Introducing Urban Connectivity: The Louisiana BoardwalkDecember 8, 2006 3 comments Print Article
The Red River is the picturesque setting for Bossier City's unique shopping and entertainment destination, The Louisiana Boardwalk. Across the Red River from downtown Shreveport, the project's first phase opened in spectacular fashion in November 2003, with the state's first Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. The remainder of the Louisiana Boardwalk opened in May 2005, joining the vibrant casino district nestled along the majestic riverfront for nearly a half-mile. Louisiana Boardwalk is the first lifestyle center in the state of Louisiana to offer outlet shopping, an entertainment district and riverfront dining.
Shreveport skyline as seen from the banks of the Louisiana Boardwalk
Shreveport Population 2005: 198,874 (city); 383,233 (metro "includes Bossier City")
Jacksonville Population 2005: 782,623 (city); 1,348,381 (metro)
Shreveport Population 1940: 98,167
Jacksonville Population 1940: 173,065
The city of Shreveport was founded in 1836 by the Shreve Town Company, a development corporation established to start a town at the meeting point of the Red River and the Texas Trail.
Incorporated as a city in 1839, the city would grow to become a major player in United States oil business, and at one time was the corporate home of Standard Oil of Louisiana (the Louisiana branch was later absorbed by Standard Oil of New Jersey). In the 1980s, the oil and gas industry suffered a major economic downturn, and many companies cut back jobs or went out of business. This recession had a severe effect on Shreverport, and many residents left the area.
The coming of riverboat gambling in the mid 1990s spurred a revitalization of the downtown and riverfront areas. Many downtown streets were given a facelift through the "Streetscape" project, where brick sidewalks and crosswalks were built and various artistic statues, sculptures, and mosaics were added. Furthermore, the Texas Street Bridge was lit up with controversial neon lights, originally accompanied by a green laser beam that was eventually abandoned.
The Texas Street Bridge connects the Louisiana Boardwalk with the new casinos, the Red River Entertainment District and Downtown Shreveport.
The City of Shreveport's Red River Entertainment District (see image above) was constructed under the Texas Street Bridge and adjacent to the new Hollywood and Sam Town casinos. The Louisiana Boardwalk's design (see image below) also incorporates the Texas Street Bridge on the opposite side of the river.
The Louisiana Boardwalk was constructed on a site that once was the home of oil wells.
Today, Shreveport is a busy metropolitan city, hosting various riverboat casinos, and is second only to New Orleans in Louisiana tourism. Just last year, Steelscape announced that it would open one of the largest steel plants in North America at the Port of Shreveport-Bossier and be operational by March 2006.
In May 2005, the Louisiana Boardwalk, a 550,000 square foot shopping and entertainment complex, opened across the Red River in Bossier City, featuring outlet shopping, several restaurants, a 14 screen movie theater, a bowling complex, and a Bass Pro Shop. A new 350,000 square-foot convention center was recently completed in downtown Shreveport with an 800 space parking garage. An adjoining 12-story Hilton Hotel is under construction and slated for completion in September 2006. The Shreveport Convention Center is managed by SMG, the world leader in private management of public facilities.
A rendering of the new 350,000 square foot convention center and 12 story Hilton Hotel.
Bossier City is one of the fastest growing cities in Louisiana, as demonstrated by one of their most recent projects, the Louisiana Boardwalk. Bossier City’s Louisiana Boardwalk is a unique partnership between a private developer and a public government body. The project uniting the two entities was developed and crafted through careful planning and close cooperation, helping the Boardwalk to become Northwest Louisiana’s premier destination.
This project was developed in a joint effort between the city and a private developer who saw the potential of retail development along the Red River riverfront. In 1995, the city commissioned a plan called the “Downtown Redevelopment Plan”. This plan was implemented just as the Shreveport-Bossier City area began to experience the first riverboat casinos in the market. The city recognized that land located near the gateways to the city, which had visibility from the Shreveport downtown area and was located near the newly developed casinos, had potential as a future entertainment district.
Though the area had vast potential, the city was aware that there was an insufficient number of support facilities -- such as restaurants, stores and other entertainment and recreational facilities -- that could mutually benefit from the new tourist destinations in the area like the casinos, and could help enhance the new growth of the city.
The goal of the project was to redevelop a blighted area located along the riverfront in Bossier City, just to the north of Horseshoe Casino. The project would involve the redevelopment of 50 acres of land. The project intended to not only create a destination for the millions of tourists visiting the area, but also to provide a family oriented destination for the community. The city sought to create an environment that would be financially successful, but would also give the patron a safe and secure feeling when visiting the area.
In 2001, the city and private developer both committed to this philosophy and entered into a Master Development agreement, which would allow the developer to purchase the needed property at market rate and sell it to the city for the same amount. In turn, the city would “hold” the property for the developer and eventually sell it back to the developer whe the project was scheduled for construction.
The first parcel of land was sold back to the developer in 2002 for the construction of the state’s only Bass Pro Outdoor World store, which opened in November 2003. Concurrently, the developer was building the retail area of the project and continued to purchase the land required for the retail development. The remaining land not purchased for development was utilized by the city’s portion of the development for infrastructure to support the project. As a partner in the project, the city was responsible for the construction of a 2500 car parking garage and other surface parking lots throughout the project. The city also was responsible for the installation of all underground utilities at the site.
The city’s total investment in the project was $43.5 million. The developer’s investment in the project was $150 million. Total costs amounted to $190 million.
In May of 2005, The Louisiana Boardwalk officially opened.
The Louisiana Boardwalk recently celebrated its one-year anniversary in May 2006. The project has been extremely well received by the community and has now become the premier destination in northern Louisiana, which was the ultimate goal of both the city and the developer. The Louisiana Boardwalk consists of 65 stores, 17 eateries, a 14 screen movie theater, a carousel, water features, landscaped riverfront overlooks and an open-air trolley.
This economic development project has given Bossier City the destination that it ultimately desired in its efforts to redevelop the riverfront, make it a premier destination, and provide a new source of income through the generation of sales and property tax revenue to the city, parish and state. Since the opening of Bass Pro Outdoor World in 2003 and the eventual grand opening of the Boardwalk in 2005, the project has generated over $12.8 million dollars in sales taxes..
This project has already met its orginal goals, and continues to meet and exceed the goals of the city. The Louisiana Boardwalk is a one-of-kind property in Louisiana, and offers the residents and tourists to the Bossier City – Shreveport area a unique experience of shopping, dining and entertainment. The city of Bossier’s Louisiana Boardwalk project was the recipient of the 2005 Louisiana Municipal Association Community Achievement Award in Economic Development for the State of Louisiana.
WHAT ABOUT JACKSONVILLE?
As we move on in our efforts to develop our riverfront, the Louisiana Boardwalk offers several examples of how to successfully incorporate linear waterfront open space with urban retail, entertainment and cultural establishments. Another important factor not to be overlooked is the connectivity the Boardwalk provides with the Red River Entertainment District and Downtown Shreveport on the other side of the river, via the Texas Street Bridge. With River Watch coming on line, Toney Sleiman's plans for the Landing and the city looking to revamp the Friendship Park area the idea of connectivity and how those uses should complement and not compete against each other should remain a key focal point in all decisions made about these projects. Doing such, will result in a energetic riverfront that attracts residents around the clock for a variety of reasons and not just for special events.