Mini-Charrette Entices Gulfport Merchants To Rebuild

Sixty Gulfport Downtown Association members met in the basement of Gulfport's First United Methodist Church. They've all talked before about ways to revitalize downtown Gulfport. And they've had some success. Hurricane Katrina made sure Thursday's meeting was different.

At an impromptu pow wow of Gulfport's brass and the governor's staff, Mayor Brent Warr stated the obvious.

"You don't build a house and buy sheet rock and shingles and all that stuff without a plan," the mayor said while standing outside the downtown church.

The plan in this instance maps out a strategy to rebuild downtown Gulfport. How that's accomplished could come from the ideas exchanged at the Gulfport Downtown Association's mini charrette.

Steve Coyle was hired to organize this strategy session.

"We're trying to prioritize objectives," Coyle said. "People are really committed. And they're also intelligent, kind, and willing to work together. So that's a good start."

Coyle had the charrette participants break into groups. Each table focused on a topic that could spur downtown activity. One group debated retail growth. Teresa Spiers sat in on that discussion.

"We want to encourage not only diversity, but a variety of businesses in terms of offerings," the downtown merchant said.

At another table, they talked about the architects who gave the CBD its character.

David Andre's table concentrated on how the harbor and the port could be incorporated into downtown's revitalization efforts.

"To see the state port be used for parking tractor trailer trucks, I think, rubs all of us the wrong way," the head of the Mississippi Sound Maritime Museum said.

According to Mayor Warr, the ideas that come out of the two day charette are crucial to downtown Gulfport's post-Katrina renaissance, because he believes that with so many downtown buildings in disrepair, the time has come for action.