Biloxi's heritage will be anchored at old Tullis site

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi's Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum could reopen by the summer of 2011.  That timetable was mentioned Tuesday by an architect who'd like to build a collection of Biloxi museums on the old Tullis site.

Like so many Biloxians, Susan Pizzetta is extremely proud of her city's rich history.

"Our seafood industry founded our city," she reminded the Biloxi City Council at a workshop about the future of the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum.

The new museum is supposed to be built on a Highway 90 property that overlooks the Schooner Pier.  Councilmen believe that location will properly acknowledge what seafood has meant to generations of families.

"We're all pretty much together on this thing," ward five councilman Tom Wall said.  "We want to see this museum built.  We want to see it yesterday."

Robin Krohn David wanted to see it on August 30, 2005.  That was the day after Katrina tore down the original Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum near Point Cadet.

"We just plead with you all today to please help us get started," the seafood museum director said to the council.

Seafood museum board members needs the city council's help because Biloxi has $7 million to rebuild that museum.  That money will also support a Katrina museum and maybe even a new Mardi Gras museum.  The proposal on the table is to build all three museums in east Biloxi, on property that used to house Tullis Toledano Manor and the Boys and Girls Club.

David Staehling is the city's Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer.

"We need to be able to design this museum complex with dollars on the table, because I don't see us getting any more dollars from anyone else," he reminded the council.

Representatives from the H3 Hardy architecture firm said that wouldn't be a problem.  H3 is vying for the right to design the 25,000 square foot museum campus.

Ariel Fausto is a project manager for the H3 group.  He considers the museum campus, "A place where Biloxi's history can be showcased in a very positive way."

Anxious seafood museum board members like Richard Breslin are ready for the talk to stop, and the construction work to begin.

"We're ready to go," he told the council.  "I know the city is ready to rock and roll.  We're ready to rock and roll."

In the next couple of weeks, council members would like to hire a design team to map out exactly where the museum buildings will sit on the old Tullis property.

Not everybody favors the museum campus concept.  Two residents spoke up against the project.  And a member of the Mardi Gras Museum board also expressed some reservations.

In the past, the Mardi Gras board has told Biloxi councilmen it rather showcase its treasures in its own building.  That was reiterated after the Tuesday meeting.  During the workshop, councilmen thought a place like the lighthouse visitors center, or the rebuilt Magnolia Hotel could be better suited for the city's Mardi Gras memorabilia.

They figured that would give the seafood museum a bit more space to showcase its collection of maritime treasures around the new museum campus.

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