1. Covid, Again.
Since the outbreak began, many have lost friends or family members to Covid-19. Others know people dealing with the as-yet unexplainable after effects known as Covid Long Haul. The cost in health and lives has been tragically high.
To downtown urban centers nationwide, the business effects of the pandemic have been severe, and are ongoing. In downtown Shreveport, office towers already hurt by a decline in oil-and-gas related businesses were the first to feel the strain as companies from Merrill Lynch to SWEPCO told employees to leave the office. Governor John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order in 2020 rendered downtown a ghost town, taking needed foot traffic away from restaurants and other small, local businesses at the time when they needed it most.
Restrictions on dining, bars, theaters, gatherings, live performances, casinos and gyms pushed some businesses to- and over- the edge. Travel stopped, hurting hotels and Airbnbs. Some businesses were able to hang on only because of government incentives, but the slingshot back-and-forth of ongoing outbreaks shows that more tough times are ahead. Adding to the problem has been the so-called ‘Great Resignation,’ which has made it difficult for businesses to maintain pre-Covid hours and service as they struggle to fill vacancies.
2. Interest in Downtown Properties Explodes
Though the terrible effects of Covid continue to linger, optimism about the future of Downtown Shreveport continues to rise. On the residential side, investors have purchased the Petroleum Tower at 425 Edwards and buildings in the 400 block of Crockett, the 700 block of Marshall, the 700 block of Milam. Plans for hotels, and Airbnb-type extended stay housing are in the pipeline in the 600 block of Milam, 300 block of Market, and the 700 block of Cotton. Interest is high in properties in the 500 block of Milam overlooking the Caddo Parish Courthouse and potential investors are touring spaces and running the numbers on buildings throughout downtown. The State of Louisiana is also looking for the right space to house the Louisiana State offices.
In early 2022, we will welcome the popular Pop N Pizza restaurant to 500 Texas Street, a new energy tea and shake shop at 431 Texas St., and Refine Design shops and the Jess and Jane beauty bar at 620/616 Texas St. New businesses bring new life and add to the amenities already available downtown.
3. Nightlife 2.0?
For a number of years, Downtown was the hub of club-centered nightlife; everyone remembers partying at Shreve Square, or more recently, at Chicago or Kokopelli’s. Then things changed. Downtown clubs lost the competitive edge when clubs elsewhere were allowed to stay open later, and online dating apps gave those in the dating market other ways to connect with would-be sweethearts. Owners of favorite spots such as Voodoo Lounge, Chicago, and other once-happening locations decided to close for personal & business reasons. Very little new seemed to be happening on the downtown nightlife front until the opening of Ryan Williams’ Uptown Bar and Lounge at 1605 Marshall St., and Tim Huck’s Phoenix 2.0 at 400 Commerce St. Huck, a long-time club operator, wanted to create a reprise of his popular Phoenix Underground. Williams, a club novice, wanted to start something on Marshall Street that he hopes will grow with a restaurant and perhaps more. Meantime, interest is high in a return of Noble Savage Tavern, and the property listing of Rydaz Bar at 315 Lake Street brings an opportunity for another type of nightspot in the downtown district.
4. Crockett Street Rocket
A number of streets downtown are seeing interest, but none are seeing more interest – and in more variety of ways- than long-ignored Crockett Street. Construction is underway now in the 400 block, where two vacant buildings have been re-envisioned as apartments, commercial space and a restaurant. The Lot at 400 Crockett and Big Sun Studios at the corner of Edwards and Crockett have brought music, events and art-filled life to the former SporTran terminal and environs, and the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center at 717 Crockett has returned a gorgeous Wiener-designed building to vibrant use. Meanwhile, The Southern Belle Apartments at 627 Crockett are 100% occupied, properties at 718 and 610 Crockett have sold, and the United Jewelers/ Lee Hardware apartments in the 300 block of Crockett are undergoing a $7+million renovation. Salvation Army Lofts at 710 Crockett Street recently was put on the market and is seeing heavy potential buyer interest.
5. A Doc Is (Finally) in the House
After years of being doctorless downtown, the city center finally has a quick care health center, Ark-La-Tex Accelerated Care/UrgentEMS at 201 Market Street. Much of their initial business has centered around Covid testing and Regeneron Monoclonal Antibody transfusions, but once (when) Covid wanes, Downtown will welcome a location to handle bumps, lumps, bruises and a variety of other medical needs.