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|Monroe, West Monroe shoot for Main Street designations|
West Monroe officials will make a presentation to officials with the state's Main Street Program on why West Monroe should be included in the program, which fosters development in a municipality's downtown area.
The presentation will be made Sept. 25 in Baton Rouge. The presentation was put together by West Monroe officials and the staff at West Monroe Community Center.
Mayor Dave Norris said there are about 10 other communities in the state applying for Main Street status.
Beth Betz, who heads Keep West Monroe Beautiful, and West Monroe Community Center's Cynthia Holland developed the presentation.
West Monroe Community Center director Denise Calhoun said she would review the presentation later in the day for a final review.
She said the presentation will be a visual display of the history of West Monroe's downtown area.
"It will show where it is today, how it got started, and we'll try to make the case that we've stayed true to the history of our downtown," Calhoun said. "I'm really confident because Beth and Cynthia have done an outstanding job. They brought in everyone from the downtown to give their suggestions."
"We've got the support from everyone in the downtown area," Calhoun added.
Calhoun and her staff at the community center have been on a mission to improve West Monroe's downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The community center hosts regular meetings with local residents on how city officials and citizens can improve West Monroe's neighborhoods.
Calhoun believes acquiring Main Street status would have widespread benefits the downtown and the city as a whole.
"The truth of the matter is the heart of West Monroe has always stemmed from the downtown area," Calhoun said. "Any new opportunities that we can develop there will continue to spread throughout West Monroe. We would see the benefits for years to come. We would continue to grow as a community while still maintaining what made West Monroe. We'll be able to grow, yet preserve West Monroe, and that's important as a community."
The city of Monroe also will apply on Sept. 25 to become a participant in the Louisiana Main Street Program.
The Monroe Downtown Economic Development District is leading Monroe's efforts in the process.
DEDD has been involved in efforts to improve the image of downtown Monroe as well as add new businesses and buildings in the vacant areas in the downtown area. A shopping center, dock, marina and landscaped open spaces along the river for public use have all been proposed by DEDD.
Ray Scriber, state director of the Louisiana Main Street Program, said the program began in 1977 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The group saw a growing number of downtowns throughout the country becoming unfriendly places, which looked ugly and run-down, Scriber said.
The Louisiana Main Street Program began in 1984. Since that time, approximately 1,740 new businesses started in communities participating in the program. That has resulted in 7,424 new jobs. Also, since 1984, $306 million in private money has been invested in those downtown communities, Scriber said. Total investment in those communities by both private and public sectors totals some $463 million.