Area Residents Turn Out to Give Input On Downtown Gulfport Revitalization

Revitalizing the downtown area of Gulfport has been considered a challenge, even since before the storm. But not even Katrina could rob the vision of the people who live and work there.

Monday night, the Mississippi Main Street Association, along with the newly formed Gulfport chapter, joined forces to gauge public opinion on how the area should be revitalized.

"We're trying not to reinvent the wheel," said Lisa Bradley, Executive Director of the Gulfport Main Street Association. "We're trying to take everything that was done through the charettes, all the different planning meetings, just to get everyone's input. We're going to take additional public comments, just to get a comprehensive plan on how to move forward."

Nearly a hundred Gulfport property owners, business and community leaders turned out to give their input on how the downtown area of the city should be revitalized. The meeting was headed up by the Mississippi Main Street Association's Executive Director.

"The reason it's important to create a vision is that's like a road map. The vision is, 'Where are you heading?'" said Beverly Meng, Executive Director of the Mississippi Main Street Association.

To help create this comprehensive vision, residents named what they believe to be the city's strengths -- such as Jones Park, the Federal Courthouse, and existing businesses -- as well as challenges of the area, which included the state of the beaches and harbor access.

"We have those challenges, and there's no doubt about that, but we have the opportunity that we've never had. We've got backing of organizations that needed to back us. You hate to use the phrase, "We've got the blank slate.' We've got the developers coming in," Bradley said.

At the end of the meeting, the crowd divided into groups and shared their visions for the downtown area five years from now.

"As I pass over Highway 90, I enter into a recreational world, via the antique trolley which carries me into a paradise of waterfalls, the entrance to a thriving port," said business owner Colleen Kershaw.

The Gulfport Main Street Association was formed in February. It only has the power to make recommendations to city leaders, property and business owners. Federal and state funds to be released are expected to be used to fund the organization's recommendations.