GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - You could see some changes to the Singing River Mall property in 2019 if all goes as planned.
Gautier Mayor Phil Torjusen said an interested developer and a group out of Birmingham, Alabama, Retail Strategies, are working to market the property to potential retailers. They know who to target thanks to a study done earlier this year by R-360.
The study looked at demographics of what’s needed to market the property. Data showed Gautier residents are spending $214 million outside city limits. It’s called gap revenue. Of that revenue, $52 million is spent on groceries.
“We have one primary grocery store in Gautier,” the mayor commented.
Women’s cosmetics and sporting goods were also high on the list in that study. It also revealed where residents are shopping.
Residents we spoke with were vocal on what they’d like to see come to Gautier.
“Maybe a Winn Dixie, Walmart, Rouses. Something like that. I know a lot of people like to travel all the way to Ocean Springs to go to Walmart. So, I think a good grocery store would be really nice,” said Freda Trigas, who works in Gautier.
Several people who didn’t want to go on camera vote for a movie theater and restaurants.
“I would honestly just like to see anything there,” Freda added. “The way it looks now, it just looks really abandoned and just ugly.”
Major Torjusen said a grocery store will be an anchor store in the development when it’s all said and done. He said they’re also looking at a more mixed-use area for youth activities and possible student housing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
“We’re down the road with it. For example, if it doesn’t work with this particular developer, we’ll have an option to sign it to someone else.”
The City of Gautier and the current owners of the property have entered into an “option to buy” agreement or an “option to assign” to a developer. That means the city is allowed to offer the sale of the property to a developer at a set rate.
Mayor Torjusen said the city is still working with law firm Butler and Snow out of Jackson on the development. He said if the sale goes through, it would be at least six months before residents will see any changes at the property.
I asked the mayor if we could expect to have stores open at Singing River Mall for the 2019 holiday shopping season. He said that’s unlikely.
In the meantime, the city will continue to maintain the property for events like Cruisin' the Coast and the Mullet Fest. That’s part of a lease agreement between the city and the property owners at $0 per year. Yes, zero dollars.
The mayor said the city also recently completed a capital improvement study which includes a 12-year plan to improve infrastructure and the clarity of water. It will be done in three 4-year stages with a price tag of $22 million at today’s cost.