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Public officials, business leaders and concerned citizens packed Café Evangeline Wednesday for a meeting sponsored by the Evangeline Chamber of Commerce to begin a concerted effort to revitalize downtown Ville Platte. Chamber Executive Director Renee Brown thanked the huge crowd that showed up and said the plans are to “keep Ville Platte alive and growing.” One of those efforts is to keep streets clean by adopting a street each month. She is asking a different group to commit to help clean up Main Street. The group from First Baptist Church and 4-H’ers has already agreed to the cleanup effort for February. Brown called for groups and volunteers to help clean up and paint store fronts especially abandoned buildings in an effort she calls “curb appeal”. Jay Gielow, owner of Café Evangeline said he is working to bring back a “Farmers Market” to downtown Ville Platte near the Swamp Pop museum beginning in March on the third Friday of each month. There will be musical acts, vendors and he is asking shop keepers and business owners away from downtown to sponsor a “popup shop” booth at the Farmers Market. They will be charged $20 for the booth which will be used for marketing and pay for musical entertainment. Ville Platte City Councilman Mike Perron said “This was a dream for me. I have been working hard to bring improvements to Ville Platte and finally we are all coming together.” Donald Bergeron, Police Jury Secretary Treasurer, reported that President Trump has designated “opportunity zones” in low income areas for tax investments and all of Evangeline Parish has been targeted as an Opportunity Zone. Dr. William “Tojo” Ward referred the group to the efforts by the former mayor of Crowley who worked to revitalize her downtown area. He also referred to efforts now going on in Abbeville. Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine welcomed the group’s efforts and pledged the city’s backing in their project. “We want to beautify and bring people to our downtown area again.” Dr. Gwen Fontenot, of the University of Louisiana and a member of the Evangeline Parish Foundation introduced Dr. Jeff Stuart, a U.L. Professor in Marketing. Dr. Stuart, a native of Ville Platte, said he plans to work with Chamber and Foundation officials and bring some of his students to prepare a study on downtown Ville Platte and make recommendations for the committees to began acting on.

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