SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Two downtown Shreveport buildings that once housed a department store and sat vacant for decades is slated for a new life with residential and retail redevelopment.

Once known as the “Shopping Center of the ArkLaTex,” the old Rubenstein’s Department Store operated for 60 years on Milam Street across from the Caddo Parish Courthouse in a pair of joined buildings that dates back more than 100 years.

“We are making sure we revitalize downtown so that can regrow downtown, and reinvent the image of downtown as a not just a place of abandoned buildings and occasional governmental functions, but a place you can come live, work, and play,” Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins said in a news conference announcing the plans Tuesday.

“We have worked for a really long time to try and preserve the historic properties we have in the city and we have a tremendous inventory of historic buildings so this is a very exciting day,” said Shreveport Councilwoman LeVette Fuller.

It will become a multi-use building, combining residential and businesses with 40 loft apartments, a bistro, space for weddings and events, and storage.

“A number of us understand how important it is to rebuild our urban core. Having people and businesses and walkable opportunities is really essential to building out the livelihoods of so many citizens here in town,” said Shreveport Office of Economic Development Director Drew Mouton.

The hope is that the redevelopment will bring in revenue by bringing people back to downtown, both locals and tourists.

“Downtown Shreveport, let’s think about it for a minute, maybe the only stop that the millions of people who travel through our region each year make. So it’s vital they are impressed by what they see,” said Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Liz Swaine.

The revitalization project came to fruition through the Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation in partnership with a local developer who said he’s proud to preserve this piece of history and discovered his own personal connection.

“It’s pretty phenomenal. I kept hearing many, many stories,” said Leeson Real Estate Investing Firm owner Isaiah Lee. “I wasn’t aware until after I bought the building that my adopted grandmother worked here back in the 60s. So it’s kind of nice. I heard a little story about [how] she was a northern woman, and the southern women did not like her. Now we got revenge, Grandma! We bought the building.”

The project should take two to three years to complete.