Golden Harbor Casino Resort & Spa has met its requirement to show $40 million in funding by Feb. 28 and submitted plans with the city for a proposed casino, high-rise hotel, parking garage and outdoor pool with a shark tank on 10.7 acres on the west side of the public harbor.
Total project cost is estimated at $140 million. Plans for Golden Harbor include an event center, buffet, fine dining, theater and food court. The shark tank is listed as a tie-in to The Mississippi Aquarium, which the city plans on property north of U.S. 90 across from the harbor.
Kentucky-based Encompass DDC submitted the plans on behalf of Mississippi Coast Entertainment, the limited partnership leasing 10.7 acres for a harbor casino from three property owners, including the city’s economic-development agency, Gulfport Redevelopment Commission.
GRC attorney Steve Hendrix said funding so far is a mix of private and EB-5 investment. The EB-5 program offers permanent U.S. residency status to foreign investors with a goal of job creation.
MCE this week filed an incomplete application with the Mississippi Gaming Commission for permission to build, making it unlikely the request will be considered at the commission’s meeting scheduled for March 16 in Biloxi, Executive Director Allen Godfrey said.
The Gulfport Planning Commission will review Golden Harbor’s master plan at a meeting March 23. MCE is asking for variances from city parking and height requirements, according to the application.
The plans show the hotel tower fronting 27th Avenue, which runs north-south on the harbor’s west side, with the casino wrapped behind it. A large green area sits on the south side of the casino and hotel.
Plans call for a parking garage with 756 spaces and a parking lot with 249 spaces, which would meet Gaming Commission requirements for employee and casino parking, but not city requirements for spaces needed for accessory uses, such as the theater. MCE said it is considering satellite parking if a transportation plan can be approved.
The hotel, the plan says, would exceed the city’s 75-foot height limit in the Entertainment Gaming District, where the casino would be. The plan does not say how many stories tall the hotel would be, but the first floor would have to be 23 feet or more above ground to meet flood-elevation requirements.
MCE is leasing the property from the GRC and two private entities, Marine Life Ventures LLC and MC Marine Properties.
Under its agreement with the property owners, MCE was originally supposed to begin construction by March 30, but that date has been pushed back to July 31.
The city has been trying since the 1990s to land a casino for the harbor, but several deals have failed to materialize, including a 1993 proposal from Donald Trump.
Partners in MCE are Virginia attorney Robert Lubin, who specializes in EB-5 investments, and Kevin Preston, president of Magnolia Bluffs Casino in Natchez and Premier Gaming Group, headquartered in Kentucky.