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Local First, city of Durango leading effort to establish a creative district

Businesses, nonprofits welcome to participate
Local First, the city of Durango and others want an area of Durango to be designated as a certified creative district to help highlight galleries, museums, performance centers and other attractions. Pursuing a creative district certification can also help spur beautification efforts.

Work is underway to establish a state-certified creative district in Durango that could draw in additional tourists and help build the local economy.

A creative district certification could highlight galleries, museums, restaurants, craft breweries and performance centers in a particular geographic area in town.

“The big-picture goal is a thriving creative economy that places Durango into a position to be very resilient into the future,” said Monique DiGiorgio, executive director of Local First, a nonprofit that represents locally owned businesses.

The creative economy includes artists, nonprofits, businesses that make craft products and skilled professionals, such as designers.


Local First, the city of Durango and other community leaders met with about 40 residents earlier in October to see if there was enough interest to pursue a creative district certification from the state of Colorado, said Colleen O’Brien, the city’s business development and redevelopment coordinator.

“We got overwhelming support to move forward with the process,” she said.

If Durango is selected for creative district certification, it could receive seed money, technical resources and marketing tools to promote the district.

The state has certified 23 creative districts in communities such as Greeley, Mancos and Ridgway and promotes them as tourist destinations.

Each one is unique, and it is up to the Durango community to decide the boundaries of the district and what the goals of the district would be, DiGiorgio said. For example, if north Main Avenue was included in the district, it could help encourage more creative activity along the corridor, she said.

Local First is focused on involving professionals from as many different sectors as possible, even those that might not seem obvious, including architects, designers and restaurateurs.

Residents who participate will help craft the shared vision for the district, DiGiorgio said.

“Bringing all of those different values of our community together under one big tent will increase all of our collective efforts,” she said.

Durango must be invited to apply for creative district designation and plans to be ready to be considered for certification next fall after it completes the steps outlined by the state.

The group must identify players in the creative community, including businesses and nonprofits, develop a vision and make plans for an organization, such as a nonprofit, that will manage the district once it is formed.

To complete the steps, Local First is forming four working groups that will map museums, galleries and restaurants, raise funds for the district, develop a strategic plan and research the legal structure for a group to lead the district long-term. It is also forming a steering committee that will help oversee the work.

Those interested in participating in the formation of the district can find more information at local-first.org.


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