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|West Monroe eyes cultural designation|
The city of West Monroe wants the downtown Cottonport Historic District to be designated a cultural district.
Meeting last week in a special meeting the West Monroe Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance requesting that the state tap Cottonport Historic District for a cultural designation. The request has been forwarded to the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which operates within the lieutenant governor's office.
Eric Hale, West Monroe's economic development coordinator, said if the city secures the cultural designation, it would serve as another tool to help market downtown West Monroe.
Local officials have been involved in several efforts to promote the city's historic downtown to lure more people and businesses to the area.
Recently, the city of West Monroe applied to be part of the state's Main Street Program, which fosters development in a municipality's downtown area.
While West Monroe was not included in the program this year, West Monroe Community Center Director Denise Calhoun said Main Street Program officials want to work with West Monroe officials to help it obtain the status next year.
In the meantime, Calhoun said local leaders will continue in their efforts to promote the downtown area just as they pursued the Main Street status.
"We'll continue to work to do the things we need to do to rebuild our downtown area," Calhoun said. "We intend to continue to work to make our downtown an area our community can gather, celebrate things and fellowship, and have it once again become the hub of West Monroe."
If the Cottonport Historic District is designated as a cultural district, Hale said it would be the perfect fit for ongoing revitalization efforts.
He said the cultural district designation fits into the city's goal of "making downtown a center of activity and one of our strongest locations for growth."
The goal of cultural districts is to revitalize a community by "creating a hub of cultural activity," according to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
It would allow income and corporate franchise tax credits for the rehabilitation of owner-occupied or revenue-generating historic structures located in a cultural district.
It also would provide an exemption from sales and use taxes on proceeds received from the sale of original works of art sold at locations established within the cultural district.
The city's proposed cultural district area includes Antique Alley and the new residential construction that's ongoing in the downtown area. The Ouachita River Art Guild also has its gallery in the proposed area.
"The arts already have a presence in the district," Hale said. "The guild has connections to artists throughout the region and it will be an important partner in a new district."
"Being named a cultural district will further strengthen the downtown area and encourage both artists and non-artists to be a part of the area," Hale added.
Hale said the designation would provide tax incentives to help market West Monroe's downtown area "as a home for creative business people."
"We want to encourage renovation and we want to encourage young, creative people to come here and help us continue all the positive things going on in our downtown area," he said.
Bringing in more artists, residents, and businesses "will help with continued growth downtown and help create an atmosphere that is attractive to entrepreneurs of all types," he said.
The city should know if it will receive this designation within three months.