Gulfport VA About To Become City Property - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport VA About To Become City Property

When Brent Warr walks past the hurricane debris covering the Gulfport VA, he says, "I see a beautiful opportunity."

That opportunity was made possible by two variables -- the ferocious hurricane that battered and bruised the Gulfport VA, and the Veterans Administration's decision to close the Gulfport facility. Mayor Warr thinks his city has a chance to turn a negative into a positive.

"To be honest with you, this is going to benefit the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast," the mayor said. "The city of Gulfport is going to benefit exponentially because it's located right in the center of the coastline."

For decades, military veterans wandered in and out of the Highway 90 complex. But in 2004, the VA decided it no longer needed treatment facilities in both Gulfport and Biloxi. It decided to close Gulfport, and relocate those services in Biloxi.

And then the hurricane hit. Warr's been told the VA received $12 million to clean up its Gulfport mess. Once that's done, Gulfport will take over ownership of this 93 acre property.

"They're going to transfer it to us in December," the mayor said.

And shortly after the transfer, Warr expects a hurricane disaster area along the waterfront to be replaced by something special.

"Anytime you have a piece of real estate on the Gulf of Mexico of this size with essentially a clean slate, or the opportunity to be a clean slate," the mayor said, "it's just an incredible opportunity."

So what should Gulfport do with a nearly 90 year old beachfront property, once the feds clear out the hurricane debris and then deed the land over to the city? On Tuesday, Mayor Warr met with the new Gulf Coast Business Council and asked it to come up with a few suggestions.

The mayor has heard a few ideas that he's already considering.

"There's been every kind of idea thrown out in the world, everything from medical uses, educational uses, resort uses," he said.

In 2003, Rep. Gene Taylor and USM President Dr. Shelby Thames even discussed using the Gulfport VA as a teaching hospital.

The mayor plans on discussing the more recent ideas with the city council. Together, they'll come up with a plan that brings the Gulfport VA property back to life.

by Brad Kessie

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