Monroe, Louisiana makes a major investment in downtown’s revitalized future, buying four vacant buildings for redevelopment

In Monroe, Louisiana, Mayor Friday Ellis and the City of Monroe are purchasing four properties for redevelopment, hoping to put some major new revitalization momentum into the downtown. The structures include the historic former Ouachita Candy Company.

I (Storm Cunningham) have fond memories of Monroe, having lectured at the University of Louisiana – Monroe back in 2006. I wish them the best in their downtown revival efforts.

Dr. Ronald Berry, President of the University of Louisiana – Monroe, says, “An economic benefit to enhancing the Riverfront and downtown economic development includes financial growth and stability to the city and serves as a direct benefit to North Louisiana as a whole, which has been economically devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The buildings are located at 205, 209, 215, and 305 Walnut Street. The properties will be developed into a mixed-use facility.

Mixed-use redevelopment incorporates two or more types of land uses (e.g., housing, offices, retail, entertainment, institutions, services, restaurants, etc.).

Roy Heatherly, President of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce says, “Like the heart, a strong downtown will pump life into all areas of our city and in our region… I recognize the importance of supporting this project and in supporting our downtown businesses with the much-needed economic prosperity that this development will bring to all parts of our great city.”

The City will leverage data from an ongoing city-engineering survey and the downtown masterplan to help drive a site development plan; this includes feedback from residents and business owners.

Mayor Ellis says he’s excited about the intended purchase of the building because, “it is one of the last pieces of developable property on the riverfront. With this purchase, we will be able to proactively position Monroe to further enhance the quality and content of future development and growth.” Ellis added, “Monroe’s history as a “river city” is both our legacy and our future. It is our responsibility to develop our riverfront to its fullest potential for all our citizens and our long-term economic well-being. This purchase will be an important step in allowing us to define our riverfront and downtown area as a vibrant destination for visitors and an important part of overall quality of life.

Several organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs from downtown and across the city, have submitted letters of support for the purchase and development of the building.

Barry Stevens, President/CEO of the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council explained, “Recognition of the value of an existing property, properly restored and reimagined shines a bright light on the character of a community. There is considerable value in the cultural integrity of Monroe for that facility to be resurrected and used in a way that can enhance the cultural development of downtown Monroe.”

The purchase price of the building is around $1.4 million dollars. The funds to pay for this building will come from excess sales tax revenues.

This is a non-recurring expense that will not impact any of the city’s other allocated funds. Mayor Ellis has reached out to and is sitting down with Monroe City Council members for a more in-depth breakdown of the intended purchase.

Photo via Google Maps.

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