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Hyannis Hyarts Cultural District
Home / Communities / Cultural Districts / Application Process

Cultural Districts

Application Process

Due to COVID-19, Mass Cultural Council is pausing initial site visits and formal consideration of new applicants, tentatively, until FY22 (July 1, 2021). Communities can still do work locally to prepare for an eventual visit from staff. In the meantime, we welcome conversations, so encourage constituents in communities considering applying to contact Cultural Districts Program Manager Luis Cotto at 617-858-2727.

  1. Confirm if your city or town is eligible by reading the designation guidelines below.


  2. Contact Cultural Districts program staff to discuss any questions.


  3. Create an organizational profile for your city or town to access the online application. The online application includes a narrative sections and an asset inventory form. Use the narrative questions to help with the planning. Use the inventory in the application to map cultural assets.

  4. Once your application is complete, a site visit will be scheduled.



Designation Guidelines

What is a Cultural District?
A cultural district is a specific area in a city or town. It has a number of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walkable, compact area. It is easy for visitors and residents to recognize. It is a hub of cultural, artistic and economic activity. The Mass Cultural Council knows that each community is unique. No two cultural districts will be alike.

Who Can Apply?
Any city or town in Mass can apply for cultural district designation. The city or town is the applicant for a cultural district designation. The city or town must identify a specific area in their city or town. The city or town must establish a partnership. The partnership includes organizations and stakeholders in the district. A city or town may apply for more than one cultural district designation. Each designation requires a separate application.

Cultural Districts Goals
The goals of the cultural districts, described in the legislative statue, are:

  • Attract artists and cultural enterprises
  • Encourage business and job development
  • Establish the district as a tourist destination
  • Preserve and reuse historic buildings
  • Enhance property values
  • Foster local cultural development

See the legislation for the Mass Cultural Districts Initiative.

Length of Designation
A cultural district designation will be in effect for five years. An Annual Progress Report is required each year. A designation is renewable for an additional five years. The district partnership must have maintained compliance with reporting requirements. The city or town must recommits to its cultural district’s work.

Cultural District Partnerships and Management
The applicant must be a city or town. The application is submitted by the city or town’s chief elected official. A city or town municipal department is the contact for the district.

Before submitting an application a city or town must form a cultural district partnership. The partnership must be a diverse mix of organizations and businesses. The partnership must represent the shared interests of the district. The majority must be in the district.

Organizations and individuals involved in the management of the district on an ongoing basis are:

  • City or town
  • Local Cultural Council
  • Cultural organization/s
  • At least 2 artists that live and/or work in the proposed district
  • Organization/s that represents artists
  • For profit creative business i e gallery, dance school
  • Local business and/or chamber of commerce

A city or town may elect to include additional entities. This depends on the assets in the cultural district, and the district’s goals. They can be:

  • Tourism
  • Historic preservation
  • Leisure industry, including hotels and similar businesses
  • Education institutions

Define the partners roles and duties. Decide on a meeting schedule, terms of office and other expectations. The partnership is responsible for developing a management plan. The plan must include agreed upon objectives. This includes: tasks, resources, timelines and milestones. It should include ways to measure success. Success relates to the goals set out in the application for designation. The partnership will convene on a regular basis.

The partnership may form advisory committees, working groups, and sub-committees. This is to support the district’s goals.

Third party arrangement:
As the applicant, the city or town may give the day to day management to a cultural district partner. The third party will act as the city or town’s agent. The partner must be in good financial standing. The partner must have the capacity to lead the partnership. However, the city or town must be in the partnership.

A written agreement is necessary if the day to day management is given to a third party. The agreement between the city or town and the third partner outlines the tasks. The agreement must include an exit plan for either party. Fiscal arrangements, reporting and so on must be included. The agreement should be in line with local municipal regulations. The agreement should be reviewed by the city or town’s legal counsel before submitting an application.

The partnership may include cultural for- profit or not-for-profit organizations that are outside the geographic boundaries of the district. Those organizations must produce cultural programming within the district. The cultural district may promote them in cultural district materials.

For advice, contact Mass Cultural Council staff.

Resolution by the City/Town
Any city or town applying for a state-designated cultural district must hold at least one community input meeting. This is so that people can learn about the cultural district map and goals.

Following the community input meeting(s), the city or town must pass a resolution. This is a commitment to the state-designated cultural district.

Resources for Cultural Districts
The statue that established the legislation does not include grant funds.

The Mass Cultural Council offers a variety of funding programs. They might benefit the planning and execution of a cultural district. Each program offers a combination of financial and technical resources. Mass Cultural Council program staff is available for consultation.

  • Cultural Facilities Fund
  • Local Cultural Council Program
  • Other State Agency Resources
    The Mass Cultural Council has identified other state agencies whose programs and services may be of benefit. Each state agency is available to discuss cultural district plans.
    Additional programs and services include:

    • Strategic community planning
    • Marketing and promotion
    • Historic property stewardship
    • Way finding signage
    • Open space programming
    • Economic development

Details on Mass Resources for Cultural Districts.

Eligibility for Designation

The applicant must be a city or town of the Commonwealth of Mass.

The cultural district must have defined boundaries.

The cultural district must be walkable and accessible.

The cultural district must have cultural facilities and assets.

The city or town must hold at least one community meeting. There must be adequate notice for public input. The city or town must pass a resolution. This is to commit to supporting a state designated cultural district. (See Sample Resolution.) .

The city or town must establish a cultural district partnership. This is prior to applying for designation. The partnership will provide oversight and management of the district.

