- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

RUSTON, La. (AP) - The north Louisiana city of Ruston is looking into what city leaders call a “Downtown Living Initiative.”

The Lincoln Parish city best known in Louisiana as home to Louisiana Tech University has numerous downtown businesses that use the first floor of their buildings for retail space but have empty upstairs areas that often are only used for storage.

Mayor Ronny Walker tells The News-Star of Monroe (https://tnsne.ws/1FVsT27 ) that many of the building owners have shown interest in making such space available for renters.

A recent meeting with the State Fire Marshal’s Office brought more than 80 business and property owners from downtown along with architects and real estate agents to learn what is needed to make existing old buildings into residential spaces.

“We have a great downtown and this initiative has created a lot of buzz,” said Walker.

“I really believe if we had apartments available right now we’d have people living down here already,” Walker added.

Becky Crawford, of family owned Roger’s Furniture, said her family is considering the option of turning their upstairs space into residential living quarters.

“We’re not sure if we’ll be able to do it, but we’re playing with the idea. This is a very exciting idea and exactly what we need down here. We want this downtown area to thrive, and this is a great direction to go in,” Crawford said.

Backers of the ideal hope people living downtown would give the area an economic boost, drawing more restaurants and businesses to the area.

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Information from: The News-Star, https://www.thenewsstar.com

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