The old City Court building in downtown Houma was renovated in 2011 with help from Louisiana Main Street grants.
Efforts to revitalize downtown Houma could continue this year with the opportunity for restoration grants from Louisiana Main Street.
Each year, the state program offers grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for commercial building and business owners in historic downtown areas. Houma Main Street is once again offering its services to local businesses and property owners downtown who are interested in applying.
“Over the years, Houma Main Street has received nearly $80,000 in redevelopment grant funds from the Louisiana Main Street program, initiating $500,000 in local projects costs, plus associated jobs and economic stimulation,” Houma Main Street Manager Anne Picou said.
To be eligible, a building must be in the historic downtown Houma district and be at least 50 years old. The grants have a 50 percent match with the applicant, meaning that if a project is awarded a $5,000 grant, the business or property owner must also invest $5,000, Picou said.
Only one grant can be awarded for each Main Street district. Once applications are submitted to the Houma Main Street, the organization’s board will choose a project to submit to the state program.
In her 17 years with Houma Main Street, Picou said, the agency has helped secure grants for projects by Fakier Jewelers, the renovation of the former City Court building by Lori Davis, new signage at People’s Drug Store and the renovation of Rubicon Salon.
The grants are intended to preserve the historic character downtown, she said.
For example, if someone submits a project to change the facade of a historic property, that could undermine the outlook or integrity of the building. Instead, Main Street wants to work with business owners to keep the original integrity of the building, while modernizing it for new use, Picou said.
Even a simple sign project can promote economic development, she said.
“The Main Street program totally agrees with signage as a way to do economic development,” she said.
Having a large, attractive sign can draw in business and make a building recognizable.
Years ago, grants could be awarded for as much as $25,000, but budget cuts have reduced funding for the program, Picou said.
In the case of Rubicon Salon, when a tire store abandoned the building to move to a new location, the property left Main Street organizers wondering what to do.
“By grace of god, (Rubicon Salon) turned it into upscale salon,” Picou said. “It’s a genuine project, keeping the essence of historical building ... but still modernizing the inside elements.”
The old City Court building has a similar story. The parish was considering tearing it down and converting it into parking before Davis purchased the property and turn it into a commercial and residential property, Picou said.
“More and more people living downtown,” she said. “I try to explain that to people. Don’t give up.”
Several downtown businesses have already expressed interest in the program, which has become simpler over the years, Picou said.
The application deadline is 1 p.m. June 18. Applications can be obtained by calling Picou at 873-6408.
By Julia Arenstam, Staff Writer, can be reached at 448-7636 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.