Power of Culture Blog
Check out our recently submitted testimony on various legislative topics
During the 2023-2024 legislative session, Mass Cultural Council is proud to join partners like MassINC, MASSCreative, and the Massachusetts Association of Business Improvement Districts in support of H. 228/S. 130, An Act to promote downtown vitality, legislation sponsored by Rep. Cabral and Sen. Cronin.
These proposals are currently pending review by the Joint Committee on Small Business and Community Development. Under the Joint Rules of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate, the Committee must schedule a public hearing and make its recommendation on this matter by Joint Rule 10 Day, which is February 7, 2024.
About the Downtown Vitality Act
This bill would establish the Downtown Vitality Fund and allocate 5% of receipts from online sales originating in Massachusetts to support staffing and operations of business improvement districts, main street associations, state-designated cultural districts, and parking benefit districts in Gateway Cities and other low-income communities.
Because Mass Cultural Council manages the Massachusetts Cultural District Initiative, we felt it was important to join the coalition working to create a new revenue stream for these types of state-approved entities.
Small businesses districts in communities across the Commonwealth need vibrant, walkable areas to attract enough foot traffic to succeed in today’s challenging commercial environment. Online retail has siphoned dollars away from local economies, contributing to economic and cultural displacement. An Act to promote downtown vitality seeks to reinvest 5% of remote retailer tax revenue back into our Main Streets and downtowns, helping to level the playing field by promoting district management and creating strong local places.
Massachusetts has the foundation for success, with historic areas, urban squares, town centers, and rural villages. Yet we have lacked the governance and financing structures to manage these places adequately for 15-hour districts, 7 days a week. That is changing. A burgeoning network of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) has emerged over the last five years, and dozens of Cultural Districts have been established. Parking Benefit Districts represent a new management tool, and innovative public-private-civic partnerships have arisen.
However, the state lacks a funding mechanism to scale up this local innovation and create a system of management capacity on the sublocal or district level. An Act to promote downtown vitality would transform our state into a national leader and ensure that our communities, large and small, have a thriving, beating heart. We can do this in a way that values and strengthens our state’s diversity, builds entrepreneurship among immigrants and communities of color, and enhances our unique cultural business districts.