Cultural Districts: The Arts As a Strategy for Revitalizing Our Cities


Research Abstract
Cultural Districts: The Arts As a Strategy for Revitalizing Our Cities

This handbook examines a particular strategy of cultural revitalization - the development of cultural districts. More than 90 cities in the have planned or implemented such districts, positioning the arts at the center of their urban revitalization efforts. This book examines 24 of those districts and reveals how cultural districts are established, the processes and players in each city that have determined the shape and content of such areas, and how cultural districts reflect the unique strengths of their respective cites and support local artistic redevelopment goals. (p. 13)

A cultural district is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a city in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor of attraction. Cultural districts can be found in communities as small as Riverhead, New York, (population 8,814) to New York City (7.3 million). Cultural districts boost urban revitalization in many ways: beautify and animate cities, provide employment, attract residents and tourists to the city, complement adjacent businesses, enhance property values, expand the tax base, attract well-educated employees, and contribute to creative, innovative environment.

While no two cultural districts are exactly alike - each reflects its city's unique environment, history of land use, urban growth and cultural development - they can be divided into one of five categories:

        1. Cultural Compounds.
        2. Major Arts Institution Focus.
        3. Arts and Entertainment Focus.
        4. Downtown Focus.
        5. Cultural Production Focus.

The impact of cultural districts is measurable. The arts attract residents and tourists who also support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging, retail and parking. The presence of the arts enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the tax base of the region. The arts attract a well-educated work force - a key incentive for new and relocating businesses. Finally, the arts contribute to the creativity and innovation of a community. (p. 7)

Foreword by Paul Helmke.

Executive Summary:

The impact of cultural districts is measurable:

The number of events in the Pittsburgh Cultural District increased from 250 in 1986 to nearly 600 in 1994 with audiences doubling to more than one million annually. In its first decade of operation, the district generated $33 million in public investment and $63 million in private and philanthropic funds, which in turn triggered $115 million in commercial activity. Tax revenues in the district from real estate and performances increased from $7.9 million in 1986 to $19.1 million in 1994.

Three years after establishing the Tucson Arts District, 26 of the 112 businesses in the arts district were new, 54% had increased their sales volume, and 53% made renovations, with an average cost of $105,272 each. Within four years, the retail vacancy rate declined by 50% and city sales tax revenues in the arts district increased 11.7%, compared with a citywide increase of 7.4%.

Urban Revitalization and the Arts:

The role of the arts in urban redevelopment:
     Beautify and Animate cities.
     Provide employment.
     Attract residents and tourists to the city.
     Complement adjacent businesses.
     Enhance property values.
     Expand the tax base.
     Attract well-educated employees.
     Contribute to a creative, innovative environment.

Cultural Districts: Designations:
     Arts District.
     Arts and Entertainment District.
     Arts and Science District.
     Artists Quarter.
     Cultural District.
     Museum District.
     Theatre District.

Cultural Districts:
     Performance spaces.
     Artist Studios.
     Arts-related retail shops.
     Music or media production studios.
     Dance studios.
     High Schools or Colleges for the Arts.
     Arboretums and gardens.

Goals of Cultural Districts: 

Revitalize a particular area of the city. 
Offer evening activities, extending hours during which the area is in use. 
Make an area safe and attractive. 
Provide facilities for arts activities and arts organizations. 
Provide arts activities for residents and tourists. 
Provide employment and housing for artists. 
Connect the arts more intimately with community development.

Cultural District Typology:

Types of Cultural Districts:
     Cultural compounds.
     Major arts institution focus.
     Arts and entertainment focus.
     Downtown focus.
     Cultural production focus.

Cultural compounds in the U.S.:
     University Circle, Cleveland.
     Fair Park, Dallas.
     Cultural District, Fort Worth.
     Forest Park, St. Louis.

The Relationship of Cultural Districts to Other City Amenities:

Other city amenities:
     Cultural districts are designed to take advantage of other city attractions
     such as:
          Historic features.
          Convention spaces.
          Natural amenities.

Cultural districts and convention centers:
     Dallas Convention Center: linked to the Dallas Arts District by a light
     rail system.
     David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Directly adjacent to the Pittsburgh
     Cultural District.
     Moscone Convention Center: Located in San Francisco's Yerba Buena
     Will Rogers Memorial Center: Major exposition center located in the
     Fort Worth Cultural District.
     Within close walking distance of their cities' convention centers:
          New Orleans Arts and Cultural Sector.
          Philadelphia Avenue of the Arts, SOFA Arts and Entertainment District,
          San Jose.

Profile: New Haven, CT Audubon Arts District.

Cultural District Establishment: Siting, Facilities, Programming, and Management: 

Profile: San Francisco Yerba Buena Center. 
Profile: Pittsburgh Cultural District. 
Factors affecting siting and development: 
     Community Leadership.
     Social Forces. 
Profile: New Orleans Arts & Cultural Sector.

Cultural District Facilities and Programming:

Cultural district programming:
     Activities within a cultural district may include:
          Arts classes and education.
          Arts creation and rehearsal. 
          Arts-related street vendors.
          Art sales.
          Craft shows.
          Festivals and fairs.
          Film/Media Screenings.
          Gallery Hops.
          Literary Readings.
          Performing Arts Events.
          Public Art.

Cultural District Management:
     Services provided by cultural district coordinating agencies:
          Arts support:
               Property management, leasing and facility rental.
               Event promotion and publicity.
               Events programming.
               Box office services.
               Centralized arts management services.
          Business and non-cultural property support:
               Space development.
               Business development.
               Property and facilities management.
               Urban design and streetscaping.
               Office and administrative support.
               Security and sanitation.
     Profile: Tucson Arts District.

Creation of a Cultural District:

     Cultural district development and management: 
          Each cultural district is unique and should reflect the specific cultural,
          social and economic needs of its city.
          Planning for a cultural district should be part of wider cultural planning for
          the city at large.
          Cultural districts should be comfortably accessible.
          Cultural district management requires careful coordination among diverse
          Cultural districts must be part of a package of many strategies to
          revitalize a city.

     Cultural Districts in the U.S. - list of 90 cities which have or plan to have a cultural
About the author.

This handbook examines a particular strategy of cultural revitalization - the development of cultural districts. More than 90 cities in the have planned or implemented such districts, positioning the arts at the center of their urban revitalization efforts.

Frost-Kumpf, Hilary Anne
36 p.
Wednesday, December 31, 1997

Americans for the Arts
1000 Vermont Ave., NW 6th Floor
DC, 20005