Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler’s biggest setback as mayor was the defeat by the Shreveport City Council of her proposed sports complex for Cross Bayou. Now a private group is quietly making the rounds with the "downtown crowd" pushing a new development for this area.
The December minutes of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) show that Paul Pratt, an executive with Chesapeake Energy, made a presentation to the DDA board for a proposed $1 billion, ten-year public/private, mixed-use development on Cross Bayou. The partnership would be with Gateway Development Corporation and would consist of local and out-of-state investors. The City of Shreveport and Parish of Caddo are also being approached to partner with the developers.
This development would include a new municipal anchor building that would house 2,000 permanent downtown employees, a hard bank development on Cross Bayou, a new technology center of education anchor with 300 jobs, retail, and apartments. Mr. Pratt says the project would potentially bring 2,000 jobs and 5,000 residents to downtown, as well as new single and multi-family housing.
In a press release Pratt advised that he has formed Gateway Downtown Consortium (GDC), whose membership team has decades of experience working with Public/Private Partnerships. Theron Jackson, former City Council member; General Contractor, Rickey Hall and Attorney Curtis Joseph along with Mr. Pratt serve on GDC’s local team. It’s national members are Daron West and Larry English of the infrastructure development firm, AirRail, both of whom have deep roots in Shreveport. Janus Property, which is developing a million square feet of commercial space in Manhattan, is a partner on the development team.
"There have been decades of discussions and numerous plans to develop the Cross Bayou waterfront, but I always believed the initiative had to begin in the private-sector and would need to stand on its own without the bells and whistles, usually associated with attracting tourists," said Mr. Pratt.
Based on GDC’s research, thriving urban cities begin with one single economic principle: creating density. Density creates growth. Economists call this phenomenon agglomeration. Not only does geographical proximity reduce cost, but it also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and spurs innovation. It is a principle that holds true regardless of the industry.
As a result, GDC concluded the following concept had the best chance for success:
1. A Municipal Complex with 1000 to 2000 permanent employees
2. A Technology-based Charter School with 350 employees
3. A Sports Complex whose Anchor tenant would be the Pelicans G-League Team, but would also be attractive to local, regional and national sporting events such AAU
4. A 5000-unit mixed-use housing with residential and single family homes
The project, called Cross Bayou Point, is a $1 billion 10-year development of Cross-Bayou and Ledbetter Heights.
Pratt cautioned that for the project to be successful, GDC must form a Public/Private Partnership with local and state government. With Mr. Pratt taking the lead, GDC has held discussions with local business and political leaders to test support of the idea. The consensus was "if not now, when?"
According to Mr. Pratt, "What excited everyone is the civic initiative from the local business community and the investment, participation and enthusiasm of local leadership." GDC has met with state leaders and Mayor Ollie Tyler and has received tentative support for the concept. According to Pratt: "Mayor Ollie Tyler, while enthusiastic about the concept, has made clear that the city will require complete transparency, if it is to be involved. GDC’s next step is negotiating a non-binding Letter Of Intent with the City of Shreveport followed by formal negotiations to create a public/private partnership to move the project forward as soon as possible.
"The DDA is unanimous in our belief that the Cross Bayou downtown waterfront is an untapped treasure and could become something amazing and create jobs, opportunities and tax base. Our yearly Program of Work calls it possibly the most underutilized urban waterfront in the country and one that is ripe for development. As with all developments, the devil is in the details in terms of the use mix, funding streams, long-term sustainability, and the integration of the project into the rest of downtown." (Liz Swaine, DDA Executive Director.)
Feel free to share all or part of this column with others and to post to Facebook. No requirement to use my name.