April 2014

You Asked. We Answered.

At the Inquiry Answer Service, we answer, on average, more than 300 questions for our subscribers each month. We consult a variety of sources to create a custom research packet — which may include APA publications, sample ordinances and plans, articles and literature from partner organizations, and the most current information available online — for each question.

Each month, we choose one question to feature here, so you can see what your peers around the country are asking and how we answered. When your organization subscribes to PAS, you and your colleagues will also have access to previous editions.

You Asked.

How do communities support a creative economy?

How do other cities promote and foster their creative industries, including ensuring adequate and appropriate housing, gathering spaces, and business. How do these efforts manifest (e.g., plans, changes to zoning, programmatic investments, etc.)?

We Answered.

Creative industries seem to be attracted to areas with the following characteristics:

  • An adequate supply of flexible and affordable housing and co-working space
  • The presence of arts-based anchor institutions and venues (e.g., theater companies, performance spaces, museums/galleries, etc.)
  • A mix of uses that bring residences, workplaces, and recreational opportunities into close proximity

Municipal efforts to promote and foster creative industries may be policy oriented (e.g., updating comprehensive plan and zoning designations to sanction a mix of uses or offering development incentives), infrastructure oriented (e.g., streetscaping, transit, or stormwater upgrades), or programmatic (e.g., providing space for cultural programming or organizations, providing direct grants, marketing/branding, serving as an information clearinghouse, offering financial incentives, etc.).

While economic development efforts that focus on attracting and retaining creative industries are not new, in recent years there seems to have been a renewed interest in communitywide cultural/creative economy plans that bring together policy, infrastructure, and programmatic recommendations under one strategic framework. However, given the diffuse nature of these plans, systematic implementation may be extremely difficult.

Apart from communitywide plans, a number of cities and counties have adopted subarea plans for targeted arts or cultural districts. Often these plans prioritize policy and infrastructure strategies, with a predictably greater emphasis on specific physical interventions and regulatory changes to ensure adequate and attractive space for creative industries.

Often communities use special zoning districts or overlays to implement subarea plans or other place-based arts and cultural district policies. These special districts typically sanction live-work space and mix of other uses intended to foster a vibrant corridor or neighborhood center with a high concentration of cultural amenities.

Finally, a few communities have added provisions to their municipal codes that explicitly sanction various programs that support creative industries. These may take the form of direct financial assistance (e.g., loans or grants) or special purpose district designations that open the door to financial or development incentives.

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