A new cultural arts district is coming to the south side of Monroe.
The Monroe City Council voted to approve a resolution to create the Divine Nine Cultural Arts District in Monroe at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Divine Nine Cultural Arts District will be located in District 5 and encompass an area from west of Wossman High School to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. The creation of the district was proposed by Councilwoman Kema Dawson Robinson, who represents District 5.
The cultural arts district will offer historic tax credits for the rehabilitation of older buildings and tax exemptions for original works of art sold. Robinson said the cultural arts district will help with community revitalization.
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“It’s going to help with tax incentives for properties that are over 50 years old whether it’s a home or business,” Robinson said. “Any type of historic landmark with revitalization, if they want to restore a building or do some remodeling, it’ll give those buildings and building owners tax credits and incentives to restore our neighborhood.”
Robinson said she chose to name the district in honor of the many constituents within District 5 who are members of historically black fraternities and sororities.
“I thought of all of the people who are in the Divine Nine in District 5,” Robinson said. “Everybody has somebody whether they’re a friend, a family member or themselves who are in the Divine Nine so I wanted to have a name that kind of meant something to the community.”
The term “Divine Nine,” a registered trademark of the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC), refers to the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities in the country: Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity,Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority,Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and Iota Phi Theta fraternity.
Robinson said she and Mayor Friday Ellis met with representatives of the National Panhellenic Council to talk about city’s intentions of using the trademark for a cultural arts district.
“We gave them a proposal and told them about what we planned to do with revitalizing the community and they approved it,” Robinson said. “I think it’s going to be great because this will be the first one in the history of the Divine Nine of someone doing something like this. I think it’ll be good for us to leave a lasting impression in the Black community because we really don’t have too much here in Monroe.”
Ralph Johnson, Area 4 coordinator for the National Panhellenic Council, was present at Tuesday night’s meeting. Johnson said the National Executive Board and the nine Council presidents, each representing a Black Greek lettered organization, voted unanimously to support the application for the cultural arts district.
Though local chapters of the Divine Nine organizations are not obligated to participate, Robinson said she hopes to incorporate local chapters to start a lasting legacy in the community.
“It’s nothing that the Divine Nine really have to do unless they take part in some of our cleanups or community efforts with events,” Dawson said. “I’m really thinking if we get the cultural arts district approved, we can start something for the Divine Nine like a festival or something we can continue for years to come.”
The city will officially apply with the Louisiana Culture Districts Program to establish the Divine Nine Cultural District as a state-certified cultural district.
The Louisiana Culture Districts Program was created by Act 298 of the 2007 Regular Session of the legislature. The primary goal of the initiative is to spark community revitalization based on cultural activity, technical assistance and resources.
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