Gulfport Closer To Waterfront Development Masterplan

The Gulfport waterfront development concept chosen by the citizens committee is called "Plan B-1". It involves upgrading Jones Park and the Small Craft Harbor. The plan includes a new Rice Pavilion, a Fisherman's Village and relocating the Veterans Memorial.

But some residents say the committee did not get enough public input on the plan. Patsy Spinks says the plan calls for a lot of asphalt, and includes many things that are not needed in the harbor. She says the plan has not been thought out by a lot of other people.

Marine Life Director Moby Solangi says the tourist attraction needs the council's help to survive. He says he has not been included in the committee discussions, so if the plan does not incorporate Marine Life and its future, then the city will be losing a very valuable asset. Solangi also says the plan calls for a visitor's center near Highway 49 and 90, which will block access to Marine Life.

Some city leaders also raised concerns about how to fund the project, that's estimated to cost about $22 million. Ward 7 Councilman Billy Hewes says the city doesn't have money to fix water, sewer and drainage problems, so it certainly doesn't have the $20 million to spend on the waterfront project.

Mayor Ken Combs says he doesn't see any capability of funding the project, so he thinks the city needs to go slow on it. Mayor Combs also stressed that he does not support a casino on the city's waterfront.

Committee Chairman Charles Cooper says the group has spent a lot of time studying the plans and picking the best one. Cooper says the council needs to stop blowing smoke and do the job that citizens have empowered to do.

The council did just that.  It voted 5-to-2 to accept plan B-1. Councilmen Ricky Dombrowski and Billy Hewes voted against the plan, saying the city still needs more time to review it.

The consulting firm Wallace Roberts and Todd will now work on a detailed plan, figure out the final cost of the project and the funding options. The citizens committee will then recommend a final plan to the city council for approval.

By: Trang Pham-Bui