East Gloucester Cultural District

There is a Public Hearing before the City Council on Tuesday, January 10,  at 7:00 pm at City Hall concerning the East Gloucester Cultural District.  What it’s about:

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is in the process of designating areas of the state’s cities and towns as Cultural Districts.  The City, the Rocky Neck Art Colony, the Gloucester Stage Co., and the Gloucester Writers Center are, in partnership, applying to MCC to have a sizable section of East Gloucester designated as a Cultural District.

In MCC’s words:  Cultural districts can help local arts, humanities, and science organizations improve the quality and range of their public programs so that more local families can benefit from them. They can enhance the experience for visitors and thus attract more tourist dollars and tax revenue. And they can attract artists, cultural organizations and entrepreneurs of all kinds – enhancing property values and making communities more attractive.
One of the distinct attributes of Massachusetts is the authenticity of its communities. From urban centers and fishing ports in the east, to rural hamlets and older industrial centers in the west, the Commonwealth incorporates a wide range of distinctive places.

The Cultural District Initiative will encourage Massachusetts communities to strengthen this sense of place, while stimulating economic activity, improving the experiences of visitors to our communities, and creating a higher quality of life.

The proposes district runs from Cripple Cove to Niles Beach and includes East Main St. and Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Karen Ristuben
Rocky Neck Art Colony


  • Does this mean there will be restrictions placed on what I can do to my property? If so, no thank you!


  • Hi Joanne, I believe one of the goals of declaring our area a cultural district is to help secure funding for the purchase of the old Christian Science Church on Rocky Neck, with plans to use the building as a community center. I do not think there will be any restrictions placed on homeowners, however, that is why I am going to the meeting, to learn more about the initiative.


    • It would be great to get that question answered tonight so no misconceptions of what it is or isn’t going to restrict could be cleared up! Looking forward to your report Kim!

      I can tell you that if there’s going to be another layer of restrictive zoning placed on top of the crazy number of restrictive zonings we already have on the waterfront I’ll be none too pleased.

      No pressure 🙂


  • The last time this issue was proposed was about 15-20 years ago, and there were absolutely restrictions that were attached to it for property owners. At that time, Mona Faherty and I went door to door gathering signatures against it and the proposal was defeated.


    • Cripple Cove is in the DPA an industrial zone. That being said would it surprise me if some other type of zoning was introduced that tells us that everything has to be the same way it was at the time of the age of schooners or we had to have some building approved by yet another easement?

      No, which is why we need to know more about this and make sure that something isn’t being slipped under our noses in the guise of something for the art community but may just totally screw a bunch of property owners.

      I’m not saying this is the case but I’d like to hear for sure.

      Especially since I dig my peeps down on Rocky Neck.


      • Hi Joey, I called Karen Ristuben–she is writing a response pronto. Yes, it seems as though cultural district is being confused with historic district, but Karen is the best person to answer property owner’s questions.


        • See, that’s what I’m talkin bout!!!
          Quality investigative reporting!

          Outstanding work Kim.

          Now I gotta get showered up and this sand and suntan lotion off so I can get down and pound a few panty rippers!


    • Mona and I opposed a historical designation, not cultural, my mistake.


  • I could be confusing “cultural” district with “historic” district……….


  • And I’d just like to add for consideration, the proposed area is also where we have our homes. Residents for many generations, or new to town …. Does this proposal help homeowners or hurt them? Seems to benefit tourism and various non- profits, but what about my property and quality of life?


  • Hi there,
    I can see why there might be some misunderstanding about this. It is not like the historic district designations which can make everyone, say, paint their houses only white with black shutters. This Cultural District initiative is brand new to the state — legislation was passed 2 years ago enabling the Mass Cultural Council to designate Cultural Districts in area of cities and towns where there is a collection of cultural “assets”, such as we have here on Cape Ann. The idea is to create areas where the arts and culture will be recognized by the state and City as an integral and critical part of our changing economy: to preserve and reuse historic buildings, to establish the district as a destination for visitors, to encourage business and job development, and to foster local cultural development. The idea of “culture” is broad, and here, it includes our rich history of arts and maritime life. There is nothing that requires homeowners or businesses to do anything differently than they’ve always done, and it doesn’t impose any new restrictions on what you can do. It does encourage the artists and arts institutions within the district to collaborate and work toward sustainability better than we can individually. Come to the City Council meeting tomorrow and we’ll talk it through! There will be representatives from the City and from the MCC to answers any questions you have.

    Karen Ristuben


    • Thanks Karen, I’d come but I’m out of country. Is there anything that is going to force a property owner to go in front of some board to get a change of use based on this designation if they want to something different with their property?
      Is it another layer of permitting or not?

      When you say “preserve our historic buildings” does that mean that to change anything from Cripple Cove To Rocky Neck a property owner will need to get through yet another level of the already insane amount of permits they have to get through already?

      I only say this because as a property owner on the waterfront getting things done already is bananas and it might not occur to folks when you sign in to get money for he new rocky neck center that you could be making shit terribly impossible for others to gt stuff done on their properties.

      Thanks for clearing up any misconceptions that might arise.


      • Hi Joey,
        Hope you’re having fun in Mexico!!
        This project isn’t restrictive in any way, for property owners or businesses or anyone. It doesn’t create any permitting requirements or new layers of bureaucracy if you want to do something on your property. It just creates opportunities, like, if we want to take an old building and make it into an artist’s work space or a maritime education space or whatever, being part of a Cultural District would make it easier to get through the existing bureaucracy. If anything, our property values and our quality of life here in East Gloucester would be enhanced by the fact that we’re supporting our own cultural base.
        As far as the Rocky Neck Art Colony’s development of the church building as a community cultural center, it has nothing to do with the Cultural District. If we purchase and develop the building it might be used as the Cultural District’s organizational headquarters, but they’re totally separate projects (that coincidentally happened at the same time) and one doesn’t depend on the other.
        I hope this helps!


  • Hi Joanne, Based on current zoning restrictions your concerns are justified. Not a mistake, because it helped clarify what other community members may have been thinking as well. Aren’t we fortunate that Joey knew we should try to find answers as quickly as possible (before more misconceptions developed) and that Karen kindly answered thoroughly and promptly?

    Despite that Joey is away on vacation, he’s still looking out for his home town (or peeps, as he would say)!


  • What? What are you putting in the kool aid Joey? Lol


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