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Renovation project for Job Corps site clears major administrative hurdle

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The wheels of progress on the renovation of the old Job Corps site in Gulfport are finally starting to roll. After years of planning and months of protest over the construction contract, the $43 million project could begin by the end of the year.

When Gulfport councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey passes by the old 33rd Avenue High School, it’s like a trip back in time. But it’s the future that he’s excited that the most.

“The community is going to benefit from that,” he said. “We have a plan to do something in the historical quarter’s area as far as business, and do some improvements as far as infrastructure. And make some money available for the homeowners in the community so they can bring their property up to par. So, everything will look accordingly with a brand new $43 million building.”

The historic school was headquarters for the Job Corps until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Federal money for the renovation work was allocated in 2018, but progress has been slow and frustrating.

“Time has expired and we need to have this facility up and going on behalf of the students and the community,” Casey said.

Now, one of the last administrative hurdles has been cleared. On June 25, the construction contract was awarded to Roy Anderson Corp, but a protest filed in July forced the Department of Labor to issue a Stop Work Order.

Two days ago, that order was lifted and all that is needed is a Notice to Proceed, and that could come any day.

“It’s a done deal and we’re ready to move forward,” Casey said.

Mark Lishen of Eley Guild Hardy Architects calls this a legacy project. It incorporates respect for history with a vision for the future. The facades facing 20th Street and 34th Avenue will remain, but everything else will be high-tech classrooms and social gathering spots.

“You have to remember, we’re standing in front of the original segregated high school for African American students that was built back in 1953,” Lishen said. “The 33rd Avenue alumni group has so much history and so much love for this property and these buildings.”

Once the work begins, it could take up to two years to complete. The classroom modules currently in use on the property are scheduled to be relocated to the south by January, but the process could start in two to three weeks.

And before any construction work will begin, asbestos and mold will have to be removed.

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