Shreveport Common Debuts Performance Pavilion
Shreveport Celebrates Completion of Caddo Common Park’s Phase 2
The official opening of the second phase of the resurrection of nine parcels of downtown Shreveport now known as Caddo Common Park is Nov. 12. That’s the date slated to recognize the completion of the Performance Pavilion and Misting Station on the site.
For over a decade now, a group of public/private partners has worked to turn their concept of a living, vibrant downtown core a reality.
The park, which is familiarly called The Common, “is a one-acre creative placemaking park located at the center of Shreveport Common between Texas Avenue and Cotton Street,” according to Wendy Benscoter, executive director of Shreveport Common Inc. The pavilion and misting station were suggestions the group discovered doing their due diligence on the project, the Shreveport Common Vision Plan. “It started early during the Shreveport Common planning and listening sessions. A covered stage for outdoor concerts and performances was the most requested amenity for the new green space along with ‘lots of trees,’ soft grass, public art and water features.”
Like most everything in the third decade of the 2000s, progress was slowed by the pandemic and economic and logistic factors. But, with the completion of this piece of the puzzle, Benscoter said property owners are looking to a future of redevelopment of the area with living and working spaces, markets and makerspaces.
The ambitious project has been a collaboration with the city of Shreveport. Caddo Parish Commission,Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC), Shreveport Common Inc. and private donors that have poured over $1 million so far into the effort.
The city will coordinate with people living and working in the area to provide opportunities in the new facility. Benscoter said, “Expect everything from pop-up bands and poetry readings to Shakespeare in the Park, art markets and concerts.”
SRAC is the designated manager of the park, and Executive Director Pam Atchison has high expectations for the venue. Indicative of what the community can expect in the venue, Atchison said the opening day lineup says a lot. Headlined by A.J. Haynes and The Seratones, and opening band Bond+, Haynes anticipates (the band) making a national name for itself through the students from the Renzi Center that Haynes has been mentoring and who have written their own song for the occasion. There will also be a Veterans’ Day Remembrance on tap.
Architect Mike McSwain designed the pavilion and was part of the listening sessions attended by the Park Design Team led by Nicholas & Associates. “We’re beside ourselves to be a part of it,” McSwain said. “We’re tickled with how it’s turned out. I’ve been blown away from the reaction we’ve gotten from people who have passed by. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. We’re really proud of it and proud to be a part of this journey.”
The pavilion comprises two wings joined by a set of soaring encircling structures. “They are kind of yin and yang shape, a thick element and a thin element. That has a lot of meaning and symbolism to it, the yin and yang, the two parts coming together making a whole,” McSwain explained.
“Most noticeable and recognizable of the whole thing is the stark blackand-white treatment of the exterior.
It manifests through 100 percent of the project. The idea was to make a really strong statement that carried a lot of weight and meaning, back to the yin and yang, the good and bad, the coming together.
“That lack of color meant the real color was going to be the performers on that stage. That was the life that was coming to that pavilion so that they would be the body of color, and all the eyes would be on the performers. Not that the architecture takes from center stage.”
The kickoff event will give the community an excuse to come downtown to see what has been accomplished, Benscoter said, how an area has been transformed from hopelessly boarded-up facades to a clean, inviting place.
Benscoter’s piece of the revitalization is larger than just the park, and she’s quick to document what’s happening all over the downtown area. “When you compare what this area looked like in 2011 to what it is now, you can see the economic impact, and there is more on the way. To date, $55 million has been invested in the nine-block area, including 29 preservation and redevelopment projects which are complete, seven under construction and 16 in predevelopment. But it’s more than that; it’s the lifting of the area by public/private partners for our whole community. Buildings have been saved, our downtown is more dynamic, there are more opportunities for artists to live and work. At the same time, there is the commitment to no displacement of the neighbors. Finally, Shreveport Common continues to bring very positive national attention to our city, which is always a good thing.”
Some of that recognition came from the project being selected as the No. 1 Community Development Project in the nation by the National Development Council.
Benscoter noted that research conducted on a national level indicates that so-called millennials, younger adults and active seniors are looking for communities that offer attractive experience opportunities and walkability, meaning the amenities can be reached on foot. “The Common replaces blight with a place to stumble upon the fun, and it is a place for artists and community to connect.”
SRAC’s Atchison said the pavilion is a huge milestone in the realization of the Shreveport Common Vision Plan. “With consistent programming in Caddo Common Park, Shreveport Common will become the “UNcommon” Cultural Community of which we have long dreamed, planned, invested, and now will reap the financial, cultural and social benefits.”
She added that the completion of the pavilion is the culmination of a $3 million public and private investment in the creation of Caddo Common Park. Those funds went toward property acquisition, Brownfields environmental cleanup, infrastructure, bioswale, the green lawn, walking paths, public art trees created by Bruce Allen, the Art Bosque Café with table sets, the new Mister Station, restrooms and the pavilion structure itself.
Looking ahead, Atchison sees good things to come. “The Performance Pavilion and Caddo Common Park are destined to become the first fully programmed – with the arts – park. Our goal is to oversee 30 weeks of annual programming that encourages local musicians, theatre companies, spoken word artists, actors and other performers to take the stage. The site will become a destination for lifestyle experiences such as weekly exercise programs, healthy eating opportunities from the food trucks and creative walks through the park. Arts markets, food truck markets, plein air painting and making, and serendipitous pop-ups. In other words, The Common will be the place to “Stumble Upon the Fun.”
McSwain hopes it also becomes an iconic image for the area and the city. “We know it’s a powerful statement, and it’s surrounded by red brick and historic buildings and really wanted this to stand out. And not only be beautiful and noticeable when there’s an event happening, but also just to be a beautiful thing out there when nothing is going on. So that it’s a landmark, kind of a beacon, for the area.”
Festivities in the Park on Nov. 12 are from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.