Carlson: Check out the downtown re-envisioning plan

1745

In early June I recommended that folks who could not attend Bossier City Council meetings, but wanted to know about the Council’s and city’s work should use the city’s website (bossiercity.org) to follow city planning and projects.  Interested citizens can watch real-time streaming of the meetings, or review archived meetings.

The Council’s July 7 meeting is a case in point for providing this additional avenue of access to city planning – the Downtown Re-envisioning Plan should be of interest to most Bossier residents, and many outside the city.

For the record, this isn’t the city’s first consideration of redeveloping old Bossier, but it’s certainly the first with firm planning and funding – and strong Council and business community support.

The Council’s July 7 meeting featured an old Bossier re-envisioned presentation by Mike McSwain, Mike McSwain Architects, and Sean Simms, President of SK Studios in Kansas City, Missouri.  McSwain explained the catalyst for this new initiative saying that when Computer Science Corporation (CSC) chose Bossier City over Lincoln, Nebraska, city officials asked about what Lincoln had to offer.

It seems that one of Lincoln’s big draws is the city’s Haymarket District – an old industrial area that’s been revitalized and among other amenities, includes restaurants, hotels, shops, grocery offerings and apartments.  This district is a big draw for the millennial population, which is also the population on which the technology industry heavily relies for an employee base.

McSwain and Simms recalled the results of their study to determine local millennial interests, finding a preference for independent retail, unique eateries, and an environment that allows for work and play elements in a more “green and progressive” setting.  McSwain and Simms also found that national chains and strip malls don’t appeal to this group.

Simms detailed a few of the elements that do appeal to millenials including a “vibrant town center” gathering space, the ability to live, work, play and eat within walking distance, and the opportunity to be in the heart of a village with all aspects of living, but not on the scale of a big city.

The pair also visited Lincoln’s Haymarket District, as well as similar areas in Little Rock, Arkansas and Lafayette, Louisiana.  Through their studies and visits, they have been able to build a plan for old Bossier’s future.  Boundaries of the study and planning area are I-20, Traffic Street, Hamilton Road, and the railroad.

Although the planning area is fairly large, McSwain and Simms identified the starting point, and initial improvements to get the project started.  According to McSwain, and making the most of the funding currently available, starts with an initial plaza space and a new retail street off of Barksdale Boulevard.  This phase also includes significant improvement to Barksdale Boulevard, and utility work.  Streetscaping and bike lanes will count as big improvements to the area.  A couple of new buildings are planned by commercial interests in the area; planners see a synergy evolving as new additions to this area join existing businesses.

Simms said that Barksdale would be maintained as a commerce street, and creating the new streetscape and related environment would evolve into a “town core.” The area surrounding the plaza would be comprised of mixed-use elements and then as the project grows and radiates out, densities would go down with more residential elements coming in behind.   

Folks, this is exciting.  And while the millennial population’s “live, work and play” factors are heavy contributors to the plan’s elements, it’s also true that more and more seniors are looking for the same lifestyle environment.

Take some time to visit Bossier City’s website and enjoy the McSwain – Simms presentation and what’s on tap for Bossier City.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com