Fiscal Year 2024 Designation Guidelines
The Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District designation recognizes well-identified, walkable, mixed-use, compact areas of a city or county in which a high concentration of arts and cultural facilities serves as the anchor.
The presence of arts and cultural opportunities enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the tax base of the area. These districts attract a diverse and engaged workforce – a key incentive for new and relocating businesses. Furthermore, these districts are attracting residents and tourists who support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging facilities, retail stores and entertainment venues.
The program goals are to distinguish those districts which have created unique cultural centers and prioritized visitor experiences; promote the districts and their supported activities; and provide technical assistance and professional development opportunities.
The program, defined in Iowa Code 303.3B, is administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, pursuant to the authority of Iowa Administrative Code Section 221, Chapter 9.
Potential applicants, especially first time applicants, are encouraged to review all published material and contact Program Manager Jon Berg at email@example.com, with questions well in advance of application deadlines.
The Iowa Arts Council is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to eligible applicants. For application support, please contact the Accessibility Coordinator, Lindsay Keast at 515-281-8352 or firstname.lastname@example.org, at least two weeks in advance of application deadlines.
Fiscal Year 2024 Application Deadline
The deadline to submit an online application to the program is May 1, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. for the designation period of July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2033.
Applicants will be notified of designation decisions by June 30, 2023.
Once designated, the state, through the efforts of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, shall endeavor to promote projects and initiatives implemented by the Cultural & Entertainment Districts through established networks.
- Designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts are encouraged to use the “Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District” logo in marketing efforts and are provided marketing collateral, including an “Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District” sign. These signs serve to market and promote the district.
- Designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts will be included in the Iowa Creative Places Network which provides regular opportunities for connection through networking and learning opportunities with Creative Places across Iowa.
- Additionally, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs staff will provide technical assistance to Cultural & Entertainment Districts, including communication on grant opportunities and professional development workshops
Iowa Cultural & Entertainment Districts Designation
To be designated, a Cultural & Entertainment District must already be an area where arts and cultural activities thrive. Designation by the state is an achievement, intended to formally recognize that a particular locale is an acknowledged cultural destination.
Before a Cultural & Entertainment District becomes designated by the state, it must be an established district that is widely viewed and readily recognized as a hub of cultural activity. It is a gathering place, filled with cultural facilities, arts organizations, individual artists or arts-based businesses, as well as an array of other uses such as office complexes, restaurants, retail spaces or residences. It has well-defined boundaries and people can sense when they have arrived at this unique place. We highly encourage districts to develop, implement and/or expand complementary incentives and programs that align with the designated area and provide details in their application. These incentives and programs should support existing and emerging cultural organizations and fit with your community.
Beginning one year after designation, Cultural & Entertainment Districts are expected to submit an annual report due August 1 to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The report will document the status of the Cultural & Entertainment District, including and update on the number of new businesses, activities and promotional efforts within the past year.
Per statute language, all designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts are required to apply for re-designation every ten years. The re-designation process will include updating information on the cultural district identity, operations and programming information, Cultural & Entertainment District assets, goals for the next ten years, accomplishments from the previous ten years and economic impact.
A single entity must be selected to serve as the primary applicant for designation, while incorporating collaboration between a consortium of partners. The selected entity must meet the definition of eligible applicant. The applicant will be responsible for submitting the annual report and will be the entity legally obligated to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding if awarded designation. Partners and collaborating entities are not subject to the eligibility requirements.
Eligible applicants must be one of the following types of entities. Entities who do not meet these requirements are not eligible to apply.
- Federally tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated and physically located in Iowa
- Unit of local, county or federally-recognized tribal government physically located in Iowa
- For-profit or commercial entity physically located in Iowa
Physical location is defined as maintaining a current home office and registered agent address in Iowa defined by Iowa Code 490.501 as well as maintaining a primary staff presence physically located and working in Iowa.
Ineligible applicants include the following types of entities.
