Gulfport looks to expand downtown with new ‘Innovation District’
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It’s a big step for downtown Gulfport: expanding the downtown district north of the railroad tracks. It’s a plan that was years in the making, now just months away from becoming a reality.
With the presentation of a $68,000 check, the City of Gulfport’s new “Innovation District” is coming into focus.
“This is an exciting project that came to us from a concept of expanding downtown beyond the traditional areas, going north of the tracks,” said Mayor Billy Hewes.
Hewes believes the Backlot at Trackside is just the beginning for the downtown expansion.
“Really we want to take this, for now, up to Pass Road, but the starting point is where Coast Roast and Pop Brothers is,” Hewes said.
The project would take refurbished shipping containers and create a new retail and hospitality space Hewes believes will add to the already rich culture of Gulfport.
“Creating a new social venue, do some micro-retail, and just you know, kind of a cool funky place downtown just in addition,” Hewes said.
Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast CEO Milton Segarra sees a lot of potential in this project to entice new travelers to make a stop in Gulfport.
"This type of development, really being a small one, provides an opportunity for people to come in, locals and visitors, and get to know Gulfport and all of the other facilities we have," Segarra said.
Ward 2 Councilman Ron Roland is excited to see another great development in the works for his constituents.
“As I think back across the past year especially, you know, we’ve had Centennial Plaza come on board, of course the aquarium. We’ve had USM research center,” Roland said. “With this project, along with Fishbone Alley, this is just another addition to our downtown to bring people in.”
From the Aquarium to the Markham building, Centennial Plaza and now Backlot at Trackside, Hewes believes his city is moving in the right direction.
“We’re at a crossroads here,” Hewes said. “A lot is happening. We feel that this has great potential to do those things that make Gulfport a more interesting place to live.”
The $68,000 grant from the Knight Foundation will go to help in the planning and engineering phase of the project. City officials said once that phase is complete, the Backlot at Trackside could be up and running as soon as 12 months later.
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