The physical layout of a city, and in particular the location of lifestyle amenities, impacts how residents feel about the quality and quantity of those amenities. How can we—Shreveport residents, developers and public officials all together—improve public perception of our quality of life? I believe we can do this by encouraging the development of business and entertainment clusters, and thankfully we have tools such as Great Expectations: Shreveport-Caddo 2030 Master Plan and the 2017 Unified Development Code to help us do it.

The Shreveport-Caddo 2030 Master Plan, adopted in 2011, covers a broad range of topics in thirteen chapters about current trends, the planning process, and all aspects of community life that affect the way our city and parish can develop in the future. It was written by the planning firm Goody Clancy, but it had significant input from a wide variety of community members, including over 1,200 responses to a public poll and hundreds who attended several visioning workshops. The process involved asking our community members to imagine the kind of place we want Shreveport to be in the 21st century. It provides a plan for how we get there, and gives specific action items to get us started. It has key themes that are important to me and to others who invested a lot of time in its development:

  • We should take a BOLD APPROACH to
    taking charge of our future
  • We need to GROW SMARTER
  • We should CELEBRATE OUR UNIQUENESS
  • We will INVEST IN PEOPLE
  • And we will INVEST IN PLACE

In thinking about the physical location of new businesses, arts and entertainment options in our city, several of these themes should be in the front of the mind of city planners, developers, elected officials and residents.

Unless you are in the urban planning or real estate development business, it is unlikely you often consider how the physical layout of your community impacts your feelings about it and the level and quality of amenities and activities it offers residents. Until I volunteered to be a member of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the Shreveport-Caddo 2030 Master Plan in 2009, this concept was not one that ever crossed my mind.

As someone who regularly stares, head-cocked, at locals who lament “there’s never anything to do here,” I have begun thinking more and more about clusters as a way to solve this perception problem. I used the term “clusters” to mean complementary retail and entertainment businesses located in close proximity to each other, like movie theaters, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, breweries and bars, so residents can park once and easily move from one activity to the next. It is similar in concept to what planners call mixed-use developments, where businesses like those described above coexist in the same building or blocks as residential housing, usually with the retail shops on the ground level and housing on the upper floors.

Clusters can give the perception of improved quality of life choices by allowing residents to easily create an afternoon or an evening of entertainment within a particular cluster of business without ever having to move their car or bike once they park it. Another benefit of the cluster concept is when multiple restaurants or bars are located adjacent to each other, allowing patrons to choose from many options or giving them additional options if their first choice has a waiting list. After observing a few clusters that exist or are emerging in Shreveport since I moved back in 2006, I believe this is the direction business owners should consider when selecting a location. Districts made up of businesses of a compatible nature or with a neighborhood’s character in mind are now encouraged through the recently adopted Unified Development Code—a tool called for in the Shreveport-Caddo Master Plan to help regulate development and create a more simplified and predictable zoning and building process.

To help clarify the point, consider an established cluster and one that has been emerging over the last few years:

Line Avenue-Pierremont Road Corridor

Travel down Line Avenue within a half mile in either direction of the intersection with Pierremont Road and you will find restaurant after restaurant, interspersed with coffee shops, yogurt shops, nail salons, dessert bars, clothing boutiques and yoga studios. After grabbing dinner with friends at Giuseppe’s Pastacaffe, round the corner and you can have a glass of wine at Wine Country Bistro, coffee at Rhino Coffee or a sweet treat at Whisk Dessert Bar. Or after you’ve survived a challenging class at Explore Yoga or a successful shopping spree at Imelda’s or John Pickens Clothiers, walk across the street to treat yourself with a Humphrey Yogart from Counter Culture. This cluster of businesses offers lots of options to keep you engaged for several hours.

West Edge Arts District, Downtown Shreveport

The West Edge is the part of downtown Shreveport starting a few blocks east of First United Methodist Church, and a couple blocks on either side of it. Shreveport Common and the West Edge commingle, but Shreveport Common has a defined master plan of its own, and will not be covered in this discussion. The West Edge cluster of arts and entertainment businesses really began seeing the sprouts of its growth more than a decade ago with the addition of Artspace and the Robinson Film Center, which brought companionship to The Strand Theatre and the pre-renovation Municipal Auditorium. Fast forward a few years and along came Parish Taceaux, Joseph Guin Salon, the Emmett Hook Center, the Marlene Yu Museum, Crystal Stairs restaurant, Lofts@ 624 and its lobby retail space housing Rhino Coffee and a hair salon. Renovated historic buildings adjacent to the Lofts@624 are yet to be inhabited, though they have been home to a few pop-up business initiatives. And though it is but once a year, the West Edge is the central hub of the Louisiana Film and Food Prizes in the fall, with a little Music Prize thrown in for good measure. Personally, I spend a lot of time and money in this part of town.

With these examples, I hope my cluster concept makes a bit more sense. To leave you with food for thought (or potential business plan strategizing), below are some physical locations in Shreveport that seem ripe for cluster development with the right mixture of energetic entrepreneurs and supportive customers willing to show a little extra love in the early years. The Unified Development Code spells out the type of business activity that is allowed in each zone on an interactive map on the Metropolitan Planning Commission website.

Lake & Marshall Street Corridor:

Already anchored by the Agora Borealis and its block neighbors iArchitecture, Vintage Design Group, Nicole Spikes Photography, and Red River Brewing just a short walk south down Marshall Street, this cluster could see some real momentum with the recent addition of Chef Anthony Felan’s Fat Calf Boucherie at Red River Brewing. There is also the anticipated opening of a new meat processing facility and mobile butcher for Smith Family Farms of Doyline, supplier to Fat Calf Boucherie, on the same property to look forward to. If the sweet little nook at the corner of Marshall Street and Fairfield Avenue that was designed to be a hub for food trucks ever comes to fruition, I imagine we will see a significant increase in foot traffic along this stretch.

Red River District, Shreveport Aquarium and adjacent Riverfront Promenade:

With the creative and energetic owners of Fatty Arbuckle’s and Bon Temps Coffee Bar bringing folks to the Red River District for open mic poetry nights and concerts under the bridge, the recent addition of the Shreveport Aquarium and restaurant SALT, and the newly renovated boardwalk promenade to the south of the aquarium, this could become a vibrant cluster for outdoor concerts and maybe, just maybe, the return of Picnic Pops with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra (we can dream, right). Envision weekends along the river with food trucks, Sweetport Ice Cream and live local bands.

Referring back to the key themes of the Shreveport-Caddo master Plan, these clusters and potential clusters in some cases are bold approaches to shaping our community, they involve smart growth by creating less need to drive from one business to another and rejuvenating the city’s inner core, they feature locally owned businesses and thereby our community’s uniqueness, and they demonstrate an investment in place.

My wish for 2018 is that more Shreveport residents will get out and explore these existing and emerging hubs of activity and learn what our local businesses and arts organizations have to offer. I frequently feel overwhelmed at all the options for spending an evening with friends in the city, and I would love to see more of you out there experiencing it with me. Make these clusters stronger with your patronage and they will grow. Happy new year to you and to Shreveport!

Resources to learn more:

Great Expectations: Shreveport-Caddo 2030 Master Plan:
bit.ly/2030MasterPlan

Unified Development Code, City of Shreveport:
bit.ly/UDCode

Shreveport Common Plan:
shreveportcommon.com