Downtown Aberdeen may get more creative — officially

Formation of a “creative district” to promote local arts, cultural events and unique businesses in Aberdeen is in the works, and a steering committee is being formed to oversee the project.

Wil Russoul, Director of the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement, has been leading the way on the creative district, which he hopes to submit to the state for official designation. The district would be intended to support and advertise local artists, creative businesses and attract more tourists downtown, which could in turn improve the local economy, Russoul said.

“What I see is it’s a social and economic opportunity. More feet on the ground, families participating downtown, those kinds of things,” said Russoul. “We already have businesses that are outstandingly creative.”

Washington State’s designated Creative Districts are fairly new, with state legislation for the districts signed into law in May 2017. State certification gives cities access to more partnerships and grants, and networking opportunities to grow the creative opportunities in the town. Russoul also is interested in getting the highway through Aberdeen renamed to something that complements the creative district to help attract visitors driving through town.

Some other early ideas of Russoul’s included having a map of the creative district downtown, and having a Nirvana-related photo opportunity stop along the main drag.

Edmunds is currently the only city with a recognized district, but a few other cities, such as Aberdeen, Kirkland, Montesano and Olympia have been interested in the program, according to a powerpoint presentation from the Washington State Arts Commission.

Recently, Russoul has reached out to various groups like Grays Harbor College, the art scene, local mayors and city officials and others to seek people interested in joining the steering committee.

He said the next steps would be to identify which businesses want to be in the district, which would likely reside in an area of around 32 blocks in downtown, and involve everything from the Aberdeen Art Center to creative businesses like quilt shops or jewelry stores. There’s also a draft resolution to present to the Aberdeen City Council in support of the district, which would hopefully get submitted before July 1 so an application can be sent in to the state that month.

Even though the core district is downtown, Russoul said be supported too, like the mall and the college, and that the district would look to support other nearby cities.

The steering committee would ideally represent a wide range of groups including the college, churches, the Quinault Indian Nation, and more, Russoul said. A majority of the committee’s spots are already filled, he said.

Russoul said it will be fine for other businesses and communities to get involved with the district even after it’s made, and that members will have a say in what the district is.

“Look from the second-floor up in our town. It’s vacant,” said Russoul. “Who would you put in there? Maker spaces, creative spaces, it’s habitat for artists.”

The steering committee’s first meeting will be figured out during a planning meeting Thursday, Russoul said.