Reprinted from the Shreveport Times
Our Opposition to Cross Bayou Point
The Boards of Directors of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation (DSDC) have voted to oppose the current Cross Bayou Point plan proposed by Gateway Development Consortium (GDC). These votes are significant in that both of these organizations were created to help develop, improve and beautify our historic downtown, and both work daily in a variety of ways to create positive change there. We are seeing success. When you drive down Texas Street you can point to significant investment over the past five years, and even more in the past ten. Investors from Chattanooga, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, La., and others who live in Shreveport and surrounding towns, have rehabbed historic buildings for apartments, restaurants and commercial spaces and have opened a movie theater, art galleries, coffee shops, cafes, and offices. When you move off the main street, you find other property and business owners creating urban farms, condos, a microbrewery, art marketplaces, a bakery, barber shops, a distillery, co-working spaces, an artist and entrepreneurial center, single family residential, event spaces, an aquarium, museums and spaces for non-profits. Do we wish change came faster? Of course. Would we love to discover a magic wand or a cache of pirate gold that could assist? We would. The problem is that the magic wand, a knight coming to the rescue on a white stallion- is a myth.
There are important reasons why the boards of the DDA and DSDC believe the GDC plan as proposed is far more damaging than helpful to our community and to our downtown. Developers and property and business owners that have already invested in our downtown stand to be hurt severely. These include locals and those from outside Shreveport that we have asked to come and welcomed here as partners in our downtown’s revitalization. These are the businesses that tell us they would have to close their doors if GDC is successful in moving the Caddo Parish Courthouse, with its nearly 400 employees and 15,000+ visitors a month, away from the Central Business District; removing that foot traffic from their restaurants and venues. These are the developers who have spent private dollars creating apartments and condos who would have to compete with GDC’s ‘5,000’ residential units that would be supported in various ways by public monies. Could you imagine, even for a moment, that a developer would choose to compete on such an uneven playing field? We cannot, nor do we believe any realistic market study would show the need for so many residential units.
Also hurtful to downtown and our community as a whole is the money the City of Shreveport will be asked to spend on the purchase of property, environmental remediation assurances, streets and sidewalks and other infrastructure needs for the Cross Bayou project. The City, Caddo Parish and the State of Louisiana will be asked to sign long-term leases for new buildings, and to turn over to the developer tax dollars from a special taxing district that will be created to help the project. What are the real numbers on the amount of this support, and what will the city, parish and other governments be obligated to if things do not go as planned? Governmental dollars are finite; those dollars spent on one thing cannot be spent on another, so what will go wanting?
Our lack of support for the current GDC project has- and will continue to- draw negative comments from GDC and their affiliates. Based on experience, we expect many creative derogatory barbs will be lobbed our way. We can live with that. What is harder to live with is the negative and damaging narrative GDC is working hard to spin about downtown, a place they regularly call dead’, ‘dying’ and ‘desolate.’ They seek to show downtown as blighted, on its last leg or already deceased. From a purely positioning standpoint, this is a brilliant tactic. The worse GDC can make our city feel about our situation, our efforts, our successes, the more we will believe that we need to be saved, and Cross Bayou Point will be that savior. Downtown certainly has challenges as all places do, but downtown is populated by hard-working people who are expending blood, sweat, tears and money from their own pockets to create things that did not exist before, to create jobs and to improve both quality of life and options for those who live, work and come to play here. These include people who have lived here for years, have recently moved here and investors from afar. To a person, they appreciate the history, architecture, beauty, resiliency and opportunities in our downtown. These are the people the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation assist, support and work daily to find others like.
Any magic wand that we would find we would use for more community discussions about plans of action for business and job creation. We have too many buildings downtown that are creating no economic impact for many complicated reasons, too many buildings that are empty or nearly so. We could use help in the form of business incentives, assistance in cutting through red tape of federal tax liens on properties, and of more ‘bite’ in laws that seem to do little to prevent deferred maintenance on buildings. What we do not need are additional new buildings that do not create new opportunities; they simply move around the pieces on the playing board.
The DDA and DSDC support common sense development of Cross Bayou. Shreveport is one of the few cities with undeveloped waterfront property and we believe that this property is valuable, a community resource. The DDA in particular has long supported city acquisition of the property in order to position it for a future project that makes sense for the city, our downtown and our citizens. There are portions of the GDC project – hardscaping of the banks of Cross Bayou, walking paths and additional greenspace- that would work to complement and enhance downtown. Above all, we support smart growth and development that is fiscally sound, especially if such growth is to be supported by public dollars. Because the current Cross Bayou project as described is not, we feel strongly that we must oppose it.