Monroe City Council approves purchase of former Ouachita Candy Company building

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Monroe City Council gave the green light to purchase four waterfront properties in downtown Monroe at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The board unanimously approved the $ 1.4 million acquisition of four properties on Walnut Street in downtown Monroe, one of which served as the head office of the Ouachita Candy Company.

Monroe chief economic developer Kelsea McCrary highlighted the importance of the historic building’s redevelopment.

“The decline of the community happens slowly. It happens over decades. It’s not very often that we can look back on the days when we see decisions we’ve made that contribute to it,” McCrary said. “I believe the redevelopment of this building is such a day.”

A conceptualized render shows the properties on Walnut Street in the downtown Masterplan for the Town of Monroe.

The property was built in 1920 and served as the headquarters of the Coca-Cola Bottling and the Ouachita Candy Company, both of which were owned by Joseph Biedenharn. Biedenharn was credited with being the first person to bottle Coca-Cola at his wholesale candy business in Vicksburg, Mississippi, creating the model of bottling-distributor franchises that still exist today.

Biedenharn expanded his business when he moved to Monroe in 1913 to purchase a small bottling plant to produce Coca-Cola. The wholesale distribution business covered Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.

The Walnut Street properties will be developed into a mixed-use facility. Mixed-use developments include two or more types of land use, which include housing, offices, retail, entertainment, restaurants, etc.

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New Orleans-based architectural firm Manning & Associates created conceptualized renderings of the proposed mixed-use facility.

Monroe City Council approved the $ 1.4 million purchase of four properties on Walnut Street at Tuesday night's meeting.

Ray Manning, director of Manning & Associates, said the company and the city hope to attract developers to develop the property.

“The City will enter into a public-private partnership with the developer and the developer will assume the responsibility and risk of developing the property,” Manning said. “As a result, the developer will also pay the city a land use or rental fee and this lease period could be up to 99 years. For this, he will pay the city a land rental fee and this could average between $ 100,000 and $ 300,000. ”

Manning said the sales tax during the construction period could help the city recoup its $ 1.4 million investment.

“We’re looking somewhere around the $ 35 million project and with that there will probably be around $ 1.2 to $ 1.5 million in sales tax on building materials and that will also come back to the city in the form sales tax, ”Manning said. “We also indicated in the planning that there are probably 10 to 12 retail opportunities and looking at the average sales taxes for retail institutions, they will likely bring in around $ 500,000 per year for this location. The $ 1.4 million investment will be recouped over the four years of operation of the facility.

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Roy Heatherly, President and CEO of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, showed his support for the purchase and development of the building.

“Downtown, in my opinion, is the heart of this community, and like a heart that breathes life into the body, downtown injects life into every part of the city. It breathes life into every part of the city. in all of your neighborhoods, ”Heatherly said. “This is the next step: buy this building, a public-private partnership. Not only is it the recurring income that will happen, but it’s your opportunity to control our greatest asset and say what’s in there, and that’s our river. ”

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