2017-03-09 / Editorial

East Ferry project aims to better community space


As an increasing number of residents and businesses begin to express their perspectives on the proposed East Ferry improvements, I’d like to add some clarity to the discussion on several points that recently appeared in various letters printed in The Jamestown Press.

This proposed town project is designed to improve a community space, environment and general outdoor area that is a central and vital part of our community. The impact clearly will be felt by local residents, businesses and visitors to Jamestown.

The project — through its improvement elements and beautification — positively should impact the commercial space for local businesses, while also preserving the 46 existing parking spaces, although the commercial impact is but one of many priorities of this project. Other critical elements include improved pedestrian access and safety, improved ADA accessibility, clear and consistent signage and additional site amenities, such as benches and bike racks to seamlessly connect a green corridor along the waterfront, with other noted improvements previously made along the East Ferry shoreline.

The cost of these enhancements has been estimated at close to $300,000. The money dedicated to this work is Waterfront Reserve Funding that is restricted for waterfront projects. It cannot be used elsewhere in town — on roads, infrastructure, programs or other non-waterfront related projects.

No matter what final design configuration is approved, the project will cost in the vicinity of $300,000. The site amenities and limited landscaping is a negligible component of the overall expense and is not driving the cost of the project. The cost is largely made up of curbing, sidewalk, drainage and asphalt replacement elements.

The first sentiments on this proposed enhancement were made as part of a public review process that began in 2007, when Don Powers Architects Inc. was hired to oversee the Jamestown Vision exercise that was completed and approved in early 2009. The final Jamestown Vision recommendations were vetted at many public meetings and included various schematic designs specifically for the East Ferry waterfront.

The preferred plan at the time included a relocation of the triangular green space along Conanicus Avenue to a location closer to the seawall in the parking lot. This option is one of the designs being considered today. This review was followed by capital budget discussions in 2011-2012 that included further interest by the council on alternate design options and the more recent project discussions that were included as part of the budget process over the past two years.

Some of the projects challenges include the difficulty of working with an odd-shaped property that makes it difficult to achieve maximize public use and parking efficiency. This speaks to the “L” shaped lot configuration and the vehicle and pedestrian flow along the waterfront public space and commercial area.

Other options for consideration include the idea of the parking area being managed on weekends and during peak periods, when demand exceeds capacity, similar to how West Ferry is managed by Dutch Harbor Marina in support of their business program and the balance of public interests and the need for improved coordination with local businesses in terms of employee parking, trash management and ADA accessibility.

As the town continues to seek input from all that utilize and are impacted by this East Ferry property, it should be anticipated that each plan discussed will possess both benefits and drawbacks, depending on how you assess and prioritize the individual elements of the project. I’d ask we allow the public process to unfold in the coming months and the design options to be further vetted as we work toward a final town council decision that will involve the balancing of these interests in preserving and efficiently utilizing this important community asset.

Andy Nota is Jamestown’s town administrator.

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