For many years, a wide spectrum of arts has added color and a growing tourism draw to the roughly 400 acres designated as the downtown Arlington business improvement district.
Now the state has taken official notice. The Texas Commission on the Arts last week designated the area as the Arlington cultural district — one of only seven such districts named this year.
“As a destination, we’re working hard every day to distinguish ourselves from other places,” said Tony Rutigliano, president and chief executive of the Downtown Arlington Management Corp., a nonprofit that promotes downtown development. “Being a cultural district sets us apart and demonstrates to the community that we’re passionate about the cultural arts. Hopefully, when we put these things together, the arts community will continue to grow and prosper.”
The downtown group applied for the honor two years ago but initially came up short. Rutigliano said the decision was made to apply again this year and credits the second-time success “to the work of our cultural partners have done for a really long time.”
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“For generations, fine and performing artists and arts organizations have attracted residents and visitors to downtown Arlington,” Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement. “In the last few years, a groundswell of community support, partnerships and investment is transforming the district into a highly visible cultural magnet for our city.”
Cultural districts are special zones that “harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization,” the arts commission said in a statement. The districts can develop business, tourism, cultural activity and help attract tax breaks, economic incentives and grants for entities within the district.
Between Arlington’s first and second application, the state Legislature set aside funding that cultural districts can seek to help implement new programs and ideas, Rutigliano said.
Joining Arlington’s cultural designation are other new districts in Waco, downtown Plano, Texarkana, Salado, Amarillo and Rockport.
“Decades of enthusiasm and support by our local community have propelled us to where we are today,” Patti Diou, executive director of the Levitt Pavilion, said in a statement. “To have our collective efforts recognized by [the arts commission] is an incredible honor and a powerful springboard for great things to come.”
Diou also is chairwoman of the Arlington Cultural District Council, which is composed of representatives from all major cultural organizations within the district as well as community members, civic leaders and artists.
The Arlington cultural district is south and west of the Arlington entertainment district, which includes the Rangers and Cowboys stadiums, Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and other attractions.
Rutigliano said the downtown includes 20 restaurants, offices, arts and music venues, UTA’s College Park and some new additions:
- The downtown’s second brewery, opening earlier this year.
- Two residential developments that opened this summer, and three others in the works.
- A mixed-use development being built at the site of the former central library.
- A new 75,000-square-foot central library, under construction next to City Hall and the former library.
“It’s really expanding into a 24/7, vibrant district,” Rutigliano said. “It’s becoming a true downtown.”