Story & Photo by Nicholas Johnson
By the end of this month, the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) will receive and begin considering a comprehensive proposal to establish an official creative district in Burien that aims to foster the arts, celebrate cultural diversity and boost the city’s creative economy.
On Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to sign a letter of support encouraging ArtsWA to “strongly consider the application for a certified Creative District in Burien,” which took nearly three years for a Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce-led coalition of residents, artists, businesses and non-profits to develop.
“This is the culmination of three years of work, outreach and community engagement, which definitely had hiccups because of COVID,” said Andrea Reay, president and CEO of the chamber. “But the real work actually starts once we get certified. That’s when we actually need to act on these goals. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Securing the council’s letter of support represented the final piece of the application puzzle, Reay said.
In part, the letter reads, “The creative economy is vital in supporting the creation of jobs, enhancing the quality of life of residents, promoting community assets, and strengthening the economic and cultural ties in our community.”
If certified, the creative district would receive an initial $5,000 grant, economic data analysis, marketing and wayfinding assistance, networking and technical assistance, and access to future funding opportunities, among other benefits.
Since the state Legislature funded the Creative Districts Program in 2017, 11 districts have been certified around the state, and one more – Moses Lake – is currently under consideration by an ArtsWA panel.
Annette Roth, creative districts program manager, said no applicant has been outright rejected, though a few have been required to make adjustments to their plans before the selection panel granted certification. ArtsWA tries to convene the selection panel within 60 days of receiving a new application, Roth said.
Reay, who has coordinated the preparation of Burien’s application, said she’s not sure how long it might take to achieve certification, especially if adjustments are needed.
“There could be back and forth for months potentially, and there could be tweaking and revising that needs to happen,” Reay said. “Will it be six months? One month? We don’t know.”
The effort is led by a 17-member planning committee that was initially formed as a chamber sub-committee in May 2019. In 2021, a 21-member steering committee was created to expand community engagement and help the planning committee get the application over the finish line.
The proposal centers on several geographic areas of the city, including downtown, Boulevard Park, Seahurst, Sunnydale, Salmon Creek and the north central area of the city, each of which represent distinct neighborhoods and host valuable community arts and cultural assets.
The proposal also lays out a strategic plan that includes a 10-year capital investment plan to develop a downtown performing arts center, art studios, gallery spaces and affordable artist housing. The strategic plan also includes youth programming, business development, a marketing campaign to boost tourism, and culturally diverse events that bring the community together and draw in visitors.
To read the full application, click here. To learn more about existing creative districts and the certification process, click here. You can also check out the Burien Creative District’s website here and its Facebook page here.
Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].