Concord, Marlborough, and Natick are among dozens of Massachusetts communities looking to tap into a new state program that would create cultural districts to attract visitors and boost economic activity.
The three communities are in the final stages of securing approval for the Massachusetts Cultural Council initiative, and should receive word in August. The state council is expected to vote on the proposals Aug. 21, said Greg Liakos, an agency spokesman.
Site visits have been scheduled for Concord for Thursday, and for Natick on July 20. No date has been set for Marlborough.
“People traditionally think of Concord as a historical town,’’ said Stephanie Stillman, executive director of the Concord Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading her community’s effort, “but there are really wonderful cultural events and we want people to be aware of them.’’
According to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a cultural district is a specific geographical area that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walkable, compact area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents, and serves as a center of cultural, artistic, and economic activity.
The initiative is designed to help communities attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job growth, expand tourism, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development. Each district will have new signs to mark its boundaries, and will be promoted by profiles on the state Office of Travel and Tourism and Massachusetts Cultural Council websites.
Susanne Morreale-Leeber, president of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce, sees the initiative as a way to raise awareness of existing amenities and build on them to generate more foot traffic downtown.
She said the proposed district for her city includes several small parks, two art galleries, and historical attractions such as the John Brown Bell, a Civil War artifact from Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Morreale-Leeber said the cultural district will help make downtown a destination for residents and visitors.
“The bottom line is: A healthy downtown is a healthy community,’’ Morreale-Leeber said. “What I’d love to see again is thousands of people downtown, walking around, eating in restaurants and enjoying music.”
Liakos said the Natick cultural district would be in the town center, and include the Morse Institute Library, Natick Common, and the Center for Arts in Natick, but the exact boundary is still under consideration.
The arts facility, known as TCAN, serves as a cultural center hosting performances, literary events, and exhibitions by nationally known as well as emerging artists. Classes in music, theater, dance, and visual arts are regularly held for students of all ages.
“Our goal is to maximize the public and private value of Natick Center for everyone who lives, works or visits here,’’ the town wrote in its application to the state council. “We are committed to encouraging active participation in the life of downtown Natick, enhancing its physical environment and business climate, encouraging redevelopment efforts that are consistent with its historic character, actively recruiting new businesses and strengthening existing ones, and promoting Natick Center as an integral part of the MetroWest area.”
The proposed Concord district goes from the historic North Bridge to the downtown area of Main and Walden streets. It would feature about 50 locations, sincluding museums, restaurants, churches, inns, art galleries, Concord Academy, Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts, and historic cemeteries and sites such as Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House.
Emerson Umbrella, for example, houses studio space for more than 50 artists. It holds classes and workshops for children and adults in four large teaching studios, and has exhibition space in a gallery, and a 435-seat theater.
Also in the proposed district is the Friends of the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden St., which is a venue for music, drama, and dance performances. The site is home to the Concord Players, the Concord Band, and the Concord Orchestra. There is also a dance studio, which is rented to several instructors who teach classes ranging from classical ballet and creative movement for children to ballroom dancing.
“There are a lot of things going on and we always hope that people will come to Concord and stay longer,’’ Stillman said.
Liakos said the initiative came out of an economic stimulus bill that was passed by the Legislature in 2010. The hope is that cultural districts will help cities and towns identify, support, and promote their unique identity and sense of place, he said.
It also supports the council’s effort to use arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts cities and towns.
Any community is eligible to apply for one or more areas to be designated as a cultural district. The city or town, after identifying a specific geographic area, must establish a partnership with other organizations and stakeholders.
If approved, the cultural district designation will be in effect for five years but can be renewed.
Six districts have been approved by the state since the initiative’s launch, in Boston, Gloucester, Lynn, Pittsfield, Rockport, and Hyannis.
Liakos said about 100 communities have expressed interest in the program but just a handful are expected to come up for a vote on Aug. 21. Besides Concord, Natick, and Marlborough, the others under consideration are Shelburne Falls, Central Square in Cambridge, and Lowell.