The proposed Arts and Entertainment district would create a zone with tax and credit bonuses that some hope will increase student interest in the areas surrounding UMBC. Photo courtesy of Thomas Moore.
Arts and Entertainment districts are areas with tax and credit bonuses for businesses. On April 1, Baltimore County proposed the creation of the Patapsco Arts and Entertainment District. This district would cover UMBC and parts of Arbutus and Catonsville.
“The purpose of arts and entertainment districts is to use the arts as a catalyst for economic development,” said Thomas Moore, UMBC’s Arts and Culture Director. “Its focus is really on improving the vitality of communities and providing opportunities for artists.”
These districts exempt businesses from taxes on admissions or amusement charges. Interest-free or reduced interest loans are also available to promote exterior improvements. Furthermore, property owners can receive tax credits for improving their property’s value.
“Maryland’s Arts & Entertainment, A&E, Districts help develop and promote community involvement, tourism and revitalization through tax-related incentives that attract artists, arts organizations and other creative enterprises to towns and cities across the state,” the Maryland State Arts Council states on its website.
Investment in the arts annually adds over a billion dollars to the economy according to the Maryland State Art Council’s strategic plan. An analysis of Arts and Entertainment Districts conducted by Towson researchers found that these districts contributed 855.8 million dollars to the state GDP.
“Really [we expect to see] shopping and spending increases in Catonsville and Arbutus. [It’s] one more thing to attract students to leave university grounds and explore the UMBC community,” said Tom Quirk, the Baltimore County Councilman who proposed the creation of the district.
The creation of the Patapsco Arts and Entertainment District is also expected to bring new jobs to the area. Operations in other Maryland Arts and Entertainment Districts supported an estimated 8,594 jobs in 2016.
“One of the other key things that we are interested in seeing happen with the establishment of the district is to find ways to nurture the careers of emerging artists. We would like to try to retain that talent and have them live and work in the area and help build the communities around them,” said Moore.
Legislators from Baltimore county worked with the community and UMBC to create the proposal. Citizens and organizations, such as the Baltimore County Arts Council, made their voices heard and helped promote the creation of the district.
“I give a lot of credit to the citizens … [and] I give a lot of credit to president Freeman Hrabowski. He was especially excited about this,” said Quirk.
UMBC and the surrounding area already have many business and events in the arts. By creating an Arts and Entertainment District, these businesses and events hope to expand. The community expects the new district to stimulate the local economy and give more reasons for students to visit the area surrounding the university.
“As businesses begin to receive that additional revenue, it will encourage other businesses to open up. Over time it will help transform the community,” said Moore.