Saturday, May 28, 2011

Downtown Developments and Planning Process for a "Shreveport Common" discussed with DDA and SRAC Directors at Last Meeting

ABetterShreveport’s mission is to increase the quality of life in our city by promoting the best practices that been evidenced in other cities and through research. One characteristic of cities where residents tend to report high levels of satisfaction with their quality of life is a densely populated downtown where people live, work, shop, and recreate. In many ABS discussions people have noted they would live in Shreveport’s downtown if there were certain additional amenities there, such as a grocery store, a large bookstore, other substantial retail outlets, greenspace useable for recreation, and more housing options. Monday’s meeting concerned two different types of developments that could produce such amenities.

Minutes by Loren Demerath.

In attendance: Loren Demerath, Steph Pedro, Carolyn Manning, Randy Ross, Robert Trudeau, Wendy Benscoter, Pam Atchison, Liz Swaine, David Nelson, April Dahm, Jennette Ginsburg, Cynthia Keith, Brian Salvatore, David Young, Jack Waterman, Maurice Loridans, Roger Barnes, Susan Keith


New people were chatted with before the meeting started. Loren talked with Roger Barnes, a civil engineer in town who says he has been reading the ABS blog for some time (which was gratifying to hear) was glad to be able to make it to his first meeting.

Carolyn and Loren also met Randy Ross for whom it was also his first meeting. Randy sells rare books and has moved here from Austin to be near family. And, yes, he likes Shreveport. He and Loren and Carolyn all noted the “Shreveportitis” of negativity some folks seem to have. A hobby of Randy’s is studying the local history of modern architecture in the city, and Carolyn and Loren persuaded him to be a guest some time soon on “Time for ABetterShreveport” (Monday’s at 5 on KSCL 91.3) to talk about it.


To begin the meeting people introduced themselves and described the stake they have in downtown, the role they see themselves as possibly having in improving it, and their whine about something with which they’re dissatisfied.
Loren Demerath: resident, lack of family recreation opportunities, wants to help shape it
Steph Pedro: an urban planner, only whine that its not happening fast enough.
Carolyn Manning: lives downtown and can walk safely at night, not enough opportunities to live and shop downtown, wants to help make us more of a boutique city
Randy Ross: listener and observer for the evening
Robert Trudeau: wants to see change; a bike rider for transportation and city blogger, want to move things forward
Wendy Benscoter: long time passion for the city, has adult children; working with SRAC on development grants and is at the meeting to do due diligence and to listen to everyone; noted that people should let it happen
Pam Atchison: as SRAC Director is behind the “Central Art Station” that will become of the old Central Fire Station on Common St., culture is critical to a city’s economy but noted it is often the last thing funded and first thing cut, wants to be a match-maker over Shreveport Common.
Liz Swaine: prior to being the DDA Director was often downtown and long wondered why it wasn’t better; noted many things are outside of our control
Dave Nelson: works and lives downtown and a property owner, not enough people downtown, can develop some places for people to live and help increase programming for downtown.
April Dahm: fell in love with downtown since moving here 7 years ago; role was first through ABS Downtown, then through co-founder of TACA to revitalize the Texas Ave. area; Texas Ave and Street are different.
Jennette Ginsberg: grew up in Shreveport, dad owned pawn shop on Texas St. and remembers having to close it and the sadness of that area not working; satisfying to work on improving the area; for downtown would like to see more bike lanes and racks and a grocery store; will be working downtown at Sciport this summer.
Cynthia Keith: taught 4th grade for many years and long dreamed of working downtown and now does at the courthouse and imagines the buildings outside when they were inhabited and full; wants to breath life into them again; hard task with asbestus and damage done to structures; trying to start dog park
Brian Salvatore: chemistry prof at LSUS, been here for 8 years; has faith in the city and sees smart people everywhere but notes we’re not all alligned; the people in their 70’s and 80’s have wisdom to give; wants to try to get to know more people and bring people together
David Young: lived here for all his life and notes its not the same Shreveport; we’ve been good at planning but not implementing; says: I’m in; invested with family and work and is engaged; many friends have moved away; noted that the community looks different from this group
Jack Waterman: from Shreveport, now a Tulane architecture student; downtown hasn’t reached its potential; can bring New Orleans labelling ideas to here
Maurice Loridans: attorney and downtown worker; swore off cars since Katrina; has lived in New Orleans and Mexico and knows there’s a viable lifestyle w/out cars; builds and loans bikes to anyone who’ll use them; a statewide advocate on bike issues
Roger Barnes: engineer working in Shreveport for many years, sees potential for revitalization, can help with reuse and sustainability
Susan Keith: retiring teacher at Magnet this year, has been working for the Coates Bluff group, nothing to whine about!


