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Downtown businesses ask Bossier City for help

Drone footage of the Bossier City downtown re-envisioning project along Barksdale Boulevard as of December 2016.

Stores and shops in downtown Bossier City have asked authorities for help to survive the downturn in business caused by construction for the re-envisioning project.

The $15 million project that began last May has seen a one-mile section of Barksdale Boulevard from Traffic Street to Hamilton Road closed in stages. The blocks will be reopened and include modern sidewalks, new landscaping, a bike path, and modern amenities such as a communal plaza.

Many of the businesses expressed concern over the lack of signage for patrons to find entrances, damage caused by the project, and the overall lack of sales caused by customers not visiting due to the construction.

Bossier City-based attorney Pamela Breedlove addressed the Bossier City Council Feb. 7 on behalf of Beth Carr, owner of Bayou Belle Antiques. Breedlove said the project has “devastated” Carr’s business.

“It has almost put her out of business. She can’t hang on until May, let alone June or July,” said Breedlove.

She said Carr was told Barksdale would be closed to only one lane, not both lanes. Breedlove said customers were unable to find her store for the construction.

“Months went by without (signs being put up),” said Breedlove. “Business has gone down by 50 to 60 percent. She has laid off every employee, she is behind on paying her vendors and rent.”

Breedlove added, “If something is not done to assist her and the other businesses there’s not going to be any businesses down there in July. And I know that’s not why you did this.”

Kathleen Hemphill, owner of Hoot and Holler Archery, said her business has also  been devastated. She says she has lost almost $100,000 in sales since the project began in May.

“We have worked a whole lot harder to get our business out there and we’re still almost $100,000 in our sales,” said Kathleen Hemphill.

She asked the city for help as they are still facing a months-long wait until the development opens up again.

“We were very excited about it and we had expected some kind of decline in our sales during the process, but we did not think it was going to be this devastating,” she said.

Kathleen Pate, owner of Artworks Gallery, expressed her concerns over safety issues and liability issues.

“Most of us are using backdoors (for entrances to the public), and my backdoor is not conducive to foot traffic. I’m concerned because if someone falls, I’m the one going to be responsible for it.”

Bossier Arts Council board member Mollie Corbett is a patron of several downtown businesses. But she said it is difficult to get to them “without tire damage.”

“We’re worried about those businesses,” said Corbett. “I want to be able to shop at Bayou Belle, grab a beer at Flying Heart and go over to my board meetings at Bossier Arts Council.”

She added the re-envisioning is an exciting and progressive project, but not to the detriment of the businesses already located there.

“I am personally very excited about the downtown project coming to downtown Bossier,” she said. “I want those businesses that I love and patronize that are there right now that are a part of this community to still be there when this project comes in.”

Pam Glorioso, Bossier City project coordinator, explained the project is constantly moving and they try to keep up with maintaining signage for the buildings, but this was the first time she has heard of some of the issues faced by the businesses.

Glorioso admitted the street was closed altogether instead of going down to the single lane because of difficulties with removal of water lines.

“We found old water lines and it was hard to cut in a straight line and only work on half of the street at a time,” she explained.

However, according to the city’s timeline, relief is still months away.

“We’ve come 3/4 around that track and now we’ve seen the finish line,” said Glorioso. “For many of the businesses in that location it’s been hard, and we always tried our best to grant them access. It’s not been a pretty situation, but we’ve tried to do the best we can.”

Bossier City Engineer Mark Hudson said public access to the businesses has been consistently available throughout the construction.

“It’s a big construction zone and real dynamic,” said Hudson. “We sympathize with the people, but it’s a big project and it is what it is.”

“We certainly are here to offer whatever services we have for those businesses located in downtown Bossier…we’ll do whatever we can to assist you in your endeavors,” pledged Bossier City Council President David Montgomery, Jr.

“We’ve heard what you’ve said, we’ll address whatever is under our control,” said Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.