GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - The City of Gautier has secured $5 million to purchase the old Singing River Mall property.
The Gulf Coast Restoration Fund awarded $3.5 million and the state legislature’s bond bill allotted an additional $1.5 million.
The funding, along with an additional $500,000 in city funds, will be used to purchase the 55-acre property, which was demolished in February 2014.
Right now, it’s still up in the air how the property should be used but some of the plans discussed have ranged from building condos to retail stores to restaurants and entertainment venues.
Yancey told WLOX there are also plans to develop a site near the old mall Town Commons, which will give the city two entertainment retail business hubs. The city is also working with the Mississippi Songwriters Association to develop a hall of fame in the area.
“Cities with a town center are more viable long-term than those without town centers,” Yancey said. “This is the shot in the arm that Gautier has been working so hard toward these last few years.”
Redevelopment of the old mall site has been stifled for years due to the large size of the parcel, as well as a changing retail environment. Developers found they could not carry an expensive note on such a large piece of property, given that the property must likely be developed in phases.
“We could not be more thrilled to receive this funding, as it will allow us to take a giant leap forward with the redevelopment of this large commercial property,” City Manager Paula Yancey said. “The mayor and the entire City Council has made the redevelopment of the Town Center as its number one priority for the citizens of Gautier.”
The city already has a preliminary development agreement with Blackwater Development Co., which is the same company that also developed the Wharf in Orange Beach, Ala.
City retains control of property and has state approval that it can lease spaces below fair market value for 75 years. The city intends to acquire the mall property then lease the land to the developer at less than fair market value in order to incentivize the development of retail on the property.
City leaders say Gautier is still waiting to get the state money in hand but that they are hopeful the purchase will be complete by November.
“The mayor and council would like to thank our city attorney, Josh Danos, for his tireless efforts on this project,” Yancey said. “We would also like to thank Rep. John Read and Sen. Jeremy England, along with the rest of our Jackson County delegation, for championing our cause. We would not be in this wonderful position without their hard work and support.”