Gulfport Courting Developers

Following a ten day retreat with a world famous urban planner, the city of Gulfport is now working to put those plans in motion.

New urbanist Andres Duany recently spent more than a week drawing up plans for several Gulfport locations: The VA property, harbor area and sportsplex.

The sign outside the vacant VA property touts "A New Beginning." That 92 acre site is one of several prime locations  Duany focused on. He created some ambitious plans; plans the mayor says are already attracting developers.

"Henry Turley company out of Memphis, Tennessee. Corporex out of Covington, Kentucky. And then there are tons of others who, because of this process, decided hey, there really are things happening in Gulfport. The opportunity is in Gulfport. Let's go there," said Mayor Brent Warr.

Mayor Warr says the planning process provided a good start. But the bigger challenge involves turning drawings into projects.

"Of course, what we want to see now is construction. That's what this is all about. Bricks and mortar. And we hope it will facilitate that," says the mayor.

"Hopefully, the next step is to see some things coming out of the ground. But it's going to take a lot of time and probably a lot of years before we start seeing that," said ward five councilman Brian Carriere.

Carriere says plans must be prioritized. He'd like to start along the waterfront.

"What we need to do is sit down and have a clear discussion about what's going to be the top priority. I think most people would agree that's going to be the Gulfport harbor. So, maybe we can get moving forward and see what kind of developers are still interested in doing some work in our harbor area," said the council member.

Tax breaks are an incentive to lure prospective developers to Gulfport. If a developer chooses to use some of the existing buildings on the VA property, they could receive a significant tax advantage.

"We've heard up to 67 cents on the dollar for the VA opportunity. So, a developer could come in, spend a certain amount of money and get 67 cents on the dollar back to go toward the success of that project," said Mayor Warr.

The mayor says before the city begins serious negotiations with interested developers, the city will hold several meetings to garner public input about the proposed projects.