Liz Swaine reported on recent development about downtown news. Some of the old buildings have recently sold. The hardware building is in the process of being developed into loft style apartments by Provident Reality, a company that knows how to do that kind of thing. However, If the historic tax credit (1960 or older) dies this year they will walk away from it and it won’t get done. Potentially these buildings often have many issues, and deep pockets are necessary to address them. Owning an old building sounds great but not everyone can and should do it. January 2012 would be its opening, fingers crossed. Bill Pogue is going through the process of developing the “Lake Street Dance Hall” after some holdups with permits. Hopes to open a restaurant and jazz club. (ABS heard Pogue speak at a meeting earlier this year and subsequently wrote a letter of support for his kind of building in downtown where mixed-use is important.) The Allen Building has been bought to be the headquarters of Southern Nursing. The Sears Building and the Beard Buildings (one with the roof caved in) have also been bought; hopefully we’ll see a grocery store in one of the buildings; there are plans to build 60 loft style apartments as well.

At the mention of the possibility of a grocery store, Loren noted that whenever Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are mentioned are mentioned in ABS discussions there is loud and enthusiastic hopes expressed that something like that will come to town. Wendy said other communities have worked to get a local business be successful in that niche, and the bigger franchise eventually comes in and buys them out. Loren recalled an ABS meeting some years ago with Gregory Kallenberg, who’s worked in developing real estate for Whole Foods, and Stanton Dossett, who’s done similar work, and remembers him Gregory saying that Whole Foods would never come here because we don’t have the demographic profile they look for (Loren can’t remember the details). Liz has also heard they’ll never come here from others but she has seen the population minimums and sales tax numbers they supposedly need and yet they’ve just moved in to Lafayette. She’s Arlena Acree that she needs to call them again to make our case again more strongly.
Liz also noted other downtown development news: the new performance center at Methodist Church; the Jodi Wagner Center planned for Louisiana College, and they could add other schools related to movies or medicine; over by Crockett there are other properties being bought; the Red River District was held up a bit with El Dorado’s negotiations. Overall, Liz noted more activity than she’s ever seen downtown.

Carolyn mentioned another building on Texas St. that’s going to be a spa and amother things; it’s the old Jordan and Booth building.

Jack Waterman commented it was great that we were getting this news here, but asked if there was a web site people could go to generally to see properties and ownership. Liz said they are working on their web site and it will be done soon.


Pam Atchison described the history and background of SRAC’s work trying to develop the area around the Central Fire Station. Pam described how their headquarters burned down due to arson and that has led to plans for their new headquarters to be located in a renovated Central Fire Station, and for a green space and transit hub to be located behind the new headquarters. One of the goals is to develop that area and offer market value housing.

One of the concerns of ABetterShreveport has been that the plan serve community needs and that the community be able to shape the plan. Pam noted that there is a Shreveport Common facebook page that allows for feedback and comments. Steph, April, David and Liz are all on the advisory committee.

Pam reviewed the history of the development of the grant and the redevelopment of the Arts Council. The Mayor wanted to take advantage of the situation and develop the cultural economy. The four conditions of designing the new headquarters is that its development must serve artists using no extra city funds, it must develop the area around the Texas Ave., Common St. and Cotton St. triangle (known in the tentative plan as Shreveport Common), must have a gateway, and must jumpstart cultural economy.

Pam passed out a photograph with a red line demarcating a nine block rectangle, the larger area they hope to shape into an arts district.

