Deadline Ends For Gulfport Facade Grant

Sean Tindell has done wonders to an old, two-story building on Highway 49.

"When we came in, we had to redo all the floors," Sean Tindell said. "Originally in the 20s, it was built as a grocery store. A lot of people know it as the American Beauty College building."

Tindell bought the building after Katrina, and invested more than $100,000 restoring the interior to its original condition. He wants to give the exterior a facelift as well.

"I'd love to refurbish the original windows to their original state," Tindell said. "And a vision of my own, I don't think it was this way originally, to have a balcony along the front. It's kind of like what you see in the French Quarter in New Orleans."

Tindell and more than 70 other downtown Gulfport property owners qualify for the Facade Grant, to repair and upgrade the front of their buildings. Each property is eligible for as much as $50,000 in funding.

"There are so many things wrong with the facades in downtown," said Lisa Bradley, Director of the Gulfport Main Street Association. "They've gotten beat up over the years, a lot of storm damage. We want it to look like it's new again. We have a lot of historic buildings that are 100 years old, and it's time to embrace that again, and get those back to tip-top shape."

Bradley believes the changes will lure more businesses to the downtown district.

"These buildings have been under-utilized, and under-appreciated for a long time," Bradley said "There's a lot of infill space that didn't exist before, and opportunities for development. I think we'll see that spurt of development and, of course, that will benefit the whole city."

The makeovers will happen in phases, with the first starting on Highway 49, south of the tracks. When the work is finished, the city hopes the downtown buildings will reflect their former glory.

"We're looking more for something that looks clean, and new, and well taken care of. Something that's loved, like our downtown should be," Bradley said.

"I just think these buildings are treasures," Tindell said. "We live in an area that's prone to hurricanes. We don't have a lot of old, old buildings, so we really need to take care of the ones we have."

Next week, the city will start testing for asbestos on the qualified buildings, and then work on the designs. City leaders hope to finish the Facade Project in about two years.