Shopping Center Executives Meet On Coast

Shopping center developers from around the country are exchanging ideas on the coast this week. This is the first time the International Council of Shopping Centers convention has been held in Mississippi, and coast leaders are anxious to share the retail success stories in this area.

One of those success stories is the development of Crossroads Shopping Center in Gulfport.  That project was highlighted in a conference seminar Thursday.

The Crossroads story represents a perfect example of a private-public partnership. Plus, the project faced an enormous number of hurdles before becoming the successful retail center it is today.

Those who created that success are anxious to share their ideas with others.  Dave Berndt is the main developer of Crossroads, and realls the many challenges the project presented.

"We would always drive by and point and say, your store would be somewhere in that area over there," Berndt says.  "But they couldn't actually see where it was going to go."

Building bridges to access Crossroads was among the many obstacles of developing the site. The project itself went through various transformations over the years. It was first to be a gaming and retail site, then later, a mall.

"As the gaming died and the mall died, we became a different type of center. The problems became more and more apparent. And they were definitely a challenge," Berndt said.

The mounting challenges included relocating sewer and power lines, building a new water tower and dealing with 32 acres of wetlands, not to mention, relocating some baseball fields where the stores now stand.

"At the time was the second largest incentive based development in the state, and in the top five largest centers ever built in the state," developer Brooks Holstein says.  "And more importantly it was on Section 16 land, which made it even more interesting and difficult."

This convention of shopping center executives gives Crossroads developers an opportunity to share the lessons they've learned with others.

"Understanding how to do it is probably the biggest thing," Berndt says.  "There are a lot of steps. We took almost four years to get this thing done, so if we can help short circuit some of those, then we're all for it."