DDA issues letter saying more info needed on new Cross Bayou development

With a new plan to redevelop the Cross Bayou area emerging earlier this year, Shreveport Downtown Development Authority is supportive of the interest but has not yet signed on to support it.

Most recently, the board of the Downtown Development Authority was asked for a letter of support by Gateway Development Consortium for their proposed $1 billion plan to completely revamp the area and turn it into an entertainment, residential, and retail area.

A letter sent to Mayor Ollie Tyler regarding the support said the DDA Board is “not comfortable” supporting what it called a “still undefined Cross Bayou Project.”

“The DDA Board is not comfortable expressing support for any particular company or plan until much more information is known,” the letter said.

The letter went on to state that DDA fully supports city initiatives to acquire properties along Cross Bayou and perform environmental clean-up efforts to make the property attractive to developers and potential projects.

“We believe this undeveloped urban waterfront will be desirable for any number of potential projects,” the letter said. “Cross Bayou has figured prominently in the Downtown Development Authority’s Program of Work for a number of years, and it does so again in 2018. We consider this land both valuable and underutilized, and support a well-planned development that provides public access to the water and that connects the area to our greater downtown.”

However, the letter noted that any project that would “make the area an island accessible only by car and would turn its back on our historic downtown” is concerning. The letter was signed by Stanley Varner, vice-chairman of the Board Shreveport Downtown Development Authority.

The letter and other email communication was sent to BIZ. Magazine after GDC partners took exception to request by Shreveport DDA Executive Director Liz Swaine to not utilize DDA’s logo or claim the organization’s support in any efforts to promote the development. 

Swaine asked GDC partner Paul Pratt via email to remove DDA’s logos from any page or presentation that claims support. She also forwarded the same letter to Pratt that was sent to Mayor Tyler, saying any claims that DDA supports GDC’s plan is “not a truthful statement.”

GDC partners sent a letter to Swaine on Monday saying they are “disappointed (Swaine) chose to reacted to an unfounded rumor” and argued they had only claimed to have made a presentation to DDA, not claiming the organization’s support.

“GDC has never made any such representation to any group or individual. Doing so would not only be unprofessional, but would be a violation of our commitment to transparency to the Shreveport community. Trust that we will not violate our core values to gain the support of any individual or group. It is our commitment to transparency that has allowed GDC to build a broad level of support spanning the spectrum of Shreveport’s political, business and civic leadership,” GDC’s letter said.

The letter went on to say that GDC believes a majority of DDA’s board does not share Swaine’s sentiments.

“DDA’s mission has always been to encourage the private sector to think boldly about redevelopment of Shreveport’s downtown. We know this because some of us were working on Cross Bayou while you were reporting the news rather than making it. Over the years, we observed several DDA Executive Directors, both prior to and including your stewardship, struggle to attract developers for Cross Bayou.”

It continued, “As the agency tasked with establishing Public Private Partnerships to transform our downtown, DDA should be encouraging GDC, as well as local and state government to move forward to finally develop Cross Bayou, rather than engaging in the precise, petty turf battles that have stymied Shreveport’s growth for far too long. To that end, we, once again, respectfully request DDA to urge the City to sign a non-binding MOU with GDC, and, thereafter, it is our sincere desire that DDA will work with us to create a comprehensive development plan to present to the City Council at a later date.”

GDC has proposed a 10-year, $1 billon waterfront development of Cross Bayou and Ledbetter Heights. Called “Cross Bayou Point,” the development would see a sports complex, municipal complex to replace the aging state building on Fairfield Avenue, a technology-based charter school, a 5,000-unit housing development, and mixed-use development.

It is the second plan for Cross Bayou in less than a year. Mayor Tyler proposed using $30 million of the city’s riverfront development fund to build a 3,500-seat sports complex, anchored by the New Orleans Pelicans G-League minor basketball affiliate. The plan required $100 million private investment from Corporate Realty, an Alabama-based real estate company, for the remainder of the development. The city council voted down a resolution that would have hired bonding professionals to explore feasibility on the project, stopping it in its tracks.

DDA supported the council resolution but never took a vote to support the proposal, citing lack of information.

Swaine said it is a similar situation wit the GDC plan, currently. 

“We are eager for more information, specifically tied to funding sources, the amount of public money that will be required and other incentives that they will expect to receive from state/parish/city, connectivity to downtown, etc. These are all weighty issues and they deserve discussion,” she told BIZ. Magazine.