- Unit of state or federal government
- School or institution of higher education
- Religious organization, labor union, political party or national service/professional organization
- Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs grantees who have an outstanding final report or who have been placed on a department funding moratorium
Online Application Submission
Applicants must submit applications via the Iowa Arts Council’s SlideRoom, an online application portal. Applications will not be accepted in any other format. Late, incomplete or ineligible applications will not be accepted. Applicants can access the current online application requirements at iowaartscouncil.slideroom.com. Applicants must create a login to view the full application requirements for the program. Applicants can visit help.liaisonedu.com for SlideRoom assistance related to the online submission.
Designation Review Process
Department Eligibility Review
Full applications will be reviewed by staff for completion, eligibility and adherence to published guidelines. Applications are reviewed as submitted. New application information or subsequent application clarification submitted after a program deadline is not considered. Staff will also review an applicant’s record of compliance and good standing with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State and Federal government. Applications or applicants determined by staff to be ineligible or incomplete will not move forward to panel review and are specifically denied any appeals process.
Eligible applications will be referred to a competitive review by a panel of professionals with appropriate expertise commensurate to the purpose of the designation program. Applications will be scored and ranked based on the published scoring rubric. Recommendations are submitted to the Administrator of the Iowa Arts Council and Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for consideration and approval.The applicant’s authorized official will receive designation notification. All decisions are final and may not be appealed due to dissatisfaction. Applicants may review the department appeals policy for information on grounds for appeal and the appeal process.
Applicants will be notified of designation decisions by June 30, 2022. Applicants are notified of the status of their application whether they are or are not selected for designation. Applicants will be contacted if any additional information is required and are encouraged to refrain from contacting staff for application status updates until decisions are made.
Application Narrative Questions and Scoring Rubric
The following scoring rubric will be used to evaluate applications. Each section has criteria and corresponding point values to ensure a fair review process. The rubric is on a scale of 33 points. Application questions are for reference only. Applicants must review and complete application requirements in the Slideroom portal.
District Overview and Goals
Name of Cultural & Entertainment District
Enter the name of the area seeking Cultural & Entertainment District designation.
Summary of Proposed Cultural & Entertainment District
Briefly provide a description and justification for designation of the Cultural & Entertainment District, including:
- district goals related to arts and culture including the presence of anchor arts & cultural attractions
- walkability & public access
- relationships with local artists and entrepreneurs
- support for new cultural industries, organizations and artists
|DISTRICT OVERVIEW AND GOALS: 3 points possible
|3 District goals are clearly identified as they relate to arts, culture, and tourism in the area. District has a strong sense of place defined by its unique artistic, cultural and historic character.
|2 District goals are identified as they relate to arts, culture, and tourism in the area. District has a sense of place defined by its unique character.
|1 District goals are not identified as they relate to arts, culture, and tourism in the area. District does not have a clear sense of place defined by its artistic, cultural and historic character.
Provide both a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the proposed district region demographics and explain how the district addresses the unique needs of those demographics.
|DISTRICT DEMOGRAPHICS: 3 points possible
|3 District has clearly identified area demographics, and provides exceptional and diverse programming to meet the demographics’ needs.
|2 District has identified area demographics and provides programming to meet the demographics’ needs.
|1 District has not identified area demographics and provides minimal programming to meet the demographics’ needs.
List partners and organizations and describe how stakeholders are regularly engaged, including roles within the district. Must include at least one city or county official.
|DISTRICT PARTNERS: 3 points possible
|3 District demonstrates a clear ability to engage multiple diverse stakeholders that reflects area demographics. Partner roles are well-defined and will enhance identified community goals.
|2 District demonstrates ability to engage stakeholders that reflects area demographics. Partner roles are identified.
|1 District does not demonstrate ability to engage stakeholders that reflects area demographics. Partner roles are not identified.
Cultural & Entertainment District Assets
Provide a general description and justification of the assets within the district boundary, including but not limited to:
- General location of the cultural district within the community
- Historic standing structures (indicate those listed on the National Register of Historic Places)
- Boundaries of historic districts that are listed on, or have been determined eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places (if any)
- Cultural, arts and tourism amenities
- Entertainment venues
- Retail, service and restaurant amenities
- Green/open space
- Primary pedestrian corridors in the cultural district
|DISTRICT ASSETS: 3 points possible
|3 District is well-supported by the presence of a wide variety of cultural amenities, arts venues and community programming.
|2 District is supported by the presence of some cultural amenities, arts venues and community programming.
|1 District is not supported by the presence of cultural amenities, arts venues and community programming.
