All cities have at least one big thing in common. They are collections of people located within a set of boundaries.
But it takes special circumstances to turn a collection of people into a community, and those conditions rarely occur by accident. They are purposeful, planned, and achieved through thousands of hours of hard work by many individuals and organizations.
As Exhibit A, we submit the organization and effort put forth over the past 17 months to win state designation of the Arts!Longview Cultural District. This is a substantial success, and one we are certain will have an increasing impact on our city.
Before last week, only 40 cities across Texas had earned such a designation. Only three more received the honor this year, with Denton and Beaumont being the others.
Longview is the smallest city of the three, but as our city so often does, it overachieved. Despite being smallest of the bunch, the Arts!Longview application received 968 of a total 1,000 possible points, topping the scores achieved by the other designees.
We’d say the effort deserves a standing ovation, complete with roses thrown on the stage. We are pleased all of us will have an opportunity to do just that next month. Arts!Longview has set a downtown celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10. Mark your calendar and bring your friends, because we need a crowd to show those involved how much we appreciate what they have done.
This is not one of those designations that is mostly honorary. To the contrary, having a cultural district automatically makes Longview eligible for state arts grants. But such a district also can help stimulate economic development and community revitalization, attract businesses and tourists and be a focal point for civic pride.
A close examination of what is included in Longview’s arts district will quickly tell you why the city received the designation.
The 342-acre district incorporates the core of Longview’s cultural arts facilities and performing venues, along with the Gregg County Courthouse, three historical churches, Longview Public Library, two parks, the historical train depot and the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University.
There aren’t many cities that can pack so much cultural opportunity within such a relatively compact space. More good news is that within the designated area there is plenty of room to add other features. We don’t know what other ideas are in the planning stages but would guess those who got us this far aren’t sitting idly by. And we cannot help noticing how nicely the district dovetails with small area plans created a few years ago for redevelopment of downtown and South Longview.
What will the cultural district designation ultimately mean? That’s a question that cannot be answered fully by numbers. We do know what when companies consider relocating — or staying — in a city, their leaders look at the quality of life available to their employees. Cultural and recreational activities of all sorts play into this consideration. The ability to offer these opportunities is significant, especially for families with children. We know such opportunities attract and retain residents, too, and grow tourism.
Where will we go from here? We don’t know but there’s no reason to believe it will be any direction but up.
It is, after all, the very culture of our city.