Posted: Friday, December 13, 2019
By: Rickey Hall

Gateway Development Consortium and Saber Fund Real Estate Advisors (GS) proposed $1 billion Cross Bayou Point Project (CBP) will have a transformative impact on black-owned businesses, create thousands of good-paying jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for our City.

None of the critics of this project have questioned GS’ consultant’s analysis that CBP will generate 14,000 permanent and temporary jobs and over $208 million in new tax revenue over the next 30 years. These new jobs and tax revenue will have a tremendous impact on our city’s most economically distressed neighborhoods.

Most of GS’ leadership team have spent decades advancing the fight for full inclusion of black businesses in City contracts. We helped author the City’s Fair Share Program, advocated for a disparity study to be done and built some of the City’s most successful black businesses. We will put our record against anyone in Shreveport on this issue.

CBP can help local black businesses take a giant leap forward.

It will require, at minimum, $14 million to clean up Cross Bayou. Some critics of the project are citing potential liability for the City as a reason not to support CBP. However, this is a red herring. Liability remains with the individuals and companies that caused the contamination. And more importantly, GS is prepared to spend private dollars for the clean up and the rest will come from federal and state grants. Thus, there is little or no liability for the City.

But the remediation of Cross Bayou is huge opportunity for black-owned business. There will be millions of dollars in contracts for clearing the land. There will be millions of dollars in contracts for companies hauling contaminated soil off the site and transporting clean dirt back on. GS is committed to working with the City, the Minority Contractors Association and the African-American Chamber of Commerce to ensure a significant amount of this work goes to black contractors.

We recently met with a consortium of leaders of neighborhood groups from across the City. This civic-minded coalition helped defeat the recent bond proposal on the grounds the city removed $36 million in economic development initiatives, which included $12 million toward remediation of Cross Bayou due to the number of jobs clean-up would create.

We had never spoken with this group about the project. Yet, they intrinsically understood the economic development impact that cleaning up Cross Bayou will have on disadvantaged neighborhoods and the City at-large.

We promised those neighborhood leaders they will have a seat a table when we negotiate a Master Development Agreement with the City. They represent the kind of visionary leadership this City has to offer.

It is puzzlingly why some of our elected officials and business leaders oppose this project, considering our city is ranked number 512 out of 512 cities for economic growth. Why, for instance, does the Downtown Development Authority, an agency that receives City dollars for revitalizing downtown, is joining other critics who openly oppose the project. It is this kind of parochial thinking that has the City in its current dire position.

Gateway/Saber is led by a team of black professionals, who grew up in Martin Luther King, Cedar Grove, Queensborough and other hard- hit neighborhoods. We understand the status quo is unacceptable and we have spent $5 million of our own money to bring this project to our City. And we are prepared to spend millions more before a shovel is placed in the ground.

We are only asking the City to donate an 88-acre contaminated site, that has been vacant since the Civil War. We will then invest $1 billion in private dollars. Our people have a history of taking nothing and turning it into something special.

If you believe, like we do, that tens of millions of dollars in contracts going to black businesses are a good thing; If you believe that thousands of jobs going to young people of color including those with felonies on their records, is a good thing; and if you believe that millions of dollars in new tax revenue can help provide new services in our left-out communities, is a good thing; then urge the mayor and City Council to approve moving Cross Bayou Point forward.

We cannot afford to turn down a good project waiting on a perfect plan. Our children’s future depend on it.

Rickey Hall is a partner in Gateway Development Consortium, the developers of the Cross Bayou Point billion-dollar downtown project. He is also the owner of Hall Builders, the most prominent African-American construction firms in the City.