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9/10/2009 - Hamilton Unveils Plan for Future Arts and Cultural District

Hamilton Unveils Plan for Future Arts and Cultural District


Township Looks to Expand Economic Opportunity, Spur Investment, Job Creation and Revitalization through Creation of Arts and Cultural Destination



Mayor John Bencivengo painted a picture of a future destination for the arts and culture – one that might include art galleries, live theater, art and dance studios, dual live and work spaces for artists, cultural facilities, displays of public art and murals – as he officially announced plans for Hamilton’s Arts and Cultural District today.


Extending from the Hamilton Train Station to Isles, Inc.’s Mill One project in Hamilton’s Bromley neighborhood, the Arts and Cultural District will encompass various commercial and industrial (non-residential) zones of community, some of which have struggled or been underutilized over the years.  At the center of the district sits the nationally renowned Grounds for Sculpture, which features an outdoor sculpture garden, galleries, studios, education and entertainment facilities.  Township officials and planners believe the Grounds for Sculpture is an ideal, existing attraction around which to build a district that will promote the arts and culture.  


To attract new business and redevelopment projects that feature the arts, the Township will offer various zoning and redevelopment incentives within a newly created overlay district.  An overlay district will provide the Township the flexibility to encourage new development or redevelopment, without rezoning the entire area and without impacting the current zoning that existing commercial properties rely upon.  In the past, the Township similarly used the option of creating an overlay district, rather than rezoning, to help encourage new projects along the Route 130 business corridor.


Much of the area that the Arts and Cultural District encompasses has long been home to industrial and manufacturing sites.  However, as the industrial and manufacturing sectors of the economy have decreased both nationally and across the state, local sites in this sector have also suffered as vacancy rates have increased.  But the Township believes the arts may be better suited to spur economic opportunity and growth in today’s economy. 


Along with incentives for new businesses and redevelopment opportunities, the Township will look to encourage projects that will install public art, while also seeking partnerships with organizations that will promote the arts.  One portion of the district that the Township will look to promote redevelopment and the installation of public art is along a section of Nottingham Way in between Interstate 295 and the Grounds for Sculpture, creating what officials believe could become a corridor into the Arts and Cultural District.  Mayor John Bencivengo recently wrote to State Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts to request permission to install sculptures along this section of Nottingham Way.


To enhance transportation options for visitors with the district, the Township will consider the possibility of trolleys running from the Train Station to the Grounds for `Sculpture and other Hamilton historic, cultural and recreational sites.  To also provide easier access for local residents, Hamilton Township will look toward pedestrian and bicycle trails.


An appealing aspect of the Arts and Cultural District for local officials is the great potential for a positive ripple effect for nearby, local businesses.  The arts and culture is an economic sector that increases local and regional tourism and increases the customer base for local businesses, such as restaurants.  Such local businesses typically prosper when located in close proximity to arts and cultural destinations.


“Through our Arts and Cultural District, we are expanding economic opportunities in Hamilton, spurring investment and job creation, revitalizing commercial areas of our community that have historically been underutilized and encouraging art and cultural attractions that residents will be able to enjoy,” says Mayor John Bencivengo.   “This exciting initiative holds great potential for our community’s future, and I believe is putting Hamilton on the right path for future economic growth and redevelopment.”