What Do They Want?

2003

South Bossier redevelopment plan should include citizens’ input

The occasional problem with the “consultant” concept of community redevelopment planning is that the consultant often isn’t familiar enough with the area to provide relevant and credible assessments that make sense to folks who are familiar with local conditions.

The shortcomings of Monday evening’s south Bossier redevelopment plan for the Barksdale Boulevard corridor were few, but glaring.

For example, the suggestion to narrow Barksdale Boulevard in some areas to

accommodate a more pedestrian “main street” environment – coffee shops, boutiques and the like – and reduce the speed limit in these areas reflected an understandable ignorance of reality as it concerns U.S. Highway 71 (Barksdale Boulevard).

Narrowing such areas would allow for the these retail features and sidewalks … from which we can watch the oil and gas heavy trucks lumber lickety-split down the “corridor,” and the morning and evening drive traffic congestion heading to area schools and Barksdale AFB.  And then there’s the train traffic – those frequent rail crossings are several times a day reasons for ear-splitting engine horns, which won’t really improve the ambiance for the late afternoon coffee shop latte.

Get the lawn chairs and study this area before making such suggestions.  And go walk the “corridor” which, incidentally, starts along about Traffic Street in Old Bossier and is generally unattractive from that point to Shady Grove.

It was that way when my dad was reassigned to Barksdale AFB in early 1970; it hadn’t improved much when my husband retired and we returned to the area in the late 1970s; and it will not much improve without City Council action to create an overlay district that over time could require adherence to new property standards and building requirements for this district.

And take a drive beyond the plan perimeter.  A reference was made concerning new grocery store offerings and indirectly suggesting improvements to “the” grocery store (Kroger), without every mentioning the very nice Brookshires on just the other side of the plan perimeter.  I shop at both – and I suspect most who live between Barksdale and Sligo Road do as well.

By and large, the presentation focused on the Barksdale Boulevard corridor from Barksdale AFB to Highway 511.  That makes sense because U.L. Coleman Companies, financer of the plan, and as part of a settlement agreement of the lawsuit against the city over an ART Parkway curb cut, intends an upscale development on property bounded by Walker Place and the Parkway.  Fairly enough, it is to Coleman Companies’ advantage to strongly encourage redevelopment of Barksdale Boulevard to enhance marketability of such a development.

Unfortunately, south Bossier residents who offered a slew of suggestions concerning improvements in earlier local meetings were also concerned with the east side of Barksdale Boulevard, which is largely residential between Barksdale AFB and Southern Gardens.  They likely did not find much of interest in the presentation that addressed their concerns about property standards enforcement, development of in-subdivision recreation and social gathering infrastructure, or neighborhood revitalization.

Instead, the burgeoning “plan” appears to be focused on the west – commercial — side of Barksdale Boulevard.

There were certainly thoughtful and useful points in the presentation.  But if the final “redevelopment plan” is to have the support of south Bossier City residents it will need to include a couple of important elements.

First it must be representative of the present population, so this might be a good time for planners to review the myriad of concerns, ideas and hopes enumerated by south Bossier residents.

Next, it must be realistic.  Narrowing Barksdale Boulevard, moving levees, and leaving out residential revitalization will not gain the support of south Bossier residents.

And finally, without that support, any hope of anticipating these folks – who’ve invested in and lived in this area of town – to press local government to engage in and fund elements of such a Barksdale Boulevard redevelopment plan are just about nil.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at m_carlso@bellsouth.net