Governor's Urban Designers Tour Pascagoula

"This is your package. It's got maps, instructions for your team," a Mississippi Renewal Forum Manager says to the Pascagoula team leader.

With that this crew of architects and urban designers from all over the nation left the Isle of Capri headed for Pascagoula.

Most of them have never seen the Flagship City. So when they arrived, a quick introduction was necessary.

What they couldn't see on the map were the two problems community leaders want the planners to help solve: housing and retail.

"We don't have a card shop. We don't have a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor. It's hard to buy a book. We need those things, but we need it in an environment where people can walk from store to store," business owner Jim Estabrook says.

"These folks I believe can bring some new and fresh ideas to the table," Pascagoula Mayor Mathew Avara says.

To do so they needed to know more about the city.

"We are entering the central business district in the downtown area," the tour guide says, "Based on where it came from, it's very very pretty."

"This looks like a very interesting complicated challenge," Urban designer John Ellis says.

The crew took pictures, asked questions, and talked about the possibilities.

"These could be terrific opportunity sites for expanding downtown," one team member says.

"Allegedly there's no where to buy a paperback book. We're going to look at sites that may be appropriate for retail," Ellis says.

Pascagoula also needs places to build homes.

"Townhouses, maybe higher densities than what's already existing," Ellis adds.

Ellis says it's more than just a short-term damage repair.

"It's trying to help with a long-term strategy of how the town can really grow and thrive. Some things can be done immediately."

The rest, he says, will take some time.