Making Old Bossier new again

3329
A rendering of the central development planned for the revitalization of Old Bossier that was shown and displayed at Bossier City Council Tuesday, July 7.

Plan unveiled for revitalized Old Bossier

In order to fill the next generation of workers for its burgeoning information industry, Bossier City is currently in the midst of redeveloping its old downtown area.

The vision was unveiled at the July 7 Bossier City Council meeting.

City leaders believe the revitalization effort would create a development providing a feather in the cap of northwest Louisiana when it comes to talent recruitment, as well as securing new businesses.

The catalyst for this plan is a new workforce of 800 jobs through the Computer Science Corporation (CSC) center at the Cyber Innovation Center.

Mayor Lo Walker and city officials inspect the renderings for the plan to redevelop Old Bossier into a live/work/play atmosphere.
Mayor Lo Walker and other city officials inspect the renderings for the plan to redevelop Old Bossier into a live/work/play atmosphere.

During negotiations with CSC, it was revealed that Bossier City and Lincoln, Neb. were the top two choices for the relocation. Local leadership asked what was attractive about Lincoln and were told it came down to the revitalization of the city’s downtown core, which is appealing to the Millennial workforce (age group classified as born between the early 1980s to 2000) that will make up the CSC.

Project Architect Mike McSwain said as much when he unveiled the project to the council , “The driving factor was this workforce of Millennials, which are the core of CSC’s staff and tech workforce.”

The city and parish began meeting with local Millennials to craft a plan and began looking at developments similar to the size or type of development that would be located in Old Bossier. Locations including Prariefire in Overland Park, Kan.; the Rivermarket District in Little Rock, Ark.; and downtown Lafayette, La.— all something that would be different to Bossier but still have restaurants, retail, entertainment, a civic meeting place to provide a mixed use of live/work/play.

“One thing they said overwhelmingly is they are really looking for things we don’t have in this community already, we are looking for something a little bit different, a little more progressive and green,” said McSwain.

A major element of the revitalization is that the audience is seeking a mixture of existing and new architecture.

Sean Sims with SKS Studio, a master planning and landscape architecture firm located in Kanas City, Mo., said they are seeking to create a symbiotic relationship between existing buildings and what is being developing.

“We want synergy between the new stuff and old developments there. It helps to create diverse environment for overall plan,” he said.

“We have been real sensitive to the early founders and businesses down there. We want to work with those…We want to prop them up for future success,” added McSwain. “We’re looking at it more like a surgeon, looking at development opportunities more than coming in to level everything.”

Sims says based on their studies, millennials like the idea of connectivity and the aspect of being in the heart of a village, that they have all aspects of city life at their finger tips, but not necessarily at such an urban scale that it feels like a large city.

With that in mind, the overall master plan calls for a central plaza as focal point for development, maintaining Barksdale Boulevard as a commercial street, and creating a dense core area as a mixed use town center.

“Folks can live above store fronts, live within steps from where they work, walk restaurants, enjoying activities in the plaza,” said Sims.

They envision a development with residential components developing around the central core with connectivity to the rest of the development with

Radiate out from central core, allow for more residential components to develop with sidewalks and bicycle lanes plus a walking bridge to the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets.

“We think this is a place that wants to be vibrant 24-7 and if it’s done properly, there’s no reason it can’t be. We think of it as a place where people want to live and stay,” said Sims.

Phase I of the plan would capture the spirit of the development to jump start further development. This includes developing a core featuring the already existing Flying Heart Brewery, L’Italiano restaurant, Bossier Arts Council, and Hoot and Holler Archery off a redeveloped Barksdale Boulevard. The town center would surround plaza space with a new retail street, a mixed use development with commercial restaurants and retail on the bottom floor and 115-unit apartments above it, and a multi-story economic incubator building.

Other projects in Phase I would include street scaping, redeveloping the roads flanking Barksdale Boulevard, and burying power lines.

The essential idea is to create a critical mass to get the development going and set a high standard to allow the development to grow organically with private investment.

“You set the bar high from the beginning for a future development to be at that standard,” said McSwain.

He predicts the first phase of the project could go out to bid by the end of the year with construction beginning in 2016 and lasting 18 months.

The rough estimate for the project is between $10 – $12 million.

The full revitalization effort is predicted to be completed in 10 years.