Entertainment/Arts Districts: Consumption vs. Production
Frozen Tropics linked to my entry on H Street revitalization and there has been some discussion of the issues.
This is something I wrote (edited slightly to correct or expand a couple points):
There aren't any really [any specific benefits for being designated an arts district]. There is some arts district designation that the city can do but I don't really know what the benefits are. (Maryland has some specific benefits and access to development funds for their arts district initiatives.)
WRT the H St. plan, it was more about creating distinctive nodes and positioning strategies in order to absorb the by and large empty and/or underperforming real estate. For obvious reasons, given the presence of the Atlas, the east end was to focus on entertainment and the middle on retail.
But I didn't agree with the designation of the west end as mostly housing. We thought proximity to Union Station meant that retail development opportunities were present as well, plus there are larger pieces of land (other than the Autozone and H St. Connection lots).
WRT extending the arts beyond the arts district, Vanessa Ruffin (she has a place on Wylie Street) came up with an idea that I championed and fleshed out. Vanessa. who was on my H St. Main St. promotion committee, made the point that an "arts" district should extend beyond H Street, that artists should be encouraged, and other properties focused on promoting arts uses.
So where Connor Contemporary is now, we promoted the idea of those properties, as well as Jimmy's Tire (which since burnt down) as arts places. (I won't go into why those buildings are better suited for larger operations.)
And I came up with the idea of having the public schools in the area be refocused around arts in a variety of ways--performing, language, foreign language, visual, media-computing--with each school focusing on a different foreign language and culture.
One of the related points was that I suggested that the old E10 Firehouse and the old Precinct 9 police station and the old school building on the Miner campus be converted not into luxury housing or office buildings (the old school) but into combined art studios and facilities, e.g., back then the Washington Glass School was displaced due to the Nationals Stadium, and they ended up in Mt. Rainier instead of staying in DC.
The idea was that you could have artists in residence in some housing in the building, plus studios, plus production facilities.
Plus, I am pretty sure that I suggested that RL Christian "Library" could be re-launched as a specialized collection in arts disciplines.
But I got kicked off of H St. Main St. in late 2004 (people weren't into my directness and I wasn't into being subsumed) and so the concept never got further developed in a substantive fashion.
Now this part of H St. is more focused on the entertainment aspect. To be honest, I don't know what the ideal mix would be between arts as consumption and arts as production.
The Temporarium that opened up there for a time is a concept that fits into this--supporting artists, although this was more about supporting crafters--but much more in terms of redeveloping cultural infrastructure needs to be done.
See my entry Arts, Culture Districts, and Arts-Based Revitalization" from 2009 and the piece from Creative City Network of Canada on different types of cultural infrastructure.
It's probably too late to do this, especially once the streetcar fully primes the real estate market as the cost of property will be too high to support "innovative" uses that need lower rental prices to succeed.
E.g., this article about the potential of an arts venue in Evanston, "Varsity Theater group doesn't expect to need tax handout" from the Evanston Review, specifically mentions that arts uses have a difficult time paying market rents.