site viable. I guess the question is, and what I think is difficult to answer at this stage of the game, what is the west end identity. So, I think it’s possible to make some changes to make this look more appealing in relationship to the train station, but I think where the real connection happens, is in the second page and the third page that you’re looking at in front of you. Because, Jeff, the desire here, and it’s being discussed in a very early stage, is what best makes the piazza appealing and bright, again, to your point Jeff of the brick streets and the ambience and the neighborhoods wanting the same things, the opportunity we have before us now is to take those overlays, those brick-style block top and turning into this cobblestone, brick look and feel to that piazza and do it in such a way that it ties that whole area together.
And as far as the view, I think the view from Lafayette is absolutely very important, but I think in context, what we’re collectively looking to do here as a whole city, is to change the point of view in a positive way. If the train station is the focus of the west end, I don’t disagree, the piazza changes that to the point where the train station becomes the focal point. Because if you picture yourself as any one of these characters here in this digital rendering, you’re on the ground there, you’re looking down through the piazza, you’ve got your front door of the National Comedy Center here, and that’s developing in a beautiful way, it really is nicely combining the historic look of that building, but also the new feel to the lights and the entrance there, but just picture yourself standing there with hundreds of other folks; as you’re looking down Second Street, right at the historic train station on your left and then, where the ultimate exterior right down through there. So, your focus and your focal point isn’t necessarily from the window of the Best Western looking down on Lafayette as much for the vast majority of folks, it’s going to be right there on the ground, with the physical attachment to the train station and Shawbucks and BWB and that whole area there with this canopy of lights on top.
They’re important questions. I think this piazza project is the tying point. This is what brings this whole area together. So, while it’s certainly appropriate to ask about what we want here color-wise or material-wise, but I think that the addition of the city project of the piazza I think really helps answer a lot of these issues and gives us a way to address those concerns.
Mr. Rabb: Thanks. That was my intent with raising the questions. Obviously, I’m back; I was city planning commission chairman back when the ice arena was approved and now I’m back in this position again and so, it almost sounds like I’m coming in at this project a little late, but I just got back on and so I know at the last meeting, I kept hearing there are issues, there are issues, but I wanted to put the issues down in words, which is what I did, and as best as I could determine, from listening to people, these were the issues that I could identify. And I talked to a lot of folks; commission members, staff, anybody I could get ideas from so that if there’s a way that we can make this better. You know, this is going to be there for a long time. This is important to the future of downtown and the city. Why not try to make it better?
Mr. Lehman: It’s actually a great opportunity to fix up the back end of the box of the ice arena.
Mr. Rabb: That’s partially my point.
Mr. Lehman: I’m not sure exactly how to do that, but I’m sure somebody does.
Mr. Jeff Nelson: Because of the statement years ago that the ice arena looked like a box based on the drawings, that’s why that cutout was done on Lafayette to try to open that up and give it a different view.
Mr. Rabb: And the tower up on Lafayette and Third Street to make it look like more than just a box. I don’t want to go back into ancient history, but I still remember asking when I was chairman of the city planning commission before I went on city council, how does this project take any cues from the neighborhood? So that it fits in better. Quite frankly, at that time, I was told well there is no neighborhood to take cues from. Maybe there wasn’t at that time, but I think since, with everything that’s been done down there; the BWB, the comedy center, the train station, I think now there is a west end identity to take cues from and my goal is just to, not stop the project because I think what you’re trying to do there is wonderful and that’s not even the issue of concern for the west end plan, it’s how does it fit in.
Let me just pose my third question if I can, which had to do with building design. Again, I took this from the plan. Can there be changes in the exterior design of the addition consistent with the goal of “design excellence appropriate to the urban setting” including therein “the building character as the building rises”. And that’s discussed and I think Bill followed up after I raised this idea. Changes from the first to the second to the third floor, so that there’s some variation, so it fits in. Again, if anybody else on the commission, and Mr. Trusso shared some of his thoughts, and Councilman Nelson has. If anybody else has anything else. I guess my position is, this was a meeting to discuss this, not to stop the project, but to make it better. I appreciate the fact that you think they’re good questions, I just don’t have the answers, but I think there are ways that we can make this better so that it could be consistent with this plan and then at a regular meeting, we hopefully can approve it. I’m trying to get this moving.
