CNY Arts Progress with A&E Districts Initiative


CNY Arts, Inc. is excited to announce that Lakota Group, of Chicago Illinois, will serve as the Master Planner for its Arts and Entertainment Districts initiative. This initiative, funded by the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) through Empire State Development, aims to establish five districts in the cities of Auburn, Cortland, Oneida, Oswego, and Syracuse using the arts and entertainment as a catalyst for Main Street revitalization. The planners will focus on boosting the Arts and Entertainment venues in each city as well as benefiting peripheral businesses in hospitality, service, tourism and other industries. CNY Arts conducted a national search for a Master Planner and after considering eight qualified proposals in a rigorous process, selected the Lakota Group to deliver a master plan for creating a district in each of the five downtowns to help spur mainstreet revitalization efforts.

The Arts and Entertainment Districts program is made possible through a $100,000 grant from the Regional Economic Development Council. Other funding supporting CNY Arts in launching this project includes the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the Central New York Community Foundation, and Onondaga County for a total of $323,000. Extensive studies related to tourism and economic impact in the Central New York region have demonstrated that the arts and entertainment sector is one of the most appealing factors that draws people into the region and could have a large return on investment for years to come. Lakota Group will conduct the master planning process during the rest of 2018; the plan will identify shovel-ready projects involving the local arts and entertainment organizations, that can benefit the local economies through tourism dollars, increased tax revenue, job growth, infrastructure improvements, stabilization, and quality of life experiences.

In 2013 CNY Arts led a REDC-awarded effort to find better ways to engage and connect arts, culture, and heritage and the public, and to boost regional vitality and to attract visitors to our region, while increasing the quality of life for all Central New Yorkers. This effort, called ENGAGE CNY, held over 50 regional focus groups and gathered over

7,100 public opinion survey responses. Combined with feedback from more than 165 arts, culture, historical and heritage-based organizations, and 500 individual artists, the ENGAGE CNY program gathered data about the value and importance of the arts and entertainment communities in CNY and the relationship to the economic vitality of the region as a whole. The nine-month campaign provided a comprehensive cultural assessment that ultimately fueled the desire from the mayors, community planners and other stakeholders in the five cities to connect the arts industry to local Main Street revitalization.

Lakota Group has more than 25 years of experience in urban planning and Main Street revitalization projects, many of which have had positive impacts on cities similar in size to Syracuse. Notably, they oversaw the North Topeka Arts District which focused on historic preservation-based economic development initiatives to rehabilitate and adapt the district’s historic buildings for retail, arts-based businesses and upper-story residential and studio space. In another project, the Arts District Design Project for Oak Park, Illinois, the Lakota Group prepared a design framework to enhance the arts district as a lively destination with galleries, shops, and restaurants to attract artists, audiences, and shoppers alike.

Lakota is also partnering with local sources to ensure that the unique aspects and character of each of the five cities will be maintained for the individual downtown areas targeted to complement the existing arts and entertainment efforts. Stillwork Consulting Group, of Syracuse, Surael Phillips of Support Partners SP Inc., who worked on the CNY Arts’ regional assessment and cultural plan, ENGAGE CNY, and Larisa Ortiz Associates of New York, which specializes in commercial district planning, will all be part of the Lakota team.

CNY Arts, Lakota Group, and the supporting organizations will begin meeting with representatives in each district starting in September to begin to establish the master plans. To stay up to date on this initiative and other programs please visit


For more information please contact CNY Arts at or call (315) 435-2155

Posted On: July 19, 2018
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