Downtown Gulfport lures new businesses

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The look of downtown Gulfport is changing rapidly. This time last year, people were not happy with the pace of recovery in the city, now some people are having a change of heart thanks to the downtown facade grant program.

"It's everything we anticipated. This was the plan," said Lisa Bradley with the Gulfport Main Street Association.

Bradley said the plan looked a lot different just one year ago.

"There were fewer cars on the street, fewer people walking downtown," said Bradley. "The buildings looked like they were after Katrina."

The historic structures are now getting a facelift. And despite the troubling economy, it's attracting new business owners to downtown Gulfport.

"A lot of people will tell you that this is the time to do it because you can negotiate good terms with your landlords and you know the banks are lending money to the people that are worthy," said Bob Taylor.

Taylor and his partner Rob Heffner have two successful restaurants in Gulfport and D'Iberville. This summer, they will open their first oyster house in South Mississippi.

"I think we are filling a niche down here that no one is filling," said Taylor.

"I see a lot more traffic down here and I see a lot of other business starting to come back, and I see a lot of other businesses planning on moving in down here," said Heffner.

The oyster house won't open until early July, however, the 27th Avenue Bistro is just weeks away from its grand re-opening. The re-vamped restaurant will have a courtyard, live entertainment and cheaper prices. It will also add to the growing list of restaurants, retail and other businesses moving to downtown Gulfport.

"I think a year from now we won't be able to stand here like we are now. I think you will see people eating on our sidewalks, you'll see people walking on our sidewalks and these businesses helping each other with their own customer traffic and that's what its all about," said Bradley.

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