Mr. Edwards: We’re all appreciative of that and I apologize, but I guess I’m a little bit stumped here on the last question. I get a sense that I would present that the arena leadership has worked with one of the best firms in the state when it comes to Clark Patterson Lee with regard to the architectural work and the design. Granted, there are modifications that can certainly be designed into this with regard to color scheme or the look. I’m thinking of the west end, you’ve got Shawbucks with a multi-colored group of brick-related colors and a blue awning on the front of that building. BWB is obviously a first-class building that has a brick look to it obviously there as well. The comedy center and the train station and the BPU building have that tied in, so I’m reasonably confident with the team that we have that the color scheme can be built into that. With the piazza comes the lighting components that you’ll see on the one rendering. Clearly, this part of this building was also included in that lighting idea, so you’ll have consistency throughout that whole west end, all the way down into the Riverwalk and the river itself. That lighting is going to be consistent throughout the whole west end as these projects develop. The city is on point with regard to the Riverwalk lighting through the DRI money. So, there’s real consistency with regard to lighting. I think, again, that becomes evident when you look at the rendering here for the piazza and also the original documents and the renderings that the city has been working on with the Riverwalk and all these things work very closely together in that they’re designed by the same organization or the same theme. I think that will pull it together.
As far as the differing levels with regard to the streetscape, the second floor and the third floor. I think lighting’s going to help, I think the coloration changes that can be added to this address that as well, but as far as the design excellence appropriate to the urban setting, I would hope that diving in deeper into those plans that Clark Patterson Lee has done, would affirm that this is the best available out there as far as the architectural design and the use of this space to it’s maximum. On the side, I do appreciate the concern with regard to timeliness. We are working as a team here in an effort to try and assure we have the best chance of presenting a winning proposal to the Wilson Foundation. The Wilson Foundation, as you know, is a close partner of the National Comedy Center, so they show a willingness to invest in Jamestown. We’ve been working throughout their process of their engagement of the Aspen Institute; a nationally and world recognized firm on their state of play analysis and right now, from my conversation with the leadership of the Wilson Foundation, there isn’t another project that’s fully formed that’s available for them to react to that fits their state of play capacity and right now, the arena was identified as the only entity in all of Cattaraugus County, Allegheny County and Chautauqua County to fit its definition, the Aspen Institute’s and Wilson’s definition of a facility that’s available for children to experience varieties of sports and accessible to all level of folks to do that. So, I’m sensitive in recognizing these questions need to be addressed and addressed again, but also, there’s a timeliness challenge here because in a couple months’ time, there’s going to be hundreds of projects before the Wilson Foundation, potentially hundreds of projects before the Wilson Foundation whereas right now we’re kind of in the sweet spot for their awareness because we’ve talked to them about this project because we know it fits. It’s a very significant study and then it just secures another investment of the Wilson Foundation in Jamestown. And when you’ve got a $1.5 billion-dollar foundation that’s interested in investing in you, it’s a great thing. It’s a great opportunity to have.
I’m confident the design meets or exceeds the BWB building and the National Comedy Center. It significantly advances the interior design of the arena. It was state of the art when it was built, but that was years ago. This puts it right back into a position where it’s, again, cutting edge and state of the art and I’m confident that the issue with regard to tying it in can be resolved. But, any detail with regard to the Urban Design Plan and how it would impact, certainly you’ve got an expert here with Bill at the table, and you’ve already articulated some of the components that we need, if you are able to help devise what those specifically are, that would give us something to react to more specifically, than just the information so far.
Mr. Trusso: Are you the speaker for this group?
Mr. Edwards: No, they asked me to come because the Gebbie Foundation is heavily invested with the city for the piazza project.
Mr. Trusso: Who can give me a guarantee? Can you? Who can give me a guarantee that the Gebbie Foundation will not – or any other – try to make an attachment between the skating rink and the train station, closing down or bridging Second Street.
