Monica Hernandez /Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - Tax credits have been a major force behind many of the renovations going on in New Orleans and they could soon help revitalize the university area as well.

Jean-Paul Villere could have opened an art gallery anywhere in the city, but he decided to open one on Freret Street, because original art in a stretch of the corridor is exempt from sales tax.

'It was a catalyst for us because it became an attraction to, we can do this there as opposed to another part of our city, we thought it would impact sales,' said Villere. 'And we've had good sales, but it hasn't been the basis for our sales.'

Freret Street is part of a cultural products district that's slated to expand to a large part of the university area this summer. It would run from Carrollton to Napoleon Avenues, and from Interstate 10 to the Mississippi River. The massive designation would connect other cultural corridors in the area, including Oak, Freret, and Magazine Streets, as well as Broadmoor.

'This is another component to an already vibrant, cultural and artful city so this is going to just add another layer to that, and make it just another layer of attractiveness for the artist and art buyer,' said Villere.

But Villere, who is also a real estate agent, believes the biggest impact of the expanded cultural district would be on homes in this area. He thinks it will spur renovations and sales.

The designation would mean any home in the area over 50 years old would be eligible for state tax credits for renovations over $10,000.

'The housing stock is upwards of 100, 150 years old,' said Villere. 'It could be renovated anyway, but this will be the impetus to get people on the stick and save some money and hopefully get these houses back to their original glory.'

Mimi Odem agrees. She plans to hold off on painting her Uptown home until finds out whether the state certifies the cultural district.

'If it would connect all those neighborhoods and let us improve our homes, it sounds good to me,' said Odem. 'We're in a neighborhood that is just up and coming all the time. There are definitely still some properties could use a lot of work so that would be great.'

The city council has already approved the designation. It's slated for state certification in mid-August.

This story was developed with our partners at

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