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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DownTown: Trending now?

Shreveport seeing increases in downtown residential

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Shreveport seeing increases in downtown residential

Last week, I came across a list of trends published by Urbanscale, a company whose job it is to keep up with what downtowns are doing across the country. Always curious to see how we are doing compared to others, I dove in … and almost immediately broke into a smile. For several years, downtown residential has been trending in a big way. Seventy-five of the cities Urbanscale surveyed saw increases in downtown residential, leading them to pronounce that downtown residential growth is not only strong, it is accelerating. We are seeing the same. Downtown Shreveport has residential developments under way at the Lofts @ 624, the Southern Bell and 509 Market. The long-vacant Petroleum Tower is also under contract for a mixeduse project that will include residential.

Public and private sector leadership is big across the country and locally as well. Roughly 90 percent of the space in U.S. cities is built with private sector investment, according to Urbanscale. However, it’s the public sector that plays a lead role in influencing where and how development happens. The Parish of Caddo and City of Shreveport both play that role and are both supporting the Shreveport Common art and culture district downtown –– investing in greenspace, improving infrastructure, updating city facilities such as Municipal Auditorium, Oakland Cemetery and the former Grand Avenue, taking ownership of the old Arlington Hotel and impacting the Common in dozens of other ways.

There is also strong public leadership in the Red River District, the riverfront and in plans for Cross Bayou. Private leadership can be seen in the transformation of the old Sears department store into a retail/ commercial/residential mix, the revitalization of the Petroleum Building, the Hunter Building, 601 Spring and a number of smaller buildings downtown for everything from apartments to an art gallery and art marketplace to architecture businesses.

Get ready to get wet, because water is trending. Cities across the country have an incredible opportunity in their urban waterfront zones, says Urbanscale, and in some cities, water is creating an urban renaissance. Downtown Shreveport’s running trails and popular riverfront park are just the beginning of development that could be key in attracting additional Millennials and businesses to the city center.

Shreveport has residential developments under way at the Lofts @ 624, the Southern Bell and 509 Market. The long-vacant Petroleum Tower is also under contract for a mixed-use project that will include residential.”

The Barnwell Center is being repositioned for the future, and the Red River District continues to attract fans, but opportunities along our downtown waterways are vast and as yet, not fully tapped.

Craft brewing is now a full-fledged trend. Not only are cities seeing economic development opportunities created by the expansion of craft brewing, but the breweries are playing a significant role in urban redevelopment projects and in attracting talent. Red River Brewing Company downtown joins a growing list of local microbreweries that include Great Raft and Flying Heart. If you wonder what sort of role they play in talent attraction, just stop by one day for a frosty cold one and be amazed at the young professionals sitting nearby.

It may be odd to consider festivals as strategic economic development, but think Austin and SXSW. Downtown Shreveport has the Louisiana Film Prize and the offspring it has spawned – Louisiana Food Prize, Louisiana Music Prize, Louisiana Start Up Prize. The festival, in its fifth year, continues to expand and morph and take downtown with it. It is an event worth supporting, and it continues to grow in size and influence.

Finally, the tech sector and co-working continue to trend, both nationally and at home. Though a bit later to the tech trend, downtown Shreveport is home to CyberReef Solutions, Praeses, and will soon welcome Venyu Solutions. AT&T is investing in fiber-ready buildings to encourage more tech interest in the urban core. Cohab, the region’s one and only co-working space, continues to work with startups and teach business practices to all who will listen and learn from their communal space in the Red River District.

Yes, we’re trending. We have many things of which to be proud, more opportunities to grab and more reasons than ever to keep working! We’ll see you downtown.

Liz Swaine

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