Slum Designation Will Help Gulfport Recover

Pav and Broome is one of the crown jewels of downtown Gulfport's recovery. Gail Pav is part of the family who owns the Highway 49 store.

"Some people say, use the term, we're a cornerstone, which we find to be very flattering," she said.

At a time when hurricane repairs seem to be taking longer than people would like, Pav and Broome is repairing so much jewelry, it's about to add more display cases in an expanded showroom.

"Downtown has been really good to us. And we're just investing back into Gulfport," Pav said.

Gulfport's downtown district includes Pav and Broome. Despite the jewelry gem, the rest of downtown is in pretty bad shape. So bad, the city council unanimously voted to declare downtown a slum and blighted area.

"It's disheartening," said Gulfport Main Street Association director Lisa Bradley.

However, Bradley was the person who pushed for the designation.

"It makes you take a hard look at what you have to work with down there. It helps that it's a standard phrase for us that is being applied to us for a good cause."

Bradley said Gulfport needed the slum certification to become eligible for more than $12 million in community development block grants. Those grants will repair this area's infrastructure, and help some downtown property owners rebuild.

"Slum and blighted indicates that an area is in need of revitalization," said Bradley. "We know that being designated a slum and blighted area makes us eligible for more funds that otherwise we wouldn't."

Main Street is already working with the city to get downtown Gulfport's hurricane damaged buildings torn down.

Gail Pav can see the day when blighted downtown properties sparkle as brightly as her jewelry.

"I look to basically the future, what it can be," Pav said. "And it can be great."

Bradley can't wait for that day.

"There are a lot of things happening very slowly," she said. "And sometimes when things happen slowly, you don't see them happening at all until they're finished."

Gulfport isn't the only city to take advantage of the slum declaration. Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie said his city's consultant urged the board of aldermen to declare downtown Long Beach a blighted area. That made the friendly city eligible for federal grants.

Biloxi used the designation before the hurricane. The slum declaration helped Biloxi apply for federal money that paid for part of the Caillavet Street widening project.