It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
--Leonardo da Vinci
During the late 1990’s, the Gebbie Foundation began to review its operational policies in light of social and economic circumstances within the community. Four decades of charitable giving had helped to build and sustain strong cultural and social service programs in the region. Loss of industry, however, along with the growing problems associated with urban deterioration and sprawl, called for a revised strategy for meeting community needs. Over the course of a few years, assisted by consultants with expertise in philanthropy and community building, the foundation redirected its efforts away from passive giving and toward proactive revitalization of the City of Jamestown. The new strategy included a multi-million dollar investment beginning in the west end of downtown Jamestown and extending throughout the urban core target area identified by the Jamestown Urban Design Plan.
- Renaissance Square is an inviting downtown space for residents and visitors to congregate
- This site formerly housed a dilapidated movie theater that had been vacant since the 1980’s and is now the Wintergarden Plaza.
- The development of the Wintergarden Plaza has made possible the expansion of the Wine Cellar adding an attractive feature to downtown life.
- The Wintergarden Plaza has been the site of outdoor movie showings as well as many other downtown activities.
- Façade Restoration of Downtown Buildings began with 16 architecturally significant facades in 2008. The process has continued since to paint a fresh face on downtown Jamestown.
- Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) with Gebbie support, worked with architects, property owners and contractors to transform the building exteriors back to their original splendor.
Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena -- $21 Million Project
Financed and developed by the Gebbie Foundation in partnership with several other local foundations and the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, the construction of the Arena spurred millions of dollars of private investment in the west end of Jamestown. Please click here for an in-depth history of the project.
Located next to the BWB Professional Office Center and adjacent to the Arena, Renaissance Square is an attractive multi-use public space offering seating and a small performance space. Created in keeping with the recommendations made in the Urban Design Plan, the Square is a place where residents and visitors can gather while it complements the aesthetics of Jamestown’s red brick urban landscape.
Façade Restoration of Downtown Buildings
Beginning with 16 architecturally significant facades in 2008, the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) with Gebbie support, worked with architects, property owners and contractors to transform the building exteriors back to their original splendor. The program expanded to offer over 30 façade restorations in the downtown in partnership with the City of Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, New York State and building owners.
Alley Enhancement Projects
Public – private partnerships between the Gebbie Foundation, JRC, City of Jamestown Department of Public Works, and local contractors enabled five city alleys to be improved between 2008-2010, making them safer and more attractive for pedestrian traffic. During the summer of 2013, two more alleys will be upgraded, completing the alley enhancement program.
Winter Garden Plaza
Again, public – private partnerships came together to provide an attractive multi-use public space. The site formerly housed a dilapidated movie theater that had been vacant since the 1980’s and an eyesore within the downtown core. In 2010, the Winter Garden was razed and the plaza built in its place has been the site of outdoor movie showings, a community spaghetti sauce competition (The Great Jamestown Sauce-off), and musical and visual art exhibitions by local artists. Creation of this public space has opened up opportunities for increased commercial and retail activity such as the expansion of the Wine Cellar and possible development of the Empire Building.
Since its inception in 1964, the Gebbie Foundation has invested in the region in a way that has provided or sustained long-lasting treasures for western New York residents and visitors. The following are a sampling of the stellar organizations that have received Gebbie support.
The world renowned Chautauqua Institution draws visitors from all over the world and is an important economic driver in the region. Over the years, the Gebbie Foundation has made millions of dollars in strategic investments to strengthen the financial health of Chautauqua. Gebbie’s ties to the Institution span over several decades. According to a history of the Gebbie Family, written by Chautauqua Institution Historian, Alfreda Irwin, and published in the Gebbie Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Annual Report in 1989, Mrs. Geraldine Gebbie Bellinger, one of the two sisters who created the Gebbie Foundation, was a trustee of Chautauqua Institution from 1938 to 1961 and one of the original board members of the Chautauqua Foundation.
Chautauqua Region Community Foundation
In 1978 the Gebbie Foundation pledged $300,000 to seed the establishment of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation (CRCF). With the hard work of community members and staff, CRCF has grown to have assets of nearly $65 million, offering grants to organizations and scholarships to students throughout the region. The Foundation is a valuable partner in many community and economic development initiatives with the Gebbie Foundation.
Jamestown Community College
Founded in 1950, Jamestown Community College was one of the first Community Colleges in New York State. Over the years the Gebbie Foundation has made significant investments toward capital projects, educational programs and scholarships. With an enrollment of nearly 4,000 students, the college offers high-quality academic programs, state-of-the-art facilities, and new residential housing.
Lucy – Desi Center for Comedy
Originally launched by the Arts Council for Chautauqua County, the Lucy – Desi Center for Comedy officially became its own 501(c)(3) organization in 2002. The Center began in a small storefront on Pine Street and currently consists of two buildings on Third Street: one contains an interpretive exhibit of the lives of the famous comedic couple and the other houses sets from I Love Lucy shows. Recognizing the importance of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to the region, the Gebbie Foundation has made investments to aid with growing the visitor base to the Center.
Robert H. Jackson Center
To aid in the launching of the institution designed to honor and preserve the legacy of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Gebbie Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant in 2001 to be paid over five years. From the time of its establishment, The Robert H. Jackson Center has contributed to the cultural offerings in the region by offering high impact exhibits as well as hosting noted speakers, developing educational programs, and conducting professional outreach to national and international law and justice information sources.
Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
Jamestown-born Roger Tory Peterson reached international acclaim from his development of the Field Guide to the Birds. He mastered many forms of artistic media such as drawing, painting, photography and film. Community leaders met with Dr. Peterson and it was decided to house his valuable collections in Jamestown. In 1983 the Gebbie Foundation awarded $2,550,000 million to be paid over 3 years to serve as seed money for the Institute. With additional funds from the Gebbie Foundation and the State of New York, a state-of-the-art multi-million dollar facility designed by Robert A. M. Stern was completed in 1993. The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History is one of the region’s architectural treasures as well as a world-class museum and center for the natural sciences.