Created earlier this year by the Louisiana State Legislature as a result of a bill introduced by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, this board has begun to appoint new members, such as Houma’s Kevin Champagne, in its effort to bring more shops, restaurants, and foot traffic to Houma’s potentially vibrant downtown scene. The board, which has yet to have all 9 of its members appointed for their 6-year terms, has a starting budget of about $1 million, and it holds the authority to purchase, repair, and sell property and buildings in downtown Houma in its efforts to inject life into its culture and economy. This board would also have authority within the Houma Restoration District, which is defined by the law as Main and Park avenues from Morgan Street to Grand Caillou Road.
Members of this board will each serve a six-year term without being paid, and these members will be appointed by the Terrebonne Parish Council, Terrebonne Parish President, state lawmakers representing the area, the Chamber of Commerce, the Houma Downtown Development Corporation, and the Houma Historic Preservation District.
In order for Houma’s downtown area to build back up to its full potential after suffering various degrees of detrimental loss from recent Hurricanes, members of the board will have to be determined, spirited, and supplied with an enthusiastic vision of what Main Street could look like in its full economic glory. Luckily, one such advocate for this future was recently appointed by the Terrebonne Parish Council to this cause after he volunteered. Kevin Champagneis the head of MacDonnell Children’s Services, an organization that provides shelter and an array of other programs for youths who come from troubled homes.
Champagne voiced his support for revitalizing downtown Houma by saying, “the whole purpose of the board is for historic preservation and economic development, and those are two things that are important to me. I’m on the chamber, I’m part of the Rotary Club and just invested in the community. I grew up here and I want to make sure we leave something for my children and the community.” When asked what sparked his interest in volunteering to be a member of the downtown revitalization board, Champagne attributed the reason to his being a resident of Houma’s east side, and he wanted to ensure that his portion of the town was represented.
One potentially key milestone in the effort to reshape downtown Houma is the potential deal between the State of Louisiana and Terrebonne Parish to swap Main Street for another road, which would allow the present Main Street to no longer be plagued by heavy amounts of traffic, which according to business owners has dissuaded patrons and shoppers from the area.
The creator of House Bill 780, Rep. Tanner Magee, is an advocate for this approach since it redesigns the traffic and flow of downtown Houma, potentially setting the stage for a comeback. When speaking on this vision, Magee said, “I’m not slouching on what we currently have — I mean, Ida took a toll, but it probably wasn’t all that great before, so I think we need to get it going again. That’s kind of the dream here, to have a vibrant downtown with lots of buildings, lots of diversity, and kind of the people who work and live down here. The idea is to get all these [derelict properties] back into private hands and back into commerce, but if there’s something that’s being stuck, that this entity can buy it, maybe renovate it or even do some innovative ideas like some sort of business incubator.”
Another stakeholder in the future of downtown Houma is Parish Councilwoman Jessica Domangue, who is from Houma. Councilwoman Domangue expressed her excitement by saying, “for us as a government, Terrebonne Parishis so big and Main Street is one little piece of that, and so the focus of government cannot always be on Main Street. It’s going to bring a freshness, a new perspective because let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve been trying to do the same thing over and over and over for many years and it just hasn’t worked.”
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