Monroe unveils first phase of downtown master plan

MONROE, La. (KNOE) – Significant changes could occur in downtown Monroe.

Officials unveiled the first phase of the city’s downtown master plan.

The initial phase was mainly research-oriented. Experts looked at the resources Monroe has downtown and how they can be improved.

“We have an incredible amount of historic buildings left in the downtown core,” Kelsea McCrary, Monroe’s chief economic developer, told KNOE. “It tells our story. These are the fingerprints of our downtown and who was here before us.

With large parts of the city center located in the city’s two cultural districts, this plan revealed that investors would have plenty of help if they chose to rehabilitate buildings that were 50 years old or older.

“Historic tax credits are just one of them,” McCrary explained. “They basically provided an overview of all the investment tools available.”

Campo and Associates, the group hired by the city to develop the master plan, used other cities, including Little Rock, Chattanooga and Savannah, as evidence that Monroe needs to make better use of its waterfront.

“We don’t have a common gathering space right now,” McCrary said. “We use the Rivermarket for that. We use rue Desiard for this. We use parks, but we don’t have a big space for our community to gather.

McCrary also pointed out that the plan isn’t just about the riverfront. She says it encompasses 210 acres of land from Interstate 20 to the Lea Joyner Bridge.

“It’s kind of like a main artery with capillaries branching off of it,” McCrary explained. “Desiard, seven years ago, you could find any parking lot. Now you can’t find a parking space. We want to see those side streets supported and healthy as well.

Phase two will focus on community engagement to help create a shared vision for the downtown. It will include recommendations for specific projects. It should be completed in about three months.

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David H. Henry