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Carbondale Works To Become A "Creative District"

Marci Krivonen

Colorado is working on growing its “creative industry,” and a Roaring Fork Valley community is part of the effort. Last month Carbondale was selected to be a candidate for a Creative District program. It highlights towns where the arts is the focus. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen has more.

In 2011, Colorado lawmakers formed the Creative District program meant to bolster the arts and attract new creative businesses to communities around the state. Now, eleven creative districts exist in places like Colorado Springs and Greeley. Seven more are working on becoming creative districts, including Carbondale. Carbondale is in the running, in part, because of shops like this one.

"Everything in this store, even though most of it is old and antique, is unique, like old birdhouses that somebody made," says Deborah Taylor.

She works at Out West Antiques on Main Street in Carbondale. The store is filled things like Native American heirlooms, vintage clothing and jewelry. She says Carbondale is a good fit for the business.

"The fact that we’ve got great restaurants, coffee shops and everything is walkable and it’s easy to park, I think it’s really good."

Amy Kimberly is with the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities.

"When you look at Carbondale, the majority of our businesses would fall under creative industry business. And, that’s a wide swath, that’s healing arts, design, publishing, local food production, renewable energy design," she says.

Kimberly is heading up the effort to get Carbondale certified as a Creative District. The State is providing a $5000 grant. Kimberly says the idea is to identify creative zones in town, lay out a direction for the community and ultimately attract new creative entrepreneurs and visitors. It is, she says, a community effort.

"Our real goal is to come together for a vision and be able to attract businesses that fit in, be able to make things easier for people who are here, look at solving problems like housing for creatives, or for anyone! We want to be able to keep a good mix of people here."

A 2012 economic analysis found the creative industry plays a critical role in Carbondale’s economy. Town Manager Jay Harrington says it’s a sector everyone supports.

"The town’s been pretty vocal in its desire not to grow its retail base through big boxes and large retail development, so the creative district aspect and the creative industries, it’s a good partnership where there are some opportunities," he says.

Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for the number of jobs in the creative sector. Margaret Hunt with the Colorado Office of Economic Development says the focus of the creative district program is to build on an already strong creative core.

"What we’re trying to do is create more synergy around that. Because it’s really important for our economic development strategy that we’re recruiting bright, young talent and young workers are interested in living in places that are interesting and creative districts are interesting."

Carbondale has two years to get its creative district certification. Citizens can get involved with the process through a website. Here's a link. Once you're there and signed up, search for "Carbondale Creative District."

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