Downtown Kennewick is the home of one of Washington’s newest certified Creative Districts. The South Columbia Creative District (SOCO) was unanimously ratified in a vote by a board of commissioners organized under ArtsWA on October 6, 2021.
The vision for the South Columbia Creative District (SOCO) was started by a grassroots group of individuals back when the Washington State Creative District Program was first launched in 2018. This certification is an opportunity to recognize Downtown Kennewick as the creative and artistic heart of Kennewick while promoting current established creative
industries. The creative district designation will help promote, connect, and unify the many downtown Kennewick anchors as a rich, creative community that reflects Kennewick’s history and embraces its diverse population.
Creative Districts are an award-winning program that works to grow the creative sector of a community. It helps communities turn cultural activities into economic growth. In Downtown Kennewick, this is an opportunity to recognize downtown as the creative and artistic heart of Kennewick while promoting the area as a hub for creativity and creative enterprises. In the coming months, district organizers will collaborate with the City of Kennewick and Washington Department of Transportation to install a series of highway signs that promote the location of SOCO to travelers making their way through or to the
The geographical location for the South Columbia Creative District is in the historical heart of Kennewick. Its northern border is roughly the southern bank of the Columbia River and its southernmost border travels along 6th Avenue. From east to west this district spans from Gum Street to Fruitland Street. The southeast border of the district travels up Washington Street until it meets with First Street and then turns east to meet up with Gum Street.
“It was important to us that this creative district span the breadth of all of downtown’s major assets. That they encompass the essential creative, artistic, culinary, and historic features of our community,” said Stephanie Button, Executive Director of the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership (HDKP). “The idea to name the district South Columbia Creative District (SOCO) developed from our early recognition that there is a possibility that the district could grow and evolve beyond Kennewick’s downtown area. But no matter where in Kennewick our creative district could expand to, it would still be south of the Columbia River.” HDKP will serve as the administrative organization behind SOCO for the foreseeable future.
Within this area are key community anchors including Keewaydin Park--home of the East Benton County History Museum, the Historic Downtown Kennewick business core--an accredited Main Street community, Columbia Gardens, Columbia Drive, and Clover Island. Key anchors within the downtown community are accessible from public transportation and between these anchors, they are walkable and bikeable with ample parking for all kinds of activities and programming.
The downtown area is dedicated to both the arts and creative industry. Within SOCO’s boundaries, there are already 24 public art pieces ranging from murals and sculptures to art-wrapped utility boxes. Just within the roughly 140+ businesses located within the Historic Downtown Kennewick business core, 76 (52%) are considered Creative Industries by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System). The new and growing Columbia Gardens currently features 4 wineries and a food truck plaza that hosts up to 8 businesses at a time.
“We chose a lantern as the emblem of SOCO for a lot of reasons,” Said Ms. Button. “SOCO will illuminate the creative industries, artists, and makers of Downtown Kennewick.” The lantern in SOCO’s logo is inspired by an object in the collection of the East Benton County Historical Society and the Lighthouse located on Clover Island. Around 1906 there was a music teacher, Edna Pallister Hansen, in Kennewick who taught her piano students in Kennewick and across the river in Pasco. She would walk across the old train bridge. Her finance, George gifted her a lantern to both light her way and so he could see her make it across the bridge safely. Like Edna’s lantern or the Lighthouse on Clover Island, SOCO will illuminate the creativity of Downtown Kennewick and support the art and culture of the community by working with arts and humanities organizations and creative entrepreneurs to have a positive educational and social impact on our community. Arts and culture enhance communities through an increase in quality of life, the ability to brand Downtown Kennewick as a creative and cultural destination, attract new residents and become a destination for creative businesses.
As a certified Creative District, Downtown Kennewick is now officially recognized as a hub for creativity and creative enterprises.
For more information about the South Columbia Creative District email email@example.com or call 509-582-7221. Visit the website at https://www.historickennewick.org/soco.
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