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|Monroe, West Monroe garner cultural district designations|
Monroe's and West Monroe's downtowns are two of 10 new cultural districts now certified by Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu's office.
These two new cultural districts within the Twin Cities will provide a sales tax exemption for original art sold in the districts. The tax exemptions became effective March 1.
The intent 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.
Both cities applied for the designation in December.
The downtown Cottonport Historic District encompasses the new cultural district for West Monroe.
In Monroe, the cultural district will encompass the Biedenharn Museum from the north to Masur Museum in south Monroe.
Local officials say the designations will serve as tools to help market both cities.
Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson said now that the city of Monroe's downtown area has been designated as a new cultural district, city leaders will work to form a board of directors for the cultural district. The board of directors would be responsible for marketing Monroe's cultural district.
"We want to promote both districts together," Nicholson said. "We believe we can easily market both these areas."
Monroe officials want to work with West Monroe officials and the Monroe/West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau to market both cultural districts together.
Nicholson said original works of arts can run as high as thousands of dollars, so having essentially a 10 percent savings, or no sales tax, on art sold in the cultural districts should attract more art customers to the area. She also hopes it will foster the growth of the art community.
"This really has repercussions throughout the community because it can help attract people to buy original works of art and then our artists would have more disposable income, so hopefully they will buy supplies here locally," Nicholson said. "It has the potential to generate a lot more revenue throughout our area."
Other benefits of being named a cultural district mean there may be income and corporate franchise tax credits for the rehabilitation of owner-occupied or revenue-generating historical structures located in a cultural district.
"Hopefully we will have artists occupying these buildings to sell their wares and this may attract other businesses to develop the district around the arts," Nicholson added.
West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Newton said the designation in West Monroe goes hand in hand with the West Ouachita Community Vision project. The chamber and the city announced the project last month. It entails developing a long-range growth plan for western Ouachita Parish.
The city of West Monroe and Louisiana Economic Development Corp. recently entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement to fund a $60,000 study on what western Ouachita Parish should do to ensure it prospers in the future.
Part of the community vision process is to evaluate the "cultural needs, cultural wants, cultural assets and enhancements in the community," Newton said.
"We realize that to make west Ouachita a more attractive community to people who live here, people who visit here and people who might want to relocate here, this will be an important component," Newton said of having cultural assets.
Eric Hale, West Monroe's economic development coordinator, said previously that the cultural district also is a perfect fit for West Monroe's current plans to revitalize its downtown.
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."
Hale told city leaders in December the designation would provide tax incentives to help market West Monroe's downtown area "as a home for creative business people."
Landrieu will formally announce the designation of Monroe and West Monroe's cultural districts at the Monroe Civic Center on March 25.