Mr. Edwards: I certainly understand your concern –
Mr. Trusso: Is there anyone that can do that?
Mr. Edwards: It’s a good question. It’s already been done Joe. We did that, collectively, individually and collectively, did that in writing to the city identifying that it is not now, nor is there any intention in the future of a desire to close Second Street. Because that was a plan that was submitted and there was a response back, appropriately that the municipality maintain complete discretion with regard to the closing of the street. That’s codified. That’s not going to change unless somebody in Albany decides that that’s going to be a new way that cities are going to operate. So, the city remains, no matter who’s sitting where, the city is the ultimate determiner of what happens with their streets and it’s already been submitted in writing that there’s no intention of a move to close the street because it was clear that that wasn’t going to happen. So that’s why the plan was changed dramatically to eliminate that altogether. There’s nothing that ties the two buildings together, but it’s integral that they have this interaction, which can happen across the street. People can walk across the street to gain access to the train station and to the arena. It’s a great question, but it’s already been resolved in writing that your concerns were appropriate, but now they’re no longer on the table.
Ms. Zabrodsky: I guess I’ll speak to your question. My name is Kristy Zabrodsky and I’m here as the co-president of the arena board with Dave Leathers.
Mr. Trusso: John is your husband?
Ms. Zabrodsky: Yes.
Mr. Trusso: Okay.
Ms. Zabrodsky: Also, with Dave Leathers who is co-president of the arena board. This project that we’ve submitted is not requesting that the Second Street be closed. When we came in and spoke with the planning commission in August, we were invited to come and have a discussion about what the opportunities were and what the planning commission might be willing to consider. It was clear at that point that that wasn’t something that you were interested in considering, so our team went back to the drawing board, we redrew the entire project, we kept in mind the importance to the commission of leaving the street open and having the traffic remain, but we also took into consideration what we were trying to accomplish for the arena. And as Greg spoke about the kids zone project, which is intended to be the second floor of the arena, it will encompass about 6000 square feet. That’s not a lot of space for an attraction of that type and so one of the biggest challenges we faced in how this was designed, was to try to create a footprint that allowed us the best opportunity for success with this kid-related piece of the project. And so, that became one of the key criteria for us in trying to create a design that would allow the building to look the best that it could in this footprint that it’s in, but that would also allow us to serve the population that we’re trying to serve through the kids zone and provide those opportunities in the community. Our challenge was to kind of weigh what we were trying to provide the community with how the building might look and try to fit it in the amount of space that was available.
Mr. Trusso: My concern is, the train station, my real concern is that there has been an infringement on that train station and it’s really by a certain group that seems to be taking over an entity that’s on a national register, which I think is wrong, and little by little, it’s getting taken over and maybe – I don’t know if you’re a Jamestowner, or you just moved in or what, I was born and raised here. Five generations here in Jamestown and that train station has been a real symbol to us of our great-grandparents coming in. Not that train station, but at that spot and a lot of us going off to war from there. Which means a lot to us. It maybe doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of people that don’t understand or that have never been or haven’t had any relative that has been. But that’s what it means and when I see stuff like this happening, connecting the train station with the skating rink, I’m dead against stuff like that. And I’d hate to see that happen and I wish whatever is happening in this community, everyone would stop taking over parts of that train station. Leave it as it is.
Ms. Zabrodsky: I totally understand what you’re saying –
Mr. Trusso: I hope so.
Ms. Zabrodsky: I also was born and raised in Jamestown. My father, father-in-law and uncles served in wars, so I understand your point. We’re here about the arena. We are not involved in the comedy center project. We’re trying to do the best we can with the facility that we’re trying to serve and to work with. I can’t speak to any of the comedy center project.
Mr. Trusso: I’m just saying things that have happened before.
Dr. Ney: May I speak?
Mr. Rabb: Sure.
