Monday, June 17, 2024

Top Stories: Quality of life

by BIZ Magazine

Ribbon cutting held for  I-20/220 Barksdale Air Force Base Interchange

Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD), Barksdale Air Force Base (BAFB) and local government officials celebrated the completion of the I-20/I-220 BAFB Interchange project with a ribbon cutting ceremony in early February at Bossier Parish Community College.

“When you look at the strategic importance of Barksdale to the nation and the economic importance of Barksdale to this region and to the state, this is a very very good investment for the state to make,” said Gov.Edwards.

The $80.5 million I-20/I-220 Barksdale Air Force Base Interchange project will provide a roadway with new access to the military installation extending southward from the existing interstate interchange in Bossier City.

The purpose of the project, which had been listed as a priority for several decades but never had adequate funding or environmental clearance until ground was broken in May of 2019, is to deliver a brand new entrance into BAFB that doesn’t contend with having to cross a railroad track. It will also serve to greatly enhance security, with all commercial deliveries eventually using the new gate.

Currently, all other BAFB entrances are intersected by train tracks and are blocked if a train is on the track. This potentially creates significant traffic congestion and an overall inconvenience for those attempting to access or exit BAFB.

The interchange still will not be open for a while, though. Col. Weyermuller also said that BAFB is starting work on the new gate entrance into Barksdale immediately and he hopes that the gate will be completed by February 2024. Once complete, the new gate will connect with the I-20/I-220 interchange.

The project is vital to the continued successful operation of BAFB, which is one of the largest employers in the northwest Louisiana region with more than 6,600 active duty and reservist military personnel, along with another 5,100 employed civilians and contractors.

The new access road and gate will pave the way for the base to proceed with planned improvements and developments of its own that will be accessed via the new entrance. It will also take into account projected population growth and increased traffic counts, improving access times for Barksdale employees and their families and providing easier commutes to schools and other local attractions.

Once complete, the interchange and access project will promote an improved quality of life for base residents and employees, along with modernized transportation security measures for BAFB’s mission.

Visit Shreveport-Bossier reveals 10-year destination master plan and new brand

Officials gathered Thursday, May 25, to unveil Visit Shreveport-Bossier’s 10-year Destination Master Plan (DMP) and new regional brand.

“By bringing people from all corners of Caddo and Bossier Parishes together to push common goals, the entire area benefits,” said Stacy Brown, president and CEO of Visit Shreveport-Bossier. Together with the Shreveport, Bossier and African American chambers, VSB chose MMGY Global and MMGY NextFactor to guide the DMP and regional brand efforts. A Steering Committee made up of community stakeholders was formed to advise the consultants.

“We want to encourage locals and visitors to see that Shreveport-Bossier is a place with enough flavor, style, and soul for two cities,” said Stacy Brown, president and CEO of Visit Shreveport-Bossier. “A lot of areas push that ‘one thing.’  But we’re not ‘one thing!’ We’re so many things! You take a little of this and a little of that, and you find a whole lot of US.”

The quest for a DMP and brand began in 2019.  Thursday, the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau announced that it has rebranded, officially, to Visit Shreveport-Bossier (VSB).

“Now the real work begins,” said Brown. “We hope area businesses, attractions, restaurants, and other organizations will adopt the new Shreveport-Bossier brand and use the logos proudly in their marketing materials.”

The visitor economy is vital to Shreveport-Bossier’s shared success. In 2019, more than nine million day and overnight visitors spent $681 million in Shreveport-Bossier. In 2021, that economic impact jumped to $819 million. That money comes from outside the region and benefits the local Shreveport-Bossier communities.

The Shreveport-Bossier DMP strategic framework focuses on six things:

 – Increase and diversify community collaboration

– Accelerate mixed-use development, placemaking and mobility in the two urban waterfronts 

– Prioritize support for local creative entrepreneurs in art, culture, film, food, music, retail and more 

– Capitalize on surging demand for sports tourism

– Increase visitor volumes in the meetings and conventions sector

– Accelerate business development in outdoor recreation and upgrade event venue

Shreveport city leaders announce a drop in crime

Former Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins announced at the end of October 2022 that crime (including homicides) in Shreveport is down so far this year when compared to 2021, the deadliest year in the city’s history. At a news conference last month, the mayor said there have been 39 homicides in Shreveport so far in 2022, which is down 43 percent when compared to the same time last year. The mayor pointed out that the city had a 60-day stretch this year without a homicide: the longest in Shreveport history. 

