City of Donaldsonville receives 2021 National Main Street accreditation

Staff Report

The City of Donaldsonville Downtown Development District / Main Street Program has been designated as an accredited Main Street program for meeting performance standards.

Construction crews have been working on the historic B. Lemann and Bro. building in Donaldsonville over recent months. This scene was captured in late April.

Each year, Main Street America and its partners announce the list of accredited programs to recognize their exceptional commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach.

“We are proud to recognize this year’s 889 nationally accredited Main Street programs that have worked tirelessly to advance economic vitality and quality of life in their downtowns and commercial districts,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America.

“During an incredibly challenging year, these programs demonstrated the power of the Main Street movement to drive impressive local recovery efforts, champion small businesses, and foster vibrant downtown districts. I am inspired by their hard work and confident that these accredited communities will continue to help their downtowns flourish in the next stages of recovery.”

In 2020, Main Street America programs generated $4.14 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 4,356 net new businesses, generated 14,988 net new jobs, catalyzed the rehabilitation of 8,488 historic buildings, and clocked 983,702 volunteer hours.

The Donaldsonville Downtown Development District’s performance is annually evaluated by Louisiana Main Street, which works in partnership with Main Street America to identify the local programs that meet 10 national performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building meaningful and sustainable revitalization programs and include standards such as, fostering strong public-private partnerships, documenting programmatic progress, and actively preserving historic buildings.

“The Donaldsonville Downtown Development District / Donaldsonville Main Street Program has consistently earned this prestigious designation for over 15 years for the work they do to promote the City of Donaldsonville,” said Mayor Leroy Sullivan. 

“The commission actively engage in providing site selection for developers and investors, offer programs, events, festivals, and collaborate with small business development organizations, the Donaldsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission, and other nationally accredited Main Street Programs across the country to further their mission to revitalize and preserve historic downtown Donaldsonville which has had a positive impact on development throughout our City,” he said. “I appreciate the efforts of the staff and volunteer commissioners who have made this well-deserved recognition possible and from their plans, I can see there is much more positive recognition to come.”

The Downtown Development District is operated in the Mayor’s Office of Community and Economic Development and this year was selected as the only program to be admitted into the prestigious University of Texas at Austin’s XLR8 Program for excellence in Strategic Planning. 

The committee led by the city’s Director of Community Economic Development, Lee Melancon, partnered with Juanita Pearley, Executive Director of the Donaldsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kate MacArthur, President and CEO of Ascension Economic Development Program.

Recently, the city updated its ordinance reflecting the roles and responsibilities of the DDDD and welcomed new volunteer commissioners led by Chair Bianca Phillips, local business owner, resident, and Branch Manager of Hancock Whitney Bank located in Donaldsonville. 

Other members of the commission include Vice Chair Megan Phillips, Secretary Derrick Sanchez, Treasurer Juanita Pearley, and Commissioners-at-Large, Oliver Joseph, James Neville, Scott Charleville, Natalie Noel, James Moore, and Reagan Katz.

“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our program and look forward to launching the new strategic plan which was adopted by the City Council earlier this month,” said Bianca Phillips.

“We have worked tirelessly to ‘re-think’ the role of the commission and Main Street program as ‘event planners’ and are focusing much more heavily on attracting developers and investors to our community as well as encouraging our local owners to ‘re-invest’ into the city,” she said.

“We are proud to partner with the numerous developers who have announced restorations and new development into the District and have numerous additional announcements to make once they are solidified,” said Megan Philips, Vice Chair of the commission. “There is no doubt, everyone has noticed all the new construction, restoration and investment occurring in the City in particular, the downtown area, which we have learned and realize that communities across this nation are bringing people back to downtown,” she said. 

“We will soon be launching a mural design concept challenge and have proposed to have the concept mural created on the side of one of our local businesses to offer a backdrop for visitors to remember their visit to Donaldsonville and tell the story of our past as well as our future,” she concluded.

“We know that bringing more residents to live and shop in the ‘heart of community’ (downtown) that we will continue to see positive growth around the district,” Pearley said. “It is happening every day already.”

“Since 2015, developers have been awarded over one-half million dollars in grant funds through national, regional, and statewide grant programs to redevelop historic and abandoned buildings,” Melancon said. “Additionally, local commercial business owners have earned over 5 million dollars in tax credit programs; one of the largest users of tax credit programs in Louisiana for our size. We are now incredibly enthusiastic to lend our support to the numerous developments including the B. Lemann and Brothers project, the Noel Distillery, La Cocina Restaurant, four additional new local businesses, four historic nonprofit preservation projects, a large-scale tourism program, and numerous residential restoration projects which total nearly 20 million investment dollars and have and continue to create jobs; many are hiring today.” 

“While the pandemic set us back tremendously in our efforts – as it has for other communities, we remain dedicated and focused on continuing our revitalization efforts; we will let nothing stand in the way of accomplishing these goals,” he concluded.

“Soon, downtown Donaldsonville will forever be transformed,” said District 5 City Councilman Michael Sullivan. “I am personally leading a beautification committee to clean areas located in and around the district. We began with replacing the bulbs on the historic Donaldsonville River Walk, which we will be naming later this year and are continuing with revitalizing welcome and wayfinding signage, landscapes, decorative pole banners, and lighting in the park and green spaces.”

“We are sincerely appreciative of the partnership with the mayor, the city leadership, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission, the Donaldsonville Historic District Commission, local investors, realtors, and all the supporting partners who make the Downtown Development District successful.”