Dr. Ney: My name is Lillian Ney. I’m the co-vice chair of the arena board. I just thought it would be kind of helpful for folks who don’t know the story of the train station, which we always have a reverence for. I was on the city council from 2000 to the end of 2008, and I was also co-chair of the strategic planning commission at the time, as I was before that and after that. But, we recognized how important the train station was and many people thought it was like a black hole. That means that huge amounts of money would have to be gathered to take care of it. So, who wanted to do that? Who had the millions of dollars that it would take? At the time, the DJDC was very interested in developing guidelines, urban design guidelines, so we would know what we needed to do. That took a lot, but that eventually ended up with foundation help with the lead of the Gebbie Foundation, to do the Urban Design Plan that Greg refers to. But, the other thing was, and I’m not doing this at all to call attention to myself, I’m actually calling attention to the Gebbie Foundation because at the time, we asked, through the strategic planning and partnerships commission, we asked the Gebbie foundation for a grant so that we could get money to pursue money – Jeff, you’ve got to remember all this – to pursue money to renovate the train station. We did that. We actually used the money for a consultant who, at the time, was working with the BPU for the advancement of the clean power plant. And we used this person who worked daily in Washington to further our proposal for money for federal transportation funds for that train station. And I have to say, with that initial grant by the Gebbie Foundation, so there’s been no conspiracy here, it’s been everybody working together for the betterment of Jamestown, and we were able to pull off over $10 million of a gift to the city of Jamestown. The city did get a portion of that, but most of that went for the restoration of the train station that my father used when he went into the war too.
My point of course, is that we’re all in this together. There’s no other plan. I was with the Gebbie Foundation for over twenty years and I know what they’ve done, mostly secretly. I say secretly without getting a building named after them or without asking for recognition. But, I am so pleased and I want to, in addition to the strategic planning co-chairs at the time were Jennifer Harkness Gibson and myself and we worked really hard to strategize the money to get somebody to help advocate. And this was in Brian Higgins’ office at the time because he was representing us. It was also Hillary Clinton, whose staff was I have to say, terrific in helping bring that money forward. Initially, it was Jack Quin who was a railroad person and we worked with his office in Washington. We would go there on the hill and talk to them and the last one would have been Senator Schumer who was here the day that we dedicated it. But, what was lovely about that dedication was that it gave recognition to the individuals who were involved and to the person who was the educational person, we called her the educational advocate, she actually worked on the hill all the time. She even went to Albany on our behalf, but mostly it was in Washington. And that was, I think, a small contribution by the Gebbie Foundation of $10,000.00- $20,000.00 as I recall. I’m not positive about the amount, but the city of Jamestown and the strategic planning and partnerships’ little pocket; Joe Bellitto had that money. Originally it was at the Community Foundation, but thereafter it was clear that there had to be an intermediary and we are grateful to the city for doing that for us, but the fact of the matter was the train station got renovated. What happened after that, I have the same amount of information that you do, that the comedy center decided to use the wings and stuff like that, but I think the initial decision and the recognition of how important the train station was to the people of Jamestown; it was really important.
Mr. Trusso: Well, Doctor, I remember when you were sitting in there when there was water on the floor and it was ice cold in there. To see that all that planning and all that effort and God bless the Gebbie Foundation for being so generous. And they always have been. But that bothers me to see, after all this, after coming from meetings in the cold and the roof leaked and everything else, to everything else and what it is now; a pristine, beautiful building. To see that they’re could be a takeover of that building.
Dr. Ney: I don’t think so. They can’t.
Mr. Trusso: I hope you’re right.
Dr. Ney: Vince will tell you that nobody can do that.
Mr. DeJoy: I’m not sure what you mean by a takeover. The National Comedy Center is going to be in that building. And if it weren’t for the National Comedy Center, we’d have no way of even keeping that building open and maintaining it, Joe. There was no money to do that. It costs a tremendous amount of money just to keep the doors open as a transportation center. We are bringing vitality and vibrancy back to the train station that would just sit there and basically deteriorate without some type of development. And I completely agree with Greg Edwards’ assessment that, when we’re looking at the view of the train station, we’re going to take it from a different perspective; from West Second Street looking west. Where this piazza is going to be and it’s going to look even better than it ever has. It’s going to be all lit up, you’re going to be able to see it. I don’t think that looking down Lafayette Street is what was intended to be the only view of the train station and with the piazza, we’re creating a district there and we’re creating a connection between all the buildings.
