Designers Review Downtown Plans

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Gulfport residents and business owners got a second chance to speak out about the city's downtown design plans. Monday, designers from DPZ returned to South Mississippi to review their most recent drafts and get more input from residents.

Designers from DPZ want to increase the living and commercial space around the harbor. However, residents have their fair share of concerns. Are the plans too ambitious? And will the new design plans decrease the number or size of the harbor's boat slips. Mayor Warr says no.

"Before Katrina, there were 100 and some odd functioning boat slips down there, so it was available to those people. This will give the opportunity to have over twice that many boat slips and more boat slips, including the ones we've always known and loved," said Mayor Warr.

Residents also expressed traffic concerns during events and holidays. DPZ designers say they don't plan for pandemonium. Instead, their plans will ultimately decrease traffic. The design team also plans to negotiate with FEMA on some its strict elevation requirements.

"Raising a building up that high can be done very elegantly, or not so elegantly. FEMA's requirements don't care about elegance. They don't care about aesthetics," said one DPZ designer.

As for 25th Avenue, designers are proposing two new structures: A performing arts center and an office building.

Ultimately, the Gulfport council will give the final okay.

The design team also talked about its plans for the VA property and the Ken Combs Pier. Designers want the new VA site to include dining, hotels, restaurants and retail space, not to mention a conference center.

As far as the Ken Combs Pier, DPZ suggested that the area include a restaurant between the pier and the boat launch.

Many residents are in favor of the design ideas, but say they want to see examples of areas where DPZ has been successful.