Downtown Gulfport Brings Mixed-Use Development to Downtown

A $50 million mixed-use development that will add 200 luxury apartments in downtown Gulfport is ready to go with $8 million in financing from BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Fund.

Downtown Gulfport will be built on empty land at the northwest corner of US 90 and 49, south of Half Shell Oyster House and across the freeway from the beach.

The four-story building will include 10,000 square feet of flexible retail and restaurant space, as well as 30,000 square feet of office space in a second phase, topped with apartments.

“We are currently in the design and engineering phase and aim to have groundbreaking and start of work on the site by the end of the year,” said Stewart Speed, President of Leaf River Group, the company developing the project.

The $8 million BP prize will be used for infrastructure and parking, with about 200 of the 480 spaces dedicated to the public, Speed ​​said.

He worked with the Coast Delegation and the Gulfport Economic Development Authority to help secure the grant. With the cost of inflation, “we needed it to meet today’s construction costs,” he said.

Project details

The company began working on the project two years ago at the start of the pandemic, Speed ​​said. Since then, many things have changed, such as the cost of building materials and people’s ability to live anywhere and work from home.

With the cost of construction rising, the project was “right sized”, he said, and reduced by 50 units from the original plan. It will have a mix of 200 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

The building will feature balconies and city and water views, he said, and will have a residents’ lounge, courtyard, resort-style pool above the parking lot , a courtyard and a space on the roof where residents or the public can host catered events.

One of the greatest amenities, he said, is the location — walking distance to the beach, the Mississippi Aquarium, Jones Park, the Port of Gulfport, and downtown restaurants. .

Why Gulfport?

“This is one of the most exciting projects we’ve had in some time,” Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said, particularly with the downtown apartments which he says will be key to supporting the blue economy and the professionals who will work in the city.

The downtown site is adjacent to the historic Gulf & Ship Island building, the centerpiece of the new Gulf Blue initiative. The University of Southern Mississippi said the initiative will bring together research scientists, federal agencies, industry partners and entrepreneurs to develop Gulfport and the region as a global leader in ocean and sea-related technologies. .

Gulfport Town Center is expected to have a $12 million economic impact on the city, supporting 100 jobs and nearly $500,000 in new spending at downtown restaurants and bars, according to an economic report prepared for the developer.

A better place

Since the pandemic, Speed ​​said, “There’s a lot of interest here from people moving from places like California where the cost is high, New York and Chicago where crime is high, and they just want something better. So it comes at the perfect time.

Similar developments the company has built in Jackson and Mobile have proven to attract young professionals, he said, and have been a catalyst for bringing other businesses to those areas.

Near the company’s Meridian at the Port Development, he said, there is now a grocery store, several craft breweries, and additional apartments and condos catering to the many people he says want to live and work downtown. city.

A 2019 report by the Gulf Coast Business Council and the Community Foundation shared recommendations on how best to use BP’s settlement fund, he said. Among the top priorities were improving the quality of venues as well as recruiting the workforce, he said.

“They actually called downtown Gulfport a very good location,” he said.

Niles Bolton Associates and Eley Guild Hardy are the architects and the downtown will be built by AnderCorp of Gulfport.

Leaf River Group is based in Jackson and Speed ​​said it was rewarding to be involved in this Coast project with local partners to create what it believes will be among the leading development models in southern cities. from Mississippi.

Her father, Leeland Speed, was executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority under Governor Haley Barbour and oversaw the recovery of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. He died in January 2001.

“He would love to see all the activity,” his son said.

Mary Perez has won awards for her articles on business and casinos for the Sun Herald. She also writes about Biloxi, jobs and new restaurants and developments coming to the coast. She’s a fourth-generation journalist.

David H. Henry