Cottage Street in Easthampton named state cultural district
Eileen Corbeil recently opened White Square, a fine books and art store, on Cottage Street in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »
Table in The Lobby at Popcorn Noir in Easthampton Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints »
Kristen Davis and Tom Doherty have opened an admission-free theater, "Popcorn Noir", on Cottage Street in Easthampton showing films Wednesday through Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »
Luthier's Co-Op in Easthampton hosts a open mike night on Wednesdays. Purchase photo reprints »
after Tuesday's rain, the sun came out just before dusk illuminating everything in a golden glow. This scene shows One Cottage Street and the Dye Works building on Cottage Street Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — The city’s efforts to promote the cultural prominence of Cottage Street are paying off. The thoroughfare is now on the list of state-designated cultural districts.
The city applied for the designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in January and the council voted unanimously last week to make Easthampton’s proposed district the 16th in the state. Most are in the eastern part of the state, with the exception of Shelburne Falls and Pittsfield.
“I think it’s going to be terrific,” said Eileen Corbeil, owner of White Square bookstore at 86 Cottage St. Corbeil has lived in Easthampton for about 40 years, and White Square Books is in its third year.
“I’m thrilled about this as both a resident and a business owner,” she said. “I’m proud we’re carrying on the traditions of Easthampton. People take pride in the city and this is a visible sign that says someone thinks we’re special.”
Burns Maxey, coordinator of Easthampton City Arts Plus, worked on the application with Mayor Michael A. Tautznik and the city’s Planning Department. She said a contingent of Easthampton residents went to the Cultural Council’s meeting Friday in Springfield to support the proposed district.
She said the council toured Easthampton as part of the application review. Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker made a comment at the meeting that summed up what is special about Cottage Street, the area of Route 141 lined with shops, galleries, restaurants and performance spaces.
“She said there’s always a twist with Easthampton businesses,” Maxey said Tuesday. “I think that’s a great way to put it.”
For example, Maxey said, White Square Books also contains an art gallery, Popcorn Noir is a combination restaurant, theater and gallery, and Luthier’s Co-op is a stringed-instrument repair store that has a bar and live music.
According to the state council, a cultural district should be a “walkable” area that serves as a center of cultural, artistic and economic activity in the city. The city must create a community partnership with residents, business owners and others with a stake in the district, who will create a five-year plan, including details about how the district will be marketed.
Maxey said the designation could attract more tourists to the city, encourage business growth and help the city obtain funding for projects in the district in the future. The only cost to the city is the $200 to purchase and install signs to mark the district.
The city originally planned for the district to include parts of Main, Union, Holyoke, and Railroad streets and Payson Avenue. But the council recommended the city consider reducing the map to include just Cottage Street, which is more dense with cultural assets and has fewer of the vacant storefronts that can be found on Main and Union streets, Maxey said.
Tautznik said in a press release said he was “certain the designation will lead to new investments and opportunities along Cottage Street and throughout the downtown business district.”
At White Square Books, Corbeil said that naming the Cottage Street Cultural District in advertisements and other outreach will help the store draw audiences to author readings, children’s events and other offerings.
“We do a lot of outreach and literacy programming, and anything to get the message out that Cottage Street is a cultural destination is good for that,” she said.
Maxey said the real work to shape the district starts now, as the partnership decides how to develop and market the district, from creating a map for visitors to holding events. She also hopes more community members will get involved in the partnership now that the designation is official.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.