A cultural district is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use, compact district of a city, area, or community in which a high concentration of cultural facilities and/or resources serves as the anchor. Cultural districts can be established in small rural communities or in large urban areas. They are established to encourage city and county governments to partner with a local community nonprofit or for-profit organization, businesses, developers, and individuals to enhance the quality of life for citizens of the community. Cultural districts also build local economies by encouraging increased tourism.
The impact of cultural districts is measurable. The arts and areas with historic structures attract residents and tourists who also support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging, retail and entertainment. The presence of arts and cultural opportunities enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the tax base of the region. These districts attract a diverse a well-educated work force - a key incentive for new and relocating businesses - and contribute to the creativity and innovation within a community.
"In addition to the beneficial economic benefits, cultural districts create an environment for positive community activity and vitality. They become places where people meet, interact, and enjoy public events and activities. Cultural districts give a distinct, positive identity to a city, community or region and provide both residents and visitors alike with a vibrant backdrop for their day to day living and leisure time," said Rep. Koch.
An official state designation and accompanying application process to the Indiana Arts Commission - being reviewed and accepted by an impartial, open, public process - will ensure that proposed cultural districts have the attributes necessary for success and authenticity. The designation as a cultural district should help attract public and private support for the area.
In the 2006-2007 session, the legislature passed another bill by Rep. Koch allowing signs on highways for cultural assets. This designation would tie into that legislation, allowing officially designated cultural districts to potentially have highway signs.
Rep. Koch serves House District 65, which includes parts of Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson and Lawrence counties.