The city hopes to silence naysayers who say nothing's happening in Gulfport through a $3.6 million project called the Facade Master Plan Program. It's funded through the Mississippi Development Authority's Community Revitalization Program.
The program offers property owners free money to help them improve the facades of their buildings or the sides facing the public. It applies only to buildings within Gulfport's "Downtown District," as laid out by Gulfport's City Council.
The project's goal is to improve the face of downtown block-by-block, instead of building-by-building. By working block-by-block, the city says it can keep the look of downtown more consistent.
"The other great advantage is the economies of scale. If we can hire a contractor, we'll get a better price than if we did one building at a time," says Gulfport Main Street Association President John Harral.
George Healy is a property owner whose building lies in the district.
"We were hoping to start our facade work within 30 to 60 days. I'm concerned that if I have to wait until the fall, then it's going to be too late to help me. But I think it'll help everyone in the long run," says Healy.
The city and the Gulfport Main Street Association are encouraging property owners to apply now because the grant has a time limit.
"This project's got a two year window. In two years' time, we'll be able to immediately see the fruits of our labor," says Johnny Olsen with Guild Hardy Architects.
"This is a great opportunity to put our best face forward for future development, and it could mean a lot for the future of the city," says Gulfport Main Street Association President Lisa Bradley.
The facade program has a sister project called the streetscape project. It will provide an additional $7.6 million to replace street lights, add new sidewalks and street furniture throughout the Central Business District, among other things.
John Harral has some tips for property owners looking to help speed up the process of getting their application approved. He says property owners should attach facade designs they may have from a previous architect, attach engineering drawings or floor plans and include an original design concept they'd like to see for their building.
Applications are available at the Main Street office in Gulfport City Hall. For more information on the application process, you can contact Lisa Bradley at (228) 575-7794 or by email at email@example.com.