GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On Thursday morning, Roy Anderson Corporation received the go ahead from the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission to begin construction on the long awaited Mississippi Aquarium project.
That decision is a win not only for the aquarium group, but also for downtown business owners.
Mississippi Aquarium President and CEO David Kimmel says he believes the aquarium and other downtown businesses can work together so everyone wins.
"The aquarium, it's an exciting project," said Kimmel. "What it really does, it's the linchpin pin for all of this downtown area. With the aquarium really anchoring a great down town, we really see this as the impetus to start great economic development here with the Markham hotel and some of the other projects that have been announced."
It's not just about building the image of downtown Gulfport.
Kimmel says another reason for business owners to be happy is a second gate on 14th street that will allow aquarium patrons to go downtown to eat, then come back to the aquarium later in the day.
"We know that the aquarium being an attraction is going to have us busy day in and out," said Garrett McLeod of Tony's Brick Oven Pizza.
PJ's Coffee employees have similar thoughts on the increase in business.
"I think it'll be really good for a lot of local businesses that aren't getting as much attention as they should be, even though they're on a strip," said barista Laurel McLaughlin. "I think that's going to kinda channel all of the revenue that could be spent inside the aquarium, if they don't have food then they're definitely going to want to eat something and drink something."
Kimmel is ready to see this project come out of the ground and into reality.
"We are getting started," Kimmel said. "We're going to take this pile of dirt and turn it into the most magnificent aquarium the gulf coast has ever seen."
You can expect to see construction work begin in January, and the aquarium to open in later 2019, or early 2020.