“It's going to be a real "focal point" for the entire gulf coast,” said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, as he talked about the Mississippi Aquarium project.
Mayor Hewes is excited about progress on the $93 million project now underway downtown.
“A lot of folks said, is it going to be real? Yes, it's going to be real. It's going to be huge and it will be transformational,”
“A lot of folks said, is it going to be real? Yes, it's going to be real. It's going to be huge and it will be transformational,” the mayor told the group.
As Mayor Hewes touted the aquarium project, work crews kept busy with initial ground work at the downtown site.
Fences are going up and ground is being prepared for the campus-style attraction.
“We're anticipating about 300,000 visitors a year, just to the aquarium. So, for the immediate area it's huge. For that niche that we've been talking about, needing more family oriented activities. This really fills a gap there,” said Mayor Hewes.
Contractor W.C. "Cotton" Fore won the first contract on the project. That first phase includes demolition, plenty of dirt hauling and drainage work.
“After we get through with this moving all this dirt in, and shaping it up, then it will settle for a little bit, then we'll start the construction. We're working on putting together the construction package for bids,”said Mayor Hewes.
The mayor expects to schedule a formal ground breaking for early April. The aquarium is set to open in early 2019.
“It's going to be a campus style approach to an aquarium. It's going to feature a lot of our own fish. It's going to have a brown water to blue water. So, it's going to be talking about upstate, some of the rivers and streams, down to the gulf and the blue ocean. Lot to see, lot to experience, lot to get excited about,” Mayor Hewes told the luncheon gathering.
“Downtown, that area is already starting to change with taking down some of the buildings and bringing some dirt in. So, just stay tuned!” urged the mayor.
David Kimmel's consultant group was hired by the city to oversee development of the aquarium project. Kimmel is the former president of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.