Mr. Rabb: Does anybody else want to add anything? Including my colleagues on the commission?
Mr. Trusso: I hope you’re right Vince.
Mr. Rabb: My concern was not what you’re trying to do inside the building. I think it’s wonderful. So, that was never an issue for me; and I can only speak for myself. My only concern when I was asked to go back into this chair as planning commission chair was to make sure that anything we do builds on and is consistent and is the best we could possibly do given what we have in the Urban Design Plan and I’m not suggesting that that’s not what you guys are trying to do, but I think the reason we have a city planning commission is to just pause for a moment, get these issues out on the table and I appreciate everybody talking about it because when I came back into this position, I heard there were concerns, but I wanted these concerns to be talked about so that when we do take the vote, we can say that we did air all of these concerns and we asked all of these question. My questions were the ones that, again, I did my homework. I sat down with the plan and thought okay, what do I want to know, what’s my concern and then I asked for others and we didn’t get a whole lot, but my goal is not to stop the project, not to delay it, but make a good project even better. And if there’s a way we can do that, whether it’s talking about the piazza, but just this project right now without the piazza, I would still ask if there are ways to address my questions to make this even better in the time that we have so that we don’t delay it. Why can’t we try to do that?
Mr. Rhinehart: I can speak a little bit to the façade design. I’m Dave Rhinehart with Clark Patterson Lee. Unfortunately, Paul Hedin is not in town, he’s in Florida. That’s one of the benefits of being older and closer to retirement, you can do that kind of stuff. Architecturally, I’m sure, Paul can look at various treatments to the façade that can blend better. Like Greg has said; colors, textures. Understanding, of course, that you don’t want it to be a wart on the ice arena. The ice arena was there before the urban plan was designed. That’s the fixture that was there and there’d be nothing worse than to put on an addition that over-tries to mimic other buildings, or blend with other buildings at the cost of affecting the architectural elements that are there that are part of that ice arena. I will talk with Paul tomorrow by phone, I’ll discuss some of that with him, get his design juices going and see what he can come up with, what various aspects can change the façade. We will try to get something together for the next planning meeting. With him being out of town, that will be a little bit difficult, but we’ll try to convey back and forth and get some of our staff in Jamestown to come up with some additional renderings for different aspects, for different textures and colors to try to make that a little more cohesive. That entire area; the BWB center, the comedy center, the ice arena, there is a lot of different architecture going on in there and we certainly don’t want it to be something that doesn’t fit, but we also don’t want it to be something that looks like it was too many ideas all rolled up into one.
Mr. Rabb: I certainly agree with you. And if you look at my question, I don’t ask you to mimic; certainly, I ask that we try to connect better the ice arena as it is with the rest of the neighborhood as it is.
Mr. Rhinehart: I can’t speak directly for Paul, but I know a lot of the glass was intended to be a focal point; the glass and the metal panels. So that people would see that from a distance; they would see that corner with that shape that mimics what’s on the corner of Third and Lafayette, you know, the round. And the entrance is there to that portion of the building. What will happen for signage for the kid zone, I know that the consultant at the ice arena used JRA who was also the consultant that designed a lot of the National Comedy Center. They’ve got ideas for treatments of the outside of the building to bring that kid zone – attention to it. If somebody is farther down the street and they see some of that signage, more treatments with colors, probably bright colors, more primary colors I think from some of the renderings that Dave and Kristy got from JRA to let people know, hey, here’s a kid zone which is an element that was talked about in their redesign plan; about doing something for children of that age group. That’s an element that they’re bringing in for the Urban Design Plan; understanding, of course, that that plan is also some twelve years old. You’re talking about a new one. That’s wonderful that all of this stuff can be incorporated. Jamestown is actually on the up and it’s wonderful. With the Riverwalk; when I worked for the city of Jamestown for the Urban Renewal Agency, back in the mid-70s, I was involved in the Riverwalk. I worked on some of those projects with Rod Drake and Steve Sandberg. From my standpoint, it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing that that’s all finally coming together. I remember Brooklyn Square. I remember the demolition project with Urban Renewal. I think it’s tremendous what has happened in downtown Jamestown.
