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Revamping Old Bossier

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Several obstacles in way of rehabbing historic portion of Bossier City

Like a child who grows up, moves out and may or may not move back home, cities have a growth and development pattern.

Bossier City has matured over the decades, residents and retailers alike have moved away from what was once the center of the city, and one of the biggest issues facing the city – along with coping with growth – is whether the old center of the city will decline or become energized with an infusion of redevelopment.

Two of the most notable landmarks in Bossier City are the municipal complex off Benton Road and the Outlets at the Louisiana Boardwalk. Separating them is a gulf of public and private property.

Bossier City from I-20 to Texas Avenue, between the Red River and Benton Road, is a mixture of uses. Railroad tracks crisscross the area that includes some low income housing, warehouses, vacant lots and boarded up or deteriorating houses.

But the area also has lots of positives, such as casinos, churches, the Outlets at the Louisiana Boardwalk, Bossier High School, restaurants, some new hotels and several businesses, particularly along the periphery.

Many cities, such as Canton, Miss., a county seat about 20 miles north of that state’s capital of Jackson, have a town square with a courthouse and other government offices in or around the square, with antique stores or other locally owned businesses. Old Bossier has no such town square, Bossier City is not the parish seat of government, and area bank headquarters are typically located across the Red River in downtown Shreveport.

Bossier City Special Projects Coordinator Pam Glorioso said the city’s location adjacent to Shreveport helps bring people to the general area, but the close proximity could make some economic development ideas unfeasible. Just as Canton, Miss, started a flea market on its square that over time generated 30,000 visitors per flea market, the Texas Avenue Makers Fair has been launched in Shreveport. Trying to do something like a flea market in Bossier City, Glorioso said, likely would not work because something so similar is being done so close.

Malls and major shopping centers typically have a 20-25 year shelf-life before needing some type of overhaul. Sometimes a major overhaul is needed to replace an anchor store that closes or relocates. Other times the overhaul is more cosmetic to provide an updated appearance.

But whereas malls and major shopping centers typically have a corporate owner or management company, the old part of Bossier City has a multitude of owners which makes a coordinated redevelopment effort more difficult.

Karen Hannigan, of Stirling Properties, developers of a major shopping Center north of I-220 at Airline Drive, said having a master plan for redevelopment of old Bossier City is important. She also said timing and the existence of numerous property owners are also major factors.

Several events have shaped old Bossier City. Glorioso said the city had a master plan in place when casinos arrived and changed the dynamics. As the city’s population has surged and retail growth has followed the population, Glorioso said the city has had to spend resources coping with growth more than with rejuvenating old Bossier.

“The master plan there is outdated,” Glorioso said. She noted Bossier City has a redevelopment authority duly enacted but it has been dormant for years, primarily from lack of funding.

“Redevelopment will take a public-private partnership,” Glorioso said. “If anyone in the private sector is interested, we are willing to listen.”

Both Bossier City and the Bossier Parish School Board have a stake in the area. Bossier High School sits in the area and is due to receive $3.4 million in upgrades from the $210 million bond issue approved by voters in April 2012.

Before Bossier Parish Community College relocated to its new campus on East Texas Avenue, Bossier City acquired 22 lots in the general area of the south side of Bossier High School as a potential site for the community college. The city still owns the lots, which are not contiguous.

Both Glorioso and Hannigan believe redevelopment will be incremental, not overnight.

The long-anticipated extension of Arthur Teague Parkway to link up with Benton Road, which is expected to include a railroad overpass, will bring more traffic and visibility to the area. It also involves the city acquiring right-of-way and the removal of some older structures. The area could also benefit from sewer improvements planned across the city.

Hannigan said the construction of Margaritaville casino and the parkway extension mean more traffic to the area.

She said developers realize the opportunities for development in and around the river front.

Old Bossier, she said, has good potential for redevelopment but it has to be the right combination of uses and the right time. When people see the parkway extension opening, she expects that will bring renewed interest to the area.

Some businesses, she noted, don’t want to locate in malls or big shopping centers.

“It’s a viable area as long as you have good traffic there,” Hannigan said.