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ktbs, August 14, 2018

MPC member, developer propose $240 million project at former country club

It’s a quadruple bogey for the condition of the old Shreveport Country Club, where once-pristine greens and fairways are an overgrown mess nearly two years after the course closed.

Now Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission member Curtis Joseph -- who has also pitched an ambitious residential-business-retail project along Cross Bayou in downtown Shreveport -- is teeing up a $240 million proposal to bring the country club property back to life as Renaissance Hills.

Joseph turned to law school classmate John A. Henry Jr. of Philadelphia to develop the property. Henry operates Chariot Companies, which has the purchase of the golf course and a separate 33-acre site under contract.

Their plans include salvaging nine to 12 holes of the golf course as part of a golf academy. They also propose to build a hotel, restaurant and event center; single-family and apartment housing; an office building and an unspecified educational building.

Wendell Delaney, who lives along the old golf course, likes most of the plan. He moved to the neighborhood just for the golf course and was a country club member until it closed. He can step from his back yard onto what used to be part of the back nine.

“I guess it still is Hole 13. Of course, you can't see it for all the bushes and grass and weeds,” Delaney said. “Quite naturally, I would love to see a golf course here.”

At the very least, Delaney would like someone to bushhog the brush and weeds, some approaching five feet. He said the course harbors raccoons, possums and snakes – and he also worries about fire as a severe drought grips the area.

“If somebody dropped a match out here, the whole neighborhood could go up,” he said.

Delaney opposes any form of low-income housing. He said that was a deal-breaker for a previous redevelopment proposal, which called for turning the country club building into an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center and apartments elsewhere on the property.

The MPC turned down rezoning for that project in the face of neighborhood opposition.

Delaney is coordinating a series of neighborhood association meetings about the new proposal ahead of a July 11 MPC vote on new zoning for the country club.

We would love to see some homes back here that would be comfortable--- to the size of the homes that’s in the neighborhood,” he said.

Henry said low-income housing isn’t part of the plan, although the development could include apartments. During the neighborhood meeting Tuesday, Joseph referred to some of the housing as "affordable."

Work at the country club property could start by the middle of 2019 if he gets MPC approval, Henry said. That work would be low-key: creation of a new entrance off Lakeshore Drive on the 

Work at the country club property could start by the middle of 2019 if he gets MPC approval, Henry said. That work would be low-key: creation of a new entrance off Lakeshore Drive on the north side of the property and installation of fiber optic cables.

Joseph said he will recuse himself from any MPC vote on the project. He downplays any potential conflicts of interest.

“I won't participate in any discussion on this project or Cross Bayou,” he said. “Any clients of mine, or any business interests of mine that comes before the MPC will be dealt with accordingly.”

Henry says his company is working on several projects around the country. But at least one –Renaissance Row in Pennsylvania – fell through earlier this year.

In 2017, Chariot Companies and officials in Steelton, Pa., announced Chariot would redevelop the site of a former steel mill. Chariot proposed a mix of residential and commercial uses for the property, but the company didn’t exercise an option to buy the land, and earlier this year town and county officials put the site back on the market.

“Renaissance Row -- without getting into too much detail -- there were some environmental concerns that we frankly couldn’t overcome,” Henry said.

Joseph and two partners have proposed a $1 billion development along Cross Bayou that includes housing, retailers, a government office complex and a school. They have met with city officials but the project has not progressed beyond the talking and planning stages.

Henry isn't involved in that project.

He and Joseph say they're focused on zoning -- not the funding -- at this stage of the process.

"I'm not really concerned about that at this this point. We have the track record to finance these kinds of projects," Henry said.