The birds still feel right at home. They swim around Gulfport's Small Craft Harbor just like they always did. There's one major difference. No boats and no wooden piers block their path anymore. Hurricane Katrina, and then debris removal equipment completely cleaned out the city's harbor.
When Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr looked out his window at the rather sparse scene, he laughed. "It looks a lot bigger than it did before, doesn't it?" he said
From a trailer parked north of Highway 90, Warr has architects reconfiguring the look of the city's harbor, and the adjacent property surrounding it.
"We've got the slate kind of clean now. So we can recreate it," the mayor said.
Warr's combining old drawings that gathered dust on city shelves with new charette concepts to bring the waterfront back to life. Boat slips, restaurants, an amphitheater and a Home Depot sponsored playground are all in the works.
"So it will be a place children can go, where people can go and have a very pleasant time and a very clean, well maintained, controlled environment that will be open to everybody," Warr said.
The mayor expects the design phase of the waterfront makeover to be done in 45 days.
"If we can get something going, so as soon as possible our citizens can come down there and have a beautiful place to take their children to play, or to see such a visible image of the city really being spectacular, I think there is a lot of value there," Warr said.
That's why the mayor set up a design office on Highway 90. He wants to personally oversee the redevelopment of Gulfport's harbor, and very valuable property that surrounds it.
The mayor said he's talked with Port of Gulfport officials about turning their east pier into a collection of retail stores, hotels and casinos. He's also met with the Coast Guard about moving its offices and docks either to the southern tip of the harbor or to a spot at the port.