Downtown Gulfport businesses getting exterior makeovers

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The face of downtown Gulfport is slowly transforming. Historic structures and dilapidated buildings are getting a fresher look.

"It's a flurry of activity," said Lisa Bradley, Executive Director of the Gulfport Main Street Association. "We've got so much going on in so many buildings. There are 68 actual buildings in the downtown district getting facelifts out of this program."

The $4.5 million federal Facade Grant program started about three months ago. Eligible businesses received between $16,000 to as much as $100,000 to repair, upgrade, or preserve the exteriors of their buildings.

Seven buildings are already finished, including the Magnolia Printing business on Highway 49. On Friday, the architect, contractor, and Main Street representatives gave the building a final inspection.

"We removed the metal, we did stucco, we added lights to the outside of the building, and painted the whole side facing the street," said Stephen Holden, who manages the building. "It looks great. It really does. It's an excellent facelift."

Some buildings in the program haven't been touched yet. But by March of 2009, facade work on all 68 buildings should be finished. And with money left over from the first phase of the program, the city is getting ready to launch another round of grants.

"Our exciting news is beginning Monday of this upcoming week, we'll begin accepting applications for the second round of funding," said Bradley. "We'll accept applications until December first. And after December first, we'll award some more grants and get some more work underway."

Stephen Holden is encouraging business owners to take advantage of the free program.

"It's only going to help it," said Holden. "Every building is starting to look better all the way up the street."

As part of the first phase, 40 buildings are under construction and 21 are currently in the bidding process. Just so you know, the oldest building in the project dates back to 1901.