Ten years ago, Leesburg debuted its Arts & Cultural District, hoping to spur investment from prospective business in locating in the county seat’s cultural center. A decade later, those same hopes remain as town leaders relaunch the district and figure out how best to promote the district.
Over the weekend, Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk presided over a soft relaunch of the district at the Virginia Village shopping center. It was a fitting location, in the heart of the district, next to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ visiting museum on wheels, and at a location ripe for redevelopment.
The district, which includes the historic downtown area and portions of Catoctin Circle, was adopted by the Town Council in 2011 to encourage arts-related businesses and organizations to locate in town. Incentives including Business and Professional Occupation License tax rebates, real estate tax rebates and zoning permit exemptions are offered. The Commission on Public Art developed a marketing strategy for the district in 2019, acknowledging that many local residents or visitors to the downtown area are not even aware the district exists. Visit Loudoun has also dedicated its own page on its website to promoting the Arts & Cultural District.
While public art has sprung up throughout the district and historic downtown over the past decade and downtown Leesburg has indeed become a destination in its own right, only a handful of businesses have taken advantage of the incentives to locate in the district, town staff acknowledged in a recent presentation to the Town Council.
To promote the district, and even to make town residents aware of its presence, signage and banners have sprung up throughout the town. The next, and perhaps biggest, decision will come down to how best to attract more arts businesses to the district, perhaps going back to the drawing board on offered incentives, and that is something town staff is charged with doing.
“We’re hoping to get more people aware there is an Arts & Cultural District and then an interest in coming to that district, participating in it, being a part of it,” Burk said. “We have had a couple of businesses come because of the incentives but most certainly I think we can look at making the incentives more desirable to an arts and culture kind of business.”
Burk said she was excited for the visual imagery, by way of banners and signage, to begin to draw residents’ and visitors’ attention to the district.
“People will begin to realize arts is important to Leesburg, and an important component to quality of life here,” she said.
To access an interactive map of the district, and for more information, go to visitloudoun.org/towns-and-places/leesburg/leesburg-arts-cultural-district.