New arts district approved for west side of downtown Baltimore

A large section of downtown Baltimore's west side will become the city's third state-designated arts and entertainment district, and the state's 20th, starting this summer.

Maryland economic development officials this month accepted a proposal to create the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, according to Tracy Baskerville, spokesperson for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

The district is a 117-acre tract bounded roughly by Park Avenue on the east, Lombard Street on the south, Paca Street on the west and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Read Street on the north. It takes its name from the Bromo Seltzer Tower, a Eutaw Street landmark that now houses artists' studios. It joins districts in Station North and Highlandtown as city areas in which individuals and businesses may be eligible for tax breaks for arts-related activities and investments.

The designation takes effect July 1, with some tax benefits beginning in January 2013.

City officials and arts advocates say the designation will help revitalize downtown's west side by filling vacant storefronts and making the area more of a magnet for theaters, galleries, artists' housing, and other attractions and activities.

They say it also will help promote existing entertainment venues included in the proposed district, such as the Hippodrome Theatre, by reinforcing the area's reputation as a cultural hub.

A seven-member panel created by the Maryland State Arts Council met earlier this spring to evaluate the city's application and forward a recommendation to the secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.

The new arts district has hundreds of properties and about 2,000 residents. Benefits of arts district designation include state income tax breaks for qualified artists working and living in approved areas, as well as tax breaks for owners of commercial buildings renovated for arts-related uses.

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