Gautier moves closer to building new outdoor mall

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier's city council has agreed to a development deal for Singing River Mall, and the terms of a reimbursement agreement. That contract gives developers the green light to begin drawing up plans. It also reaffirms the city's commitment to provide future tax funding to help construct public infrastructure for the project.

With the city council's unanimous vote Tuesday night, up to $20 million in taxes could go to developers to build a brand new outdoor shopping center and Walmart in Gautier.

"They have to pay the taxes first, and then we reimburse them for the infrastructure, for the parking lots, for the water and the sewer," Mayor Tommy Fortenberry said.

The tax breaks are granted through a Tax Increment Financing Plan. Back in 2011, the city agreed to pledge 100 percent of ad valorem and 35 percent of the increased retail sales tax for the project.

"We can either give them back 35 percent of future sales and keep 65 percent, or we can have 100 percent of nothing," said the mayor.

The developers are expected to invest $90 million into knocking down most of the mall to revitalize it. I think this will be the start of something big and it will put Gautier on the map.

Although the council agreed to the new contract terms, the city will not have to pay any money if the project never happens or the mall closes.

"So it is not like the city is out on the hook for anything. It is not costing the taxpayers nothing," said the Mayor.

During Tuesday's meeting, council members expressed they're excitement to see future drawings and more action on this mall makeover.

"Everybody always ask us when, when, when, when," Councilwomen Mary Martin said.

"This does not happen overnight. There are so many things that have to take place," Councilman Scott McFarland said.

Citizens are also eager.

"The mall has tried to take off several different times and it has never come to realization. I hope today people can see the changes coming to Gautier," resident Casey Vaughn said.

The next step is for the county supervisors to sign an inter-local agreement to also provide future taxes for project. The developers will  also work on drawing new mall plans.  Demolition is expected this summer.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.