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in Terrytown, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. (Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

When out-of-town business leaders tour Jefferson Parish to decide whether they want to set up shop and relocate their workforce, there’s one issue that seems to come up over and over again.

“They’re just not overly impressed with the way our neighborhoods look,” said Lynda Nugent Smith, a realtor and past president of the nonprofit New Orleans Education League of the Construction Industry, or NOEL.

More than half of Jefferson Parish’s housing stock was built in the 1960s and 70s?— and it’s showing its age.

But a soon-to-launch pilot program in Terrytown is hoping to make a dent in Jefferson Parish’s curb appeal by offering homeowners up to $8,500 to improve the exteriors of their homes.

The fa?ade improvement program aims to spruce up around 30 homes in the coming months with funding for landscaping, exterior painting and repairs or replacements to front doors, windows, driveways and more.

The hope is that it will demonstrate “what the neighborhood could look like if everybody invested just a little bit,” Nugent Smith said.

Marketed as a low-cost community for young families, Terrytown was the first planned development in Jefferson Parish when it was founded in 1960. Located just minutes from New Orleans, the West Bank neighborhood today has roughly 9,000 homes.

In 2020, Jefferson Parish funded the construction of a model home in Terrytown to demonstrate how a new home with modern amenities could be built in a way that complemented an existing neighborhood.

The idea came from a housing-stock enhancement plan that the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Corporation, or JEDCO, formulated in 2017 at the request of the parish.

The goal was to build additional homes. But those efforts were hampered by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which coincided with soaring construction costs and interest rates.

So, officials turned to another idea: a fa?ade improvement pilot program.

Jefferson Parish is not unlike other first-ring suburbs of major cities in that most of its single-family residences are post-World War II construction in need of significant investment, said Jerry Bologna, JEDCO’s CEO.?

Still, unlike the suburbs of other Sun Belt cities, Jefferson Parish doesn’t have an abundance of undeveloped land to construct new neighborhoods.

“We don’t look like Dallas or Atlanta,” Nugent Smith said. “When (site selectors) drive around, they see older neighborhoods … and of course what they see is the exterior.”

The application for the pilot program is expected to launch in mid-April, Nugent Smith said.

Only single-family, owner-occupied homes within the boundaries of Holmes Boulevard, Wright Avenue, Belle Chasse Highway and Behrman Highway are eligible.

Managed by NOEL, the program is funded in large part by the proceeds from the sale of the Terrytown model home that the parish built in 2020. Jefferson Parish Council members Scott Walker, Jennifer Van Vrancken and Marion Edwards are also planning to pitch in $20,000 each from their office coffers.

Nugent Smith said they hope to launch a similar pilot program in an East Bank neighborhood.

Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @blakepater.