Andress Arts, Entrepreneur Center
A glimpse into the past, a look at the future
After several years of planning and renovation, the old Andress Ford Garage in downtown Shreveport is officially beginning a new life on June 17.
For many years, the building wasn’t much to look at, according to Wendy Benscoter, executive director of Shreveport Common.
“[It] was a completely blighted garage with a tree growing out of it,” she explained. “It took us three years to get the owner to say he would sell it to Shreveport Common Inc.”
Next, Shreveport Common began looking for someone to help resurrect the tired old building and make it compatible with the revitalizing plans on the commons which surround its location.
That area, known as Shreveport Common, is a historic, long-blighted nine-block area located at the eastern edge of Shreveport’s HUD Choice neighborhood and the western edge of downtown.
“Jim Malsch was selected through a Shark Tank ® -style process. He did the things that we needed him to do to get it to fit within the creative cultural district. He not only did these incredible entrepreneurial offices on the top floor, but he did also share affordable artist space on the first floor and a gallery to make it walkable. We’re just delighted. He and Jeff Spikes have just done an incredible job.
“Jim Malsch made a bold commitment to create an entrepreneur and arts center in a building blighted for decades. He saw the promise of the building and the area. With his business background, his imagination and tenacity, he met all of the community’s values for the Shreveport Common cultural district with a project that honors authenticity, celebrates creativity, is sustainable and promotes walkability.”
Audrey Robinson is with Idea Path, a marketing, branding and software company sharing space in the new center. She said the opening event begins at 3 p.m. on June 17 and is free and open to the public. Mayor Adrian Perkins is tentatively scheduled to speak, followed by Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Liz Swaine and Wendy Benscoter from Shreveport Common. Entrepreneur Jim Malsch will round out the speakers. Visitors will be able to tour the building, browse through the gallery of historic photographs and shots of the renovation process, and pieces by local artists in the gallery area. A food truck and a cash bar will also be available as well as live music. Artists appearing will be updated on the website aaec.space/events.
The plan is for the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center to be an incubator for creative startup ventures of all types. The second floor will house the commercial space with a large common area for collaborative work. Developer Jim Malsch called it a venture for those who love the spirit of collaboration but also want offices of their own.
The old garage building was designed by Shreveport native and world-renowned architect Sam Weiner. Benton Howard was the original owner, and he opened a Ford automobile dealership in the building in 1929. Redden Thaddeus Andress took over the building in 1931, and it served as a dealership and parking garage in its prime.
Andress moved the dealership to a larger space, and the building with its ornate molding and colored glass windows was left vacant, where time and the elements took their toll. Then in early 2019, Malsch partnered with Shreveport Common and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council to bring the historic address back to life. His goal, he said, was to tap into Andress’ entrepreneurial spirit in a space that brought businesspeople and creative professionals together in a spirit of collaboration.