The red brick building with bricked-in windows at 401 Spring Street in downtown Shreveport has seen a lot in 100-plus years, and soon it will be playing a more robust role in downtown’s future.
That future was looking iffy. Approximately three years ago, the back half of the building’s roof collapsed taking a large part of the second floor with it. Soon after, the building was added to the city’s demolition list. It looked to be a sad ending to a building that started as Cavett Carriage Company in 1912 and became the Goode-Cage Drug Company in 1920. During their years in business, Goode-Cage made a name for the company and the building. It was at 401 Spring that Bronchotone, Red River Chill Tonic and Webb’s Stock Powder were manufactured leading the company to become a prosperous regional wholesale druggist. In 1932, the company moved manufacturing to another building at 220 Travis, but retained 401 Spring as administrative offices. Goode-Cage would own the building until the company sold to Southwestern Drug in 1962.
The building’s new owner is former Shreveporter Robert Lay, Chief Operating Officer with The Online Incentives Exchange, a company that structures, syndicates, and monetizes the purchase, sale and transfer of various tax credits. As a specialist in federal and state tax credits, Lay is familiar with utilizing historic tax credits in the rehab of challenged and blighted historic commercial buildings. Lay also knows that planning, effort and investment can return old and compromised buildings to something both beautiful and useful.
“Downtown Shreveport has a great stock of historic buildings, and we look forward to getting this project underway,” says Lay. “It’s always a challenge to bring an old blighted structure back to economic commerce, but the location and some of the unique attributes of this particular structure really got us excited about this opportunity.”
Dorothy Thoma of Shreveport is the granddaughter of John Gill Wafer Sr., the former president of Goode-Cage Drug Co. She is thrilled with the proposed plans, and remembers as a young girl going to see her grandfather at work there. “Granddad was with the company since its founding and he was still president when he died,” says Dorothy. “We are all connected to that building and are so excited that it’s been purchased to be renovated. We can’t wait to see what will be done. We have so many fond memories of the building and especially of the people who worked there!”
“This is a great addition to our downtown community,” says Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Liz Swaine. “401 Spring is a remarkable building with tall ceilings, solid brick walls, wide plank floors and parking available in the basement. It took someone like Robert to see the potential and to have the knowledge to be able to act on it.”
Lay plans to start construction within six months and convert the 30,000 SF building into 30 affordable market rate apartment units with on-site parking. The goal is a 2019 opening.
The building is a short block from the downtown riverfront greenway and the Shreveport Aquarium, half a block from nightspots and restaurants, and a 2-minute walk to the Spring Street Historical Museum and the Norsworthy art gallery.
“Once again, our historic buildings prove there is life still left in them,” says Swaine. “We are excited to see the transformation of yet another one of our remarkable inventory.”