Mr. Rabb: I wouldn’t disagree with you. I think we’ve made some real progress. I think this is another opportunity to take another step forward, but – you were going to say something, Jeff?
Mr. Jeff Nelson: I was just thinking, you’re bringing me on a trip down memory lane.
Mr. Rhinehart: It was a great group we had here related to the project. A lot of young talent, a lot of things going on.
Mr. Jeff Nelson: I was young then.
Mr. Rhinehart: Yes, you were. I was even younger.
Mr. Rabb: At that time, I wasn’t here, but I think we have a great group of people right now, so I think we can continue. When is our meeting scheduled?
Mr. Edwards: In addition to the questions that have been raised that have been addressed, there’s modification to be done to the look, is there anything else, specifically, from the planning department that we ought to know in advance that we can respond to?
Mr. Rabb: From the staff?
Mr. Edwards: Yes. Bill had some comments and questions. If there’s something else, I want to be able to address those too, so we get those…
Mr. Rabb: From my perspective, that was the point of this special meeting; was to get everything on the table so that we could address these things and move ahead so that we don’t delay this anymore. I don’t know if the staff wants to add anything else.
Mr. Rice: I’ve already discussed my points.
Dr. Ney: Bill, can I ask you what specific things you want to recommend?
Mr. Rice: I’ve already discussed them.
Dr. Ney: With them?
Mr. Rice: Everyone. In the last three or four sessions.
Dr. Ney: This is my second time. I didn’t hear the specificity.
Mr. Rice: Well, as I’ve said before – I disagree with Vince on this. I think you have a different view here on Second Street, but you’ve also got to think about the approach your people will be taking when they come into the community to get to these destinations. That’s the one that’s the critical one to know where to turn and if you’re going for your destination. You’re not going to be coming down Second Street, because that’s a one-way street going the other way. You may be able to stand on the corner and see that view as a pedestrian, but you won’t with a vehicle. So, you always have to be conscious of that pathway that people will be taking to, not only this destination, but the comedy center, the multi-mobile function, also the potential of that depot. And when you block the view, you eliminate the connection, the visual connection that you need to know where and when you’re supposed to be turning.
Mr. Jeff Nelson: It’s one of those things that’s true. The easy part is the building. It’s all the other things that go with it; where things should sit, how people will approach it, where the cars should go. All other kinds of things are the hard parts.
Mr. Rice: Yes. And that will be the thing that makes a success out of these entities or failures. Because if people have a hard time getting to a place, they get on social media and all of the sudden, it becomes a problem. It’s worse now than ever.
Mr. Leathers: The answer I heard to Lillian’s question was, if somebody’s driving west on Third Street, I don’t agree that the train station is blocked. I don’t agree that the train station is hidden. If it’s less visible coming past the BWB building, as you look down Lafayette, maybe it’s less visible, but it’s certainly still visible. What I hear Lillian ask was, what would you change in the design of the building to make it, from a planning commission perspective, more acceptable?
Mr. Rice: I would look at the entry and see if I can modify that a little bit to give more of a view.
Mr. Rabb: Are you talking about pushing the wall?
Mr. Rice: Possibly. Or even angling it in some fashion.
Mr. Rabb: I don’t know if that’s possible.
Mr. Rice: I don’t know.
Mr. Leathers: Pushing it back sacrifices square footage that we –
Mr. Rabb: Don’t have?
Mr. Leathers: Are concerned about and don’t have. Angling it, also does that.
Mr. Rhinehart: And an angle is contrary to the front of the ice arena where you have the circular rotunda. This is mimicking that current design.
Mr. Leathers: That’s what I was hearing, was understanding the questions, understanding the concerns. We need to put together a response that meets somebody’s, the planning commission’s, desires. We can’t go in the corner and do that and then come back out and think we’ve got it right and then we hear that you don’t really like that either. I think it needs a little bit more direction to say this is what we’re talking about. And we can work with Bill and Vince and staff and others to make sure that we’re communicating and understanding that. But, it just becomes difficult.
