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Monday, March 14, 2016

SHARING HISTORY

Enriching downtown Shreveport

Enriching downtown Shreveport

Recently, we had the chance to work with Blue Arx, an up-and-coming advertising agency that is staffed with an energetic group of mostly millennials who share an open-concept office in which ideas fly unhindered by walls or telephone receivers.

Well-versed in traditional media of the paper and ink variety, the company puts much stock into digital outreach, into connecting with people through bits of social media messaging bouncing around at light speed. Just sitting through their presentation was an example of this – ernest marketing magicians excited about an opportunity to realign the planets – using words I am pretty sure I had never heard before.

I did what any self-respecting person would do in the same situation. I nodded a lot. I may have also said, “I’ll be darned” several times. At about five minutes in, I abandoned any thought of taking notes and focused instead on the tempests in a bottle that I think I might have been when I was 26 or 27.

I enjoyed them greatly and left feeling really good about this vibrant group of youthful entrepreneurs who are smart, cutting edge, creative and hard-working. As we walked out the door, I turned to our millennial employee, E.D. – a creative in her own right – and asked her if she understood all the talk about conversions and analytics.

I’m pretty sure her response was something along the lines of, “Sometimes you just go with it.” We went with it.

"... I love the fact that people respond to our history and the desire to know more seems to be growing.”

During our discussion, I told them it had been our experience that social media postings about historic downtown grabbed attention in a way that parties and events and announcements never did. Purely by accident, we have discovered that posting an old picture, asking a question about an obscure downtown location or talking about the rehab of a building that has lived a life or two already engages people in a way that is surprising. I think there are a lot of reasons for this.

We are proud and interested in our history and the people who had a part in it. We admire these amazing buildings and respect the effort made – in a world without power tools and scissor lifts – to get them built. We are curious about how these buildings started, as what, and what they could become again. We feel a longing for the past; it seemed solid and steady and today can seem anything but.

Whatever the reason, I love the fact that people respond to our history and the desire to know more seems to be growing. Our increased knowledge makes us more well-rounded, more appreciative of what has come before, and more excited about the opportunities that our historic structures afford. As I write this, another of our 100-year-old buildings, the former bank building that was once Commercial National, then United Mercantile, at 509 Market has been sold and will be utilized for a new and modern purpose. It joins the old Feibleman’s-Sears, Franklin and Zodiag Buildings, the old Montgomery Ward, the former Central Fire Station, the old Selber Department Store – in creating new opportunities and a more vibrant tax base.

If you’d like to join us downtown and love the thought of bringing history back to life, never fear, we still have some options for you. The old Saenger Drug that spawned 1,000 movie theaters is available, as is the Uneeda Biscuit building, the old Rubenstein’s Department Store, and the Arlington Hotel. You supply the investment, the community will help you with love, support, imagination and LOTS of digital media “shares.”

Liz Swaine is the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. She can be reached at liz@downtownshreveport.com.

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