Swimming pools on the beach. Small craft harbor boat slips rented to downtown Gulfport condo owners. In Andres Duany's world, anything is possible.
Thursday, the acclaimed new urbanist architect held meetings with Gulfport business owners. He wanted to hear their thoughts about city development concepts before he designed a blueprint for Gulfport's recovery.
Mr. Duany and his design team are focusing their efforts on the Gulfport VA property, downtown Gulfport, the harbor area, and the city's sportsplex. Each location offers an opportunity for developers to invest in Gulfport projects that are aesthetically and environmentally pleasing.
"You've had your tragedy," Duany told a group of business owners.
Now, he believes it's time for Gulfport to implement a recovery plan that produces significant results.
"If things go on as they are, an awful lot of houses might be unpleasantly surprised by let's say apartment houses or high rises next to them," he thought.
Duany has a $400,000 contract with the city of Gulfport that among other things has him design the template for a mixed use development here at the Gulfport VA. He sees the VA site becoming "a first rate conference facility with some full time residences."
Gulfport gets the deed to the 93 acre waterfront property once the VA spends $20 million to rehab the 10 remaining buildings out here.
"The opportunity is tremendous, I mean the sites are empty. And things you could dream of are now possible," he said.
Before Duany and his team of new urbanist designers sketched out what the VA, and the neighboring downtown area could become, he met with Gulfport business owners. Rick Camarena owns several downtown Gulfport buildings. And they're all being renovated.
"We've gotta learn that there's new ideas and new challenges with FEMA flood elevations," Camarena said.
He also realizes Gulfport must "make everything look aesthetically nice."
The business group's thoughts about Gulfport's future blueprint will be blended into Duany's eventual designs.
David Andre had a museum in downtown Gulfport, until the storm washed it away.
"Hopefully we'll have the wisdom to follow these plans, so we don't end up with a hodge podge," Andre said.
Rough drafts of what Duany and the new urbanist architects see Gulfport becoming will be completed and left on Mayor Brent Warr's desk on January 31st.
Rick Camarena looks forwarding to seeing Duany's concepts.
"He's really trying to bring the aesthetics back to the 1920s and 30s where I think a lot of the coast residents want to see it come back," Camarena said.
Friday afternoon at 4:00, Duany wants to hear from Gulfport citizens. If you'd like to share your thoughts about Gulfport development in the future, go to the Handsboro Community Center on Switzer Road.
By Brad Kessie
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