Mr. Rabb: No, I understand Dave. If our meeting is on the third Tuesday, that makes it the 20th which is two weeks from today. Obviously, we’re asking for a lot of stuff in a short amount of time, which, given the realities, may not be possible. But, I don’t think there would be a problem if we put the meeting off for one more week. I don’t think that’s a problem.
Mr. Rice: You’d have to get a quorum.
Mr. Rabb: Yes, well now that we’re doing Tuesdays at 4:15 because of my class schedule, we may have to talk about putting it a week later.
Mr. Leathers: I think if it could be the 27th, I think it…
Mr. Whitford: 26th is a voting session.
Mr. Rabb: What was your point? The voting session for city council.
Mr. Whitford: Is the day before what you’re proposing.
Mr. Rabb: Even if we did it Thursday, the 22nd just to give us – I’m just trying to find a way to give us more time, that’s all.
Mr. Leathers: It’s appreciated. Thank you.
Mr. Rhinehart: But aren’t we set on the footprint? Aren’t we set, really, on the design? We worked out the square footages, we’ve planned interior spaces, façade treatment is something that we will absolutely look at and get something for the meeting on the 20th. But, as far as changing the corner and trying to modify the addition to preserve the view of the trains station isn’t where we’re at. I think that’s off the table as far as I’m concerned.
Mr. Rabb: I don’t think it’s off the table, but if you say to me that’s impossible to do, at least that’s an answer to my question.
Mr. Rhinehart: I shouldn’t say impossible.
Mr. Rabb: Or extremely difficult or expensive.
Mr. Rhinehart: One of the driving forces is the square footage of the kid zone. And, reducing the floorplan is actually going to be detrimental to a key element of the design.
Mr. Rabb: Then my suggestion would be that would be the answer to that question. Please don’t take it off the table, but the way you answered is much easier for me to understand and accept.
Mr. Rhinehart: The ice arena’s consultant, JRA, actually felt that the space we have was smaller than it needed to be. So, we were squeezing and pushing to get as much square footage as possible, even trying to encroach into some of the existing space in the ice arena to make that kid zone the minimum of what it needed to be.
Mr. Rabb: You’ve got space concerns and I understand. But, if there are things we can do to the look of the building and if we can try and get that done by our regular meeting on the 20th or the 22nd.
Mr. Rhinehart: We’ll get it done.
Mr. Rabb: I would ask that if you’re going to involve Vince and Bill and others, if there’s a chance for me to be involved, obviously I have a job outside of here, but if I could be involved in that…
Mr. Lehman: Look at some ideas, get back with staff, see if you’re on the right track.
Mr. Edwards: I’ve mentioned, I share your concern about wayfinding and that’s why the timing of the city’s acquisition of the CMAQ grant is so critical because it really gives us the opportunity, with the advance of the National Comedy Center opening, this project being fully completed, with the brewery coming online; all of these things happening, we’ve got some of the best experts in the field right now, Martin Associates, who is very familiar with Jamestown, here engaged in significant analysis of this whole wayfinding issue; how to get people here and there as efficiently and effectively move them throughout the community. I think that these opportunities are blending together so nicely that I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to address, specifically wayfinding, address issues of how you get to the front door of the train station; part of the wayfinding is that; how do get to the front door of the comedy center, how do you get to the kid zone. Those things begin plugged into this is so exciting. It’s a great time to be involved with Jamestown. These things are happening and I think all these issues can be addressed very effectively. It’s great to have the city in the lead on all of these things.
Mr. Whitford: And wayfinding is just going to be a continuing issue. It’s always evolving. You’re going to find something, but then you’re going to improve on it.
Mr. Rice: Things change.
Mr. Rabb: Alright, I guess at this point, we’ll just leave our meeting the way it is on the 20th. We’ll look forward to hearing some possible changes as best as you can, given all the different constraints you mentioned and do the best we can.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
Director of Administrative Services/ City Clerk