UMEZ Cultural Investments Revitalize Upper Manhattan

Date:    Monday, April 11, 2016

New York, New York – The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) has released a report on its investments in Upper Manhattan’s nonprofit cultural sector, which include some of the most recognized arts institutions in the world – among them the Apollo Theater, Studio Museum in Harlem, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. The report, Leveraging the Power of Cultural Investments, traces the dramatic growth of this cultural sector, which has paralleled the change in economic demographics for the Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood communities.

Among the highlights are the following:
•    The number of people employed by the 32 organizations included in the study more than doubled, growing from 1,206 to 2,477 individuals.
•    UMEZ’s investment of $32 million in the 32 study organizations led to their generating an economic output of $206 million in 2010.
•    Contributions from the private sector to the study organizations grew by over 35% from the base year period to the concluding period of the study.
•    $14 million of UMEZ’s cultural investments were directed to capital projects, leveraging $203 million in additional public and private support and adding four new cultural facilities to the Upper Manhattan landscape, including Harlem Stage’s Gatehouse Theater on 134th Street, and the Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Community Media Center in East Harlem.

UMEZ worked with Regional Plan Association, the preeminent urban research and advocacy organization, to conduct this rigorous assessment of its cultural investments. Additional data provided by DataArts (formerly Cultural Data Project) allowed for a comparison of Upper Manhattan’s arts community to similar cultural hubs around New York City.

Investing in the nonprofit sector was one of four strategies adopted by UMEZ at its founding in 1994, in addition to the traditional economic tools of small business loans, financing of large-scale commercial developments, and workforce development. Although nonprofit investments were an atypical approach to economic development at the time, they are now recognized by municipalities across the country as a dynamic instrument for growth, through “creative placemaking” initiatives. Under UMEZ’s innovative cultural investment policy, an historically disenfranchised arts community is now thriving, making Upper Manhattan one of the strongest cultural hubs in New York City and a growing driver of the City’s economy.

Major funding for this study was provided through the Technical Assistance Fund of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. Additional funding was provided by the New York Community Trust through the Arts & Culture Research Fund; contributors to this Fund in addition to the New York Community Trust include The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York Council on the Humanities, and the John R. Oishei Foundation.


Since its founding in 1996, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) has been a catalyst in the revitalization of Upper Manhattan. UMEZ’s investments, upwards of $225 million to date, have provided funding to numerous organizations, businesses, and institutions that drive the local economy, create jobs, and add to the vibrancy of New York City. Significantly, these funds have also been leveraged to generate over $1 billion in private capital investments into Upper Manhattan. UMEZ continues to be a leader in reestablishing the area as one of New York’s most dynamic cultural districts through the Cultural Industry Investment Fund, established in 2004.