GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Downtown Gulfport is often referred to as the heart of the city. And it's now beating a little stronger with the re-opening of the Hewes Building off 14th Street. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the building.
"It's a day of celebration. It makes me feel great," said project developer Michael Albritton.
Albritton is the owner of the Mississippi Redevelopment Alliance, and paid for the building's renovation. He envisions restaurants or retail on the first level; offices, ready for lease, now occupy the second floor. Albritton said the third, fourth and fifth floors are open and ready to build for either office space or residential units.
While adding the improvements, Albritton was careful to keep remnants of the building's historic past. Those who came for the ceremony were taken back in history when they saw the old elevator on the first floor. Once a shade of gold, the iron-rod elevator, now grey, still sits as if frozen in time.
"We had a wonderful time going back and forth from the fifth floor to the first floor on that elevator," Dr. Hewes said.
"As a youngster, I used to come to this building to see my doctor," former Gulfport mayor Leroy Urie said.
Urie's doctor, now deceased, was a member of the family for which the building was named - the Hewes family.
"My father was an early surgeon in Gulfport, and his father built this building. When my grandfather opened the building, my father naturally opened his office on the second floor of this building," Dr. Hewes said.
"This is more than just a building; it's a tradition and it's the foundation of the City of Gulfport," Mayor-elect George Schloegel said.
In addition to the Hewes Building, Albritton has invested $8 million to restore the Toggler Building, home to P.J.'s Coffee House. The investment also included restorations to the Cadillac Building, which houses the 27th Avenue Bistro. That restaurant is set to reopen June 27th.