GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A makeover is underway in downtown Gulfport.
"We have planned ourselves to death, and it's so rewarding getting things underway. We will have this glorious boulevard. We will bring back wonderful palm trees down the center of streets and avenues. We'll also have wide sidewalks where people can actually sit and enjoy the day," said Gulfport Main Street Association Executive Director Lisa Bradley.
In addition, lights, benches and landscaping will be added thanks to a $7.6 million grant called the Streetscape project.
"In general, it just gives downtown the facelift it needs," Bradley said.
"I hope someone comes down that hasn't been here in five years and sees it, cause they're going say, 'My Lord, what happened,'" Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr said.
City officials broke ground Thursday to kick off restoration work on the World War II Memorial downtown. Members of the memorial's restoration committee hope the improvements to streets and avenues will lead people straight to the site.
"I want it to be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The yellow brick road [the improved streets and avenues] leading people to this World War II memorial and everything it stands for," said Chuck Teston, a member of the World War II restoration committee.
Across the street, Nancy Gonzalez is the manager at Williams Gallery. She said improvements to the exterior of the gallery will start next week, thanks to the Streetscape's sister project - a $4.5 million facade grant program. She hopes the combination of the two will mean a big step forward for downtown Gulfport.
"We're looking forward to having a more beautiful place to walk into from the outside. We want more people to come down to Gulfport and see what's going on."
Community Development Block Grants are funding the project. It's expected to take about a year.