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Monday, June 18, 2018

City of Shreveport Paves the Way

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The construction of The Common is under way

The city of Shreveport approved $1.2 million to begin construction on the 2.4- acre, active urban greenspace, The Common, located in the heart of Shreveport Common.

Mayor Ollie S. Tyler led the effort to get the reimbursement of funds from the Economic Development Administration to be used for a shovel-ready project in our city. The project she selected from the reimbursement of these funds was The Common.

“This nine-block revitalization project is destined to move the western edge of our downtown from long neglect and blight to a vibrant, bright, uncommon cultural community,” said Mayor Tyler. “It is our first downtown neighborhood conceived through creative placemaking, which will serve as a connector between our HUD CHOICE neighborhoods of Allendale and Ledbetter Heights and the Downtown Business District.”

The Common Urban Greenspace will be the bustling gathering space – envisioned in the 2030 Great Expectations Master Plan and the 2012 Shreveport Common Vision Plan – where all will gather together to celebrate the authentic heritage of this richly cultural area in the heart of Shreveport.

Mayor Tyler included The Common, with its centerpiece greenspace, in her Strategic Plan for advancing the city of Shreveport. Currently, the proposed park is a triangle comprised of 10 broken concrete slabs in an area that is transforming from a chasm of blight between Shreveport’s downtown business district and Ledbetter Heights to a vibrant area that attracts millennials and active seniors.

The new design uses the $1.2 million for the demolition of the concrete lots and the dilapidated former Commercial College building, and the construction of the park infrastructure with its sustainable water irrigation bioswale system, “Great Lawn,” Food Truck Cafe area, walking paths and a Louisiana Garden with a babbling brook.

Research demonstrates that The Common urban green space will have a significant impact in the area. A TMG Real Estate Market Study (2014) verifies the viability of 222 new rental units and 12 new businesses based on the development; and the resulting new residential and commercial spaces in Shreveport Common have an expected $46.8 million short-term (three years) and $271.6 million (in 10 years) economic impact in the immediate area (IMPACT DataSource 2015).

The city has made substantial investment in the area – $12 million in infrastructure improvements of important public venues and streets (Municipal Auditorium, Grand Promenade, Oakland Cemetery and Central Fire Station to the Central ARTSTATION, ASEANA gardens and other infrastructure) and has packaged adjudicated properties for redevelopment – and data shows that the development of the “The Common” will continue the momentum.

Additionally, private property owners and donors have invested $27 million in the area. District B Councilman Jeff Everson, whose district encompasses downtown, has supported Mayor Tyler in her efforts to advance this project. He has also worked with the Shreveport Common Board of Directors since the inception of the project.

“Sixty percent of the buildings were unoccupied when we started, many are historic and on the state’s most endangered building list. Today, 60 percent of the buildings are occupied, and construction is nearing completion on several other buildings – that will bring occupancy to 70 percent expected by early next year,” Councilman Everson said. “We’ve gone from 22 adjudicated properties to zero. Importantly, property values have already increased 30 percent, after a 20-year decline. This administration has made major progress to bring the vision to reality, and the repurposing of remaining EDA grant funds to build The Common signals a giant step forward for Shreveport Common. We are going to transform blight to create new energy and enthusiasm for downtown.”

The city and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council are committed to creating unprecedented activities such as concerts, storytelling events, arts markets, fitness programs from yoga to dance lines around the park, and community events that make The Common the best place in the region to “stumble upon the fun!”

Shreveport Common is featured by MIT Department of Urban Planning as a Top 10 Community and “leader in creative placemaking,” and Shreveport Common was voted the 2015 Most Outstanding Community Development Project in the Nation by the National Development Council, Washington, D.C.

The city of Shreveport expects to hold a pre-bid conference next month at Central ARTSTATION, 801 Crockett Street. The Common is expected to open in the summer of 2019.

– Pam Atchison

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