The building fit the plan, and its downtown locationwas great. There was only one problem — where toput tenants vehicles. Last year, Provident Realty Advisors VicePresident Matt Harris walked away from converting theJohnson Building on Miliam Street in Shreveport intoloft apartments. The deal was going smoothly, he said,until the cost to purchase nearby parking made theproject cost prohibitive. The project would have installed 72 loft units in theJohnson Building. Harris estimated hed need about100 parking spaces to accommodate tenants. "Obtaining parking was too expensive for the dealto work. That was it in a nutshell," Harris said.
Harris took the project to Monroe and foundanother historical building to renovate — this onecame with parking, he said. Parking downtown is insufficient to meet thedemands of business development, according to arecent study commissioned by the ShreveportDowntown Development Authority. Withoutavailable spots, business owners arent investingin ventures. The study examined two downtown areas.Area 1 is bordered by Fannin Street on the north,Common Street on the west, Milam Street on thesouth and Marshall Street on the east. Area 2 isbordered by Travis Street and Texas Street on thenorth, Market Street on the east, Cotton Street onthe south and McNeil Street on the west.
The $11,800 study, conducted earlier this yearby Chicago-based Parking Consultants Rich andAssociates, determined Area 1 demands 2,150spaces to accommodate current traffic, a 187-space deficit. Area 2 demands 2,696 spaces, a449-space deficit. Those deficits will continue toincrease as time passes. "The difficulties that property owners havereported in being able to redevelop or lease theirproperties due to the lack of identifiable availableparking is consistent with the results of thisanalysis and is also consistent with Rich andAssociates experience in other cities whereparking occupancy is very high," according to thestudy.
Roland von Kurnatowski, co-founder of the TipitinaFoundation, is planning a 40 percent residential and 60percent commercial venture in the Sears Building andtwo adjacent buildings on Texas Street. The project ismoving forward, he said, but progress is hinderedbecause parking is so limited. The $12 million project could be completed in ayear and a half if parking was available, vonKurnatowski said. Without it, he said developmentcould stretch over as much as five years. "Time can work against you with something likethis," von Kurnatowski said. "Tenants have options,and stalling development can spell doom for theseprojects."
In the two study areas, Rich and Associatesfound there are 4,210 parking spaces. There are393 on-street spaces and 3,817 off-street spaces. Shreveport controls only 455 of those spaces,about 11 percent. Rich and Associates has foundthrough past studies "to successfully managemunicipal parking in downtown, it is especiallydesirable for the municipality to have control of atleast 50 percent of the parking supply." Another 2,132 off-street spaces are privatelyowned, but generally available to the public,according to the study. Combined with city-ownedspaces, public parking in the two studied areasreaches about 60 percent. "Parking is imperative to development, whichis essential to commerce," said DDA ExecutiveDirector Liz Swaine.
"You have to look at this as an economicdevelopment tool. Vacant buildings do us no good." The answer to the parking situation is clear,Swaine said, and DDA is already working withfinancing firms that specialize in finding investorsand funding options for multi-level parking garages.Current expectations call for two garages downtown,she said. In Area 1, Swaine said the surface parking lotbehind Southern University at Shreveport, owned bySUS, and the adjoining space, owned by the YMCA,have been pegged for a possible multi-level garage.There already have been conversations about theplan, and Swaine said both entities are amenable tothe possibility.
In Area 2, Swaine said the SporTran BusTerminal has been identified as a suitable place fora second parking structure. There are discussionsto combine the SporTran terminal with the newGreyhound Bus Terminal in a few years, freeing upthe current SporTran property. The costs are still unknown, Swaine said,because the form the garages would take has yetto be determined. Issues of size, style and whethercommercial space would be included affect thecost of such structures. "This is going to impact downtown for years tocome," Swaine said. "Well either blow opendevelopment potential or well just rock along likewe have been."
Some developers are confident the parkingproblem will be fixed in due time, so they willcontinue their projects slowly while working withthe city to contract spaces. Developer Jim Sari,who intends to build residential apartmentsdowntown, said a parking structure could helpeliminate the hold on available parking. "I believe its going to happen. So for now, Imgetting the ball rolling," Sari said. "And I canalways walk away if the city shows it cant performto get me what I need. The casinos, the nightlife —theres money to be made here, and I want tomove them in."