Pam described receiving the $100,000 grant for a vision plan. It is to be finished on June 1; presented to council June 14, June 17 is tax credit workshop, and the vision is presented to the public June 18 from 9 to 2. On the 18th people will be able to walk through a hypothetical Common. Artists will develop installations to show how the implementation will look. From June 18 to July 15 the public will respond. The design team will have two weeks to respond to it.
Pam noted that SRAC has received large grants from the NEA and has received an award from the APA and on that heritage has developed this project. They’ve knocked on over 60 doors and held listening sessions. Loren pointed out that a lot of supposed citizen participation in planning does not result in citizens actually shaping the project. (For those interested, the classic study is by Arnstein, and the cite is as follows: Arnstein, Sherry R. "A Ladder of Citizen Participation," JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224.) Loren noted that just because there are listening sessions being held doesn’t mean that information collected is going to be used. Liz asked if Loren as “accusing” SRAC of not listening, but Loren said we don’t know if it will be used or not. (In subsequent conversations with Liz and Wendy, Loren said what he was getting at was how it’s less likely that listening sessions will be useful if there is no experienced urban planner facilitating them and guiding the process, even despite the best of intentions.) Pam noted that there were two urban planners that would be conducting a planning audit after the process is finished. Loren said he thought such an audit could not used for the planning process itself; that it would happen after the listening sessions have occurred and the plan had been created.

Carolyn asked if we’re building an additional homeless shelter by building a large bus shelter where there are not a lot of people now. She noted that as a downtown resident she’s seen the possibility of that.

Pam noted that It is not seen as a building; but it is a permanent structure, like the tent-like structure Sportran has at its main terminal; Will Loe said they can be expensive because of their materials even though it is an open structure. Pam noted that it hasn’t been designed yet, but its intent is to protect the people using it. Maurice pointed out that as a cyclist who uses the route every day it’s a “squeeze point” that might make it worse. Pam said it might allow people to park and ride. Pam also noted that the energy of it, though, maybe should go more towards Elvis Presley Blvd.
Susan asked about plans in the Blue Goose Area and Pam said they’ve met with Askari Hinton and Allan Dyson, his architect. The feeling is to get this area developed first and then maybe build a bridge over the railroad to that area.

Jennette asked about the anticipated time line for construction. Also, is there a regional or national call out for artists and is there a chance that local professionals to participate that otherwise might get left out of employment opportunities. Pam said the time line is dependent on getting the NEA Design Grant. If it goes through the Common Link can be built straight from the design that would be designed by June 30 2012. There would be two local artists in addition to any other artists. Two positions local at 10,000 each; 10 artists at 1,000 each to design bike racks. Sportran does have money to build bus stops, but a grant needs to written to get it.

Pam noted that this plan should launch a way to have better bus stops by researching the best practices.

Pam noted that JMC Art Partners are planners on the grant; they’ll be planning the symposium and are the number one recommended transportation planners. This will allow a well-planned shelter that will provide a model for shelters elsewhere in the city.

Steph asked us to imagine the link being there and us using it. Would we ride a bike or drive to the common link and then use it? Most of the people in this group don’t live in west Shreveport but those are the only places that the routes go to from the common link. It’s not needed now but would in the future with higher density. Liz said that day is very close. Maurice said he’s seen many people move to outskirts for work because of parking. What we could use is a free shuttle that circulates downtown; Denver has one. Steph noted it’s good have these conversation about what it would take for a person to use the bus or live downtown, and that it’s especially good to have them in public meetings like this.

Pam noted that planners for the common (vs. the common link); may say these things don’t work; in her discussions with Gene Eddy rerouting is possible. It was noted though that ABS has tried to get rerouting and hasn’t been successful.

The meeting ended at 7:40, the end having been extended during the meeting to fit in time for discussion.

Next week’s meeting will again be at Centenary’s Hurley Music School, room 201 from 6 to 7. The topics will be the Kings Highway & Youree Drive intersection redesign and renovation, the work towards a Woodlawn pedestrian bridge over Pierre Bayou, and Jennette’s survey results for building the capacity of ABS.

No comments: