With SRAC renovating and repurposing of the historic Central Fire Station to CENTRAL ARTSTATION, came the call by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover to find ways to revitalize the surrounding, under-used, 9-block area to a vibrant Cultural District. The planning and design of that downtown area, newly-named Shreveport Common, began in Summer 2010 with a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) grant. SRAC’s twenty-year experience of directing significant, Arts-Led community-changing projects led to Shreveport being chosen to receive the NEA, MICD 2010 Creative Placemaking Planning Grant.
Under the direction of Mayor Glover, an alumnus of the MICD program, SRAC was charged with leading the community through a Creative PlacemakingVision Planning and Implementation process that would put “Artists at the helm” of animating the public and private spaces in ways that would rejuvenate structures and streetscapes, improve local business viability and public safety, and bring diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.
In 2011, SRAC launched a 3-year community-building initiative based on Authenticity, Sustainability, Creativity and Community to:
1) RESTORE and REPUROSE HISTORIC BUILDINGS – Ensure that downtown’s greatest collection of un-used or under-used historically significant buildings be restored and/or repurposed as part of the city’s oldest “new” Cultural District.
2) CREATE and ANIMATE PUBLIC SPACES – Develop sustainable and surprising public green spaces that will bring people together on “creative” common ground.
3) SAFEGUARD the AUTHENTIC CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE – Guarantee that the new Cultural District is based on its cultural history: the architecture, our music heritage, the visual, performing, cinematic, and other art forms, and reflects the ethnic diversity that was a part of its history and now its future.
4) CREATE a GATEWAY into DOWNTOWN SHREVEPORT – Motivate I-20 traffic to exit Common Street (versus Spring Street) and welcome citizens and visitors into downtown through a vibrant neighborhood.
5) DRIVE Shreveport’s Cultural Economy through the Arts – preparing, facilitating, inspiring and creating opportunities for artists to earn livable incomes through their art.
SRAC launched a year-long, comprehensive, community Planning and Design process led by Gregory Free, a Historic Preservation Planner, Designer, and Restoration Specialist and a project manager, Creative Placemaking expert, Wendy Benscoter. For nine-months, the team led a grass-roots, door-to-door effort to met with neighbors, community experts and stakeholders, collecting over 1,000 ideas in over 100 meetings. A 50-member, mayor appointed Advisory Committee met every 3 weeks to ensure the planning and design process was broad-based, comprehensive, and that it engaged residents, businesses, and organizations interested in the newly named, SHREVEPORT COMMON.
Key partners in this project include the City of Shreveport, Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR), Shreveport Community Development, SporTran, Shreveport Green, The Community Foundation, Texas Avenue Community Association and neighboring non-profit organizations. Funders including the NEA Mayor’s Institute on City Design, the Eduational Foundation of America, The Beaird Foundation and the many private donors who made significant contributions to make the vision a reality. Northwest Louisiana Roster Artists and the larger arts community were instrumental in the development of ideas for new programming, new art opportunities and new entrepreneurial opportunities for a sustainable creative cultural community.
The year-long planning process, including Discover Shreveport Common Day, an “inside-out charette” of large scale temporary public art, arts programming and an arts market designed by artists to help the community imagine the still-blighted area as an animated cultural community. Comments and suggestions collected from the public were once again vetted by the design team, and a final design was presented in late 2011. The 150-page Vision Plan with 3-D, “drive through” animated video of the newly imagined area was approved by the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and City Council and accepted by the Commission of Caddo Parish (County) in early 2011.
Watch the Video Below of Mayor Glover’s
Presentation on SHREVEPORT COMMON
The team moved quickly to Phase II, Strategies, creating a Shreveport Common Management Team of city, parish and stakeholder non-profit organization directors, and next bringing together over 75 community-experts and stakeholders were assembled to create 9 Task Forces charged with researching and making recommendations for strategies and action plans for to implement the plan in 9 key areas: Parks and Greenspaces, Transportation, Development, Vendor Opportunities, Social Service Organizations, Public Art, Arts Programming, Artist Roles and Residences, and Communicating with Neighbors. 6-months of monthly meetings led to recommendations that would form the Implementation Plan for Shreveport Common.
In February 2013, SRAC moved into its new, Central ARTSTATION after raising over $6 million in mostly private funds to repurpose the historic Central Fire Station to become a administrative offices and more importantly, a manned Arts Resource Center with fully-equipped Business Center, emerging artist gallery, two conference rooms, and a flexible space “Black Box” theatre with commercial kitchen for earned-income opportunities. Northwest Louisiana Directory Artists have the option of using the resource center, “renting” programming and exhibit space, as well as off-setting the fees to attend award-winning entrepreneurial training programs through SRAC’s “pay-it-forward program” that matches artists to the area’s Social Service Organizations with “same-value” artistic programming, classes and assistance.
Shreveport Common is now in Phase III, Implementation. SRAC continues to partner with public, private, non-profit and community sectors and artists to transform the Shreveport Common area, first with its commitment to anchor, resuscitate and animate the area by restoring the Central Fire Station as its headquarters. The former fire hose tower is now the Kallenberg Artist-in-Residence Tower, to open in 2014.
What’s Next and Timeline: see the important changes happening in Shreveport Common