No-interest loans available for economic development

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

EDGARD — St. John the Baptist Parish is offering partially forgivable, zero percent interest loans of up to $50,000 to spur targeted redevelopment projects with a positive visual impact.

Replacement of commercial signs, re-pavement and reduction of parking lots with water management features and façade improvements are among the eligible projects in local historic districts. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $50,000, with up to 40 percent loan forgiveness.

Those interested are invited to attend an informational meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. this evening (Wednesday) at the Ronald Borne Sr. Library in Edgard.

Loan applications close at the end of September and funds will be awarded in late October, according to René Pastorek, director of Planning and Zoning for St. John Parish.

He said the initial information session, held last month in LaPlace, had a strong turnout of interested applicants ready to move forward with their respective projects.

“The goals of the program are to encourage resilient projects that accelerate economic activity within key corridors of the parish where other projects and improvements are being made,” Pastorek said.

“The improvements will benefit the parish overall because it gives private property owners and business owners a chance to improve their property in line with the major resiliency policies and projects that the parish has taken over the last five, six years.”

Among those resiliency projects is the LA SAFE Airline and Main Street project, which will utilize native landscaping to better manage storm drainage. In doing so, the goal is to promote economic development in a business corridor relatively safe from flood risk, according to LA SAFE organizers.

The LA SAFE project and other risk-reduction measures came into focus after flooding from Hurricane Isaac devastated the area.

St. John Parish officials also seek to preserve historic buildings, sites and landmarks through the Historic District Commission. New business growth in historic areas is encouraged when deemed appropriate for the surrounding areas.

Pastorek said a business owner in a historic district might consider installing rain gardens for improved athletics and drainage capabilities.

Façade improvements are only eligible for loans in the Historic Districts of LaPlace, Reserve, Garyville and River Road (Edgard, Lucy, and Wallace).

Sign replacements and parking reductions/re-pavement are targeted along the Major Corridor Overlay District but are also eligible in historic districts. The Major Corridor Overlay District includes the following commercial corridors: Airline Highway, Main Street, Belle Terre Boulevard and Woodland Drive.

Partially forgivable loans must be paid back within a three-year timeline, Pastorek said, adding project construction can begin as early as spring 2020.

“We’re looking to get projects constructed relatively quickly,” he said.

Other loan opportunities will be available in the future, funded through repayments from the Community Block Development Grant small business loan program.

“The parish is going to continue to receive repayments from that funding source for the next several years,” Pastorek said. “We should see projects being implemented continually.”

The South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) will assist the Parish in underwriting borrowers and administering the loan program. GCR, Inc. will handle all marketing and outreach.

For general questions about the program, please contact SCPDC at 1-800-630-3791 or by email at For project-specific questions, contact St. John Planning and Zoning at 985-651-5565. Should additional assistance be required, representatives of the Planning and Zoning Department will be available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Parish Government Complex, located at 1811 W. Airline Highway. Interested applicants can also learn more about the program by visiting the Parish website at