Cross Bayou

If partners can raise a billion dollars, Cross Bayou Point would put thousands of homes and offices, a technology school, and possibly Mayor Tyler's coveted sports arena on the downtown near north side waterfront.

Think big, Shreveport. That's the message from the team behind another proposed development along Cross Bayou.

"We are trying to bring volumes of people downtown," says Curtis Joseph, a Shreveport attorney who is one of the partners that's pushing the develpment known as Cross Bayou Point.

It would include a sports arena in a mixed use, public-private development along the waterfront just north of downtown.

Right now it's a one billion dollar dream. That's ten times the size of the public-private plan for a sports arena and retail development that sank just five months ago amid citizen protest and council rejection of the city's proposed $30 million dollar stake in it.

It was a crushing defeat for Mayor Ollie Tyler, who pushed the plan to lure the New Orleans Pelicans minor league basketball team. So when this new plan came up at the council planning session last week, the mayor said this:

"No, I'm not leading any effort on Cross Bayou. I did that already," Tyler said drawing some laughter.

But the mayor added, she does support development along Cross Bayou. In fact, one of the partners pushing the new plan told the Shreveport Times they included a sports arena at the mayor's suggestion.

That member? Paul Pratt, Shreveport area Government Relations Director for Chesapeake Energy. Other partners, who form Gateway Development Consortium are a former councilman, pastor Theron Jackson, attorney Larry English -- now practicing in New York City, and the only partner with experience in development -- and local attorney Joseph.

"We are trying to bring a neighborhood into downtown Shreveport," Joseph said.

What would Cross Bayou Point look like? You're going to have use your imagination because the team behind says there are no artistic renderings of it yet because it's too early.

The group showed some computer generated conceptual images when they pitched the idea to some local government officials. They would not show us.

So imagine, if you will, five thousand single and multi-family homes, new state government offices for up to two thousand workers, a big technology-based charter school to employ 350, and -- oh yes -- that sports arena, to possibly still attract the Pelicans minor league basketball team and other sports tournaments.

"We're not proposing something that is unheard of," Joseph says. "We're proposing something that is being consistently applied throughout this country. And Shreveport should avail itself of its natural resource."

Joseph points to development he's seen in other cities, such as Baton Rouge, to bring a working population downtown.

"You can reduce your unemployment rate, to the extent that you can improve your high school graduation rate and concurrently decrease your poverty rate. Your crime rate also goes down," Joseph says of the development's benefits.

But how to pay for and build this one-billion dollar development? The team is leaning on a couple of New York based companies Janus Property and AirRail, where English is chairman. The companies can advise on design and private fundraising.

Pratt was not available to talk on camera. But under his Facebook post on Wednesday, he commented, "Instead of the negative people asking questions about the money and where it is coming from, they should say 'how can I help' We are attempting to create a new tax base for the city by creating Jobs and opportunity."

While other reports say the group would need public funding, Joseph says it might not.

"We don't know just yet. So just give us some time to pursue this and continue to do some due diligence," he said.

To raise private investment money, Joseph says what they need first from the city of Shreveport is a non-binding letter of intent, and to put the land needed into one continuous tract. That would include moving a scrap yard with environmental problems.

But some local officials who got briefed on Cross Bayou Point aren't ready to get on board.

Councilman Jeff Everson told us, "I have questions about the anchor mentioned -- a state office building. Is that funded? Is that even possible? What happens to the old one?"

Joseph says the group is in discussions with the state about the old building on Fairfield Avenue.

Downtown Development Authority Director Liz Swaine said, "What are they expecting from the public end? They weren't really specific. What we all want to see is the drill down -- the details."

And so we wait for Gateway Development Consortium to get their ducks in a row, and find a billion dollars, to turn this brushy, trashy waterfront into a bustling economic boom.

Joseph and Theron Jackson are both members of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, which will have a say in all this. But Joseph told me he and Jackson will exclude themselves from any votes or discussion on Cross Bayou Point. Jackson did not return calls for comment.


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