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EDITORIAL: Create it and they will come
Even though it rained July 30, people still flocked to downtown York City that Saturday for the first Summer Art Market.
Royal Square teemed with thousands popping in and out of galleries, lining up for food at vendors, or just digging the sounds from the bands playing at Royal Square. Better yet, it was more than just the type of folks who typically show up to those kinds of festivals. More importantly, there were a lot of first-timers to downtown York mixing and mingling with the crowd.
“The goal was to bring new people downtown and show them what the community has going on,” Parliament gallery’s art director Stacy McClain said.
And that’s the key to revitalizing downtown areas in cities like York. In Lancaster, it was the burgeoning art scene with boutique shops, gastro-pubs, craft breweries and a hotel and convention center that transformed a few square blocks of the city. The same thing has occurred in some neighborhoods of Philadelphia like Fishtown, Manayunk and Queen Village.
In similar-sized cities like Boulder, Colorado, and Burlington, Vermont, again it was the downtown art scene that served as the jumping off point. At Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall and Burlington’s Church Street Market Place, people gather daily the way they did for York City's first Summer Art Market.
If people have a reason to go downtown, they will.
But it has to start somewhere, and in the future people might look back and point to Royal Square as the beginning of York City's rebirth. The Summer Art Market is a first step. Following it is a proposed art haven where abandoned buildings owned by the city’s Redevelopment Authority could be converted into apartments that cater to artists. Royal Square is looking into this in partnership with a Maryland-based nonprofit organization, according to Sean Cotter’s Aug. 1 report in The York Dispatch.
Dylan Bauer, the vice president of Royal Square Development and Construction, agreed the arts is one of the pillars upon which Royal Square has redeveloped the neighborhood. The 100 block of East King Street has three art galleries and an art supplies store. New stores also have opened around the corner on South Duke Street.
The company also has its eyes on the 100 block of East Princess as part of its redevelopment.
Can it work?
Studies show that the arts, more than anything else, bring revenue into a city. A study by Americans for the Arts supports the idea that the arts can bring significant revenue to regions that support it. The group found that nonprofit arts and culture organizations pumped an estimated $61 billion into the national economy in 2010. The study also found the audience for creative events in 2010 generated $74 billion in revenue for merchants, hotels and other local businesses.
And if it has worked in cities the same size and with problems similar to York City's, why can’t it happen again? After all, the idea is to bring people and businesses downtown and if a critical mass is started, then it feeds itself.