Merchants excited, but also worried about Courthouse Rd. project

Merchants excited, but also worried about Courthouse Rd. project

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Just weeks before Courthouse Road in Gulfport begins $5.4 million facelift, merchants are speaking out about what is to come.

Chuck Kelly doesn't want to see his, or any other, business slow down because of the year-long street renovation. But, he knows progress sometimes takes a couple of steps backward before a big leap forward.

"Anyone who doesn't have concerns has obviously never seen it, never been through it," Kelly said. "Typically, they don't finish on time. There's weather, there's messy, dusty roads. But we're choosing to look forward and beyond it."

The project involves not only repaving, but also lots of landscaping, decorative lighting and new sidewalks.

Gulfport officials say pending approval from MDOT, which is providing 80 percent of the funding, construction likely will begin in mid-May.

"Everyone on Courthouse Road - all the merchants and property owners - everyone's excited about revitalizing this area," Kelly said. "Since the storm, it's been slow down here, that's no secret."

Hannah Curtin is getting ready for one of the busiest times of the year as manager of Fly Boutique.

"We do have a few worries about are the customers going to be able to come in easily or is it going to slow business down at all," Curtin said. "But I think for the most part, we're excited about it."

Christian Matthew has been operating his T-shirt printing business since 2011, and has concerns.

"But I think the trade off of that - with people actually knowing that aren't Coast residents that this is a shopping destination - would be great for the merchants."

Matthew says a similar kind of project has already proven a successful investment.

"Just seeing what it did for Jeff Davis Avenue in Long Beach," Matthew said. "That place used to be pretty much a ghost town and now it's actually kind of bustling a little bit."

City engineer Kris Reiman says city leaders and the contractor will meet with merchants and property owners about every two weeks for the length of the project once it starts to address any concerns.

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