, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 20, 2013

Port pursues arts district

Plan to create cultural area draws warm reception

NEWBURYPORT — The city’s continuing drive for a larger share of the multi-billion-dollar tourist industry in Massachusetts made a leap forward last night as officials outlined their plans to seek state designation for a cultural district in the heart of Newburyport.

Cultural liaison Lois Honegger, who is also Mayor Donna Holaday’s executive aide, said the city has “everything the commonwealth is looking for to recognize a cultural district in Newburyport.”

“We have theaters, art galleries, shops, musicians, artists, performers and all manner of cultural activities and attractions,” Honegger said during a public hearing at City Hall. “There’s no reason why we cannot become the No. 1 cultural district in America.”

Generations of cultural tourists have spent $15 billion a year in Massachusetts, Honegger said. By identifying and receiving state approval for a cultural district, Newburyport would obtain more exposure on state-sponsored websites and other tourist promotions at no cost beyond some identifying signage to mark the area, she said.

The proposed cultural district — which must be a specific geographic area that is compact and walkable — would be centered in downtown Newburyport, bordered by Federal, High and Winter streets and continuing down to Water and Merrimac streets.

To qualify as a cultural district, the area must feature a concentration of cultural assets, activities and facilities, be easily identifiable to visitors and residents and be the city’s center of artistic and economic activity. There are already 14 such cultural districts in the commonwealth.

Holaday told the 35 people in attendance that a request is currently before the City Council to pass a resolution in support of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s efforts on behalf of the city to earn the designation.

“Newburyport is rich in artistic assets,” Holaday said, praising the initiative.

Honegger, the project lead for compiling all the information required for the city’s application to establish the district, said this is the first time the city, through Holaday, has partnered on such an effort.

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