George Schloegel walked through a gutted Gulfport VA building Monday afternoon, and instead of focusing on its hurricane damage, he envisioned its potential. He called the building, and the 92 acres it sits on "a treasure."
The question becomes, what will Gulfport do with that treasure once the VA conveys the property to the city. In the past, projects like this always seemed to get bogged down in Gulfport by petty politics. But on Monday, when the city's brain trust toured the VA property, we noticed the mayor, the city council and the new development commission working together on ideas that can enhance this gift.
Inside the shell of the old VA laundry, that group sat in a circle. The room was dark. But the comments each person shared showed us that there may be light at the end of this tunnel. Group leaders talked about turning the laundry into a conference center. They analyzed ways they could fund this project, to begin luring meeting groups to their city. They all agreed that a park, a walking trail and some ball fields outside the building would enhance the northern side of the VA property. And they emphasized the city needs to start this work as soon as it can, even before it begins to work with developers on ways to redo the south side of the VA.
On Monday afternoon, Gulfport leaders seemed united. Let's hope they are, because the city is being given a treasure, and that treasure could be the pot of gold that reinvigorates the community.
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