Coe: Engineering Department skipped historic planning rules in Kings Hwy project

On behalf of our historic city I am urgently requesting your immediate assistance with a matter that is both precedent-setting and harmful to the cityscape of Shreveport and one which will have negative effects long into the future.

WHAT HAPPENED

The City Engineer has commenced work on a $2M project to install new industrial-type traffic light poles at nearly every intersection on Kings Highway from Hearne Avenue to Youree Drive. And while we can all agree our visible infrastructure needs updating, the problem is that the City Engineer’s office gave absolutely NO consideration to the negative impact these large structures will have on the historic buildings and historic neighborhood districts along the route.

The most glaring example of this is at the intersection of Kings Highway and Line Avenue which is the gateway to the federally-recognized historic districts of Highland and South Highlands. In addition, two of our most revered historic buildings sit at this intersection; C.E. Byrd High School and Kings Highway Christian Church. Both of these important buildings are very nearly 100 years old and both are on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

THE PROBLEM

The City has already started construction of these large and obtrusive structures at this important intersection. In addition to the poles, the City plans to install a large traffic signal control panel in front of Byrd High School and an emergency generator in front of Kings Highway Christian Church, thereby inflicting even more visible damage.

As an architect with over 35 years of experience with historic preservation, and as a historic homeowner in Highland I find these traffic light structures wholly inappropriate in this historic location.

At the City Council meeting last Tuesday, March 9th, I made a brief presentation to the council objecting to the construction of these structures. My comments begin at about the 53:30 mark in the link above. In addition, Gerry May of KTBS carried the story on Monday.

After detailed discussions with many concerned citizens and the City Engineer we believe the best course of action is to stop construction at this particular intersection until the community can be engaged to develop a more appropriate solution.

The City Engineer is under tremendous time and monetary pressure due to the contractual agreement between the City and the builder. As a courtesy, the City Engineer was able to delay the builder from doing any further work at this intersection, but only for this week. The City Engineer said during our meeting with him yesterday that they must allow the builder to start work at this intersection next Monday, March 22.

ACTION REQUESTED

I am hopeful you all agree with my professional judgement (and the same opinion of many of our neighbors) regarding the inappropriateness of these structures. If so, then I ask you to take the following action immediately:

  1. Write a letter or email (or both) as an individual (or representing your respective organizations) to Mayor Adrian Perkins, Chief Administrative Officer Henry Whitehorn, City Attorney Ronald Lattier, and each of the city council member stating the following:
    • Your objection to inappropriateness of these industrial-type traffic light structures at this historic intersection,
    • Your request that the construction of these structures at this particular intersection be stopped immediately and indefinitely until a more appropriate solution can be developed,
    • Your suggestion that the construction work for this intersection be removed from the current contract between the City and the builder,
    • Your request that the City facilitate a meeting to solicit input from the community on what the structures should look like,
    • Your request that a new city ordinance be drafted and approved that requires any public works project visible above ground in a historic district or in the vicinity of a historic structure must comply with all codes and regulations of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Shreveport Unified Development Code, and City of Shreveport Historic Preservation Commission.
  2. Please attend the upcoming meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, March 23 and voice your objections during the public comments period at the beginning of the meeting. Each individual is allowed to speak for no more than 3 minutes.

For you convenience here is a list of all email addresses of the city leaders that you can cut and paste into your emails:

adrian.perkins@shreveportla.gov; HenryL.Whitehorn@shreveportla.gov; ronald.lattier@shreveportla.gov; Tabatha.Taylor@shreveportla.gov; LeVette.Fuller@shreveportla.gov; John.Nickelson@shreveportla.gov; Grayson.Boucher@shreveportla.gov; James.Flurry@shreveportla.gov; James.Green@shreveportla.gov; Jerry.Bowman@shreveportla.gov

Thank you so much for reading this and taking action to protect our historical city.

Christopher W. Coe, FAIA
COE Architecture International