Archive | April, 2011

New Creative Districts Legislation Passed: What Does It Mean?

13 Apr

Guest author Hilarie Portell of Portell Works explains the recently passed Creative Districts legislation and what it means for Colorado.

Creative enterprises are the fifth largest industry cluster in Colorado, and now local communities have a tool to help attract and retain them.

In late March, Governor Hickenlooper signed new legislation creating a statewide designation for creative districts. Communities that meet specific criteria will apply for the designation through the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) division. Certified districts become eligible for technical support, limited state incentives and federal funding if it becomes available. An  application process should be in place by July 2012.

The creative district designation does not have any state fiscal implications or property requirements, such as tax credits or design guidelines. However, it could provide communities with a new economic development tool to build local support and targeted strategies for a creative district.

House Bill 11-1031 defines a creative district as a “well-recognized, designated mixed-use area of a community in which a high concentration of cultural facilities, creative businesses, or arts-related businesses serve as the anchor of attraction.” Creative districts may have multiple vacant properties in close proximity that would be suitable for redevelopment and may be home to both nonprofit and for-profit creative industries and organizations.

The legislation builds on a 2008 report by the Colorado Council on the Arts (now Colorado Creative Industries) on the state’s “creative economy.” It found that 186,251 jobs in Colorado are associated with creative enterprises and talent, with 2007 earnings totaling $5 billion. Importantly, creative enterprises are defined as “any company for which the primary value of its products or services is rooted in its emotional and aesthetic appeal to the customer.” This includes 69 industries in five categories: design, film/media, heritage, literary/publishing, and visual arts/craft. The categories comprise traditional arts as well as industrial and green design, interactive media, architecture, home furnishings, recreational products, local brewing operations and more. The full report is available at

Learn more about this legislation and its implications for your community at the May 11 DCI Development and Improvement Districts Forum. The DIDs forum is open to DCI members and will held from 2-4 p.m. at the Colorado Municipal League (1144 Sherman Street, Denver). Visit website for details and registration information.

Hilarie Portell helped draft and advocate for the creative district legislation. She is principal of Portell Works, a community and economic development consulting firm in Denver.


Spotlight on…Silverthorne

13 Apr

Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) recently led a technical assistance assessment in the Town of Silverthorne on March 21-22. Below is a snaphshot of the two-day visit and the challenges and opportunities that DCI’s team of downtown revitalization professionals discovered.

The Town of Silverthorne, determined to continue to enhance the community, enlisted Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) to plan and coordinate a downtown assessment to identify a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to review all the previous work done and provide some practical and implementable guidance for how best to move forward in the short, medium, and long-term time frames. DCI enlisted specialists focusing on landscape architecture, signage and way finding, economic development, financing mechanisms, marketing and promotions, and more. The team met with numerous stakeholders and groups working in Silverthorne to identify the priorities that this community must work on. The community made it clear that community development and finding a sense of place was a primary goal.

The Silverthorne Downtown Assessment represents the first of its kind because there is no traditional or clearly defined downtown commercial core in this community. The town identified a commercial core area in which to focus efforts that encompassed a very long stretch of Highway 9. Though this area is a key corridor in the community, it does not connect  the areas of activity that residents use the most. Rather, the usage patterns highlighted the need for greater attention to east-to-west connections that intersect the key arteries of  the Blue River, and State Highway 9.

The apparently lacking sense of unified community appears rooted in both physical layout and a conceptual disconnect between ideas and implementation. Despite the clear role of Silverthorne as the home base of Summit County, “where people come to get things done,” there isn’t one readily identifiable gathering place that draws locals and tourist to a community destination. The community has done studies, acquired property, requested designs, and revised zoning; yet all of this planning and preparation for development has not resulted in the town feeling content with moving forward without first inviting more private sector initiative.

Silverthorne has a wealth of beauty and natural assets. The community and the local government identified the Blue River as a community asset that should be accentuated in community and economic development initiatives. However, despite a lovely and useful trail and bridge system constructed to provide access to the river, this fabulous natural asset is not especially highlighted by most community centers. Some ideas are provided to assist in translating the planning efforts into the larger community vision.

The team worked to narrow the physical boundaries of the downtown core to identify the activity nodes that are most utilized and would serve as the heart of the community – or the physical sense of place. The team identified projects that can be done with little to no funding, as well as longer term organizational structure and capital projects to enhance the relationships and physical connections in the commercial core. The team highlighted what to do and how to do it through creation of a step-by-step action matrix to clarify how, when, and who might be the best community stakeholder to get the job done.

Silverthorne is a dedicated and inspiring community of folks ready to roll up their sleeves and build the community together. Good luck to Silverthorne! DCI and our member volunteers look forward to continuing to work with this town as they move forward with the Heart of Silverthorne Initiative.

Interested in DCI’s technical assistance program? Visit for details or contact us at 303.282.0625.