Hoping to boost tourism, encourage reuse of historical buildings and support Main Street businesses as well as local arts, the city will ask the state to designate the downtown village as a cultural district.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to support an application to the Massachusetts Cultural Council seeking the district designation.
“This opens the door to state funding and doesn’t cost the city a dime,” said Randy Scott, owner of the Main Street Cafe. “I can’t see a good reason to say no.”
Districts are intended to “encourage Massachusetts communities to strengthen this sense of place, while stimulating economic activity, improving the experiences of visitors to our communities, and creating a higher quality of life,” the Cultural Commission says on its Website.
Mary Scott, coordinator of the Marlborough Downtown Village, said the designation is a logical next step in the evolution of downtown. A group of business leaders, property owners and organizations organizing two years ago to promote the downtown village concept.
“The malls have changed the climate of downtown forever, but this is old news,” said Scott. The downtown is finding its own lifestyle niche, she added. New shops are opening regularly, a new theater group recently took space on Main Street and a pocket park recently opened on the site of a building fire.
A fact-finding trip by members of the village association to Haverhill last summer proved an old adage is true, Scott added. “If you build it, they will come," she said.
To qualify as a cultural district, an area must be distinct, walkable and dense with cultural offerings such as restaurants, art galleries, historical attractions and supporting businesses.
If approved, Marlborough's would joint a handful of existing districts, including The Fenway Cultural District in Boston, Gloucester’s Rocky Neck Cultural District and the Upstreet Cultural District in Pittsfield.
What do you think? Should the downtown village become an arts and cultural center? Will people visit Marlborough to see historic sites and take in the culture? Let us know in the comments.