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PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Plano is developing an official arts district in its historic downtown area.

Now home to galleries, restaurants and shops, city leaders are putting together a formal plan that includes seven designated public arts venues.

Art is not new to Plano, but city leaders say the idea is to draw residents and visitors alike to the area, for festivals, visual arts, culinary arts and performances.

“That’s the kind of thing we need around here,” said Peter Matte, who works in Richardson and visited Plano’s historic downtown for lunch on Wednesday.

“We bring our kids to various venues [in Dallas] to give them a little bit more culture. If I could do that in a ten to fifteen minute drive, that would be fantastic,” said Matte.

Plans include construction on a new, 800-square foot outdoor performance venue at McCall Plaza. The historic Saigling House will undergo renovations to be repurposed as a cultural art center. Courtyard Theater, Cox Playhouse, Haggard Park and Bandstand, 15th Street, and the Interurban Railway Museum are also tapped as venues. The Arts Center of Plano will also relocate in the area.

The Historic Downtown Plano Association is also working on rebranding – stickers dot storefronts designating the area an arts district – and part of the proposal includes new visuals for people entering Plano from US -75.

Mona Lisa Ringel, Executive Director of the HDPA, says the Bishop Arts District in Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood serves as a model.

“With Bishop Arts, if you look at their storefronts, if you look at the gateway to the area, it starts with putting some visual arts there,” said Ringel.

Urban living is it, she adds.

“I think our timing is in our favor here. We’ve got something that’s not pre-fab. This is an original. An urban area where you can live here, work here, shop here. The arts have always been here, but I think it’s time to celebrate it a little bit more,” Ringel said.

Portrait artist Gene Dillard works at Rail Station Studios on 15th Place. He’s seen the changes in the downtown over the years and likes where it is going.

“There’s a lot of interest in art – but I’m not sure [people] know where to find it,” said Dillard.

Plano’s Deputy City Manager, Frank Turner, says an arts district began to emerge more than fifteen years ago. Turner says the reshaped plan for the Downtown Arts District will likely go the city council for a stamp of approval in the next 45 days or so.

There’s also an effort for the area to be designated an arts district by the state of Texas – helping to heighten exposure and tourism on a regional level.

“By making this a designation, people will begin to identify it as the place they’re looking for,” said Dillard.

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Jennifer Lindgren