Special Shreveport tax districts help fund mall makeover, entert - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Special Shreveport tax districts help fund mall makeover, entertainment district upkeep

Mall St. Vincent and the Red River District in downtown Shreveport are special sales tax districts. Mall St. Vincent and the Red River District in downtown Shreveport are special sales tax districts.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

Some areas of Shreveport have gotten facelifts made possible by unique funding plans. 

Two of those areas are Mall St. Vincent and downtown's Red River District.

Each is special sales tax district that gets to use sales tax money a little differently.

Red River District

Red River District, located under the Texas Street bridge, is full of spaces for shops and restaurants. Shreveport resident George Cox hangs out there.

"If I were to pick any place in Shreveport that is Shreveport, this is Shreveport," he said while sitting in Bon Temps Coffee Bar.

In the past, he added, the Red River District was better known for its empty storefronts than as a really a go-to place. "Just another place downtown, just another empty area."

But Cox has noticed a change lately. "It's adding a little personality, I'll say, putting some color in the canvas of Shreveport."

Chase Boytim, co-owner of Fatty Arbuckles, said: "If you would have told me 5 years ago we would be where we are at now, I would have never guessed it, honestly."

The bar is one of the only surviving original tenants of Red River District. 

"There were some bad decisions made by the previous owners, but the city has done an incredible job," Boytim said. 

Shreveport began managing the Red River District in mid-2012. 

Now Councilman Jeff Everson thinks it's on an upswing. 

"There were missteps on the road in the beginning. But with a slower approach to building it out, that is something we've seen a lot of success with recently. The interest in the Red River District has picked up dramatically in the past couple of years." 

The city has been able to spruce up the area through funding from the creation in 1999 of a special financial entity known as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. 

With it, a portion of the sales taxes paid within what is called the Downtown Entertainment Development area stays in the district and pays to maintain the stretch of downtown. 

"Improvements to the area that were done through TIF district funding has really had the intended result we wanted," Everson said. 

Caddo-Shreveport Sales and Use Tax Commission records show the Red River sales tax district has generated $1.7 million since 2013.

Red River District's 2017 budget proposal shows a proposed appropriation of $1,007,100, up from the 2016 budget, due to an increase in the operating reserves. 

Courtney Gaston owns a shop in the Red River District. She says she opened Hippie Baby after becoming a mom and going in search of natural baby products locally. "Since there wasn't anybody, I decided there was a perfect hole in the market for us to fill."

Red River District "was the only viable option as far as rent goes," Gaston said. 

"When I moved in, it felt like they were trying to create more of a daytime environment. The Red River District hasn't decided what it wants to be."

With very little foot traffic, she relied on her business being a destination shop. "We were here and they weren't afraid to come, but they also knew there wasn't very much else for them to do once they were down here."

After two years, Gaston has decided to close the business. "I don't think I'll look back on it and regret it, but I'm ready to move on."

It wasn't just the location, she said, but also the fact that some people choose to shop online or in big-box stores rather than local shops like hers.

As for Fatty Arbuckles, Boytim said business is getting better and better. "Last year was double the year before, and this year is double last year."

It is a learning process for Red River District to find lasting tenants, Everson, the councilman, said. "It does help to learn what businesses thrive in those spaces there, and that is something that will be a continual learning lesson."

Mall St. Vincent

Not too far from downtown, Mall St. Vincent has used a different sales tax strategy to get an upgrade.

In early 2013, the City Council unanimously agreed to levy an extra 1 percent sales tax for 20 years on purchases made at the mall. That excludes tenants Dillard's and Sears.

The money raised by the extra penny on the dollar goes to reimburse mall owner Rouse Properties for $16.5 million in renovations completed in 2014.

Across Red River, Rouse also gave its other mall - Pierre Bossier in Bossier City - a multimillion-dollar makeover.

A Bossier City spokesman said the municipal government there was not involved in any special tax incentives as Shreveport's was.     

Three years later and with 17 more years left of the extra sales tax, we asked Rouse Properties if the extra sales tax has helped or hurt Mall St. Vincent.

Rouse Properties released this statement:

“The renovation of Mall St. Vincent has strongly solidified its position as one of Northwest Louisiana’s dominant one-stop shopping, social, dining and entertainment destinations. We appreciate the high level of support from the community, and are pleased shoppers have embraced the improvements we have made, the new-to-market brands we continue to attract, and the number of family-friendly events we offer.” 

Caddo-Shreveport Sales and Use Tax Commission records show the mall has generated $1.2 million in sales tax revenue since 2013. Based on the sales tax numbers, the sales tax district at Mall St. Vincent only generates, on average, about $400,000 a year. 

If that trend continues, Rouse Properties will only have made back about $8 million by the time the tax expires after a 20-year duration. That's half of what the company spent on renovations. 

When the agreement was made, KSLA News 12 was told that was the risk Rouse Properties was willing to take. 

Copyright 2016 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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