January 10, 2014 Updated: January 10, 2014 at 6:45 pm
Two years and $12,000 later, downtown Colorado Springs is on the verge of becoming a Certified Creative District, a state-bestowed designation meant to help the area attract more entrepreneurs, artists and tourists.
The Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs began working toward the certification in 2012, said Lara Garritano, Creative District manager for the organization. If all goes according to plan, the downtown area will become a Certified Creative District this year.
Since joining the program, the partnership has received $12,000 from the state and the nonprofit Boettcher Foundation, plus 60 hours of free consulting work from people throughout Colorado in the arts, marketing and other areas, Garritano said.
The consultants suggested a number of ideas, including the city's Sidewalk Stage event that took place last summer. Sidewalk Stage incorporated 25 performers, artists and musicians who performed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, mostly along Tejon Street, for six weeks.
Starting Saturday, the Downtown Partnership will launch downtown walking tours to teach people about the city's founders, historic buildings and artworks - part of the three-year commitment by downtown officials to become a Certified Creative District.
"We are in good contact with the state," said Garritano, "and one of the few things left that they want us to work on is: What are the visual cues throughout the district that remind you you are in the center of arts and culture in the middle of Colorado Springs?"
One of the consultants who worked with the Downtown Partnership is Beth Flowers, executive director of Beet Street in Fort Collins and the Arts Incubator of the Rockies. Although Fort Collins has not applied to become a Certified Creative District, Flowers had done so much to boost the city's downtown that the state approved her as a consultant.
Flowers said Fort Collins' downtown events, especially the Streetmosphere festival of art and performances, have not only drawn more people to its downtown, but have encouraged them to stay longer and spend more money on food, clothing and treats.
"The businesses that reported back to us have said it has increased pedestrian traffic and sales at their businesses," she said, "and they definitely saw the increase as soon as it (Streetmosphere) started."
It was talks with Flowers that led to the Sidewalk Stage in Colorado Springs.
Now the Colorado Springs partnership is working with a Denver consultant who is trying to find ways to improve the downtown "arts district" experience.
The Certified Creative District program grew out of legislation passed in 2011. The program is designed to be an economic development tool and is set up as an incubator to help the districts attract artists, entrepreneurs and visitors, and to revitalize and beautify participating communities.
Seven entities, including the Pueblo Creative Corridor, have received the Certified Creative District designation.
Last year, downtown Colorado Springs was named a Prospective Creative District, a step up from its former standing as an Emerging Creative District. Garritano said the Downtown Partnership expects to receive the full designation by year's end.
The partnership loosely defines the downtown arts district boundaries as the Colorado Springs Fine Arts center on the north, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum on the south, Cottonwood Center for the Arts on the east and America the Beautiful Park on the west.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275