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Looking toward a ‘liveable, walkable’ downtown Gulfport

GULFPORT — Officials in Gulfport say they want to take the next step in recovery from Hurricane Katrina by making the downtown area a place where people want to live.

Before the end of the year, a project will begin to turn upper floors of a building on 27th Avenue in Gulfport into apartments, with commercial interests on the bottom floor, Laurie Toups, director of the Gulfport Main Street agency, told WLOX-TV.

“We envision a walkable, livable community and that community has to start with people living downtown,” said Toups.

She says interest in downtown living is growing.

“A lot of people want to live in a downtown area where you come home from work and you park your car and you walk down to the store, you walk over to get a bite to eat and visit your neighbors.”

Toups acknowledged that more commercial development, such as a grocery store, is needed to draw residents. But, she said, as people start populating the area, those types of businesses will develop.

The atmosphere for growth has brought back Gulfport native Stephen Barnette.

In October, he will open Gilley’s Honkey Tonk Grill, complete with memorabilia and the original mechanical bull from the movie, “Urban Cowboy.”

“When I left, downtown was not the greatest condition,” Barnette said. “Once I returned, it’s obvious there’s been a lot of effort and financing to put into redeveloping downtown.”

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