Thank you to all of those who braved the below freezing temperature to join Village Officials and the BOA Project Team for site analysis and community visioning tours on Monday, January 18th.
Participants met at Village Hall where they boarded a bus for a short ride to the south end of Palmer Street, stopping briefly at the former Moench Tannery site to discuss the existing constraints of that site, but also the long term overall vision of the site as it relates to current and potential development along the Palmer Street corridor. Moving on, the group observed the existing infrastructure along the corridor and discussed the potential for future light commercial and residential infill.
Upon arrival at the south end of the Zoar Valley Gateway Park, formerly the Peter Cooper site, the group departed the bus and endured the cold and wind taking a “snow” boots on the ground approach to analyzing the site as it is currently as well as envision how it will look once construction of the park is completed. The group enjoyed a brief interlude to make snow angels and to take in the natural beauty of Cattaraugus Creek and the surrounding snow covered scenery before they got back to business. In addition to the redevelopment of the park itself, the group took a closer look at the areas surrounding the park, considering several possibilities for future realistic and appropriate redevelopment throughout the area.
As toes and fingers began to surrender to the bitter cold, the group returned to Village Hall to warm up with hot cocoa and settled in for an in-depth conversation about their observations of the sites they toured. The Project Team presented the group with an interactive game that asked the question, “How do you see me?” The objective of this activity was to challenge each participant to reply with their individual impressions of how they see the sites. This activity was repeated two more times, asking the same question but encouraging participants to “dig deeper” and really think about how they want to see the area given the potential that it has for redevelopment.
After a quick recess for lunch, the group, with a few additions, headed out for a community visioning tour beginning again at Village Hall. The first stop was at Creekside Park where the group again discussed the potential for redevelopment. All agreed that the park is a valuable asset to the Village and increasing and improving access to the water should be explored further. From Creekside Park, the group took a short cut through the Shop’N Save parking lot out onto East Main Street where they crossed at the designated crosswalks across North Water Street, West Main Street and finally across Jamestown Street to safely get to the next stop at the corner of South Water Street. Here the group observed the sidewalk width heading south and discussed the potential for widening the sidewalk which would not only provide an extension for pedestrian traffic and allow businesses to utilize their store frontage, but also encourage vehicular traffic to slow down along this corridor making it instantly more pedestrian friendly.
The discussion continued with observations of the scenic vista provided by the street trees lining North Water Street, the potential reuse of what is now the new location for China King, as well as the potential for this specific portion of the corridor to become a hub for recreational tourism outfitters similar to the Zoar Valley Canoe and Rafting Company. The group was asked to consider the possible economic impact that recreational and ecotourism could bring to the Village and how vital development along Cattaraugus Creek is to the potential long term vision for the greater community.
Again, with frozen toes, the group descended upon Village Hall for hot cocoa and to play the “How do you see me?” game with a focus on the second tour. A general consensus about the potential for the village of Gowanda to capitalize on its most valuable asset, Cattaraugus Creek, was formed. The group was given “homework” and asked to provide feedback on some ideas that were presented by the Project Team as well as encouraged to add any new ideas that they may have. At the end of the day, this dedicated group of residents and stakeholders thawed out and opened their minds and hearts to the incredible potential the Village of Gowanda has to grow and thrive in the future. The group agreed that the Village has a rich history and the community takes pride in its heritage and feel that it should be celebrated. They also agree that economic growth and job creation remains a priority and will continue to inform current and future development plans as the Village moves forward in its quest to put Gowanda back on the map.