On Tuesday, June 12, members of the Shreveport City Council unanimously approved moving $1.2m in federal grant dollars to allow for the construction of the much- talked about Shreveport Common park. Groundbreaking is expected in the late summer. With minimal weather delays, the park could be open in 6-8 months.
The 2.4 acre site sits in the middle of the westernmost part of Downtown, an area bounded by Cotton, Texas Avenue and Crockett Street sitting in the Shreveport Downtown Commercial Historic District. This 2.4 acres is made up of the the foundations of 10 concrete slabs; buildings that over the years have come down due to neglect or business decision. As unfortunate as that is, the large, unattractive space presented an opportunity to do something both special and unique.
Plans for the city’s first urban park include green grassy space, walking paths, an area for food trucks, and a community space intended to be programmed with music, dance, theater and other events. There is a rainwater irrigation system called a bioswale, and the opportunity to add more features as private donations are made. Additional potential amenities include a water misting site for cooling on hot days, a giant video wall for outdoor movie viewing, a sculpture garden and a stage.
Private donations are already beginning to come in.
The Shreveport Common 9-block art and culture district was created in the aftermath of a 2009 fire that destroyed the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s (SRAC) offices at Princess Park. SRAC was given the opportunity to move into the then-vacant original Central Fire Station at 801 Crockett Street, but that offer came with strings attached- those strings included assisting in the transformation of an entire neighborhood utilizing something called Creative Placemaking. The power of arts, culture and creativity would be leveraged to create vibrancy and development.
The 9-block area has seen an infusion of both public and private investment in the ensuing years. City bond funds have improved city facilities including Municipal Auditorium, Oakland Cemetery and Elvis Presley Boulevard. Private building owners have rehabbed formerly-vacant and underutilized spaces into apartments, offices, and art hubs, but the area, and developers have been waiting for the park.
Additional downtown greenspace is on of the most highly-requested wants by residents and office workers. Other than the courthouse lawn which is off-limits to dogs, there is no grassy space near the Central Business District, no cool treed location to hang out and visit a food truck, no place to play catch with a furry friend. Even more than the amenity of a green space is the economic development it helps spur. It encourages a rise in property values all around, it creates a desire to be a part of this cool new thing.
It’s hard to say that parks are more important than basic needs of streets and sewer lines and drainage so it helps that this $1.2m in federal dollars was restricted in what it could be used for and where it could be used. As a shovel-ready project, Shreveport Common checked all the federal boxes.
It’s an exciting time for Shreveport Common and the downtown that it is a part of, and we look forward to seeing green grass instead of green-painted concrete in the not-too-distant future.