Reaction mixed to Gulfport development plans

Reaction mixed to Gulfport development plans

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Reaction about big plans for economic development in downtown Gulfport is mixed; ranging from cautious excitement, to healthy skepticism.

Some say they'll believe the plans - which include building a new casino resort and renovating a historic hotel building - when they see it. Others are more optimistic.

Developer Robert Lubin is resurrecting a stalled casino site development at the Gulfport Harbor, and has grand renovation plans for the historic Markham Hotel building that's now an eyesore.

"It's very exciting," said Port City Cafe owner, Earnest Ulrich. "We need some more foot traffic down here. We need some more business. And I think it will be great. Great for the downtown. It's very exciting."

Ulrich says bringing residential development to the Markham will definitely boost business. Among the historic photos which decorate his cafe, there's one of the Markham in its glory days.

"It's been an eyesore since Katrina. But yeah, it's got potential. Historically, it's a great looking historic building," Ulrich noted.

Lenny Sawyer's real estate building sits in the shadow of the Markham building. He and many others have fond memories of the old hotel.

"It was the place. And a bunch of us that was born and raised here, we all learned to swim in the swimming pool. We also had our first drink in their bar over there," said Sawyer, "Yeah, a lot of great memories."

Sawyer's office building was a downtown grocery back in the day, and he says he's happy the Markham may finally have new life.

"Now we hear we're going to have maybe apartments, retail and restaurants. We're really excited," added Sawyer.

There have been development plans before; both for the Markham building, and the casino property. Because of that, some residents are skeptical.

"I think it's wonderful if it goes through. We've had lot of false starts on the Markham. But if it's redone, the building is well built and it will be just wonderful if we can get that in downtown Gulfport," said author and historian, Tom Simmons.

Robert Lubin may be new to Gulfport, but he's had other projects in Mississippi, including a casino in Natchez and a historic hotel property in that same city.  He also helped develop the Hilton Garden Inn project, in Pascagoula.

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