Hurricane Katrina interrupted architect Frank Gehry's vision of a museum campus that would "dance with the trees." Initial plans called for the phased-in construction of five separate "Ohr pods" among the oaks.
"As we got into the project, we decided we'd build five buildings, one after the other. Then the storm hit. I think we're going to have to back off of that and look at more of a phased-in," Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Board Chairman Larry Clark said.
Developing in phases has Gehry's support. Trustees who voted overwhelmingly to stick with the waterfront site, understand the significance and symbolism of the museum.
"Have those stainless steel pods. Have these trees that are renewing themselves after the storm and a rebirth. And wouldn't that just be symbolic of the spirit of the coast?"
That decision to keep Ohr-O'Keefe on the beachfront, clears the way for a different development at the old library.
"We have plans for the library building over there. We're looking to make a cultural center," Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway said.
The Mayor envisions some city offices and public meeting space in the building across from City Hall. But the focus will be a mini Katrina Museum, complete with items salvaged from the storm.
"Along with maybe some retail space, maybe a little restaurant in there, or cafe. A Katrina cafe. And maybe some other little boutiques and so forth. You've got 28,000 square feet."
Funding for both projects is not yet finalized. FEMA, insurance proceeds and Mississippi Development Authority money will be used to transform the old library. The Ohr-O'Keefe board is awaiting insurance settlements before proceeding with the scaled back museum plans.
Mayor Holloway also wanted to clear up any confusion about the old library site. He says the city did not offer that building to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Board as an alternate location. The Museum Board came to the city with the request.