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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bustling Texas Street

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Plans for expansion under way

The sidewalks along the 600 block of Texas Street in downtown Shreveport no longer get rolled up at night. In fact, more people are putting out the welcome mat — or, perhaps, the “Now Open” mat.

The residential space at The Lofts at 624 Texas Street stay at 96 to 98 percent full, building manager Miriam Martin said.

“Everybody is really happy here,” she said. “The only time that people move out is when they move to another city. I have one tenant now, she’s having a baby, and they are moving to a house. Our turnover has been very low.”

But Lofts at 624 Texas is more than an apartment building. It is a mixed-use facility. In addition to the 47 residential spaces on the third through seventh floors, the building has several commercial tenants as well. The second floor features office space, and the first floor features retail space, including Rhino Coffee and Seasons Salon and Events.

Seasons was the first retail tenant in the building. Owner Nicole McGaha said she is glad she embraced her downtown location.

“It was a very scary leap at first,” she said. “I worried what our clients were going to think about coming downtown, the parking situation, and much more. We are still figuring out issues with being downtown, but for now it was a good move. People like downtown because it is centrally located. The parking causes issues at times, but nothing that cannot be handled.”

Martin said all of the commercial space that is currently built out is occupied. That is why new owner Joan Hooper and the management team at Riverlake Properties of Shreveport are working to expand its offerings in this bustling corner of downtown. Hooper recently took over the buildings in a corporate reorganization of Studio Network through a transfer of ownership.

Crews are working to prepare about 8,575 square feet in the basement of 624 Texas Street. Martin said there is lots of flexibility in what could happen with that space.

“There could be any plans for the basement,” she said. “It depends on some of the other stuff that is discussed going on downtown.”

In addition to the basement at 624 Texas, Studio Network has about 4,349 square feet available on the first floor of the building at 620 Texas St. Martin said she thought the space would be ideal for a restaurant, grocery store or similar retail operation.

Space also is available on the first and second floors at 616 Texas St., Martin said. The second-floor space is about 2,000 square feet that would be ideal for office or commercial space, Martin said. A potential storefront space of 4,200 square feet is available on the first floor.

Liz Swaine, executive director of Shreveport’s Downtown Development Association, said the location and the flexibility of those spaces make them appealing for a variety of interests.

“They could be built up for any number of things,” she said. “A live music venue, a restaurant or offices. They are very flexible in terms of use. And the location is out of this world. It’s one block up from artspace and across the street from the Robinson Film Center. It’s easy to get to and easily visible, just what any business would want.”

Photographer Brittany Strickland rents the bay window displays in the building “and keeps them interesting looking,” Martin said. “We want to keep Texas Street looking phenomenal.”

The rest of the space on the first floor has been used for events.

“Adrian Perkins had one of his events there before he was mayor,” Martin said. “We open it up to Film Prize when it is happening. We let the Robinson (Film Center) have access to it because it was supposed to rain for the Robbys.”

Swaine said these three buildings have served as a “catalytic project” for the western edge of downtown.

“We already had artspace in the 700 block and the Robinson Film Center in the 600 block,” she said. “We had Southern University’s metro campus. What we were lacking was highquality residential and retail options. The Lofts at 624 has created all of that.”

Swaine said that Rhino Coffee was emblematic of the success of the project.

“People have said that the coffee shop is the new community meeting place,” Swaine said. “I would agree with that based on the transformation created by Rhino. People hang out there to be with friends, to study, to chill out, to unwind or to conduct business. It is remarkable the effect a corner coffee shop can have, and that would not have been there without the Lofts project.”

Martin said that community spirit is part of the success of the area.

“I work to make sure it feels like a community,” she said. “We participate in all the Art Walks. Anything downtown, we participate in. We want to make this part of downtown hopping. Downtown isn’t just for young people. A lot of people are looking at downtown. I think we have been able to prove that living downtown can be a real possibility.”

McGaha said the key is to get people to experience downtown life.

“They need to see Shreveport’s downtown is great,” she said. “It is easy to get around, and the parking isn’t bad compared to other cities. I moved to Shreveport from Dallas, and our downtown is a lot easier than others. We need more things to do that will draw crowds.”

Martin added that she would like to see some specific things come into downtown to improve those possibilities further.

“The key is going to get amenities for residents,” she said. “Things like a grocery store; things like a gas station that’s closer. Shreveport Commons is going to be an amazing thing. I love watching it take shape every single day. I’m so happy to see this side of Texas more of a focal point. There’s so much history on this side of Texas that needs attention. I’m happy it’s happening.”

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