Schooner Piers Could Signal Cultural Campus

The Biloxi schooners have a new home. The Maritime and Seafood Museum hosted a dedication ceremony Friday to mark the completion of the new pier facilities.

It's a project that some say fits nicely into a bigger plan for that area of East Biloxi.

The pier facility just west of casino row was almost finished just before Katrina. Of course the hurricane meant some significant repairwork. But now the long awaited project is finished and some leaders say it marks the beginning of a "cultural campus" in East Biloxi.

Directly across from the new piers are the storm-mangled remains of the Ohr-O'Keefe museum. Despite Katrina, the museum's main benefactor is confident the project will one day "dance among the oak trees" as its architect envisioned.

"Our fondest hope is to complete the museum. The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum as originally envisioned by Frank Gehry," says Jerry O'Keefe.

Mr. O'Keefe envisions a "museum row" of sorts near the schooner piers. Along with the new  piers, there's talk of relocating the Seafood Museum at the old Tullis site, and a suggestion to resurrect the J.L. Scott aquarium nearby.

"The three of those combined, with the educational function, has a much greater opportunity and chance of getting funding, than all three of them being separate," says O'Keefe.

"I sure hope it's a possibility," says Seafood Museum director Robin David.

With the schooner piers a reality, the director of the Seafood Museum is on board with the idea. Why not a cultural campus sandwiched between two clusters of casinos?

"And I think that's what Biloxi needs. And I really hope it's going to happen," says David.

You can easily see the benefits of locating several cultural facilities alongside one another. Visitors can enjoy several attractions, all within an easy walking distance of one another. But the cultural campus idea also presents advantages for those operating the facilities.

"We could share parking, we could share security. And to have the Ohr and have the Maritime where Tullis is, and then even possibly bring J.L. Scott over here would be fantastic," says David.

The former mayor of Biloxi says the cultural campus would be a great addition for future generations.

"This history of this community and its culture has got to be maintained. We just can't walk away from it," says O'Keefe.