Gulfport leaders pushing for livable, walkable downtown - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport leaders pushing for livable, walkable downtown

Stephen Barnette, owner of Gilley's Honky Tonk Grill, cleans the mechanical bull from the movie, 'Urban Cowboy.' It's part of the memorabilia that will decorate his restaurant, scheduled to open in October on 27th Avenue in downtown Gulfport. Stephen Barnette, owner of Gilley's Honky Tonk Grill, cleans the mechanical bull from the movie, 'Urban Cowboy.' It's part of the memorabilia that will decorate his restaurant, scheduled to open in October on 27th Avenue in downtown Gulfport.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

When you talk about recovery from Katrina, downtown Gulfport should be in the conversation.

It’s been a public, private journey that has guided the area in growth.

But it's not over yet.

Downtown Gulfport transitioned into a professional center and a night time hot spot.

But city leaders are looking at the next evolution square in the face.

“We envision and walkable, livable community and that community has to start with people living downtown,” said Laurie Toups, Gulfport Main Street director.

She said that before the end of the year, this building on 27th Avenue, will begin developing upper floor apartments, with commercial interests on the bottom floor.

“A lot of people want to move in that direction,” Toups said. “A lot of people want to live in a downtown area where you come home from work and you park your car and you walk down to the store, you walk over to get a bite to eat and visit your neighbors.”

For Toups, all interests are symbiotic.

“We do need commercial enterprises,” she said. “We do need retail. We do need a grocery store. We do need people. But I think that once you start populating an area, those things naturally tend to follow.”

Poem Love, manager of Triplett Day Drugs, has been with the store for 30 years.

“You see my store, it still looks like it did back in the 1950s and '60s,” she said. “We’d love to have it like it was back then, but any new small boutique or men’s store or anything would help bring people downtown.”

The atmosphere for growth has brought back Gulfport native Stephen Barnette.

In October, he will open the first and only Gilley’s Honkey Tonk Grill, complete with tons of memorabilia and the original mechanical bull from the movie, “Urban Cowboy,” delivered by Mickey Gilley himself.

“When I left, downtown was not the greatest condition,” Barnette said. “Once I returned, it’s obvious there's been a lot of effort and financing to put into redeveloping downtown.”

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