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BY JESSICA WILLIAMS | JWILLIAMS@THEADVOCATE.COM DEC 9, 2017 - 9:30 PM

A program that offers a three-to-one match to business owners who spruce up their storefronts will be expanded next year to include properties along sections of North Broad Street, St. Bernard Avenue, Basin Street and Alcee Fortier Boulevard, officials with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority said at a board meeting this month. 

The agency's Façade Renew program pays 75 percent of the cost of restoring eligible historic storefronts. 

The program now is limited to businesses on sections of Bayou Road, St. Claude Avenue, Old Gentilly Road and Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

 

The expanded program, which will launch in January, will focus on the additional corridors and will not be limited to historic properties. 

Since the program's inception, NORA has awarded about $1.4 million in federal grants to restore the façades of 45 businesses; about $895,000 has actually been spent so far.

The agency plans to use $1.7 million in proceeds from property auctions to pay for the new grants.  

Eligible applicants will be expected to present their proposals by June, said Melissa Lee, NORA’s senior adviser for commercial revitalization. Grantees will have until October 2019 to complete their projects.

Meanwhile, the authority will also try to unload 30 commercially zoned properties next year by soliciting proposals from developers, with potential incentives available for projects that would benefit low- to moderate-income areas.

NORA will separately apply for state funding to help build up to 10 affordable houses near Dr. King Charter School's campus in the Lower 9th Ward. Critics have called on the agency to offer more homes for sale in that area.

In time for the city’s tricentennial next year, the agency also will temporarily make available properties that can be used for art installations and other projects that celebrate the occasion.

In addition, it will tweak its Growing Green and Lot Next Door programs, based on feedback from residents.

The Growing Green program makes properties available for urban agriculture projects, while the Lot Next Door program allows homeowners to purchase NORA-owned lots next to their properties.

NORA is the city agency tasked with bringing blighted properties back into commerce. It auctions properties and offers construction financing to support the creation of market-rate and affordable housing. It also offers incentives for commercial development in certain areas.

In 2018, the agency is expected to own about 1,800 properties, including 1,550 properties once connected to the Road Home program, the federal-state program created after Hurricane Katrina to help affected homeowners recover by rehabilitating their homes or turning them over to the state.

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