By Shawn Regan
---- — Anyone who says there’s no culture in downtown Haverhill is wrong. Literally.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council has designated a portion of downtown as an official cultural district.
Haverhill joins Newburyport and Lowell as other communities in the region with state-designated cultural districts. There are 23 statewide.
In addition to making Haverhill eligible for statewide marketing as a tourist attraction, the city received a $50,000 grant for the improvement and promotion of the so-called Haverhill Riverfront Cultural District.
The money will be disbursed by the Community Arts and Education Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
Sven Amiran, the chamber’s executive director, said the money will be used to promote and support cultural assets downtown and potentially in other cultural venues in the city. The designation, he said, can also be used to strengthen future applications for state money for projects related to culture and tourism.
The new cultural district encompasses an area that includes Railroad Square, Wingate Street, parts of Washington and Essex streets, and other nearby streets.
State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives is a member of the House Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. She said the initiative is designed to aid the city’s efforts to expand economic development related to arts, culture and tourism.
“This designation is a helpful marketing tool for Haverhill businesses and highlights that Haverhill is a great place for artists and small businesses to set up shop,” the senator said. “This area is uniquely suited to be a destination. It’s easily accessible by highway and commuter rail in an area that’s walkable and bordered by the Merrimack River.”
The district is next to the river and includes many distinctive, historic buildings and arts-oriented businesses and shops.
“Our volunteers, the city of Haverhill, our state delegates, and the Mass Cultural Council all worked diligently and in perfect concert over the past few months to make this happen,” Amirian said. “The Cultural District designation truly shows that great things are happening in Haverhill.”
Amirian said the designation means downtown Haverhill will be featured on the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism website, which he said gets about 20 million visitors annually.
“The creation of the Haverhill Cultural District is an exciting opportunity to highlight Haverhill’s vibrant community of artists and cultural organizations,” state Rep. Brian Dempsey said. “This designation will expand and support our creative economy, enhance the quality of our city, and strengthen our local economy.”
Massachusetts communities apply for cultural district designation by demonstrating a portion of the community is compact and walkable, with a concentration of cultural activities, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The cultural district designation is designed to help communities attract artists and cultural enterprises, develop business and job growth, expand tourism, preserve and reuse historic buildings, and enhance property values, the press release said.
The initiative grew out of an economic stimulus bill passed by the state Legislature in 2010.
What Haverhill gets
Eligible for statewide marketing as a tourist attraction
A spot on the state’s website for travel and tourism
$50,000 for improvements tothe Riverfront Cultural District