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    Project Storefronts Receives Our Town Grant From the National Endowment for the Arts

    Project Storefronts is among 51 grants nationwide selected to support creative placemaking

    New Haven, Connecticut—The New Haven Department of Cultural Affairs(DCA) today announced that its Project Storefronts initiative has received an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), one of only 51 grants awarded nationwide. Project Storefronts will receive a $100,000 grant to further the Project Storefronts program. Our Town is the NEA’s latest investment in creative placemaking, through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to strategically shape the social, physical, and economic character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.

    Project Storefronts, envisioned as a way to energize some of New Haven’s less active commercial areas while enhancing the city’s standing as the Creative Capital of Connecticut, works with “creative entrepreneurs” who have innovative business ideas to transform vacant storefronts into places that attract shoppers and potential long-term tenants while increasing area foot traffic. Project Storefronts works with property owners for access to their vacant retail spaces. These spaces are then provided via a competitive application process to budding entrepreneurs, allowing them the opportunity to test the viability of new, innovative business and retail initiatives while also educating them about what it takes to be a successful businessperson.

    Project Storefronts – which combines the city’s creative sector with small business development – grew out of the Department of Cultural Affairs efforts to diversify how they engage with artists and the community. DCA partners with the New Haven Economic Development Corporation as well as the city’s Office of Economic Development in bringing this project to life.

    National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Landesman said, “Communities across our country are using smart design and leveraging the arts to enhance quality of life and promote their distinctive identities. In this time of great economic upheaval, Our Town provides communities an opportunity to reignite their economies.”

    “New Haven is a leader in Connecticut and New England in its support of cultural institutions, individual artists, the creative industries and creative entrepreneurs which we see as among the most important keys to economic development in our city” stated Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

    Kelly Murphy, the City’s Economic Development Administrator agrees. “A strong creative sector translates directly to a strong economy. In New Haven the creative industry employs 5600 people or 7.3% of our workforce in more than 440 firms. It also strengthens traditional economic sectors, creating new jobs in the technical, service and management areas while supporting a strong and vibrant downtown, attracting visitors, residents, new businesses and investment.”

    Last year under the Pilot Program, four businesses tested their ideas at 71 Orange Street in downtown’s Ninth Square. These businesses succeeded in enlivening what had been a series of seven dark, empty retail spaces, transforming the street into a lively, well-lit destination both day and night.

    Project Storefronts has been successful in garnering awards and accolades from the community it serves. In December 2010, Project Storefronts was recognized as an important addition to the city’s creative economy, receiving a prestigious annual Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Then in May of this year, Project Storefronts was selected to receive one of only two Creative Community awards, drawn from a pool of 32 projects, given by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).

    The success of the Pilot Program facilitated the renewal of financial support from the Economic Development Corporation and the start of Phase II. “The original investment as a catalyst to entrepreneurial growth was proven in Phase I and we are thrilled to see this next round take shape. It is in keeping with our mission to spur entrepreneurial activity in New Haven, and more importantly inspire new activity in our creative economy” remarked Anne Haynes, the EDC’s CEO.

    The project has been successful in helping landlords to rent their empty spaces. In April, 2011 as the Pilot Program was coming to an end, Project Storefronts celebrated another important success when one of their enterprising businesses, The Grove -- a co-working office space for independent consultants and entrepreneurs -- signed a long term lease with The Related Companies for permanent use of the former Project Storefronts space. Most recently Project Storefronts moved into 55 Church Street, which had seen no potential leasers for the past three years. Their newest project “The Free Store” was an immediate hit as the building was transformed into a hub of activity. Within three weeks of opening, several potential leasers toured the ground floor space and shortly thereafter one began negotiations for a long-term occupancy. “The Department of Cultural Affairs is excited to see this success at 55 Church Street and was grateful to The Rose Companies and The Hurley Group for the chance to be there, however briefly,” stated Barbara Lamb, Director of Cultural Affairs. “These partnerships are the key to the success of Project Storefronts.” Now with their 30 day Notice-to-Vacate in hand, DCA is in discussions with other downtown property owners.

    Applications for new businesses are continuously being sought and reviewed. For more information weekly “percolator” sessions occur each Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00-7:00pm. Contact Margaret Bodell, Project Coordinator at mmbodell@gmail.com or by calling 203-727-7280 for location or other information. Interested individuals or applicants may visit http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/CulturalAffairs/CreativeEconomy/ProjectStorefront.asp or www.projectstorefrontsnewhaven.com.

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    The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

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    The City of New Haven's Department of Cultural Affairs is dedicated to enhancing the City's quality of life and supporting its economic development through the production of events, the commissioning of public art and assisting and promoting New Haven's many artists and cultural organizations.

    Contact Name: Barbara Lamb

    Contact Phone: 203-946-8378

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