For more than 20 years, the 16-story tower on the northeast corner of Texas and Edwards Streets, in the dead center of downtown’s important Central Business District, has been vacant, a ghost of its former self. That could be changing. Last week, the Dubin/Guru Group in Northbrook, Ill., closed on the Petroleum Tower and two other properties formerly owned by Community Renewal International. The Dubin/Guru Group has a history of residential conversions and most recently purchased the historic Duluth Board of Trade building. That 7-story building was rehabbed into trendy loft apartments and began leasing in the summer of 2020. The project features a mixture of sizes, from a small 322- square foot studio apartment to a spacious 942 SF space, all heavy on amenities. The first two floors offer commercial/office/retail space.

Duluth Board of Trade Building.

The Duluth Board of Trade Lofts is just the latest in a long list of Dubin/Guru projects. Over the years, they have gravitated toward urban infill real estate and historic rehab development and since 1990, have developed more than 1200 residential units and 100,000 + sf of commercial space. ‘Urban infill’ is a phrase especially important in cities like Shreveport, who -over time- have seen population moving farther and farther away from their historic urban cores.

The Dubin/Guru Group envision a similar rehabilitation project for the 16 story, 145,000 SF Petroleum Tower, which, in addition to being one of the city’s first metal and steel skyscrapers, is a freestanding component on the National Register of Historic Places. (Sometimes the building is referred to as 14 stories, the top two stories -clad in metal externally- housed all the building’s mechanical equipment). In the early 2000’s, a partnership between the City of Shreveport, Southern University-Shreveport, and Community Renewal abated all asbestos from the building. The entire interior of the building was cleaned and cleared, creating many options for future development.

Over the years, several developers have expressed interest in the building, in one case even going so far as creating artist renderings of what the loft spaces might look like. None of those investors/developers ever moved to a purchase of the building, however.

Previous artist rendering of a Petro Lofts kitchen space.

The Dubin/Guru group has a history of rehabilitation projects, and also intends to hire a local General Contractor and other craftsmen (and women) to do the extensive construction that the building will require. Are there obstacles that still potentially stand in the way? Always, and and we like to temper enthusiasm by reminding people that nothing is a done deal until the grand opening ribbon is cut. However, there is no doubt that the Dubin/Guru Group has the ability, capacity and know-how for such a project. We welcome them to Shreveport and hope that this might lead to other projects here.

Dubin/Guru’s first foray into the Shreveport market has connected them to a building with an interesting past. In 1948, a group of local businessmen and the Chamber of Commerce approached the then Caddo Police Jury to make an offer on property on the SE corner of Milam and McNeil Streets, the site of the former City Jail. Their plan was to build a 10-story, 100,000 SF modern office building at a cost of $3,000,000. One of the ways being floated to fund the project was stock investment by prospective tenants.

Artist rendering of Petroleum Tower.

That iteration of the “Petroleum Tower’ never made it off the drawing boards, but by the mid-1950s, it was back, this time at its current location on the corner of Texas and Edwards Streets. During the planning that ensued, the building went from 10 stories to 12 stories to 14 stories to its eventual 16 floors. N.O. Thomas, Jr. was the developer and the building eventually came in at a price tag of $3,500,000. Thomas also proposed to move the Petroleum Club, then occupying space at the adjacent Washington-Youree Hotel (now the location of Louisiana Tower) to the ‘entire 14th floor’ of the Petroleum Tower. (The Petroleum Club now occupies the 15th and 16th floors of the MidSouth Tower on Travis Street).

The original plans for the Petroleum Tower included four floors of hotel rooms, retail space and offices on the higher floors and a ‘rooftop garden’ for members of the Petroleum Club. The architect of the grand building was Wyatt C. Hedrick of Dallas and the General Contractor was Henry C. Beck, who had great experience with metal and steel skyscrapers since he had developed and constructed the Beck Building at the end of the block. We love the history of the building; we will love its future even more.

Petroleum Building under construction, 1957. The Washington-Youree Hotel is visible behind the building.