GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By the end of this year, $250 million in new construction will be underway at the Port of Gulfport. That work includes contracts related to the ongoing port restoration, along with private investment.
Commissioners used words like significant and watershed moment to describe the upcoming construction they authorized at Thursday morning's meeting.
"We've been waiting for this, for a long time, moving from planning, to implementation," said Port Director Jonathan Daniels.
"Not that there hasn't been a ton of construction going on already, but this truly is enormously significant," said Commissioner Jack Norris, as the board approved going out for bids on several big contracts. "This is what I call a good meeting."
Commissioners gave the go ahead to seek bids on several large contracts.
After years of preparing the west pier area, the next step is constructing warehouses and other buildings on all that dirt.
"We've been waiting for this for a long time. Now we have the opportunity to get these projects out on the streets. We're going to see the amount of construction workers that we've been talking about for a long time. It's no longer in the planning stage, it's in the implementation stage," said Daniels.
"If you stop and think about that, as it impacts the whole Mississippi Gulf Coast and the State of Mississippi, I think that is truly significant and something we've worked hard to get to," said Port Commissioner John Rester.
A large chunk of that $250 million in upcoming construction will come from private investment. DuPont is about to upgrade its port facility, and Island View Casino is spending $58 million restoring its 405 room hotel tower.
"We call it the Island View beach tower, and that's probably going to be the name that sticks with it. It's going to have kind of an art-deco flair, design flair, kind of South Beach," said Cathy Beeding, legal counsel for Island View Casino.
Commissioners also agreed to a two year lease extension with anchor tenant Crowley container, but the future of another anchor is uncertain.
Amid continued rumors that Chiquita is pulling out of Gulfport after some 40 years of doing business with the port, Daniels says no decision has been made yet, but he remains optimistic.
"We feel good. We make a very good case in regards to the efficiencies that we have with the ILA. The port costs are the most inexpensive in the Chiquita network. So again, we feel we have a good story to tell them and a good case to get them to stay long term," said Daniels.