Teresa Speir has been doing business in downtown Gulfport for six years now at Coast Books. She has recently moved into a new location which is about 60 yards away from her old site. Teresa says there is a renewed interest in the downtown area. "It is really exciting having been here six years to see people moving in and adding to the buildings and cleaning them up, and opening their businesses."
It's all part of the downtown revitalization program that the city of Gulfport and the Downtown Association is spearheading to make this area of town boom with activity. Plenty of new businesses have opened up, and others are on the way.
John Harral is with the Gulfport Downtown Association and says, "It really takes a mix of office space, and retail space, and people that are living in downtown, and all that is coming together."
Close attention seems to be on the history of the buildings downtown and working to bring them back to life. John Harral says, "We've gotten from the city and the county tax exemptions if you renovate a downtown building."
Teresa Speir says, "We have wonderful buildings downtown, restore them and bringing them back to give that really old time historic feeling."
Ginny Macken is right in the middle of restoring what used to be the Cadillac Club. The building has been up since 1903 and she's seeing to it that it's restored back to early 1900's. The new building will have a dinner theater and a French Bistro. "We're going to get some historical banners put up lining the streets letting people know that it is a historical city, and a lot of the people are going back and redoing and taking advantage of the tax credits."
With all the activity, it seems that steps are in motion to keep folks walking around downtown, shopping, eating out and even living as many of the buildings are going to have living space in the upstairs area.
Ginny Macken says, "We have been approved for condos here, so I think when you have people living downtown you're going to have people moving around downtown."
Teresa Speir added, "We would like to be the entertainment district too with shops open and restaurants and everything as well as housing units, that will make it a real neighborhood when that occurs."