GULFPORT -- The skies were gray and the ground was wet, but the vibe in downtown Gulfport was bright Wednesday as city officials broke ground on Fishbone Alley.
The $250,000 project will transform an "unsightly, smelly" corridor between 26th and 27th avenues into a "funky little street," Mayor Billy Hewes said.
The goal of the project, officials said, is to create a destination point out of an alley that is used by tourists and residents on a daily basis. Chris Vignes, public information officer for the city, said many restaurants and bars in the historic buildings on either side of the alley will open courtyards into it.
Hewes said area artists will participate in the design and landscaping of the street to make it uniquely South Mississippi.
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Many historic downtown areas, Hewes said Wednesday, have been transforming alleyways to create fun spots for visitors.
As the value of the entertainment district in downtown grows, the time for Fishbone Alley is now, Hewes said. Construction should be finished in about three months.
"The running joke is that its's more difficult to find a parking spot at night than it is during the day," Hewes said. "That's a great problem to have."
Gulfport Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly said the project paid for with money left over from a Mississippi Development Authority street landscape grant.
Kelly said Fishbone Alley "is just one indication of how when the federal government gives you dollars, you don't use it all in one place.
"You find a way to transfer it to another project."
Gulfbreeze Landscaping of Gautier won the contract with the lowest bid. Fishbone Alley's aesthetic will include brick pavers from the downtown streets of 1905, overhead lighting, vertical landscaping and art.
The contract also will allow cleanup of a service alley between 25th and 26th avenues, officials said.