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Residents hear about south Bossier redevelopment

SWA’s Ryan Harbert discusses a redevelopment plan for south Bossier City were presented to citizens Monday night at the CenturyLink Center by SWA. The plan is part of a lawsuit settlement between Bossier City and U.L. Coleman.

Main Street meets Barksdale Boulevard.

That’s the core concept of a preliminary redevelopment plan presented Monday night to about 100 south Bossier City residents by representatives of SWA, a leading landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm with an office in Houston.

Two fundamental underpinnings of the proposal are the economic viability of the study area, from Shreveport-Barksdale Bridge to just south of the Jimmy Davis Bridge, and that the approximately four-mile long stretch of Barksdale Boulevard within the study area creates a negative impression for the neighborhood that as a whole has a higher home ownership percentage than both the city and parish and has solid household income.

“You would never believe there are nice neighborhoods there,” said SWA representative Todd Meyer. “Barksdale Boulevard gives the impression that the area is less affluent than it is.”

With a Wal-Mart Supercenter across the Red River and myriad shopping opportunities on Youree Drive, Meyer said it would be unrealistic to expect big box stores such as Target or Wal-Mart to build in south Bossier City.

But, he said, the study area has enough purchasing power to sustain about 200,000 square feet of retail space, an amount he said was similar to the Wal-Mart Supercenter across the river. More realistic opportunities would be for a grocery store, a pharmacy and restaurants.

To take advantage of the riverfront, parks and sense of community, Meyer suggested making Barksdale Boulevard and the adjoining neighborhoods more user-friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, creating neighborhood gateways and walking or cycling paths,

At the heart of the proposal would be turning a stretch of Barksdale Boulevard into a traditional Main Street and eliminating over time the stark contrast between residential areas on the east side of Barksdale Boulevard an assortment of commercial uses on the west side.

Much of the concept involved the idea of mixed use development, such as specialty shops and restaurants on the ground floor of buildings and apartments on a second or third floor. The mixed use concept is similar to a more linear version of the Villaggio development on East Texas Street where there are parking, sidewalks and greenery for convenient access to ground floor shops topped by apartments.

Although residents showed some support for the idea, some of the details concerned several residents.

To make the area more user-friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, Meyer said the speed limit would need to be lowered along a stretch of Barksdale Boulevard. Options were suggested ranging from keeping four lanes with a landscaped median and sidewalks on the west side to eliminating the median and having just two lanes of traffic for a short stretch to allow retail on both sides of Barksdale Boulevard.

Some residents said they didn’t want the back side of retail buildings facing their neighborhood, while others said reducing the speed limit – particularly if a stretch was created with one lane each direction – would create a traffic bottleneck.

But, Meyer said, reducing the speed limit to some extent is critical to making the area more user-friendly for pedestrians and cyclists so area residents could take better advantage of the riverfront and parks, especially with the planned elevated walkway that will link Arena Park with the west side of Arthur Teague Parkway and the Red River.

Some members of the crowd, largely composed of people 50 and older, said having a 25-30 year plan was good but they wanted some short-term improvements as well, such as higher property upkeep standards and stricter zoning regulations for commercial development.

Others were critical of the city’s decision several years ago to deny Parkway access for a planned U.L. Coleman Company development, a decision that eventually led to the city settling a lawsuit for millions of dollars.

Part of the city’s settlement with the U.L Coleman Company was creating Arena Park, the elevated walkway and creation of the redevelopment plan now underway.

A representative of the U.L. Coleman Company present at the meeting said the company has 92 acres in south Bossier and is moving forward with its development which is in the planning stage.

Inherent in much of the redevelopment plan is gaining state approval for modifications to Barksdale Boulevard, whether simply changing speed limits or reworking the number and location of traffic lanes and the median. Meyer said he believed with city backing, approval for any needed modifications could be gained.

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