Historic Miller-Roy building in downtown Monroe revitalized

The grand re-opening will be on Feb. 2, 2023, at 3 p.m.
The grand re-opening will be on Feb. 2, 2023, at 3 p.m.(Source: United Way of Northeast Louisiana)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 12:48 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 12:50 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - As renovations come to a close, a historic 1930′s building in downtown Monroe with rich African-American history will reopen to the community to offer affordable housing and a 5,000 sq. foot community resource center.

The Miller-Roy building, located at 1001 DeSiard St. in Monroe, is officially reopening with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at 3 p.m.

Dr. J.C. Roy and Dr. J.T. Miller built the Miller-Roy building in 1929. The second floor of the building was home to African-American-owned businesses including that of doctors, dentists, beauty salons, pool halls, restaurants and insurance agents. The Savoy Ballroom was located on the third floor and was even once a stop for people such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

The building thrived in the 1930′s and ‘40s, but by the 1970s, it was considered abandoned history. The Monroe City Council voted to demolish it in 2010. In 2011, though, the Miller-Roy building was put on the National Historic Register.

After 16 months of rehabilitating a once-considered uninhabitable building in significant disrepair, developers Ben Marshall and Michael Echols have completely renovated the Miller-Roy building and prepared it to be opened to the public.

The first floor has a 5,000 sq. foot resource center, which will house several nonprofit organizations. These organizations are the HOME Coalition, Ouachita Workforce Development Board 81, United Way of Northeast Louisiana, and United Way NELA 211.

The non-profits will be working to help the public with things such as access to safe and affordable financial products, asset ownership programs, credit improvement services, financial coaching and education, free tax preparation assistance, screening and referrals for homeless services, housing stability counseling, incentivized savings programs, workforce development soft skills, employment opportunities, and job training.

The second and third floors of the building consist of 18 affordable homes reserved for families earning up to 20% to 80% of the area median income.

The executive director of the HOME Coalition said housing is integral to a successful life, and the services offered in the Miller-Roy building are important in fostering a community free of homelessness.

“Stable housing is the platform for success in all areas of life. In our area, many families face homelessness because they struggle to access services at the time they most need them,” said Johnson. “The Miller-Roy complex removes that barrier by co-locating key services in the heart of Monroe. This is a vital step in our shared vision of creating a community free of homelessness where all people feel safe and valued.”

The United Way of Northeast Louisiana is a current partner of the Miller-Roy building, but their history together did not begin recently. Founded in 1956, United Way of NELA was an original collaborator with the Miller-Roy building.

President of United Way of NELA Janet Durden said their history tied to the Miller-Roy building makes the project a particularly special one.

“This revitalization project is an incredibly special one because United Way was a part of the original impact of the historic Miller-Roy Building and now we get to be a part of its future,” said Durden. “We’re thrilled that United Way’s Financial Health Center, located in the Miller-Roy building, will develop an integrated approach to improving the financial stability of Ouachita Parish residents. Community members will have access to a wide variety of services, including income support, employment and educational opportunities, asset-building services, and more. United Way is so thankful to be a part of this legacy.”

According to a press release from United Way of NELA, the rehabilitation of the Miller-Roy building is funded through a $15 million investment from the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Program, and state and federal historical tax credits. Hunt Capital Partners (HCP) provided additional funding through $6.4 million in LIHTC equity.

“Not only does the completion of the Miller-Roy building preserve its deeply rooted historical significance, but it’s also beneficial for the reinvigoration of the Monroe community,” said Dana Mayo, Executive Managing Director of Hunt Capital Partners. “We’re pleased to participate in this great development with strong partners and look forward to seeing the fruits of our collective effort shape the future for low-income families living in downtown Monroe.”

Executive Director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation Joshua G. Hollins said the renovations of the building are invaluable.

“The meticulous renovation of the historic Miller-Roy building not only offers invaluable community resources, it provides much-needed low-income housing options in downtown Monroe,” said Hollins. “The LHC is proud to have contributed $15 million in low-incoming housing tax credits and CDBG funds to this project and commends developers Ben Marshall and Michael Echols as well as the United Way on their tremendous work to bring this storied building back to life.”