The cultural district partnership must develop:

  • Goals and objectives
  • A management plan
  • A marketing plan
  • Assessment measures for the district

The city or town must participate in the state cultural districts signage program. Required purchase is four (4) signs. This will incur some costs. Each sign costs $145.

Application Process

The program has a rolling application process. There are no deadlines. The program accepts applications on an ongoing basis.
Cities and towns should assess their readiness to apply. Allow ample time to complete the application. The process can take several months.

There are several stages to the designation process. Review all the requirements.

Creating and submitting a map of the proposed district. Developing an asset key.

Completing an online application.

Submitting supplemental documents by mail.

Coordinating and conducting a site visit.

Creating and submitting a map of the proposed district. Developing an asset key.
A map of the proposed district must be submitted for review. This should be prior to completing the online application. This is prior to sending in the additional documents.

Use the online application inventory of assets. This defines and locates the proposed district’s cultural assets.

Submit three copies of a map. The map should show the proposed boundaries (color maps are best). Include a key to the assets and define a scale of distance.

The map should mark the proposed boundaries of the district. Show the location of cultural assets. Include the following:

  • Cultural facilities
  • Artistic spaces
  • Cultural activities (in and out of doors such as festivals etc.), creative businesses

Mark cultural assets located outside the proposed district on the map. Note cultural district partners located outside of the proposed district.

Create maps by using a city or town’s Redevelopment Authority, Planning Department, GIS department, or a web tool such as Google Maps.

Submit the map by mail to:
Cultural Districts Initiative
Mass Cultural Council
10 St. James Avenue, 3rd floor
Boston, MA 02116

The Cultural Districts Initiative Manager will review the submitted map and additional materials. The Manager will contact you to discuss the map and potential boundary issues.

Please note that in most cultural district designation applications the map boundaries are revised based on the review process.

Completing an Online Application

The online portion of the application is designed as a work plan. Use the narrative section to help refine your district’s goals and objectives. Use the inventory section to assess cultural assets.

Submitting Additional Application Documents
All items are required for an application to be reviewed. Allow plenty of time to collect all the documents.

Mail or hand-deliver the following attachments to the Mass Cultural Council in the order listed:.

REQUIRED – 2 identical sets.
Print and use the following as a check list:.

_____ Letter of Endorsement from Chief Elected Official

_____ Copy of Resolution from City Council / Board of Selectmen.
The resolution is the commitment to establish a state designated cultural district (See Sample Resolution.)

_____ Master Map: Please provide a map of the cultural district.
One copy should be signed by the appropriate municipal official, denoting approval of the proposed boundaries.

_____Evidence of Resources/Planning for the district using the Municipal Resources Sheet.

_____Third party agreement (if relevant):
If the city or town has made a third party arrangement for the oversight and management of the cultural district, there must be a written agreement. This should be in line with municipal regulations and reviewed by the city or town’s legal counsel. The agreement should outline each party’s tasks and duties.

_____Audited accounts (if relevant): If the city or town has made a third party arrangement for the oversight and management of the cultural district, the managing organization must submit its most recent audited accounts.

_____501c3 Proof (if relevant): If the organization with oversight and management of the cultural district is an IRS non-profit incorporated in Massachusetts, submit the letter confirming this status.

_____ Official legal documents on zoning overlays or ordinances relevant to the cultural district.

_____ Marketing materials, if relevant to the cultural district.

_____ Reports, feasibility studies, visioning results, and/or news articles regarding a proposed district (if relevant).

Submit to:.
Cultural Districts Initiative
Mass Cultural Council
10 St. James Avenue, 3rd floor
Boston, MA 02116

Site Visit

Once the application is complete, staff will be in contact to arrange a site visit. The site visit involves a tour of the proposed cultural district. The tour involves Mass Cultural Council staff and a site advisor on a mutually agreed date.

Please note: Site visits do not take place in January and February.

The site visit has three distinct parts:

  1. A meeting with the chief elected official and other municipal employees
  2. A walking tour of the proposed district
  3. A meeting with the cultural district partners and stakeholders

The applicant and partners should be prepared to respond to questions.

Confirmation of the site visit agenda and attendees is required at least two weeks in advance of the site visit.

The site advisor will write a site visit report. The report is based on the review criteria and his /her observations during the site visit. Their report will is reviewed by the Mass Cultural Council. The report will be made available to the applicant after the board vote.

Learn more about what’s involved in the site visit. (PDF).

Review Criteria

Applications will be assessed based on the following categories:

  1. Management Plan
  2. Cultural Assets
  3. Creative Programming
  4. Public Infrastructure and Amenities
  5.  Marketing plan
  6. Goals and Success Measures

Final Decisions

The Mass Cultural Council staff and site advisor take approvals to the Mass Cultural Council. Council members make all final decisions concerning state designation.

Following the Council vote, notice of the outcome of the application the city or town is by letter.

If the application is successful, staff will contact you to arrange a designation ceremony. They will discuss media messages with you. If the application is not successful staff will discuss how to reapply.

Reporting Requirements

An Annual Progress Report is required each year of the five year designated period. Report deadlines align with the Mass Cultural Council’s fiscal year (July 1 – June 30).

The impact of a cultural district is tangible and measurable. Designated cultural districts must gather baseline data. This is each year of the designation.

Visitors – Track number of visitors to the district.
Building Occupancy – Changes in occupancy rates.

You must track data that measures the impact of the district. The data should reflect the district’s specific goals. Examples include: aggregate sales tax in the district, number of full time jobs, number of artists, box office sales, consumer surveys.

Proceed to the Online Application

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