If government officials had a magic genie, they could wish for a clean slate on any proposed Cross Bayou development in downtown Shreveport.
Last year, the Shreveport City Council unanimously defeated (6-0) a request by Mayor Ollie Tyler to engage bond counsel to help float municipal bonds for a proposed sports complex at Cross Bayou.
That project was prompted by Tyler's discussions with the New Orleans Pelicans, the professional basketball team that was seeking a home city for its G League basketball team.
The sports complex was to anchor a mixed-use project proposed by out-of-town developers.
Currently, a local group of developers operating as the Gateway Development Consortium has proposed a $1 billion project that would include an office building, housing, retail and a technical college. The office building, which the developers hope would house State of Louisiana employees, is the critical component of the project.
This group has asked that Tyler sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will be submitted to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The city council is scheduled to vote on a resolution urging the mayor to execute the MOU at its next meeting on May 22.
Shreveport architect Bill Wiener has addressed the council several times on the development of Cross Bayou.
Wiener urges a series of public forums for Shreveport citizens to develop a common vision for development, the same process that was followed in the development of Shreveport’s Master Plan. This approach would allow citizens to create a program of what was wanted — and at what cost to Shreveport taxpayers.
Wiener says the next step would be to develop a detailed Request for Proposals (RFP) for national distribution. Then the mayor and the council could consider all RFP responses to determine future development of Cross Bayou.
Unlike the bid process, the RFP solicitation does not require acceptance of any proposal by governing authorities.
Wiener’s suggestions make practical sense and are consistent with well accepted land use principles. The current proposal by Gateway has many more questions than the sports complex project, and its costs to the public will be exponentially higher.
If the MOU is not executed, this project will most likely go by the boards. If that is the case, Tyler and the council should seriously consider Wiener’s recommendation. If not, future development proposals will most likely cause as much controversy as last year’s sports complex project and the current proposal.