GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport's mayor tells WLOX News the hotel project planned for Centennial Plaza is on hold. But, Billy Hewes stresses it's not dead.
What will bring it back to life? The mayor says the city and the developer need to be able to tap into historic tax credits. But, the legislature didn't extend those credits during the 2015 session. Without the tax break, Hewes concedes the $30 million hotel probably won't be built.
"We want to do it," the mayor said from Washington D.C. while he lobbied federal lawmakers for help with roads and sewer projects. "It's currently on hold right now. But it's by no means dead."
The mayor has asked Governor Bryant to call a special session, hoping the legislature will return to Jackson and approve an economic development package that includes the extension of the historic tax credit for the Centennial Plaza hotel. He's been told a special session is possible, but not a certainty.
A statement from Gov. Bryant's press secretary Nicole Webb says, "The Governor supports historic tax credits as a way to redevelop historic properties and attract new development. He has the authority to call a special legislative session if he chooses to do so and has the authority to define which issues are addressed during special sessions."
Mayor Hewes said the Juneau family has invested more than a million dollars into the Holiday Inn Resort at Centennial Plaza. But, the developer can't move forward with the project unless it has this tax incentive.
When the hotel was first announced last August, Stewart Juneau said the Holiday Inn Resort development would include "a very large resort style pool with the river pool where kids can float around on the inner tubes all the way around the back of the property. There is going to be a water fall, a big stone waterfall. Lots of bars and lots and lots of green space."
At the time of that news conference, the hope was the contractor would break ground by December. In December, Mayor Hewes told Gulfport Chamber members he thought the groundbreaking would be in the first quarter of 2015. Now, in the middle of the second quarter, the mayor says the hotel project needs help, but he emphasizes, "I don't believe it's dead."
Centennial Plaza is a 57 acre property along Highway 90, just west of Courthouse Road. The city took control of the old VA site after Hurricane Katrina. It gave the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission permission to market the property to potential investors. Juneau's group has a deal to be that investor.
Juneau is chairman of the Le Triomphe property group, the managing partner of Centennial Plaza, LLC, the developers for Centennial Plaza.