In Claiborne Parish, the town of Homer is making big strides toward transforming its downtown through their Main Street Program.
The Main Street program is a state and national program that started in 1980 in response to people moving out of downtown areas. Homer started theirs three years ago, but they already have a lot of projects underway to revitalize downtown and bring in new business.
Only 38 places in Louisiana qualify to be a Main Street program. So through tax credits and grants with help from the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, Homer is preserving their historic buildings to bring back economic vitality.
“It not only means bringing businesses back into the tax roles but being a vital community and bringing people back into our town,” said Jimmy Hand, Main Street Homer Executive Director.
The Homer Main Street program is renovating century old structures and readying them for new owners.
“I’ve been saying Homer is open for business,” Hand said.
Hand said new businesses can save money through a 45 percent tax credit. They have eleven empty buildings with projects in the works. Including putting an art center inside the Masonic temple and a green space by the square. They want to make downtown an area for arts and culture. Local artists can already qualify to sell work at reduced taxes.
“So we get more artists, we get entertainment here and that brings people here,” Hand said.
Two wooden buildings were just completed that were originally constructed in 1905. They’ll host on open house this weekend for the public.
Hand said many people are moving out of Homer and they don’t have the resources right now to attract them back. However, he said the vision for downtown is slowly becoming a reality and by the end of this year, projects on paper will become buildings brought back to life.
They also work with the Small Business Development Center to help get people small business loans.
The open house for the new buildings will be this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.