By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- With a grant application approved at a recent city meeting, Fort Pierce residents are one step closer to having a cultural district along Orange Avenue.
The Fort Pierce City Commission unanimously approved the application at its last meeting in December.
The program, called the "Our Town" grant program, is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, and focuses on building communities using arts and culture as a way of organizing areas.
"Staff has developed a concept to create a cultural district along Orange Avenue," said Jon Ward, director of the city's department of urban development. "It's not unlike the concept used in the Edgartown rebirth."
Edgartown was the first community in the city and was recently given a special historical designation after about two years of working with residents and city staff.
It was during these meetings that city staff learned residents were interested in creating a cultural and design district.
The proposed area will run one block on either side of Orange Avenue from Boston Avenue to Avenue B and extend from U.S. 1 to 13th Street in Fort Pierce.
The initiatives for such districts can be found across the state. Mr. Ward serves on the Florida Council for Arts and Culture and the organization is currently lobbying the state legislature to formally create state-recognized cultural districts and possibly give tax breaks to those selling merchandise in those areas.
The grant application will be for $25,000 to fund the planning stage of the development, with city staff salaries providing the in-kind grant match, so no extra money is required from residents.
"This will transform a 20-block area in a vibrant economically and ethnically diverse cultural district," Mr. Ward said.
The project is expected to take approximately 10 years to complete if the grant application is approved.