© 2024 NPR Illinois
The Capital's Community & News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Two Springfield areas named State-Designated Cultural Districts

South town sign
NPR Illinois

Springfield's Central East and Southtown areas have been listed in a new Illinois program that will make the locations eligible for funding.

State-Designated Cultural Districts are communities, towns, or specific geographic areas that have a distinct shared historical and cultural identity that binds the community together. The intended purpose of the program is to encourage economic development; support the preservation and development of history and culturally significant structures, traditions, and languages; foster local cultural development and education; provide a focal point for celebrating communities’ unique cultural identities; and promote equitable growth and opportunity without generating displacement.

As outlined in statute, DCEO selected ten recipients (five for 2023 and five for 2024) and will be selecting an additional five recipients in 2025, with a focus on downstate and rural communities.

Recipients will be eligible to apply for $3 million in funding that will be tailored to fit the needs of individual Cultural Districts and support the goals of the program to foster economic development and help communities preserve their unique cultural identities. The state will launch the funding opportunity following the selection of the final five cultural districts.

The local recipients are the Springfield Urban League and The Springfield Project. The opportunity was made available to localities, municipalities and community based non-profit organizations, through a competitive Notice of Designation Opportunity (NODO). Eligible applicants had to be historically impacted and at risk of losing their cultural identity due to gentrification displacement, or the COVID-19 pandemic and also have a history of economic disinvestment.

"Bringing State-Designated Cultural Districts to Springfield is a monumental step in the right direction for the community and for the state," said Senator Doris Turner (D-Springfield). "These official designations are essential to preserving the history of our state, highlighting the legacy and significant contributions of Black Illinoisans from the Great Migration and onward."

“Illinois is full of vibrant communities that help make us who we are,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m excited to announce our State-Designated Cultural Districts — communities, towns, and geographic areas that have a distinct shared historical and cultural identity that binds them together. Today’s designations aim to promote greater growth, development, and opportunities throughout our state’s cultural hubs and encourage them to flourish over the coming years.”

Launched in 2023, the State-Designated Cultural Districts program aims to uplift the unique contributions of historic cultural districts with the overarching goal of increasing economic development opportunities.

“This is a celebration of our people and an investment in our future. If we fail to preserve the unique cultures that make Illinois so rich, we risk losing key pieces of our collective story,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “Through these designations, we are ensuring our children have spaces to learn from and engage with cultures outside their own.”

“These Designated Cultural Districts will amplify economic development opportunities while preserving the historical and cultural significance of these communities,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “These communities are important to the Illinois story, and DCEO is proud to issue this designation.”

List of Cultural Districts
State of Illinois

Related Stories