GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Downtown Gulfport continues to be a hotbed for economic development.
Two major projects and a series of smaller pieces of the puzzle are coming together to transform the area. Buildings are being sold, restaurants are opening, construction on the Mississippi Aquarium appears to be on schedule and finally some progress on restoring the Markham building, which is just part of the story in downtown Gulfport.
Monday was opening day at Patio 44 on Highway 90 in downtown Gulfport. The owner of this restaurant picked the property knowing it was in the shadows of a pair of powerful projects in the pipeline.
“They had just announced the aquarium. That kind of made us jump on this location. With the Markham in our back pocket, right now that’s just a bonus for us. We’re excited,” said owner Ron Savell.
While construction is moving forward on the Mississippi Aquarium, progress is also being made on the Markham Building. All the windows have been removed, and the structure is being gutted floor by floor.
“It’s going to be a 124 room Hyatt Hotel. I’ve toured it with the developers and construction company several times. The room everyone talks about is that where they had their prom in is being renovated,” according to Economic Development Director David Parker.
A combination of grants and private capital investment is fueling the project, and several plans are in the works to make it unique.
“We’ve already met with one of the most prominent owners and chefs in the state. He’s looking to put a location on the first floor and is planning to,” Parker said.
Change is in the air around the downtown area. The former Justice Court Building on the corner of 17th Street and 23rd Avenue has just been sold. It will be renovated and turned into office space.
Meanwhile, other buildings downtown are drawing interest from developers in the hope of turning them into residential properties, something Gulfport is committed to in an effort to give the downtown area a more urban flavor using a mixture of funding mechanisms.
“There are certain programs. There are also historic tax credits along with a number of other incentives,” said Parker.
If everything goes according to plans, the restored Markham building will open as a Hyatt hotel the same time the Aquarium is completed in early 2020.