Communities in Florida and across the country are using cultural arts and arts and entertainment districts to energize neighbor- hoods and downtowns, stimulate economic development, and enhance their cultural offerings. Those districts are anchored by a concentration of cultural arts facilities and programs and can contain a mix of uses that allow artists to live and work in the same space at an affordable rate. Complementary uses can include coffee shops, cafes, bookstores, parks, plazas, art supplies stores, design-related businesses (e.g., architects, furniture and furnishings stores, graphic designers, etc.) and art galleries and studios for a range of artists, including those in the visual and performing arts. The combination creates creative, energetic places that attract artists, arts-related organizations, businesses, and facilities as along with today’s talent workers seeking those kinds of places. The districts can be small or large and have a different focus, as shown in the illustration above. They often feature a strong brand and are located in areas that have a unique cultural character and identity or historic significance.
Local governments are using a variety of techniques to encourage or create cultural arts and arts and entertainment districts:
• Designating the arts and culture as the catalytic drivers of tax increment and business improvement districts, thereby using the resulting revenues to support arts-oriented redevelopment strategies
• Implementing zoning overlays to encourage arts- and culture-related uses and allow live-work/sell space in the same or accessory unit
• Offering incentives such as grants, low interest loans, expedited permitting, and tax breaks for artists, arts organizations or property owners who are developing space for arts
groups and artists to live and work at an affordable price
• Providing branding features such as installing signature banners, wayfarer signage, street lighting and furniture, and
landscaping. They are also allowing public art and adding
street and sidewalk improvements and designs that make
the pedestrian experience more desirable
• Sponsoring festivals and events that feature local culture and the arts, provide outlets for artists, and draw visitors to the area
• Enabling design guidelines when a part of the district’s success is the character of the buildings and accommodating a wide mix of residential, commercial, and cultural uses
Numerous resources are available to encourage creative places, including the Cultural Districts Handbook: The Arts as a Strategy for Revitalizing Our Cities, prepared by Americans for the Arts. The handbook shows how cultural districts can be established to best reflect the unique strengths of cities while supporting local artistic and redevelopment goals.