03.22.05 NOTES Tuesday@REI: Creating Arts Districts as Economic Engines

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 01:41.

The 03.22.05 Tuesday@REI is focused on the topic of creating Arts Districts as "Economic Engines�. Four presenters will discuss specific initiatives already showing great value in the region. Lots of people think of arts districts and think of Playhouse Square – a commercial district – but today we are looking at neighborhood based districts – linked to residents that live in the area. We hear a lot about silver bullets around NEO – half billion-dollar projects like convention centers – but research finds these projects don’t necessarily do it – there may not be a “downtown� solution – “downtown� may just be another neighborhood. The jury is still out on the broader “Richard Florida Creative Class� concept, but it is certain that making neighborhoods desirable with arts districts is valuable – that has been a fact all through history.

James Levin discusses developing the Gordon Square Cultural Arts District – a concentrated focus on cultural and performance assets near W. 65th Street and Detroit Avenue in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood – anchored by three arts organizations collaborating to achieve major capital improvements. This project is revitalizing an historic Near West Side neighborhood with the performing and cultural arts.

James speaks of a recent experience at Wilbert’s where by consuming an arts event his life was enriched – while the arts create wealth it is the existential value of the arts environment that enriches the community. He speaks of Cleveland Public Theater creating such an environment that enriches lives for pockets of humanity.

The district he is developing is anchored by three pillars – the Cleveland Public Theater, with two buildings – one being the oldest theater in region, built in 1912 – another being the Capitol Theater owned by the Neighborhood Development Corporation, and needing renovation into a Cedar-Lee type film theater – and there is the Near West Theater, which does community theater productions. With the good developments happening here, more arts organizations and creative businesses are moving in – dance, and architects, and artists, and a gallery. District is 54th-67th. Near West Theater is moving into former Lou’s Furniture – owned by NDC.

Challenge is raising money for a major capital project – $12-14 million - lots of competition for traditional arts funding – plenty of wealth around there and they are being creative seeking new partnerships and alliances.

Brian Friedman – Northeast Shores Development Corportion – Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District – (Download Presentation 2.9MB) area has great identity as a neighborhood – just North of 90 and by Collinwood railroad yards – original uses consist of almost exclusively social homes, barbershops and bars. Before made arts district the area was over 60% vacant – bank, nail salon, sausage shops. They needed to come up with ideas how to make this a walking and destination neighborhood. Why Waterloo as Arts District? They have existing arts community that loves it there – key stakeholder interest and investment (e.g. Beachland Ballroom) – non-compete with other districts – walkable – strong collection of good buildings – great freeway access – cheap space!!! They can experiment.

Previous accomplishments: Beachland Ballroom is anchor - Northeast Shore’s invested half-million buying six buildings and invested over million in redevelopment – secured Re$tore Designation – Storefront Program… can’t say enough about this City of Cleveland program… property owners who renovate get 40-60% of investment back – vacant space used for arts events… made available to artists at no cost – complete, exhaustive inventory of buildings, owners and asking rents… every owner… means anyone interested in Waterloo can find out what is available and the District can help brand and filter development

Recent accomplishments – Arts Collinwood officially formed – 501c3. Note James Levin is doing all his work under Detroit Shoreway but in Arts Collinwood they are independent – Music Saves retail store, which is turning point as it was created to be sustained on the traffic of the Beachland, but half their business is destination, and the owners moved to the neighborhood because of everything going on – Private speculative investment consistent with arts district… “feeder bar/restaurant�, gallery – additional partner is Cleveland Public Art to add elements to district to incrementally improve streetscape

Plans for Arts Collinwood – arts events – children classes – $250K donation for building (permanent arts anchor) – Partner, advocate, and anchor… doing “quiet� part of capital campaign

Soon to come – public art projects (with Cleveland Public art) like mural and creative lighting projects – new businesses – Arts Collinwood opening with gallery and studios.

Future Goals - now at 35% vacant – full streetscape with significant public art – new construction (live work at street level) – nearby residential reinvestment – potential Business Improvement District…BID… state overlay district where businesses pay additional taxes to stay in and develop the district (done in Coventry).

Outstanding Challenges – entrepreneurs… more please (and broaden realization small business people are entrepreneurs) – parking challenge (plan for eventual success) – increasing property values making it too expensive… becoming victim of own success

Q. Mentioned plan to start another bar in the area – is there anything under 18 like coffee shop?
A. Working on that – they have a coffee shop so how do you communicate what is available – could leverage promotion with Beachland Ballroom

Q. NEO is in environmental crisis - in EPA non-attainment because of urban sprawl – EPA is supporting urban redevelopment – this offers community development organizations new opportunities for support.

Q. Do arts districts help with improving schools?
A. CPT has provided lots of neighborhood school support – after school arts classes – but the funding from state and fed is gone so programs are gone

Q. Collinwood resident asks if there is evidence arts districts make public schools more effective
A. CPT says they have seen evidence with past programs

Moderator points out Levin started his work from the arts side – Brian got into this from the real estate side. Now Cleveland Heights is addressing from both sides – managing large real estate/community development projects and arts.

Susanna Neirmann O'Neil, Director of Community Services, City of Cleveland Heights, describes Cleveland Heights as an Arts District – has supported Cain Park for over 70 years – support for the arts has a lot to do with what Cleveland Heights is today – part of the city mission is to support the arts for higher quality of life – as recently as 3 years ago they visioned with survey to all 24,000 Cleveland Heights households, expecting 5% but got back 37% - 86% said the arts are a top priority – vindicated money spent restoring Cain Park over the years.

She gets asked how it is the city supports such a large arts center? It is a way to show support for diversity – help people experience different cultures – regional draw for Cleveland Heights – suffering from urban sprawl – share programs – free housing service for city – 120-140,000 people drawn to CH – major acts attract large audiences from afar and bring in revenue – arts festival draws in 75,000 people… nationally known – can be discouraging for first few years but hanging in there pays off – economic growth before and after performances – put surveys and promotions in programs – makes housing more attractive and appreciate faster (4% per year) – they give residents in the area 4 free tickets to performances to compensate them for inconvenience. Have $100K subsidy from city and break even – certainly brings in lots more in spending and investments – makes people aware of more CH arts activities – work in partnership for the community – know the impact of arts in your neighborhood – believe in arts and freedom of expression – best expressed during the 11 weeks of their arts festivities in Summer

Peggy Spaeth, director of HeightsArts, points out that CH has great demographics of artists living there. HeightsArts goals – create community life through arts – provide venues – encourage diversity. They promote “Party in the Heights� holding free concerts each Thursday night in Coventry, Cedar/Fairmont, Lee/Cedar – ask area merchants for donations and that pays performers – can do this in any neighborhood. Public Art – Cedar Lee Mural – Coventry Arch – Coventry Fences – Susan Gallagher –Heights Arts – a contemporary community gallery – open mike – arts and education (increases achievement and parent involvement).