Colorado Releases Creative District Guidelines

In yet another effort to boost creative placemaking, the state of Colorado has released the guidelines in support of HB11-1031 the creation of Creative Districts in communities, neighborhoods or contiguous geographic areas around the state. Colorado Creative Industries division will certify two Creative Districts in 2012. Each will receive a $15,000 grant and a technical assistance package to enhance their districts. Additionally, five applicants will be identified as prospective districts and receive $8,000 and customized technical assistance to enhance the possibility that they may be certified in the future. Also, eight applicants will be identified as emerging and receive $2,000 and assistance to further their district planning.

Guidelines were approved on December 6 and released that afternoon. Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m., Monday, January 30, 2012. The agency has received inquiries from over 30 communities and neighborhoods interested in applying for the designation. Applicants must be an existing Creative District with an existing non-profit or for-profit managing entity; or a partnership of government, non-profit, and/or for-profit entities with one partner serving as the lead applicant; or a municipal or county government. The applicant must have formal local governmental endorsement or designation and distinct boundaries with an anchor arts or cultural organization or a cluster of creative entrepreneurs and venues. With such a short time-table, I wonder how many applications will actually be submitted that meet the criteria.

I was pleased to see Colorado move forward with this legislation and their language in the House Bill that kept the designation open and applicable to urban and rural areas, but meeting these requirements this year will be challenging for more rural communities and the first year designees will likely come from more urban areas with existing creative districts. It’s a bit difficult for a rural community to apply if their master plan or economic development plan has never before considered creativity as a possible industry for growth. And I doubt many rural communities have those designations. But I hope I’m wrong and that we see some bold ideas from towns or neighborhoods that have never before considered creative industry as their future.

This is the pilot year for CCI to certify Colorado Creative Districts. The primary goal is to enhance planning, development, and improvement in a “district” and to create a hub of economic activity. Statewide Creative Districts exist in ten states. There are 90 cities in the U.S. with arts and culture districts. Denver has several including the Art District on Santa Fe and RhiNo. These type of districts often become visitor destinations, attract creative businesses and revitalize empty buildings and spaces. They can also be used to celebrate the historic and individual identity of a community. Some states even provide tax credits. At this time, the state is not offering any new tax incentives for Creative Districts, but some incentives, like enterprise zone tax credits, which already exist, can be used by creative district developers if they meet the requirements. According to Maryo Ewell, director of the Creative District Guidelines, the state is encouraging local district activists to explore income options with local governments as part of an overall strategy of sustainability.

Interested parties can download the guidelines at

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