GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Last week, the plans for a development in downtown Gulfport took another step toward reality.
The Gulf Coast Restoration Fund Advisory Board decided the Gulfport Town Center was a project worthy of moving to the next step of consideration.
And those who have an investment in the downtown area, both financially and recreationally, are happy to see that a slab of concrete could become another magnet for growth.
Marissa and Chantz Black of Wiggins come to downtown Gulfport almost every weekend.
“It’s built up a lot,” Marissa said. “A lot more attractions, especially with the aquarium now. I think that’s a really great addition. Some really great restaurants down here. We love Half Shell. So, I think it’s really built up nicely.”
While there are amenities downtown, some commercial space sits empty.
The hope is that creating the center with luxury apartments, entertainment venues, and public parking spaces stands will make downtown even better.
“There’s still plenty of room down here,” Chantz added. “There’s a lot of chance for extending out. So, I think nothing but positives.”
The lot has been empty, along with others, since Hurricane Katrina raked it clean, and it has left people wondering what could be made of it.
“You see concrete slabs and things like that, which can be a little bit of an eyesore of past times essentially,” said Chantz. “But it’s nice to see them come back in, kind of refurbish these areas and use them for something different.”
The developers are asking for $30 million from the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund, and they will match that with help from a private source.
Marvin Smith owns about 15 rental homes within a half mile of downtown, and he’s all for creating more living space in the area.
“During the day, the restaurants are pretty full at lunch because of people working in the area,” said Smith. “But I think if people lived down here, instead of driving back to Orange Grove or above I-10, I think it would help everything around here too.”
And Smith thinks this new development would create an energy for all businesses.
“I don’t think it will take away from one and add to another,” said Smith. “I think it will bring everybody’s business to a higher level.”
If the funding is approved by the advisory board, and then eventually by the MDA and state legislature, project leaders plan to start construction in January 2022.
The project will take about two-years to complete.