The most historically significant area in New Roads grew last week.
A vote by the City Council paved the way for the extension of its Main Street District.
The extension will stretch the historical downtown area southward to the King Theater and Poydras Center, and northward to North Carolina Street.
It will provide grant eligibility to businesses and commercial entities in the historic area, including the Poydras Center (originally Poydras High School), which houses the Pointe Historical Society, the Arts Council of Pointe Coupee and the Pointe Coupee Office of Tourism.
“This puts us directly in line to being No. 1 for tourist destinations in the Southern region,” New Roads Mayor Cornell Dukes said.
“The things we’re doing now will help tremendously, which is why we are doing this – to secure our spot in the Southern region.
“To be able to do this in the middle of COVID says a lot about how resilient and dedicated people of our area have been,” he said.
“This should allow us to come out of this pandemic more vibrant and stronger than ever.”
Discussion on the extension began when members of the Pointe Coupee Historical Society expressed a desire to be part of the district, said Paula Lambert, who has served as the city’s Main Street Program director since January.
Ray Scriber, Louisiana Main Street Program director, gave the go-ahead after a recent visit to New Roads.
The grant access is the main benefit to the program. Preservation of historical significance serves as a cornerstone of the program, which operates under the guidance of Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.
Since its inception in 1984, the Louisiana Main Street Program has led to the creation of 14,196 new jobs, 3,347 new businesses and $958,382,683 in improvements, according to its website.
Thirty-one Louisiana towns and cities belong to the Main Street Program.
Among the municipalities in the program are St. Francisville, Plaquemine, Denham Springs, Hammond, Ponchatoula, Slidell, Crowley, Opelousas, St. Martinville, Donaldsonville and Natchitoches.
New Roads joined the Main Street Program in 2000.
Lambert credited her predecessor, George Miller, Dukes and city officials for the support to maintain historical integrity of the downtown area.
“It’s a blessing and helps us get a lot of things done and helps our businesses along Main Street and in the district,” Lambert said.
“It’s an economic development program for keeping the original downtown areas relevant. I’m a history major from LSU, so I’m enjoying learning the history behind all these buildings.”
The Market at the Mill events coordinated by Betty Fontaine and the car shows Miller spearheads twice a year play a vital role in attracting residents and tourist the Main Street area, she said.
Miller’s efforts to install plaques on buildings – including the original use of the structure and the year it was built – also draw attention the area.
“George has been very active in getting it where it is now, and Betty’s dedication to the Market at the Mill has been great for the area, as well,” Lambert said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to work with them.”
As with cities such as Plaquemine, St. Martinville and Natchitoches, the proximity to a historic waterway contributes to the historic significance and attraction to tourists and businesses, Dukes said.
“It’s a huge deal because not many towns with a Main Street are tied to the river, and that’s why my vision has been to heavily invest in the downtown area, and it’s falling into place,” he said.
“It also gives us the opportunity to maximize our potential by being on False River and being the prettiest city on the water.”