A little sweet news for us: Downtown Colorado Springs has been formally identified by Colorado Creative Industries as an "Emerging Creative District." With the company of downtown Parker, the city of Trinidad and a handful of other locales, downtown will be granted $2,000 and receive "technical assistance" to work toward planning a more cohesive creative place.
CCI identifies two other classifications: "Prospective Creative Districts" and full-blown "Colorado Creative Districts." Downtown Pueblo, along with the towns of Ridgeway and Telluride, belong in the former category, and will receive grants of $8,000 and a "customized package of technical assistance to enhance the likelihood that they will be certified in the future."
Only two places were recognized as CCDs: downtown Salida and Denver's Art District on Santa Fe. Along with "assistance to attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and visitors," they will receive $15,000 grants.
Passed by the state Legislature last year, this is the first program of its kind to formally recognize creative districts.
Getting back to us, our $2,000 will go to the Downtown Development Authority, the group that applied for the grant, and technically the roughly two-square-mile area identified as a district for CCI.
According to Susan Edmondson, chair of the DDA, the technical assistance from CCI — which will include things like urban planning, financial models and branding — is one of the major perks of the program. Even better, though, is the fact that the DDA is now a "cohort" of the 15 other districts across the state, where everyone can work together and learn from each other.
"There's a little bit of money, there's the technical assistance that's very helpful, it's the idea that you're part of team of communities that also know the importance of arts and creativity to build a stronger community," she says.
When asked what might have helped the DDA earn this certification, she says, "Our suitcase is pretty packed with a variety of great things going on." That includes success of "anchors" like the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, the Pikes Peak Center and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum; the 35 or so properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places; our public art, galleries and other enterprises; festivals like Blues Under the Bridge; and other components.
Edmondson also says that the DDA is home to 15 architectural firms that employ more than 150 people, some of the city's largest advertising firms, and a variety of businesses (clubs and bars included) that attract different walks of life. "Those are all part of the creative mix," she says.
Though the guidelines are still in the works, districts will be able to apply to a different category next year. (Full-fledged CCDs can request re-certification after three to five years.) That means the DDA can shoot for Prospective Creative District certification, if it wants. Either way, according to Edmondson, this is a great start: "We've earned a status and we hope to move up that ladder through the years."