By Zach Hagadone
Among the large-scale master planning efforts undertaken by Sandpoint officials over the past year — centered on parks and recreation and transportation infrastructure — is a new focus for the city: a plan specific to arts, culture and historic preservation.
That first-of-its-kind plan took a key step forward Oct. 7 when council members heard a “state of the city” presentation from Douglas Kaarre and Sirah Asfahani, of Chicago-based urban planning and historic preservation consultancy firm Lakota Group, which has been retained by the city to guide the planning effort.
Together with Florida-based arts and culture consultants Surale Phillips, Lakota Group undertook a week of community engagement during the summer, including meetings with members of the Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation steering committee and Historic Preservation Commission; as well as listening sessions and interviews with local stakeholders; a tour of downtown Sandpoint; and engagement with visitors to the Farmer’s Market. Beyond that, consultants had access to the results of an Engage Sandpoint survey, which drew more than 40 participants.
Based on the data collected during those engagement efforts, Lakota Group’s Asfahani presented the “state of the city” report, which suggested that seven out of 10 Sandpointians see the city as an “arts and culture destination” but want to see more dance, theater and music performances.
Drilling into the financial impact of the arts, the report found that Sandpoint’s nonprofit arts sectors contribute $10 million annually to the local economy, including upwards of 400 jobs in creative occupations.
However, the report noted that Sandpoint needs better and regular communication about the arts for residents and visitors — including more leadership from local arts nonprofits, which consultants noted were “declining even before the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, downtown historic buildings are vulnerable to “significant demolitions without design review,” the report stated.
“There isn’t much protection for these buildings,” Asfahani said.
That could be corrected with historic district designations, though financial incentives are needed to make preservation “more palatable” to property owners and developers.
The presentation Oct. 7 was intended as a foray into Phase 1 of the Master Plan, which is to establish “existing conditions of what we found after we spoke to the community,” Kaarre said.
Phase 2 begins this month and will run through November, including a second round of community engagement and — officials hope — a final plan for presentation to the City Council before the end of the year.
“[This is] a snapshot of progress and where we are,” Asfahani said.
Referring to the partnership between Lakota Group and Surale Phillips, Sandpoint City Administrator said, “We really got a win-win.”
To see the full presentation, visit sandpointidaho.gov.
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