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Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

Choice Neighborhoods

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Addressing local living spaces

The city of Shreveport is working to expand housing options around downtown with a collection of mixedincome, mixed-use developments designated as Choice Neighborhoods.

The Bayou Grande project will include 312 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, along with 5,000 square feet of retail space within walking distance of downtown at the corner of Caddo and Common streets. The development will include mixed-income, workforce housing at market rates.

“It’s a wonderful example of what a public-private partnership can support with locally driven strategies,” said Bonnie Moore, director of the Shreveport Department of Community Development. “It’s an excellent approach to neighborhood transformation that hasn’t been done in this community before.”

Bobby Collins, chief executive officer of the Shreveport Housing Authority, said the development is part of a $24.2 million Implementation Grant awarded last year. Out of the $24.2 million grant, $15,412,142 will go toward housing. The housing will be constructed by the Housing Authority and its development partner, the ITEX Group. Each phase of housing will be owned by a single-purpose entity, of which the Housing Authority will be general partner.

Collins said the recent government shutdown delayed the process for a while, but he is optimistic that the plans will be approved by HUD in the next 60 to 90 days and that ground will be broken on the Bayou Grande project in 2019.

The Choice Neighborhoods program is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initiative. According to HUD’s website, the program “leverag es significant public and private dollars to support locally driven strategies that address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation.”

Collins stressed that the housing is just one critical aspect of the program.

“It goes beyond housing,” he said. “There’s the people aspect of it. We will be serving 210 households with $3 million in education services, $2.9 million in workforce development services and $2.8 million in health and wellness services.”

Moore agreed, emphasizing that the holistic approach was the key to the Choice Neighborhoods program.

“It addresses housing as a basic need, but it also addresses all those other social and neighborhood issues that have impeded a good quality of life in those neighborhoods,” she said.

According to the City of Shreveport’s Choice Neighborhoods web page, the plans for Bayou Grande provide for “safe, high-quality, energy-efficient, mixed-income developments.” The apartments will include modern inunit amenities such as granite countertops, new appliances, track lighting and wood-style flooring, as well as community amenities, including a fitness center, community lounges and a cyber café.

Collins said the housing in Bayou Grande will be supported by neighborhood retail, investments in public transit, cultural markers, parks and job centers. He said the project also will include a public green space with recreational amenities, playgrounds, water features and gateway public art.

In 2010, the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments and the City of Shreveport were awarded a Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city and NLCOG brought together an advisory board of community members representing schools, churches, neighborhood associations, the housing authority and more to create a plan focused on HUD’s three core goals:

1. Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with highquality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood;

2. People: Improve outcomes of households living in the target housing related to employment and income, health and children’s education; and

3. Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools and commercial activity that are important to families’ choices about their community The Shreveport Choice Neighborhood planning area encompasses 1,736 acres (2.7 square miles) immediately west of downtown Shreveport. The goal is to bring an integrated, comprehensive and inclusive planning to the Allendale, Ledbetter Heights and West Edge neighborhoods.

Collins said the total investment in projects for the area is $115 million. Some of that is grant money, while the rest of it will come from leveraged funds and private investments. Plans outside the scope of the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant include the following projects:

Uneeda Biscuit Building: In a partnership with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Brown Builders will develop the Uneeda Biscuit Building, located within the Texas Avenue Arts District, into 32 apartment units.

Heritage Place: Located around the C.C. Antoine Park, the Heritage Place development will provide 90 mixedincome units of duplexes and singlefamily homes for rent and for purchase in and around a newly developed public greenspace with water retention features, trails and recreation space.

Collins said the return on this project is significant for Shreveport.

“The total impact of all phases and private investment is $2.6 billion,” he said. “We are really excited to bring this to the city.”

Moore said she is glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s been a long and onerous process,” she said. “However, to just imagine the outcome it will have is exciting to me. To instill hope into people and communities who have no hope is really what we are all about.”

– Scott “Scooter” Anderson


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