Many say the Bloom’s Arcade is the nation’s first indoor mall. Located in Tallulah, La., the building housed a row of shops along its main, 300-foot-long promenade starting in the 1920s before sitting largely unused and neglected for 25 years.
Last year, Brownstone Affordable Housing, part of The Brownstone Group, transformed the building into 30 affordable apartments while maintaining the mall’s historic character. Developers were required to retain the basic layout of each store’s original walls or show where they used to be. They kept the mall’s distinct storefront glass design, preserved or re-created Art Deco carvings throughout, and repaired the original terrazzo floor.
The exterior has been restored to look much like it did in its heyday, including new signs that mirror the originals. In a town that has had little housing development recently, Bloom’s Apartments provides needed one- and two-bedroom units for households earning no more than 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income.
“The town needed someone to come in and get started again with revitalization,” says Jeremy Mears, vice president of Brownstone. The firm has helped the city create a cultural district that will let other buildings access key redevelopment funds.
The $6.8 million Bloom’s Apartments was financed with a blend of federal low-income housing tax credits and federal and state historic tax credits.