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The project, which will establish an arts district in downtown Carrboro, will still move forward.

Former Carrboro ArtsCenter executive director Art Menius, who works on the district’s planning team, said the NEA saw four to five times as many requests for funding than was available — making communities with an existing, budding arts economy like Carrboro a low priority.

The eight-person planning team applied for a $75,000 grant to be matched by the Town of Carrboro.

“We did pretty much all the right things, but there just wasn’t enough money to fund our project,” Menius said.

After two years of planning, the team hopes to present a final recommendation for the district to the Board of Aldermen by the end of this year, completing the first phase of the project.

“The Board of Aldermen will use the report to make a decision on whether or not to move forward on creating an art district in downtown Carrboro,” Menius said.

If they move forward with the plan, the Board of Aldermen will decide whether to fund the project themselves or to apply for the Our Town grant again.

With the goal of inspiring arts-related development, the district would extend from West Rosemary Street to Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro’s downtown, where a number of arts businesses already sit.

And Carrboro Recreation and Parks director Anita Jones-McNair said the lack of NEA funds won’t deter their plans for a district. She said the money was going to help complete a detailed report about the project with new data and mapping — but that report is still possible.

“We’re very creative. We can figure things out,” she said.

Carrboro town manager David Andrews said as an alternative, planning team will instead be turning to UNC for assistance. This semester, professor Richard Andrews will be leading a group of public policy students in investigating the affordability of work spaces, cultural diversity, economic development, access to transportation and availability of performance and production spaces for the district project.

“We think that the students from UNC would be a good group of folks to shepherd this (project) through the process at this point, particularly given that we did not get the NEA funding,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the decision to partner with a capstone course to expedite planning wasn’t in the works until after the team learned they would not be receiving the grant.

“We always knew that there were creative folks over there who could help us through it, but I think that it seems like the best alternative given where we are with the NEA funding,” he said.

Jones-McNair said the team will meet on Aug. 25 to further discuss the next steps for the project, and they will present an update to the Board of Aldermen in early September.

“We feel really good about the project and what we’re trying to determine,” she said.

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