- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Brown leaves of tropical plants are visible through the windows of the dome conservatory at the R.S. Barnwell Memorial Garden and Art Center along the Red Fiver.

The city closed the center as part of a renovation plan in late 2012.

More than a year later, work hasn’t started at Barnwell, which had been a gathering place for artists and horticulturists.

City administrators have been largely mum on why, casting doubt on the center’s future.

When Lou Osburn, a former board member and master gardener, speaks of the Barnwell Center, she recalls weddings, pottery classes, painters and the herb garden.

“The energy inside that room was vibrant,” she said. Now, Osburn said she hasn’t heard anything about the center since it closed.

“It is what it is today - an empty building,” she said. “I don’t have a clue what they’re going to do with it.”

Shelly Ragle, director of the Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation Department, told The Times (https://bit.ly/QIC9op) officials don’t want to set a timeline for the renovation project without first establishing guidelines for its future use, including staffing and maintenance.

For now, the focus on how to make the center compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, Ragle said.

The $1.5 million in proceeds from a sale of general obligations bonds that had been allocated to make Barnwell ADA-compliant isn’t enough to cover all of the work needed there, officials said.

Marilyn Creswell, the center’s former manager, said that in addition to design issues, the center needs a new air conditioning system and other repairs.

Liz Swaine, director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the Barnwell Center is a gathering place for the area.

“The great thing about buildings and spaces is that they can be reinvented and you needed to do that,” Swaine said.

Swaine said one proposal would locate a restaurant at the center, offering patrons a place to dine with a view of the river.

There are no firm plans for the center’s future, though discussion continues among city and community leaders.


Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

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