With a major grant from ArtPlace, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is leading the effort to create the Broadway Cultural Quarter (BCQ), an initiative to revitalize Downtown LA by developing a Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) to attract and retain for-profit creative enterprises and arts/educational nonprofits.

The BCQ will be anchored by (1) the Broadway Arts Center (BAC), a mixed-use development featuring affordable artists’ housing; a blackbox theater; an art gallery; and creative enterprise space being developed by a limited liability corporation recently created by Artspace and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC); and (2) a Downtown campus for the California Institute of Arts (CalArts). The Broadway Cultural Quarter will be the result of an overarching visionary design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis Architects.

ArtPlace recently spoke to Olga Garay-English, Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, about the Broadway Cultural Quarter project.

ArtPlace: Have you gained any political traction with your efforts? If so, with whom and how did you do it?

Garay-English: The Department of Cultural Affairs presented an update on the BCQ to Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa in August of 2012. Mayor Villaraigosa expressed continued support of the project and continued assistance with the Department’s fundraising efforts.

Councilmember José Huizar, whose district the Broadway Cultural Quarter is based in, is also a key supporter. He launched a ten year initiative, Bringing Back Broadway, to promote the area as a commercial and creative hub.

Further, the Downtown L.A. Street Car, an initiative championed by our Broadway Cultural Quarter partner, Bringing Back Broadway, has gained $62.5 million in local bond funding as the result of a successful special mail-in ballot election that was held in December 2012. With this local funding in place, streetcar planners, led by CM Huizar, can now seek federal assistance to cover the remaining $60+ million in construction costs needed to complete the project.

The Downtown L.A. Streetcar will operate as an important connective tissue for the Broadway Cultural Quarter. While Downtown LA is a thriving transit hub, serving as the terminus of municipal bus and light rail lines, transportation in and around Downtown LA to Downtown neighborhoods such as the Historic Core, the Financial District, and Little Tokyo is severely lacking. The streetcar will operate seven days a week, connecting the BCQ with other Downtown neighborhoods. This will spur vibrancy and promote pedestrian activity and help make the Broadway Cultural Quarter a more livable and active transit-oriented creative community.

As a direct result of the work in progress for the ArtPlace grant, DCA has also advanced its collaboration with the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD), and is strategizing on how best to increase access for artists to obtain current and upcoming affordable housing projects in Los Angeles.

After the State of California’s Community Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved in February 2012, as a measure to reduce California’s severe budget deficit, LAHD was identified to administer a portion of the affordable housing assets previously overseen by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. DCA has participated in preliminary conversations with LAHD to envision ways that upcoming affordable housing projects can serve the artistic community, when appropriate, and participate directly in the creative placemaking strategies outlined by ArtPlace.

ArtPlace: Have you gained traction with any other leaders in your community? How?

Garay-English: Mayor Villaraigosa’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, Office of Economic and Business Policy, and DCA launched the Creative Economy Convergence Task Force (CECTF) this summer, with the goal to advance LA’s creative economy. We anticipate this group being an active participant in the BCQ project as we move forward.

The CECTF consists of key leaders from five vital sectors: (1) Nonprofit Arts and For-profit Entertainment; (2) Government; (3) Philanthropy; (4) Academia/Public Policy; and (5) the Private Creative Sector. The Task Force includes four college Presidents or Chief Operating Officers (CalArts; Emerson College; Otis College; and SCI-Arc); film executives (Sony Entertainment, 20th Century Fox); major arts organizations and union leaders (Hammer Museum, SAG-AFTRA); prominent philanthropies (Irvine Foundation, Getty Trust); and a cadre of creative entrepreneurs.

Each sector has a nexus to the planning and implementation of the BCQ, and we are fortunate to have such a distinguished group of leaders working proactively with DCA and our partners. For example, we anticipate the academic sector to be involved in the workforce development component of the project, helping to create greater access to creative industry jobs for a more diverse group of Angelenos. Along these lines, Otis College of Art and Design is already creating plans for a creative economy incubator space to be part of the BCQ. Other sectors will support the BCQ in a variety of ways, including assisting in fundraising efforts, advising throughout the design process, and helping to fill vacant upper-floor space with community-minded creative businesses.

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