Community Support Material
Attach documentation demonstrating the applicant has community support in designating a Cultural & Entertainment district, these may include but are not limited to:
- letter or resolution by the governing body (City, County or Joint resolution) supporting the cultural district
- letter or resolutions by other local development corporation and community organizations supporting the cultural district
- letters of support from each partner organization on the Cultural and Entertainment District Advisory Council
- letters of support by businesses and organizations located within the proposed district
All documents must be combined into a single file for upload.
|COMMUNITY SUPPORT MATERIAL: 3 points possible
|3 Community support material is highly relevant to the district, of high quality and clearly supports the district’s designation.
|2 Community support material is relevant to the district and of average quality.
|1 Community support material is not relevant to the district, of poor quality or does not support the district’s designation.
Describe public access to the district for which you are seeking designation, as well as plans to improve upon those efforts in the next 10 years, including:
- plans for public access
- target audience to benefit from the district
- plan to market and disseminate information to target audience
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility features of the district (existing and proposed)
|PUBLIC ACCESS: 3 points possible
|3 Target population for the district is well-defined. Public access to district is strong with clear and deliberate plans for increasing accessibility and promotion of the district to target population.
|2 Target population for the district is identified. Public access to district is satisfactory with plans for accessibility and promotion.
|1 Target population for the district is unclear. Public access to district is inadequate.
Provide both a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the district diversity efforts and address how the district represents their community through inclusion of diversity as well as plans to improve upon those efforts in the next 10 years, including:
- two goals and 2-3 strategies under each goal to increase diversity in your district
|DIVERSITY EFFORTS: 3 points possible
|3 District has clearly prioritized diversity efforts within the community and developed exceptional and ambitious goals to make the district more inclusive and diverse.
|2 District has prioritized diversity efforts within the community and developed achievable goals to make the district more inclusive and diverse.
|1 District has not prioritized diversity efforts within the community and did not set goals to make the district more inclusive and diverse.
Describe incentives the County, City or community partnering organization offers to cultural and entertainment enterprises and/or qualifying resident cultural workers. Be as specific as possible about the local incentives offered, including but not limited to:
- Special signage
- Local grants
- Property tax abatement
- Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement Districts (SSMID)
- Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF)
- Rent buy-downs
- Low interest loans or zoning to encourage live/work space for artists
Coordination with other economic or community development programs (e.g. Main Street Iowa, Certified Local Government, Historic Preservation Commission, Chamber of Commerce, local arts commission and/or local development corporation)
|LOCAL INCENTIVES: 3 points possible
|3 Local incentives provide strong support to existing and emerging cultural organizations, businesses and individuals. Incentives will clearly encourage future growth of the district.
|2 Local incentives provide some support to existing and emerging cultural organizations, businesses and individuals. Incentives will potentially encourage future growth of the district.
|1 District does not provide local incentives to support existing and emerging cultural organizations, businesses and individuals.
Provide a weekend itinerary for a new tourist to your district, including but not limited to:
- Performance venues
|TOURISM DRIVEN: 3 points possible
|3 District developed a robust weekend itinerary with a wide variety of activities to fully entertain tourists.
|2 District developed a weekend itinerary with a variety of activities to entertain tourists.
|1 District did not develop a weekend itinerary with enough activities to fully entertain tourists.
Upload 3-5 media samples that represent the district and its commitment to arts and culture.
|SUPPORT MATERIAL: 3 points possible
|3 Support material is highly relevant to the district, of high quality and clearly supports the district’s commitment to arts and culture.
|2 Support material relates to the district, is of average quality, and alludes to the district’s commitment to arts and culture.
|1 Support material is not relevant to the district, of poor quality or does not support the district’s commitment to arts and culture.
The following scoring criteria reference the quality of the application as a whole and not a particular question.
|CASE FOR DESIGNATION: 3 points possible
|3 Case for designation is exemplary and merits investment from the state.
|2 Case for designation is adequate.
|1 Case for designation is inadequate or does not merit state investment.
Glossary of Terms and Definitions
Applicants should refer to the glossary for clarification of program terms and definitions.