(press release sent to WSBS from Great Barrington Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin for online and on air use) 

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Town officials have begun a process that they hope will result in Great Barrington's downtown earning an official designation as a cultural district from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Since 2011, the Massachusetts Cultural Council has formally recognized towns and cities that have thriving arts, humanities and science institutions, allowing those organizations enhance their visitors' experiences while positioning communities to better capitalize on these distinct resources.

This initiative is in line with Great Barrington's economic development priorities, which place a strong emphasis on strengthening and marketing the diverse set of cultural destinations in the heart of town.

As a first step, representatives from downtown cultural establishments and businesses are invited to a public information session at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Saint James Place, 352 Main St.

The meeting will provide stakeholders with information about what the cultural district distinction would mean for the town, and how it would benefit businesses, residents and visitors alike.

"Great Barrington's downtown is a unique section of town that has a variety of cultural activities, including arts and entertainment destinations, and historic sites," Town Planner Christopher Rembold said. "We're eager to pursue any opportunity to support the amazing work being done by cultural institutions. This would have a positive impact for downtown retailers and restaurants as well."

Downtown Great Barrington boasts a vibrant landscape, anchored by mainstays like Saint James Place, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and the Triplex Cinema.

There are currently three communities in Berkshire County with a cultural district designation -- Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District, Williamstown and North Adams.

In seeking a cultural district of its own, Great Barrington hopes to attract more artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job development and foster a robust local arts and culture scene.

Cultural districts must be walkable, compact areas centered on existing amenities, but the benefits of the designation would likely extend beyond the formal downtown borders to include the surrounding neighborhoods and communities.

“This designation would provide a tremendous benefit for our community," Great Barrington Cultural Council Chair Scott Pezza said. "I hope that everyone will take the time to join us and share their ideas and visions for how this cultural district can best highlight the wonderful artists and institutions we’re so proud to have here in Great Barrington.”

On March 12, the plan for the district will be reviewed by the Selectboard, which must give the formal approval to apply for the district. This initiative is being undertaken with the help of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission through its Shared Economic Planner program.

For more information, please contact Town Planner Rembold at 413-528-1619, ext. 7.

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