Gulfport May Renew Its Tax Break For Downtown Redevelopment

Karl Fasold is a downtown Gulfport jeweler. He still believes that if you give the downtown area enough time, it will become the place to stop, shop and dine. "Gulfport is going to do better and better and better," Fasold said, "not in a couple of years, but in the future."

Jerry Ayers is hoping the future is now, because he just opened a downtown Gulfport used bookstore. Because of the changes in the downtown area, Ayers is "convinced that downtown is going to boom."

Ayers runs the Paper Chase. It's the kind of downtown shop that attracts customers like Mary Clark. As she browsed through the book shop, she told us, "I just wanted to come down and see what was here."

The Paper Chase has big plans for downtown Gulfport. Owners can see the day when the Paper Chase and other 13th Street bookstores use a nearby alley for book signings and street fairs. They say the key to success is advertising. In the Paper Chase's case, that means putting brochures all over Mississippi.

Jan Bradford picked up one of the brochures on her way in from New Orleans. "Brochures are scattered throughout the area," she said. "And we picked up a brochure and ended up here because we're old book lovers."

With the Paper Chase open, and Coast Books moving into the vacant space next door, Jerry Ayers believes book lovers have more reasons than ever to come downtown. "I'm sold on this area," he said. "I did a lot of demographic studies before we opened up here, and this was our first choice."

Two years ago, Gulfport first offered tax breaks to developers who renovate old downtown buldings. Five developers took advantage of Gulfport's original tax incentive program before it expired January first. Because of the break, their property taxes will remain frozen for seven years.

by Brad Kessie