A wise person once said that good things come in small packages and we couldn’t agree more. One small section of the southern part of downtown awakens each morning to the sounds of hammers and saws, and the package that will eventually be opened here will be a beautiful one, indeed.
When you drive into downtown on Marshall Street from the south, you’re routed onto Cotton Street, and it’s here the activity starts.
What you may see first as you turn onto Cotton is the beautiful new mural on the side wall of 719 Marshall, an ode to developer John Cush’s family and their Sicilian/North Caddo Parish roots. If you glance toward the west, downtown’s mother of all murals, Once in a Millennium Moon, glows with beauty. This highlights the Ridgeway Square condos at 719 Marshall Street, a recent rehab of a formerly underutilized printing office building into beautiful residential units, five of them that range from compact (519 SF) to expansive (2461 SF). See the condo photo gallery, here. All have sold and the residents are enjoying their historic spaces made new again.
The building just to the north of the condos, 721 Marshall St., is currently under construction as Phase II of the project. The expansive downstairs space will be available as commercial space (an Italian restaurant or market, perhaps?) and the upstairs will be two apartments that will look out over the Millennium mural. A third living space will be for the owner.
Adjacent to Ridgeway Square is 416 Cotton, the Downtown Development Authority offices. The Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation (DSDC) was the first in the block of blight to take on the risk of repurposing a building. DSDC felt their investment and additional activity in the block would encourage others to purchase nearby and invest, too. How right they were.
The former garage next door to the DDA offices at 408 Cotton was purchased by architect Jeff Spikes and is well underway as fun, trendy office/commercial space.
Next door to this is 406 Cotton, an oddly-shaped building which housed nothing but telephone servers and huge air conditioning equipment. It has now become our area’s only hydroponic farm, Cotton St. Farms. The building with no natural light was perfect for farm owner Michael Billings because his delicious, healthy hydroponic herbs and vegetables don’t require soil and sun, only water, nutrients and growing lights.
As you travel around the corner, Cotton turns into Edwards Street, and the first address there is 716/718 Edwards. This two-story building was in dire straits when purchased by local developer Greg Solomon. The small building had been hit by a tornado several years prior and suffered structural and roof damage, but the out of state owner was unwilling to either sell or repair. After many months of conversations, Solomon was able to convince her to let the building go. He rehabbed the space into two 2-bedroom apartments that feature second levels, beautiful kitchens and indoor parking.
Across the street, the nearly $8m investment in the Lee Hardware/United Jewelers Apartments is still underway. No real investment had been put into the popular apartments since their opening more than 20 years before. The current updates were sorely needed and replaced/upgraded systems, added new kitchens and appliances, improved insulation, and painted and cleaned every inch. This investment will keep the residences desirable to renters who now have even more options downtown.
At 427/429 Crockett Street, a former dingy-looking payday loan business is now gone and the buildings are being updated top- to-bottom. The 100+ – year-old two story used to be a boarding house and it is being taken back to its residential roots. The top floor will have three apartments ranging from 600 to 1583 SF and four commercial spaces on the bottom floor. The one-story next door is already space planned as a restaurant.
Construction at 719 Edwards, 719 Marshall, 427/429 Crockett, and 408 Cotton- should be completed by the end of 2022; perhaps even sooner.
So how many buildings are left in the block? Not many. There is a three-story parking structure that sees some use at 411 Crockett St. and a former Gulf Oil station on the corner. Both are very cool structures with wonderful potential to be more and better.
Just across Crockett Street are two other repurposed spaces helping bring excitement to this corner of downtown— The Lot, the former Sportran bus terminal- now live music, boxing, art, food truck and event venue, and Big Sun Studios at 619 Edwards, a new ray of sunshine and pop of color and creativity in what was a drab and forgettable building.
What a difference a few years and some motivation can create. Meanwhile, similar changes are taking place in pockets throughout downtown Shreveport. If you would like to be a part of it, start here and take a look around. If you need help or advice, we’re just a phone call away.