GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of veterans in Washington D.C. and around the country are counting down the days. They are anxiously awaiting the opening of the new $200 million Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport. The residents will begin moving in on October 4th.
You'll recall Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged the old retirement home. After the storm, the veterans who lived there were relocated to the retirement facility in Washington D.C.
The old building was then imploded, clearing the way for the beautiful new Armed Forces Retirement Home.
A trio of eight story towers replaces the 11 story building which had stood there for decades. 582 rooms are included in the 200 million dollar plus project.
"This is the main reception lobby. Residents can either walk up the steps or come up the main elevator from the garage," said Director Richard Heath, as he led visitors on a tour.
A large open space offers a comfortable welcome for visitors. The reception area leads to the Hall of Honors.
"It's going to be a museum, absolutely," Heath explains, "There will be a mural showing the timeline, the history of the naval home and also the Washington D.C. home, the old soldier's home. It's going to show what was happening during our history in other parts of the world."
The spacious first floor Boardwalk promises to become "the" gathering spot for residents.
"And it's kind of the Main Street of the entire building. We have the Navy Exchange, we have a branch of Hancock Bank, post office. All the activity if you will, for groups and such, will be here on this floor. First floor is about four and a half acres," said Heath. "We're thinking about roller skates for the staff, 'cause we've got a lot of territory to cover."
Along with a library, wood working shop and paint and ceramics area, residents can enjoy the indoor bocce court and a four lane bowling alley.
"The bowling alley before was two lanes. This is four. And it has all the latest graphic and score keeping equipment and everything," said the director.
Besides all the amenities, the rooms are new and improved and expanded.
"These are 450 square feet. The old rooms were 90 square feet. And they had to go down the hall to use the shower. But each one of these rooms has their own shower," said Heath.
The new retirement facility is also environmentally friendly. Planted "green" rooftops help conserve energy.
Another part of the project is the 150 foot walkway that will cross over Highway 90 and allow residents access to the beach. The walkway will be installed the evening of September 8th.
And something new, unlike the old pedestrian crossover, this one will be open to the public as well.