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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Choice Living


New development welcomes tenants

Tenants are moving into Bayou Grande, Shreveport’s Choice Neighborhoods development near the corner of Caddo and Common streets downtown.

One building with 68 apartments is completed and welcoming residents. Another 68-unit building is completed, pending inspection and a certificate of occupancy, Tracey Graham, bureau chief of special programs and Choice Neighborhoods Implementation manager for the city of Shreveport, said.

“They are beautiful,” Graham said. “I have friends and family who live in Houston and Dallas, and these are comparable to anything you see there.”

When it came to showcasing the apartments, management turned to local designer Myron Griffing to help make first impressions in the model apartment.

“I got the call from John Hernandez, asking if I wanted to do it,” Griffing said. “I said sure. We wanted to be involved with it. It fits with what we do.”

Griffing described the design as transitional modern. It’s an approach he takes in all his work.

“It’s a livable modern, with cleaner lines and furnishing,” he said. “There’s not a lot of frills and fluff. Everything is a little more squared off.”

Griffing said he was happy to help illustrate the design potential of the new apartments.

“We are happy to be a part of it,” he said. “We wanted to give them the biggest bang for their buck, and it turned out good.”

The mixed-income and mixed-use development will include about 328 housing units when completed. Some residents will pay rent based on income, while others will pay rent at market rates.

The apartments feature amenities such as granite countertops, washers and dryers and stainless steel Energy Star-rated appliances. The complex also includes a swimming pool, fitness and business centers and a playground. Graham said the project will change the mindset about public housing.

“We want to remove the stigma of assisted housing,” she said. “We want to make sure neighbors feel good about where they live.”

Graham said that the response was swift when the application process was opened.

“Once they put it out, in less than a couple of weeks it was up to 900 applicants,” she said. “And we only have 328 units.”

The Choice Neighborhood area encompasses 1,736 acres (2.7 square miles) immediately west of downtown Shreveport.

Two more apartment buildings are being constructed near the development’s Texas Street entrance.

“This is a catalyst for the area,” Graham said. “I take my hat off to the Housing Authority. They did their due diligence working with a developer to get it looking market rate.”

Volunteers of America also is partnering in the development. Diane Libro, quality assurance manager with VOA, said the organization serves residents’ education, employment and health-care needs. VOA also assists in case management and partners with agencies like Goodwill for employment services and MLK Health Center for health-care needs. VOA also helps residents with educational resources.

“We are super excited to see some clients we have worked with for over two years actually move into their new apartments,” Libro said. “Among the first few that have been accepted, there are several of them who were residents of Jackson Heights who are getting to come back to their neighborhood to an apartment that’s far nicer than what they had.”

Libro said one of VOA’s clients had progressed to the point that she no longer qualified for the low-income housing assistance and moved into one of the market rate apartments.

Funding for the project comes from a $24.2 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Graham said the total investment in the project is about $140 million in leveraged and targeted investments.

In addition to the residential development, the project includes plans for a civil rights and cultural museum at the Old Galilee Baptist Church site, Graham said. Plans also call for public safety improvements, including upgraded lighting and drones to monitor activity in the area.

The project also includes the EPIC Center — Empowering People in Careers. The center will be housed in the Millennium Studios building, which the city recently purchased. The center will provide workforce development training, a packaging and distribution operation for the nearby MS Kick Kitchen and a makers space. It is a partnership with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and southern University.

Graham said it’s all part of a longerterm goal for the residents.

“This is a stepping stone to moving into home ownership,” she said.


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