Overall, crime in Shreveport is down 15 percent from 2021. The mayor said that public safety remains the top priority for his administration. Police continue to work with other law-enforcement agencies (including the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police) and community organizations to help reduce crime in the city.

The city’s new Real Time Crime Center is helping to spot crimes happening in Shreveport. Currently, 524 cameras (including 190 citizen-owned cameras) are being monitored around the city. City leaders say that, to date, 12 flash drives of video evidence have been given to the city’s police and fire departments to help with investigations.

To further combat crime, the Perkins administration recently announced the city is investing $5.3 million in projects designed to offer activities for children in the city. Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR) will use money to renovate the soccer field at Cargill Park and other projects. The YMCA will renovate baseball and softball fields with its share of the funding. Another $800,000 will go towards establishing a Ronald McDonald House in Shreveport for families of young children receiving medical care.

Plans unveiled for redevelopment of old DiamondJacks Casino and Hotel in Bossier City

The Cordish Companies has presented master project plans to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board for the redevelopment of Diamond Jacks Casino & Hotel in Bossier City. Cordish intends to transform the property into a world-class Live! casino resort and entertainment destination. Centrally, this includes the construction of an entirely new, first-class land-based Live! casino and the removal of the existing casino riverboat. Live! Casino & Hotel Louisiana is scheduled to open in 2025.

“We’re very excited and honored to present our plans to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and thank them for their enthusiastic support of our project,” said Joe Weinberg, Managing Partner, The Cordish Companies. “Live! Casino & Hotel Louisiana will be a world-class resort destination that brings a first-class gaming, dining, entertainment and hospitality experience to the region, creates significant new jobs, and generates millions of dollars in economic benefits for the community. We look forward to working with Foundation Gaming & Entertainment, state and local officials, and the community to bring the project to fruition.”

The new LIVE! CASINO & HOTEL LOUISIANA, which represents an investment of $250+ million, will be a world-class gaming, dining, entertainment and hotel destination, featuring:

– more than 47,000-square-feet of gaming space including 1,000+ slots and electronic table games and 30+ live action table games;

– an upscale 400+ room resort-style hotel;

– a 25,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose event center for top name entertainment, meeting, conventions, non-profit and social gatherings;

– and 30,000-square-feet of best-in-class dining and entertainment venues including 6+ new food and beverage outlets featuring nationally acclaimed concepts Sports & Social and PBR Cowboy Bar.

Solar microgrids planned for Shreveport neighborhoods

Community leaders in Caddo Parish are proposing solar microgrids for neighborhoods around Shreveport to give residents places to shelter during disasters. 

North Louisiana Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and community groups in the northern part of the state, joined with local and state officials Monday to announce plans for four Community Lighthouses in the Shreveport area. 

The Community Lighthouse Project, spearheaded by the nonprofit umbrella group Together New Orleans, installs solar-powered microgrids with battery storage systems at neighborhood facilities such as churches, health clinics and community centers in underserved areas. The lighthouses serve as places of refuge during natural disasters and power outages. 

Caddo Parish Commissioner John-Paul Young, Shreveport City Councilman Alan Jackson and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell have all endorsed the plan, according to a North Louisiana Interfaith press release.

The Caddo Parish Commission planned to introduce a motion Monday to provide $500,000 in seed money for the project, the press release said. 

The lighthouses will be able to provide cooling and heating stations, food preparation and distribution, a backup water supply, oxygen tank exchanges and light medical equipment. They will also support trained disaster response teams who can respond during severe weather events.

The North Louisiana plan calls for four locations this year, two of which have already been identified. Morning Star Baptist Church has agreed to serve as a Community Lighthouse for the Mooretown area, and the Highland Center will serve Highland Stoner Hill neighborhoods. 

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