Carbondale's community connector

Carbondale’s creative district process continues

Locations: News Published

CCAH organizing the effort

By Nicolette Toussaint

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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In June, the Carbondale historic downtown core was accepted as one of seven new candidates for Colorado’s Creative District program. The program, which is sponsored by Colorado Creative Industries (a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade), brought two years of grant money with it.

Carbondale’s Creative District program will receive $10,000 in planning and development money this year and again next year.  In year three, Carbondale’s creative district aims to achieve certification, receiving an additional $15,000.

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In addition to the grant, which comes from Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and the Boettcher Foundation, the benefits of becoming a state-certified creative district include state and local government recognition, free professional assistance, a special highway sign from the Colorado Department of Transportation, access to the Creative District Community Loan Fund and the chance to network and learn from other Creative Districts.

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Community input

On Sept. 15, approximately 50 people gathered at Dos Gringos for a briefing on Carbondale’s progress in the creative district program and to put in their two cents worth on a cowgirl image that has been designed for creative district signage. Most comments were supportive, though a handful of participants were concerned that the cowgirl did not specifically indicate that it was about the creative arts.

“I couldn’t think of anything better so I gave it a thumbs up,” said Carbondale librarian Mollie Honan. “Carbondale is bike friendly and rich in ranching history, and it does show that.”

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Laura Stover, who does design and marketing for the Carbondale Council for Arts and Humanities (CCAH), was more effusive. “I see the cowgirl as a persona who can connect places in town. For people new to Carbondale, she’s like a guide to all the arts here. She could pop up on a sign in an alley and tell you where to find a hidden gallery.” Stover noted that Denver’s River North creative district, or “RiNo,” which received its full certification this year, is using a distinctive rhinoceros on its signs and flyers.

In January, a group of 24 participants mapped Carbondale’s creative businesses, assembling a creative inventory on a town plat. Participants at Monday’s briefing added to that creative inventory in addition to commenting on the cowgirl icon.

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A stakeholder group of 19 volunteers representing business, town government and the arts have been steering the creative district process; Mayor Stacy Patch-Bernot and the town’s senior planner, Janet Buck, are in that group. CCAH Executive Director Amy Kimberly said that because the town “did not want the process to be political,” it asked CCAH to lead the planning process.

Town Manager Jay Harrington told The Sopris Sun that the town contributed $3,100 in 2013 to support the creative district inventory and its follow up, and then pitched in another $1,800 this year to provide matching funds for facilitators and consultants. “We’re partners with CCAH on this, with them taking the lead,” he explained. “With all the other things that the town is working on, a successful creative district should be a community-driven effort.“

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“The more people involved who get their voices in there, the better,” said Kimberly. She stressed the benefits of participation, either in public meetings or via comments left on the website “We want to get you into the awareness of the state of Colorado if you’re making something like Up Ski or Board by Design,” she said.

The program’s next steps will be to engage a consultant to write a strategic plan that will define priorities and goals and define how the creative district will be maintained.

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To date, the state of Colorado has certified 11 creative districts, including Denver’s art district on Santa Fe Drive, plus those in Ridgeway, Salida and Telluride. The Creative District program aims to attract artists and creative entrepreneurs, create hubs of economic activity, promote the “unique identity” of communities and make them “appealing places to live, conduct businesses and attract visitors.”

Kimberly noted that as creative districts attract tourists and business, housing costs can go up — and that is already a problem for Carbondale. “The state is trying to bring in money for live/work spaces,” she said. “They are already talking to builders about that — and the hope is that money will go to the state-certified creative districts. We need money for housing, and that’s one of the reasons we need to be working on this.”

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The other candidate districts selected this year along with Carbondale are Mancos, Manitou Springs, Crestone, Crested Butte, downtown Fort Collins and Evergreen.

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The creative district steering committee is considering Olivia Pevec’s “cowpoke on a bike” theme for icons to place around town. CCAH calls the icons “wayfinding/connective imagery” that will help serve as “guides” to help visitors explore Carbondale, connect different parts of town and possibly draw attention to historic sites. The two images shown here might also be used in conjunction with each other. Input on the artwork is being accepted at the CCAH office in the Third Street Center.