Powered by Blogger.

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

In the sprawling tangle of roads, palm trees, and sandy beaches that is Melbourne, Florida, the intersection of Eau Gallie Boulevard and Highland Avenue might seem like one more stoplight along your destination.


Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

But, if you slow down and look around, you might notice a few things: the brightly colored buildings, the graphic paintings along some of the store fronts, and the many art galleries that are packed in just a few blocks. Gone are the chain stores and fast food restaurants that you can find just a few streets over. Clearly, something's going on here--something that's thought out and very different from the rest of the Melbourne area.

That something is the Eau Gallie Arts District, and the people behind this area are dedicated to revitalizing this former downtown while breathing new life into the overall arts scene in Melbourne.

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Originally, Eau Gallie was a community separate from Melbourne, whose downtown area is about 5 miles south. By the late 1960s, the two towns had grown together, and Eau Gallie voted to become incorporated into Melbourne in 1969. As the area's focus shifted towards Melbourne, the downtown of Eau Gallie became a shadow of its former self.

About twenty years ago, a group of Eau Gallie citizens came together in the hopes that they could help their beloved corner of the city shine again. It wasn't an easy task and required the help of both the local government and the residents. The city of Melbourne drew a boundary around Eau Gallie to create a Community Redevelopment Area, which allowed that section to become eligible for revitalization funding. The next step for the area was to apply for a grant from the Main Street Program through the National Historic Preservation Society.

I spoke with Lisa Packard, the Executive Director of the Eau Gallie Arts District about the area's evolution over the last two decades. "The impact on our community [from the Main Street Program] has been tremendous," she told me. "Real estate values alone have increased by $15 million in the last five years. We used to have several empty spaces, and now we only have 6 or 7."

So, why the Eau Gallie Arts District? The area's focus was originally on historic preservation and economic revitalization, not the arts, but since the merchants at the forefront of the revitalization were gallery owners, artists, and floral designers, they decided to name it the Eau Gallie Arts District, or EGAD. The name stuck even as the district has expanded.

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Today, EGAD has the arts--in all forms--at its core, even though it invites businesses from all walks of life to its line-up. "A purely arts focus would not attract a wide audience, but we see the art in food, micro brewing, music, dance, ballet, and frame making," said Ms. Packard. "We have architects, engineers, restaurants, a microbrewery, retail shops, music shops, and a paint store. We're lucky to have fantastic anchors in our community, such as the Foosaner Art Museum, which is owned and managed by the Florida Institute of Technology, as well as a civic center, a beautiful library on the river, and our fantastic band shell in our city square."

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
Even the local real estate office joins in the arts fun with a splash of color!
The area continues to evolve, and Ms. Packard has high hopes for what the future holds for the district. "We hope to bring in a performing arts venue for all types of art forms, spoken word, and independent film. We want businesses of all types, especially creative technology upstarts."

Although the arts is defined by strict geographical boundaries--state roads, railroad tracks, and a river--Ms. Packard does not believe that the district is in any way limited. "We cannot expand geographically, but we can go up a little [through a new zoning regulation] without ruining it, and we can gentrify the neighborhood, which is full of Florida vernacular architecture. Some renovation has begun, but we want more."

The district wants to retain its traditional downtown past, but with a twist. Instead of a bake sale to raise funds, EGAD is having residents and fans of the area donate to the Mural Program, which enables artists to come into the district and create colorful pieces of art on the bandstand and local stores. The Christmas festivities this past year included a human snow globe. There's a farmer's market each Friday during the cooler months, and the First Friday celebrations with craft booths and food vendors.

Coastal Creativity: Revitalization and Preservation in the Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The city council recently rezoned an area of EGAD as residential; this area, known as the Art Overlay Zone, will allow artists to create studios within their homes. The council hopes that this effort will encourage current residents to become involved in the district's focus and attract new artists to the area.

When you're visiting, take time to explore the area on foot. "It's a very walkable area with a historic walking map, great architecture, and plenty to do," Ms. Packard said. "But please take a minute and be lazy and just sit by the river!"

Does your hometown have an arts district? Have you visited the Eau Gallie Arts District?
______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!

Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup