The city is set to award the first contract for construction of the Mississippi Aquarium to W. C. Fore, a Gulfport businessman who has worked on some of the Coast’s most iconic projects.
W.C. Fore Trucking Inc. submitted a bid of $1,134,372 for the work, which he said will include demolishing two buildings, fencing off the property, installing drainage and hauling in 80,000 yards of dirt, or 4,000 truckloads. The dirt will be hauled south on Cowan-Lorraine Road, then west on U.S. 90 to the aquarium site on the waterfront downtown, he said.
The buildings to be torn down include a two-story brick building on 21st Avenue, the former home of Big Mike’s Speakeasy, which has relocated to 25th Avenue, and a vacated church on 15th street across from the federal courthouse.
The City Council is expected to decide Tuesday whether to award the contract to Fore. He said work would start Thursday and be completed in about four months.
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Fore has completed dirt and elevation work for some of the Coast’s major casinos, including Beau Rivage Casino Resort in Biloxi, where he also supplied all the concrete. He’s also worked on projects at NASA, Ship Island and the state port.
“Every job is exciting,” said Fore, who will mark his 57th year in business May 19. “It's almost a new approach you have to take because every job is different.”
City spokesman Chris Vignes said eight companies submitted bids for the site work, with Fore’s being the lowest.
David Kimmel, who is managing the project, said in a memo to the City Council that $1.2 million was budgeted for site work, with base construction costs estimated at $52 million. The city estimates another $20 million will be needed to acquire exhibit animals. The state is helping fund the project, but money also will be raised through business sponsorships and individual contributions.
The city announced its plans for the aquarium in March 2016, with Gov. Phil Bryant and other dignitaries as guests on the nine-plus acres where it is being built.
PGAV Destinations of St. Louis, Mo., designed the aquarium to emphasize the Coast's natural environment of freshwater flowing into saltwater. On entry, visitors will see a river that can be viewed from above or below through acrylic walls, a feature throughout the outdoor and indoor exhibits. Otters, alligators and river fish also will swim in the river. A dolphin pool will sit at the opposite end.
The main three-level building, the Gulf Community Gallery, will have one body of water with a dozen different views. At the top will be a touch pool with a stingray exhibit. A shark exhibit with acrylic walls will surround visitors.
The campus also will include an entry building, an aviary and a support building to maintain water quality and other systems.