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‘It’s a construction zone, baby,’ says the Gulfport mayor presiding over growth

Mayor Billy Hewes wore overalls, a hard hat and a safety vest when he gave his annual speech Friday morning to business leaders gathered by the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce in a sold-out auditorium at Island View Casino Resort.

The mayor understands the pain businesses such as those on Courthouse Road go through during construction, but he emphasized the economic development Gulfport will enjoy once the dust settles.

The city is readying for a $93 million aquarium and resort development at Centennial Plaza with new highway signs that feature Gulfport’s logo and uniformly point to attractions.

“We have only one chance to make a great first impression,” Hewes said.

Here’s what Hewes said is coming up and what has happened in 2018:

  • The city is planning to extend downtown redevelopment north of the tracks with a new development called Backlot Trackside.

  • The Holiday Inn Resort and water park, plus a renovated wedding chapel, should open by spring in Centennial Plaza.

  • Courthouse Road construction should be finished around the first of the year.

  • The city has 11 new downtown businesses and 320 new businesses total, a 25 percent increase.

  • Also, 125 homes have been been built.

  • The Fire Department responded to 130,000 calls, while the Police Department handled.

  • The city’s 311 number handled 60,564 contacts and worked on 9,189 cases.
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