August 4, 2008

Gulfport Dredging is First Step: Step Two Will Be Attracting a Developer

By Ryan LaFontaine, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Aug. 4--GULFPORT -- Large cranes are busy this week pulling more than 70,000 cubic yards of muck from the floor of the Small Craft Harbor, a necessary step if the city is to realize its dream of a world-class facility.

The two-phase, harbor-dredging project should last well into the new year.

Meantime, the new Gulfport Development Commission, a five-member panel assembled to solicit proposals from developers to build projects on city property -- including the harbor -- could meet for the first time later this month.

W.C. Fore Trucking Inc. landed the $1.7 million dredging project and the company is strategically stacking most of the dredge material in an area to the west in the harbor, away from possible development projects.

Mayor Brent Warr said if the GDC were to quickly find a private developer willing to build the harbor designs created by architect Andres Duany, neither the dredging equipment nor the muddy piles of dredge material would be in the way.

"The (dredging) work was designed with that in mind," Warr said.

In addition to the harbor and Jones Park, the new commission will search for developers for projects on several other city-owned properties, including the Sportsplex, Ken Combs Pier, the 92-acre Veterans Affairs property and a three-story performing arts center downtown on 25th Avenue.

But which of those properties and projects is priority No. 1 for the new GDC? The federal government has not yet made good on its promise to give the VA property to the city, and plans for the harbor and Jones Park seem light years ahead of plans for the other properties.

"I think the logical one to be first (on GDC's agenda) would be the harbor," Warr said. "It's already moving along and the property at the Ken Combs Pier will be a lot more complicated because it's such a small piece of land and we may need to tie that to whatever it is we do at the VA."

The husband-and-wife team of Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk are the world's most famous practitioners of New Urbanism, a planning style that promotes high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with shops and offices.

Duany's team created the plans for each Gulfport property during a 10-day design conference in January.

The plans for the harbor and Jones Park include possibly two restaurants at the old White Cap location. A children's squirt park, fishermen's village and a bait shop, along with three-story retail and residential buildings along the eastern edge of the harbor, also are planned.


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