Arts District Idea Still on Drawing Board 


It's been a year since there was a renewed interest in creating a special arts district along the city's gallery-heavy corridor downtown, mainly on Broad Street. But there seems to be no timeline for the plan and a city spokeswoman says the mayor has yet to see a proposal.

“Hopefully we'll have something soon because we really do want to move forward with getting something to City Council” in September, says Christina Newton, director of Curated Culture, the group that organizes the First Fridays Art Walks.

The idea was prompted in part by the conflict that some First Fridays galleries faced with holding heavily attended events in venues that didn't comply with the city's occupancy limits and building codes. Mayor Dwight Jones signaled in September that he'd be open to an arts district designation that could iron out some of the conflicts.

One of the ideas sparked by a $100,000 study on the city's arts groups, the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan, was to create local arts districts, with potential accompanying tax breaks, as allowed by recent state-level legislation.

CultureWorks, an umbrella arts group led by John Bryan, has been meeting about the issue since January with arts advocates. It recently reached consensus about what it would want to see in an ordinance that would stipulate a template for creating such districts, Bryan says.

So far there's only a circulating draft of proposals, discussing such points as district boundaries and settling on the term “arts and culture districts” as the official designation of such areas, Bryan says. “But there's no formal ordinance written.”

Peter Chapman, deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development, says he hasn't seen a proposal. Chapman says much of the year has been spent fleshing out a “framework of a broader initiative on cultural development that would capitalize on the city's assets to bring to bear a greater impact” on the community.

“There's a lot of substance to the concept,” Chapman says. But “there's a lot of dialogue that still needs to occur and from there we get granular about what the next steps are and what form implementation will take.”


Editors' note: The print version of this story said the idea for an arts district was floated last year. To clarify, the idea for an arts district earned renewed interest last year.


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