as it appears today.
Maintaing a building’s historical integrity
Last year, 318 Forum published a story about the resurrection of Cooper’s Corner at the intersection of Texas Street and Louisiana Avenue. The new year has ushered in news about the progress of the development, so it was time for a fresh look at the project.
In the early days, Cooper’s Corner was originally Cooper’s Mule Yards. According to William O’Brien, principal owner and partner in the venture, “That’s where the mules went in and out pulling wagons in downtown. We just wanted to pay homage to the Cooper family, and we’re trying to maintain the historical integrity as much as we can. Even our signage and out lighting will try to replicate the way it looked in the early 1900s.”
Fast forward to 2024, and the project is almost 90% complete. “There is only one suite unleased,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to let the new tenant decide how they want to do the custom buildout.
We’ve still got some touch-up. We’re going to power wash the outside.”
O’Brien said the project took nine months longer than anticipated due to the regulatory red tape encountered in renovating historic space. Despite that, he said, “We are very optimistic about the financial return on the project.”
Originally, the site looked very different. Special credit to LSU archives at LSUS, Noel Memorial Library and Twin Blends Photography.
He said he enjoyed working with all of his investors, most of whom are leasing space in the building, and the general contractor, Ben Vaughan Builders.
“It’s a great environment. All of our leases are two- to five-year leases. This will be our office space. This will be my office space for the rest of my career; I mean, I expect it to be. I’m the general partner of the building. We’re owners, and we did this so that this can be our forever office space.
“We believe we’re on the best street and the best block of downtown Shreveport. We think this particular location on the corner of Louisiana and Texas was a diamond in the rough. It was in really bad shape. We believe in the longevity of the core of downtown Shreveport. We wanted to be part of that.”
O’Brien has said that he is a big fan of the redevelopment of downtown. He explained there are good reasons to move downtown. He said you can get brand new renovation space for attractive economics, while new construction costs a lot in the current economy.
“If you look at those economics compared to new builds, it’s very attractive,” he said. “You layer on top the tax incentives to do so, whether it’s historical tax credit or opportunity zone tax credits. I think it’s really hard to beat the economics of downtown.”
Several factors weigh into the benefits equation, O’Brien said. “The building renovation costs were certainly more than budget, but the historical tax credits create a huge hedge from that perspective. You get 45% of your renovation cost returned through a tax credit, a state and federal tax credit.”
O’Brien has become something of a downtown Shreveport booster. He explained some of his reasons. “I like the idea that I can go to work in the morning, park my car and I can walk across the street to Rhino Coffee. I can walk across the street a block away to exercise at the YMCA gym. I can walk about a block and a half to go to my church for daily mass at Holy Trinity Church. I can walk less than a block to eat lunch. If you look from exercise to eating to coffee to church to the bank … I can literally just walk a block, and I like that community feel.”
Twin Blends’ Mark Mangham with William O’Brien and Mike Mangham.
O’Brien said this was his first such redevelopment venture, and he learned a lot of valuable lessons, but he’s willing to pay it forward.
“If anybody has any thought or ideas about doing something similar, they can use me as a resource. Feel free to reach out. I’d love to show them our pace and tell them why we like it and help them. We think it’s a great opportunity for downtown. We think it’s a great investment opportunity. I’d be happy to give them some tips because you certainly learn more each time you do something like this.”