This story appeared in the December/January issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
by Amanda Lanata, Louisiana Main Street Assistant Director. (Header image: Hosts of HGTV’s Home Town Kickstart Ben and Erin Napier visited six small towns across the United States to re-energize their revitalization efforts. Photo courtesy of Discovery Communications, Inc.)
The popular HGTV renovation series Home Town spotlighted Minden in the final episode of its Home Town Kickstart spinoff series on May 29, 2022. What happened after the makeovers by HGTV stars? Home Town is a top-10 cable program, so did the national television exposure help Minden? Did the show deliver on its goal to “kickstart” the community revitalization?
Kickstart undoubtedly boosted Minden’s revitalization efforts, building on years of work. Minden has been a designated Louisiana Main Street community since 1987. With its charming brick streets and diverse business mix, downtown enjoyed very low vacancy rates and had seen strong progress over the years.
Reinvestment statistics reported to our office show that Kickstart generated strong investment downtown, both directly through the renovation projects and indirectly, as property owners spruced up in preparation for the TV cameras. From January through June 2022, downtown logged $308,192 in private and public investment, with three net new businesses and eight net new jobs. Also, two previously vacant spaces have been put back into commerce.
One of those businesses is Parish Design Co., started by Rachel Miller, who helped nominate Minden for the HGTV show. “We’d been wanting to do it for a long time and decided to seize the moment of the show,” Miller said. “We’ve seen people from South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas and Tennessee.” Miller located the business in a previously vacant space that had been used for storage. The building owners supported the idea, renovating the space and bringing it up to code. It’s now generating foot traffic and sales tax revenue for Minden.
Another vacant building downtown is being converted into lofts: the former Rock Hotel site/Peoples Bank building. A Louisiana Main Street Restoration Grant will support exterior restoration work on the building. Other upcoming projects include an ice cream shop, wine and cigar bar, and Brick Street Coffee.
Bottom line: Kickstart has accelerated Minden’s growth. “You see pride in downtown, and spaces getting some love,” Miller said. “I’m excited to see the long-term impact of what Kickstart did.”
With its charming brick streets and diverse business mix, downtown Minden enjoys very low vacancy rates and had seen strong growth over the years.
Other towns featured in Home Town and its spin-offs have seen large increases in tourism. “We saw a big influx of visitors last spring when the show premiered,” said Serena Gray, executive director of the Webster Parish Convention & Visitors Commission, “and we continue to see upticks whenever Minden’s episode is re-aired.”
Another person keeping tabs on visitation is Sara McDaniel, who worked with Miller to nominate Minden for Kickstart. “We have seen travelers coming from all over the country. They want to see places from the show,” McDaniel said. “Our proximity to Laurel, Miss., helps; we get visitors going to multiple communities featured in Home Town.”
McDaniel is working to develop Minden as a destination. She recently opened The Villas at Spanish Court, a boutique short-term rental located one block from the downtown district. “We’re creating opportunities and experiences to bring them to Minden and keep them here,” McDaniel said.
One of the show’s lasting impacts is Miller Quarters Park. Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau had already purchased 11 acres of overgrown property behind City Hall, with plans for an outdoor space to host festivals and events. Gray pitched the idea to HGTV producers, and Miller Quarters was featured as the public space makeover. That was only the start. In March, the CVB announced that architecture students from Louisiana Tech University will create a master plan for the park. Tech’s Community Design Activism Center gives students hands-on experience and supports communities with design projects.
“Over time, these partnerships will strengthen the project, and everyone will feel like they had a hand in it,” Gray said. The park’s first major event took place on April 22 with the Scottish Tartan Festival.
“There’s a lot of positive things happening in Minden,” said Mahala Hutto, who retired as Minden Main Street director in February. “Young people are getting involved and moving it forward.” However, the success of Home Town Kickstart is bittersweet. Mayor Terry Gardner was diagnosed with cancer shortly before the premiere and passed away just a month later. Gardner’s company had rehabilitated several downtown buildings, and he’s featured on the show.
But this work is inspiring others. “We’re seeing people step up,” Miller said. “The show has inspired locals who cared about Minden but didn’t know where to start.” The work of revitalization never truly ends.
“We’re not done yet,” McDaniel said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. I truly feel like we’re just getting started.”
The Louisiana Office of Cultural Development’s Division of Historic Preservation is located in Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser’s Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism. Visit Louisianahp.org for information on the Main Street program, as well as all programs administered by the Division.