GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Since Singing River Mall was torn down late last year, downtown Gautier feels like a ghost town at times. Just ask Tracy Ladnier, who works nearby at Snapper Landing Restaurant.
"The children have nowhere to go, and the businesses are suffering because we don't have the mall anymore. People just aren't coming to Gautier," Ladnier said.
While plans for the mall property are still in the works, city officials want to develop this land across from the mall into a hub of fun activity.
"The citizens keep wondering why the city is not putting its foot down and saying the developers have to start with the mall. That is a private development. The city is encouraging it, of course, but we have no control over it. The 32 acres behind us is city property, so we want to get started with it," Economic Development Director Chandra Nicholson said.
Nicholson and Councilman Johnny Jones say the super sized space will be transformed into an urban park called the Town Commons.
"It is going to be a gathering place for families, picnickers, and we want to have outdoor concerts there," said Nicholson.
"It is going to have pavilions an amphitheater, a splash pad for the kids," said Jones.
The idea for the Commons Park came from citizens during the Charrette process after Katrina. The city then used CIAP and Tidelands funds to acquire the property.
"The next step will be to develop the master plan for the park, and that will take about six to eight months, and we do want to take that to council several times to make sure we are all on the same track," Nicholson said.
Jones agrees and said the future project will be discussed during Tuesday night's council meeting.
"There had been some speculation with city administration and out in the community that this council maybe would not want to make a significant effort on Town Commons until they saw the mall construction begin or until the mall is complete. As part of transparency, we should put it on the table, talk about it and move forward," said Jones.
Moving forward with any plan to improve the quality of life in Gautier sounds good to Ladnier.
"Yes, it is a nice, big city, and it could be better," Ladnier said.
Right now, city officials say they have nearly $200,000 in the coffer to start the project, and they are working on getting another $250,000 in grant funds. The future plans also include a skate park, sand volley ball courts and utility hook-ups for vendors.