When Patricia Hightower, owner of Bayou Equity Mortgage, first moved into her building on historic Bayou Road, the area was blighted, and loiterers often gathered at the street’s package liquor store.
Inspired by Bayou Road’s economic history, Hightower helped start Gulf Coast Housing and Development Corporation, with the mission of revitalizing the street.
"We believed in the history of Bayou Road as an artery from the river to the lake had significance," Hightower said. "We believed we could bring it back to serious commerce."
In the late 1990s, main street organizations were mostly focused around small towns, Hightower said, but the city of Boston was using the main street concept in an urban setting that shared several commonalities with New Orleans. She decided to fly to Boston and spend a few days observing the functioning of their main street program in order to bring lessons learned back to New Orleans and Bayou Road. Hightower took tours and learned from several examples of Boston main street transformations.
With assistance from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation Resource Center, the Historic Landmarks Commission, and other community members to whom the area was important, Hightower took important steps to breathe life back into the important cultural district.
She continued to communicate with the people she met working in Boston, and received useful advice, such as expanding the revitalization area from Bayou Road to a larger Broad Street triangle. Eventually, a merchants association formed and started holding meetings at Community Book Center.
Years later, progress has been made—the liquor store is now a buffet style restaurant that attracts locals for lunch. Additional restaurants, a pet store, beauty salons, a record store, and an arts center all make Bayou Road a great place to come and spend time. The future revitalization of the historic Bayou Treme Center, streetscape enhancement projects by the city slated for the coming months, and the construction of the Lafitte Greenway expected to begin this year, will bring an added value to the historic area.
"A lot of people are not familiar with Bayou Road," Hightower said, "but when they come they find it to be very charming."
She meets clients at her office next door to the CoCo Hut restaurant by appointment, getting most referrals from the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, and online.
Bayou Equity Mortgage is a residential mortgage lender, with loan products including conventional, FHA, VA, 203K, IRRLS, and reverse mortgages. Loans are available for purchase and refinancing. Office hours are by appointment only at 2511 Bayou Road, Suite D. For more information, visit Bayou Equity.