Coming Soon to Norristown... A Cultural District
(November 10, 2009) - The time is right! Over the past few years artists, residents and community leaders in Norristown have talked, on and off, about creating an arts district in their town. Six months ago a group began working to turn that talk into reality. Since May, an ad hoc group - they named themselves the Norristown Arts Task Force (NATF) - has been meeting regularly to plan for the creation, launch and sustainability of a cultural district anchored on DeKalb Street.
On November 10th, NATF held its first public meeting, inviting a targeted group of stakeholders to learn about the district project over breakfast at the Montgomery County Cultural Center.
Here’s what the more than 50 people in attendance learned at the breakfast.
• Norristown already has an established arts community; including the Montgomery County Cultural Center, Theatre Horizon, Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown Arts Building and film arts group, Project Twenty1. These organizations provide great base for launching a cultural district.
• The cultural district will be a tool for neighborhood and economic revitalization in the downtown. The group plans to recruit nonprofit arts groups, creative businesses, individual artists, as well a complementary businesses (restaurants, book stores, coffee shops, etc.) to the district.
• The borders of the cultural district will be fuzzy, intentionally so, to allow the district to grow organically. DeKalb Street will be the heart of the district and NAFT has inventoried buildings, empty parcels and parking lots along DeKalb as well as several blocks of Main Street, They’ve created a database that will be regularly updated to allow potential businesses and tenants to easily see what’s available in the district.
• And the district’s name? The task force decided to enlist the public’s help to name the district. Flyers were distributed throughout town, the Times Herald ran an article about the naming contest and creative juices began to flow. Names submitted by the public were reviewed and the field was narrowed to five. The public will be invited to vote for their favorite among the finalists. Sorry, we can’t reveal any of the contenders until they are officially released for voting.
• NAFT will hold a launch event” in April, 2009; the official kick-off for the new cultural district.
• The NATF has teamed up with Norristown Municipality to apply for $125,000 in county funding to promote Norristown, the downtown and the arts district. Marketing initiatives will include an interactive website highlighting downtown businesses, restaurants and arts venues and a promotional campaign through SEPTA to highlight the town's and cultural district’s proximity to the Norristown Transportation Center; billboards.
At the end of the presentation, participants were asked to join the Norristown Arts Council, a permanent organization that is forming to take over from NAFT to support the cultural district. More than a dozen attendees volunteered to join the new group whose first meeting will be held December 11, 2009
For more information about Norristown’s nascent cultural district contact:
Gabriela Ibarra Prete
Business Development Coordinator