Nine places in Iowa are being designated as “Cultural and Entertainment Districts” as part of a state initiative to boost economic development through arts, history and culture. Jeff Morgan, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says each of the districts will host ceremonies this week that will include unveiling new signs.
Morgan says historic buildings can be rehabilitated to help create an environment that attracts highly-educated workers to the communities or that can be retooled to provide entertainment opportunities to people who live, work and play in those communities.
The nine districts are in: Ames, Fairfield, Keokuk, Marion, Mason City and Waterloo, as well as three districts within Des Moines. Morgan explains what the communities had to do to qualify for the state designation as Cultural and Entertainment Districts. He says they needed to show their districts are unique and reflect a special social, cultural and economic need for the area.
Certification may make them eligible for historic preservation tax credits and other incentives. Morgan says those tax credits could help the communities to help themselves by sprucing up those historic structures to create spaces for artisans, restaurants or retail outlets.
Morgan says “These are places where you find art stores and boutiques and eclectic and funky shops that people gravitate towards, where people want to live and work and play and spend their time and spend their money.” Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson and Department of Cultural Affairs director Anita Walker is presenting the certification and signage to the districts.
This is the second year for the program. Last year, ten Cultural and Entertainment Districts were certified in eight communities: Cedar Falls, Charles City, Cherokee, Davenport, Dubuque, Iowa City, Muscatine and Spencer.