An announcement at Tuesday's Gulfport City Council meeting made quite a splash. Some land that, for the most part, has been vacant for many years, could soon be seeing a major development in the form of a world-class aquarium.
"Gulfport is very vibrant. I mentioned our trajectory. It's pretty strong right now, but we're about to take off," said Mayor, Billy Hewes.
He is hoping that a wave of success is about to land on Gulfport's beachfront. An acquisition of 10 properties right along Highway 90 is the first step in making that happen.
The plan is to dedicate these lots to a state-of-the-art aquarium complex. And, Hewes said that's not all that's in store.
"We're envisioning an aquarium, a hotel, a retail space. So, the sky's really the limit on this," said Hewes.
The mayor said a lot of work has gone into this project, but he hasn't done it alone.
"It affirms to me that in the city we have the right people in place to make some things happen. We have great partners in our GRC, our Gulfport Redevelopment Commission," said Hewes.
GRC chairperson, Carol Lynne Meadows was excited to see this project closer to reality. She said Gulfport is known as the front door to Mississippi.
"And all I can think of is that front door just got better and better with this announcement," said Meadows.
Meadows said the GRC expects hundreds of thousands would visit such a facility. She thinks an aquarium at this location would bring people to the coast from all over the country.
"People will come here as a destination," said Meadows.
That's the hope that she and the GRC used to drive their work over the past year and a half trying to acquire the properties.
"But today makes every moment of it worthwhile," said Meadows.
The next step for the project is to secure financing for the purchase of the land. The Redevelopment Commission is currently in talks with several aquarium developers. The former CEO of the Georgia Aquarium, David Kennel, is also on board as the project consultant.