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Monday, Nov. 20, 2017

Bossier East Bank Reopening

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Bossier re-envisioned for parking, biking and gathering

Bossier City’s downtown makeover will get its first formal unveiling on Nov. 25 as Mayor Lorenz Walker cuts the ribbon on the Bossier Reenvisioning Project.

After delays that had some merchants and customers unhappy, Barksdale Boulevard has been transformed, according to Bossier City CAO Pam Glorioso, to make the area more attractive to the people the city was hoping to attract. “It’s kind of hard to have a pedestrian-friendly downtown with a five-lane highway going through it,” she said.

The need to make the area pedestrian friendly became apparent to city planners when they were competing to bring the Integrated Technology Center facility to Bossier. Run by CRSA, the facility is staffed primarily by millennials, and that demographic looks for certain amenities in the communities to which they are drawn, Glorioso explained. Those amenities include a vibrant downtown.

“What we were able to do is take the footprint of Barksdale Boulevard and redesign it down to have wider sidewalks with landscaping, bike lanes, and two vehicular lanes down the center of it,” Glorioso said. “We had the footprint where the old Bossier Bank and Trust building used to be. We said let’s do something with that to make it the nucleus of [the area] with a small plaza, knowing full well we didn’t want a festival center. We didn’t want anything to compete with Festival Plaza in Shreveport. But we knew we had small events we could host here with the [Bossier] Arts Council and other communitybased groups here.”

Terry Matthews of Gumbeaux Event Productions has been tasked with programming the events. “The plaza itself is an attraction,” Matthews said. “If you’re familiar with old downtown Bossier, what the city has done with it is kind of a diamond in the rough.” She said new developments were coming, and new tenants and older tenants were getting makeovers Starting at 3 p.m. on Nov. 25, the grand opening will get under way to christen the remodeled downtown. “We want people to come out and see what the district and the plaza and the merchants down there are all about,” Matthews said. “We’re going to have food trucks and artists and vendor tents and children’s activities, and bands.”

In July, The Forum contacted several businesses along Barksdale, where the construction had been ongoing for over a year. Kathleen Hemphill, co-owner of Hoot and Holler Archery, estimated the construction work had caused a drop in their business of about 20 perceny. She was concerned about the upcoming hunting season that opened in October.

“The majority of our business, at least two-thirds, happens in August, September and October,” she explained. She added that if the roadwork kept customers away during that period, it would be critical. “If our customers can’t get here in those times, it’s really going to put us in a bind.”

Down the street at Oh So Designs and Embroidery, owner Sandra Slaughter said the biggest issues she faced were inconvenience and access for her customers and suppliers. At one point, she said, the front of her store was impassable, so she had to open the rear of the store for customer entry. “I didn’t reazlly appreciate that because the back of my building is not where I want to receive customers,” she said.

With the bulk of the work done, Slaughter said she is pleased, although some of the improvements to Barksdale Boulevard proved to be a headache. Slaughter said the lack of cuts in the bicycle lanes made crossing the street difficult for some customers and for deliveries.

In the heart of the action is the Bossier Arts Council at 601 Barksdale Blvd. Executive Director Robin Jones is happy to see the project reaching this stage. “We’re excited it’s done. The Plaza looks great. It’s actually quite stunning at night with the lights and the platforms,” she said.

Glorioso admitted that the work was a hardship for some, but most of the occupants along the route were supportive throughout the process. “We did disturb the [existing] businesses along there, there’s no argument about that. But I think that after it’s all said and done, they’re going to reap the benefits. People are going to want to come down there and be a part of it.” She said she foresees other private businesses taking note of the synergy in the revitalized area and wanting to become a part of it.

“A lot of good things are happening. It might not be happening as fast as people would like, but I think the fact that they’re happening is great.”

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