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.


3 Responses to “New Creative Districts Legislation Passed: What Does It Mean?”

  1. Larry Manning April 27, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

    As I read the definition and categories of Creative Districts it strikes me that Cripple Creek fits. I am sure this was not anticipated by the authors of the program, but gaming has been around throughout the history of civilization, has been a part of the City’s history for over a hundred years, and has “emotional and aesthetic appeal to its customers”. Regardless of the negative connotations some may place on gaming, it’s not different than those that similarly do not like prostitution and alchohol, both of which still have, similarly to gaming, become a part of our culture and still thrive in it. Your thoughts please……

    • Kat May 12, 2011 at 6:47 PM #

      You make a valid point in your comment. Elaine Mariner from Colorado Creative Industries is actually working to develop an advisory group to help to shape the implementation of this legislation by 2012. We encourage you to share your thoughts with this group, or maybe even contribute your time to this effort.

  2. Tareq Wafaie May 12, 2011 at 5:21 PM #

    Great session on creative districts yesterday at the DCI DIDs Forum. Kudos to DCI staff for assembling such an exceptional panel of speakers!

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