GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The rumors are circulating in Gautier these days that a multi-million dollar retail development deal is dead. Or is it?
Singing River Mall is demolished and gone now, replaced by broken concrete and tall weeds. A Walmart was supposed to be well underway by now, the anchor store of a $90 million town center development. That hasn't happened yet. Despite that, city leaders are confident the deal is not dead.
"The mayor and council sat with the mall owners just last month and were able to hear significant details about where the mall owners feel this project is. We walked away feeling confident," said City Manager Samantha Abell.
She said there are limits to that patience though.
"The mall owners feel enthusiastic and they have tenants that are committed to the site and at this time. They are willing to wait on Walmart and, thankfully, they are being understanding. But at the same time our mayor and council are impressing on Walmart that they are expecting them to be good to their word," Abell emphasized.
Business owners in town want to believe the town center is coming. One of them is John Kotsakos.
"I have faith in the city officials and I hope it does happen, but I am starting to get a little worried because it's taking an awful long time," Kotsakos said.
Some of the business owners that I talked with Thursday in Gautier understand that multi-million dollar deals take time. But they also understand something else - not knowing anything at all is uncomfortable.
"We would just like more information," James Nixon said. "We would like the city to be a little more up front with what's going on. We get all these rumors: Walmart is coming. Walmart is not coming. We would just like to know what's going on so we can make plans for our future."
So what are Walmart executives saying? Abell has an answer.
"Walmart told us that the project is alive. So what we want is a date."
Abell said she plans on holding a series of of stakeholder meetings to answer questions from business owners and citizens. Those meetings will be held on May 12-14. The city will list the exact times and locations on its website: http://www.gautier-ms.gov/