Dirt could soon be turned at Centennial Plaza

Dirt could soon be turned at Centennial Plaza
Published: Aug. 24, 2016 at 8:20 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2016 at 10:01 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The City of Gulfport and a private developer are closer to bringing Centennial Plaza back to life. This comes after the project has sat dormant for three years.

Three years after the first big announcement about a Holiday Inn Resort, Centennial Plaza still sits vacant. Why? Dr. John Kelly, the Gulfport chief administrative officer, offered an answer.

"Development in general is very difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it," Kelly explained.

It's easier now, because state lawmakers approved historic tax credits in the last session. The developer, Le Triomphe, could reap a 25 percent return on every dollar spent. That helps calm the fears of investors, according to Kelly.

"What they have been doing is shoring up the rest of their finances, and they have assured us the financing is in place," said Kelly.

With that being the case, dirt could soon be turned.

"They are fully committed to getting this project started, construction wise, before the end of the year. They are saying sometime in the fourth quarter."

While plans to bring a Holiday Inn Resort to Centennial Plaza are still in play, city officials say there are plans to bring other amenities as well, costing as much as $150 million.

"They want retail. They also want housing," Kelly said. "You're going to see market rate apartments as well as condominiums on the east side of the project as well. You'll also remember there's a festival marketplace."

If it all happens, Kelly said a re-purposed property would inject city coffers with some much needed revenue.

"It would be huge in terms of tax revenues for the city itself. Number one, remember that the city actually owns the dirt. We'll get a percentage on everything that happens on the project," said Kelly. "And that's in addition to ad valorem and sales taxes."

Now, it's just a matter of making it all come together.

Any development on the property will have to be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. That's because several of the buildings on the old VA property are considered historic.

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