Corazόn de Trinidad Creative District: Making Space to Create in Trinidad

by Marilyn Leuszler

Trinidad, the picturesque stop on I-25 you made on your way traveling to other places, is becoming THE place for creative people to live and work affordably in Southern Colorado. Plans which began in the summer of 2015 to provide permanently affordable live/work space for the creative sector – Space to Create Colorado – are finally becoming reality.

How did Trinidad become so fortunate? It wasn’t magic. It took state and community leadership and vision, backed with five years of hard work and coordinated action, to help prepare the downtown as a place for creative and entrepreneurial people to work, gather, and make a home.

It all began in 2010 when the Colorado legislature established Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) as a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). CCI was designated to oversee formation and administration of Colorado Creative Districts the following year. Trinidad saw the program as a natural fit, and along with 48 other communities, applied for Creative District designation through a rigorous process. Applicants certified demonstrate a concentration of vigorous arts and culture, walkability, and long-term plans for sustainability that can attract artists and creative entrepreneurs,infusing innovation, new energy, and economic activity. Trinidad was awarded emerging status in 2012 as “Corazόn de Trinidad Creative District” and became fully certified in 2013. There are currently 21 Colorado Creative Districts with recertification required every five years. The varied Creative Districts are urban and rural, small and large, with varied focus, and with a broad range of organizational structures and missions, depending on the needs of the community. There is no cookie-cutter approach and each celebrates the unique identity of the community.

Since certification, the Creative District completed a comprehensive Downtown Community Assessment and Theory of Change training that it uses to guide long-term planning, decision-making, and additional training opportunities. The District also created branding and logo designs, held community meetings, developed and maintained a website, and further developed its organizational structure by obtaining Colorado 501(c)3 non-profit status and Enterprise Zone designation to assist in fundraising efforts. The District acts as a catalyst and provides support, promotional consideration, and direction to area arts-based programs and projects for Trinidad, such as the recent Poetry Festival and Chalk Art events in May, and the Music and Lyrics Festival in June.

From the outset, the Creative District has also worked to increase Trinidad’s visibility regionally, state-wide, and nationally by participating in summits, conferences, trainings and gatherings, including Arts Advocacy Days at the State Capitol. District board members also sit on state boards, working to strengthen broad relationships and partnerships.

All efforts paid off when Governor Hickenlooper announced in 2015 that Trinidad was selected for the Space to Create Colorado demonstration project. Eventually, a total of nine such projects will be established in small rural and mountain communities. Trinidad leads the way!

The Space to Create program’s lead consultant is Artspace, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that uses real estate development tools to create large, affordable, appropriate places where artists and creative entrepreneurs can live and work. Artspace has a 36-year history with over 40 successful projects in use, and more in the development stage. Colorado partners include OEDIT, CCI, Boettcher Foundation, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, History Colorado, the City of Trinidad and the Creative District. Significantly, the City of Trinidad is squarely behind this endeavor, contributing $2.8 million toward the estimated $18 million project. This is the dream team of partnerships!

After site visits from Space to Create partners, public meetings, and a Feasibility Study, it was determined that Trinidad’s main location would comprise three vacant historic buildings on Main Street, an entire city block. Based on results of an Artspace Market Survey, the project was quickly expanded to include nearby vacant property for additional live/work units. When complete, Space to Create Trinidad will see a total of 41 affordable units in the two locations.

Space to Create Trinidad will do more than provide affordable housing options in the downtown core. It is designed to include approximately 20,000 square feet of street level multi-use community space, including gallery, retail, workshop/studio, classroom, and special event venues. Criteria for specific uses will include sustainability, income-production, and best use, with Creative District offices housed there.

The City of Trinidad and the Corazόn de Trinidad Creative District greatly appreciate the community’s support for this transformational project. The strength of that support brought this project into being and will take it far into the future, with the model presented to other developers interested in Trinidad’s continued success.

After a June 11, 2018 groundbreaking, the dreams are reality. Watch for the ribbon-cutting in late summer of 2019. Space to Create Trinidad!

From Page 58 of our Summer 2018 Issue

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